RANTOUL — As possibly a sign of an improved economy, Rantoul-based Community Service Center of Northern Champaign County has seen the number of people needing assistance decline in the past two years.

Executive Director Andy Kulczycki said two years ago, CSC was serving about 1,800 households (about 6,000 people). In the past year, the center served 1,650 (about 5,500).  

St. Mal helpers at CSC

St. Malachy School eighth-grade students in the class of Patti Worthington who were stacking food boxes recently for the food pantry at Community Service Center, are, from left, Blake Bermingham, Savannah Ihnen, Angelle Wrobel, Elizabeth Handal and Leilani Sayavongsa.

Kulczycki said he believes the lower numbers are a sign the area is doing better economically, but he thinks it could be another thing as well.

“I think people are a little bit better off,” he said. “There are more resources, too. There are two pantries that operate in Rantoul,” although they are open just twice a month. CSC’s pantry is open during business hours. He said while CSC serves primarily Rantoul-area residents in terms of social services, there are 60 to 70 households from Champaign-Urbana that travel to Rantoul to use the food pantry.

“More people are working or have signed up for food stamps or disability, and we try to hook people up with those resources. They are people who are not able to work or are on fixed incomes,” Kulczycki said.

In addition, there are two churches — Christian Life in Rantoul and St. Paul’s Lutheran in Gifford — that regularly sponsor “foodmobile-type” events at CSC.

The food provided will be enough for only three to four days, so CSC provides people a list of other food pantries in the county available to them.

Kulczycki said some people think CSC provides only the food pantry. However, it offers much more in the area with a long list of social services that residents otherwise would not have access to unless they traveled to Champaign-Urbana.

CSC makes office space available to agencies providing services.

Several of the services have been added recently.

Beginning in January, a Rantoul Police Department social worker funded by the Champaign County Mental Health Board through the Regional Planning Commission has been available at CSC.

Another new service is provided by Rosecrance, which took over for Community Elements, in providing mental health services.

“For a good year and a half we didn’t have anybody coming in providing any mental health or substance-abuse services,” Kulczycki said.

Also new is HopeSprings, which is a counseling program affiliated with Urbana’s Cunningham Children’s Home. HopeSprings personnel are at CSC twice a week to provide therapy for children and young adults.

“That’s a service that’s been sorely needed in the community, just talking to the school people,” Kulczycki said.

CRIS Senior Services, a Vermilion County-based service, is at CSC once a week. Its mission is to connect senior citizens with services available to them.

“We do a lot of basic needs kinds of things — the food, prescription, clothing and housing referrals,” he said.

Dr. David Kruger, whose optometry service is based at Walmart, also comes to CSC every Tuesday afternoon to provide services for public aid recipients.

Kulczycki said communication has improved among the various agencies of the local services available.

“The (police department) social worker thought it would be good to bring together all the different providers that provide services in or around Rantoul, so they have been having monthly Rantoul service provider meetings,” Kulczycki said. “We have got people coming in that we haven’t seen around before. We are getting more communication among all of us so we all know who does what when.”

Those that meet are primarily Champaign-Urbana-based organizations such as the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club that has been providing after-school programs at J.W. Eater and other local schools.

CSC provides many behind-the-scenes services. It does screening for referrals, for instance, for people who want to use the clothing center at Bethany Park Christian Church.

The center also has copier/fax services and notary services that aren’t readily available elsewhere locally.

A list of resources available at CSC can be found by visiting its website (cscrantoul.org). There is also a connection on Facebook, where the center has more than 400 followers.

The center is also working with University of Illinois students to increase its marketing via social media. Kulczycki said Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer is “very positive about what we do.” As such, the village of Rantoul website has a couple of links to CSC.

The center has had to make do with less money the past year.

“We have been struggling, budget-wise,” Kulczycki said. “We had some budget reductions, which carried into this year.”

United Way decreased its funding to CSC by $20,000 because “they changed what they are looking for in terms of funding,” he said. “We’re kind of unique and diverse in what we do. We didn’t quite fit their criteria.”