For Heather, life was a constant balancing act. Working enough hours to support her family, keeping up with her kids’ schedules, bills, housework, appointments, errands—it was all piling up, and she felt overwhelmed and isolated.
A single mother, Heather struggled to find an after-school care option that she could afford and that provided enough flexibility to mesh with her busy work schedule.
Thankfully, since getting connected with United Way supported agency Leu Civic Center in Mascoutah, Illinois, Heather isn’t in it alone.
Every day after school, the Center welcomes Heather’s two young sons with open arms. This gives Heather time to work more hours as a truck stop attendant to support her family, but it means so much more. The staff, volunteers and other members have all become the support system Heather and her family were missing.
“They genuinely treat you like family there,” Heather says. “I work a lot. My kids know that they’re cared about. Because I am a single-parent home, that gives me the reassurance that I’m doing the right thing, that it’s not always as bad as it seems.”
Heather’s kids get healthy snacks and can participate in fun activities while they wait for their mom to finish work. From basketball camps to chess clinics and holiday parties throughout the year, the Center’s activities build self-esteem and foster a strong sense of community for Heather and her family.
At the Center, staff have gone out of their way to help the boys succeed in school, even meeting with their teachers to see if there is any extra assistance they can provide to help them learn. When the youngest was learning to write, one staff member created special worksheets so he could practice tracing his name.
“It’s huge peace of mind to know that there are positive people around my children that want them to strive to do the best,” Heather says.
Through agency-hosted donation drives in the community, Heather received help with Christmas and birthday gifts, school supplies and clothes for her kids. That’s the main thing the Center teaches, Heather says: Everyone is welcome. Nobody is left out, no matter their circumstances.
She knows these lessons will stick with her kids for years to come.
“Once they grow up and they’re able to make their own choices and go places they would like to go, I feel like they are going to be very involved in the community still,” Heather says.
And that message has impacted Heather herself. In the midst of her busy schedule, she finds time to volunteer at the Center as well, whether in the kitchens after school or at a recent food truck party. It not only allows her to spend even more time with her kids, but also to give to back to her second family.
“It helps the community,” Heather said. “The community is all you have. You need to take care of where you live and the environment around you.”
About Leu Civic Center
The Leu Civic Center provides recreational, social and family support activities to bring people together, build friendships and foster a strong sense of belonging to the community for the youth of Mascoutah, Scott Air Force Base, and surrounding communities. It serves as a safe place for structured family support services based on the needs and interests of all members of the agency and community regardless of gender, ability level or financial conditions.
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