By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Residents of a public housing apartment complex on the city’s northwest side now have easier access to health care thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois and the work of dozens of youth.
Collier Garden Apartments, 2901 Searles Ave., cut the ribbon Wednesday on its new Wellness and Telehealth Center. It operates like a small doctor’s office built into an upstairs floor of the apartment complex. Inside, residents can meet with their health care provider in person or online.
The center gives residents, less than 50% of whom have a driver’s license or vehicle, a more convenient and safer way to meet with health care professionals, said Emily Schwartz, director of resident self sufficiency programs at Collier. Residents with mental health needs will also have access to their counselors and psychiatrists.
“Transportation was a barrier,” Schwartz said. “That’s one of the reasons we decided to do this facility is to break down that barrier.”
More than two dozen workers from YouthBuild, a nonprofit that provides job training and education for young people ages 16-24, remodeled a former salon at Collier for the center. They handled everything from flooring to painting, assembling medical beds and chairs and installing blinds.
The renovation was funded by a roughly $14,000 grant from Dr. Louis & Violet Rubin Fund of the Community Foundation.
“It looks like you’re walking into a brand new doctor’s office,” said Dan Ross, president of the Community Foundation. “The flooring, the walls, it’s bright, the lighting is great. I was amazed at what I saw.”
“These kids are going to have promising careers ahead of them, and that’s the beauty of what YouthBuild is doing.”
Collier Gardens is a public housing property owned by NiReach, which was formerly the Winnebago County Housing Authority until rebranding nearly three years ago.
YouthBuild Rockford, which is part of Comprehensive Community Solutions, helps young people obtain their high school diploma while building vocational skills they can use for future careers.
Tyrin Tomlinson, an 18-year-old graduate of YouthBuild Rockford, was awarded the 2022 National YouthBuild AmeriCorps Spirit of Service Award for his efforts to spearhead the Collier Garden project and a garden for its residents.
He said it warms his heart to see the reaction of people Wednesday after the center was officially opened. He also gave credit to fellow YouthBuild members who worked on the project.
“I appreciate everyone who put their hands on it and made it some easy work,” he said.