CCS unveils new headquarters

CCS unveils new headquarters

By Brandon Reid

Josh Perrine, 17, has dreams of being a NASCAR driver. For Perrine, the road to Daytona might be through YouthBuild Rockford, a division of Comprehensive Community Solutions, Inc. (CCS), that tries to help unemployed individuals age 16-24 get their lives on track.

CCS, a non-profit corporation founded in 1992, unveiled its new home—the renovated three-floor Mott Bros. Company warehouse at 907-917 S. Main St.—Dec. 18, before a crowd of local dignitaries, community members, members of the media and members of the YouthBuild Rockford class of 2003. CCS also announced a $699,330 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the reinstatement of Project Welcome Home, which had been temporarily suspended due to a lack of funds.

Perrine, who has been a member of YouthBuild Rockford for three weeks, said, “Coming here was a good chance to get my life on track.”

Perrine said YouthBuild Rockford has provided him with a learning atmosphere he wasn’t able to find while he was at Guilford High School. “Everybody’s cool around here,” he said. “The teachers and assistants actually teach you how to do the school work. In high school, if you didn’t learn it, then you didn’t learn it.”

Perrine heard about the program from a friend.

Sixteen-year-old Franklin Hopson, who had attended Jefferson High School, has also been a member of YouthBuild Rockford for three weeks. He agreed that the program has provided him with something the public schools lacked.

“I had trouble with high school,” Hopson said. “This was the best opportunity for me to get my GED. It’s a good place to go if you can’t get along at your school.”

Hopson, who heard about the program from his aunt, has two cousins who have been through the program, one of whom he said now has a job in construction. Hopson said he would also like a job in construction.

Fifth Ward Alderman Victory Bell said CCS, “has demonstrated that we can work with young people and that they can be productive.”

CCS offers six programs for education, job training and youth development; four programs for community service and neighborhood development; and five programs for affordable housing development. The corporation is the third owner of the facilities, which include three buildings and parking areas.

CCS had smaller offices at 202 W. State St. and 310 S. Avon St. YouthBuild Rockford members spent 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 17-18 moving the offices.

Kerry Knodle, founder and executive director of CCS, asked those assembled at the third-floor press conference: “Why in the world would we need all this space? Well, we outgrew our old facility … and we have big plans for the future,” he said.

CCS’s big plans include expanding the YouthBuild Rockford program into Rockford’s first charter school, which could be open as early as next school year. For that to occur, the Rockford School District would first need to approve a charter proposal.

The corporation has set a $250,000 fund-raising goal for the next year with hopes that the money would be used to build 10 classrooms, new restroom facilities and a library resource center and to purchase new windows and a new heating/cooling system for the classrooms.

The new classrooms would be housed on the building’s third floor, which used to be home to the “Sons of Italy” boxing club.

The third level has the appearance of an old, cleared-out warehouse. Large heating equipment lurks near the middle of the main room, which is spotted with large white pillars worn from years of abandonment. Near 6-foot windows provide a scenic view of downtown Rockford, while a worn, dusty gray floor seems stable for its age. The main room also has an old staircase in the middle of the room and is equipped with an elevator.

The third-floor ceiling is about 20 feet high with a middle section that juts up about an additional 5 feet. The risen section of the ceiling is accompanied with smaller windows that reveal an old brick chimney. A smaller room adjoins the main room.

Another room that sits just outside the main room on the third floor houses a new computer lab, which is equipped with 11 new Gateway computers and new carpet.

“This building is in wonderful shape,” said Knodle, who said the Mott family invested about $1.2 million to help restore the building 10 years ago.

As Knodle spoke, the third-floor ceiling sprung a leak due to unseasonable rain. Knodle joked that it was a good sign the corporation could use donations.

The second floor of the old warehouse is home to CCS’s main offices, which are painted dark green and white. Offices with doors and glass windows surround dark green cubicles, which will be used by AmeriCorps members (AmeriCorps is the federal umbrella organization of YouthBuild). Each outer office is outfitted with little more than a desk, file cabinet and a new computer—a skeleton of what is to be.

The building’s first floor, which will serve as a locker room and lounge area, appears as a cross between a loading dock and a dark, dingy basement. Wires and pipes clutter the ceilings, and the cement floors add an element of dankness.

Rockford Mayor Doug Scott said: “It’s a great property, and it’s in a wonderful location. It’s something that we think is a great step, not just for [CCS], but for the whole city.”

Scott said he sees CCS’s movement to the South Main Street location as one of many steps necessary to rejuvenate Rockford’s south side.

Bell said, “We’re just beginning to see the many things that can happen when we work together.”

CCS programs

CCS offers various programs to disadvantaged youth and low-income families that provide education, community development and affordable housing.

CCS’s education, job training and youth development programs include the following: YouthBuild Rockford, which provides academic education leading to a GED, skills training and job placement to low-income youth; Step-Up, which provides construction training for Rockford Housing Authority residents under RHA’s Step-Up Program; Youth Offender Demonstration, which focuses on education, job training and job placement for youth involved in the criminal justice system; WIA Youth, which is part of the Workforce Investment Act and provides education and job training for eligible low-income youth; Youth Leadership Development, which offers leadership positions within the YouthBuild Rockford program; and Youth Development Practitioner Apprenticeship, which is a national apprenticeship training program for youth workers.

The corporation’s community service and neighborhood development projects include AmeriCorps, which is a national service movement that engages Americans of all ages in a domestic “Peace Corps”; Volunteers In Service To America, which allows volunteers to perform service to the organization through developing special projects, assisting with agency initiatives, and providing service to program participants; Neighborhood Tool Bank, which provides tools and equipment to residents and neighborhood groups for neighborhood cleanups; and Project Welcome Home, which provides furniture to needy families referred by social service agencies.

CCS also offers affordable housing development for single-family and multi-family rental homes; CCS Construction, LLC, which specializes in residential and light commercial construction; a Lease Purchase Program, which offers opportunities for low-income families to overcome difficulties in home ownership; and, two limited partnerships, which assist with CCS’s new construction programs.

Those interested in more information about CCS’s programs should call CCS at 815-963-6236, fax at 815-963-1002, e-mail at or visit the corporation’s Web site at

See related column by Kerry Knodle, executive director of CCS.

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