THAT to open ‘harm prevention’ center

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-1150915974825.jpg’, ‘Photo by Jason Carson Wilson’, ‘THAT Executive Director JBryan Latham (back, middle) joins a contingent of young volunteers from Madison, Wis., outside of the future site of THAT Station, 824 7th St., June 14. THAT Station’s dedication is slated for June 24.’);

THAT Station will provide syringes, condoms and support

Helping people feels good. That’s what 13-year-old Emily Houston of Madison, Wisc., learned during a mission trip during the week of June 13. Houston was part of a contingent of teens from Covenant Presbyterian Church who volunteered for the Boone County Food Pantry and The Total Health Awareness Team (THAT) Station in Rockford.

Working in the area food bank left her with a lasting memory of a single mother and her two small sons. Houston said the mother came to get a care package. But the package included something special, “They were so excited because there were candy canes.”

Fellow volunteer Tia Vaughn said seeing many different situations was interesting.

“You kind of felt a lot of different emotions,” Tia observed.

What thoughts and feelings that went through her head, depended on what the food bank recipients were feeling, she said. The experience taught her to be thankful for what she has.

“Remember it, use it,” she said.

The teens were among the groups Rockford Work Camps brings to town each week throughout the summer, according to Director Jake Runestad.

But the youth group’s activities weren’t limited to the food bank. They also worked to prepare the future site of the prevention supply and distribution center of THAT Station at 824 7th St. The site will be dedicated June 24.

THAT Executive Director JBryan Latham commended the group for its help: “They’ve literally worked beyond the call of duty. These guys should be at Six Flags.”

Steve Royalton, Covenant Presbyterian Church youth director, noted they’d get there Saturday. Royalton pointed out what volunteering does for the students: “It’s a great opportunity for our middle schoolers to reach out into the community. They can really live it for a week.”

According to Jack Bishop, the group’s marketing and fund-raising consultant, THAT Station will provide “harm reduction supplies,” including syringes and condoms.

THAT Station would have been located at 201 and 203 7th St., Latham said. Bishop said the City of Rockford refused to issue permits for that location because it was not zoned for that kind of development. So, the organization acquired the former gas station.

City of Rockford Planning Manager Todd Cagnoni said THAT had earlier applied for a building permit at 201 and 203 7th St. in summer or early fall 2005. Since the area is zoned commercial, the city refused to issue a permit, according to Cagnoni.

He said he learned of their new location during recent talks and noted the site could serve THAT’s purposes, since it’s zoned industrial.

But Latham noted THAT’s entire tax-increment financing district funding request, along with Midtown Distribution Association’s support, helped them acquire the money. He’s working with the city as well. Latham serves on Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey’s homeless task force.

According to Latham, THAT Station intends to provide more intensive services for HIV-positive patients. The group plans to unveil a new emergency vehicle to help launch a campaign to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS.

“We’re gearing up for that,” he said.

Newly-reported HIV/AIDS cases have increased both in Winnebago County and statewide. He noted there was a 6 percent increase of injection drug HIV/AIDS infections in cities with no needle exchanges. Latham claimed there was a 6 percent decrease in such cases in Rockford. He also said there was a 20 percent increase in referrals for services.

Latham discounted critics who might say the distribution center would encourage dangerous behavior: “The proof is in the pudding. Seeing hands-on what happens would change their perception.”

The Fair Trade Store and Midtown Marketplace will also operate out of 201 7th St., Latham said. According to Latham, Midtown Marketplace would serve as a “high-end” retail shop. Its profits, he said, would help finance THAT. A thrift shop will be run in conjunction with the distribution center, Latham said.

From the June 21-27, 2006, issue

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