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Rockford org helps more than 500 homeless teens in less than a year

By Katie Finlon 

ROCKFORD — A conversation with his daughter about a year ago led one Rockford resident to create an organization helping hundreds of homeless teenagers in the area.

Kevin Ware says Just Breathe 815 started with a clothes-donation box after his daughter asked if there were any area groups that helped homeless teens specifically. Now, Ware says, the organization has helped about 500 teens and young adults in less than a year.

“And it’s crazy,” Ware said. “Like, from April to where we are today, it’s just crazy.”

Ware says the group’s resource center at Second Congregational Church in Rockford is open on Thursday and Sunday afternoons for teens to get meals, clothing and toiletries. He says it was important to have a safe place for teens to go, especially during those high-crime days of the week in Rockford.

“The weekends, it seems like, there are always challenges,” Ware said. “So the teens are able to come in and have dinner, right, and learn about choices and dreams and goals.”

Ware says community police officers also hang out with teens in the program to help show them that law enforcement is there to help.

Volunteer Shayne Waldron says she and other Harlem School District moms wanted to help expand the program to include sports equipment donations for kids.

“Because I know what kind of impact sports have had on my boys and the life lessons they’ve learned from it,” Waldron said. “I just think if they want to play, they should be able to play because the benefits are limitless.”

Just Breathe 815 Sports also plans to start collecting and distributing gently used sports equipment for kids in May.

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