New gym to open at Marillac Social Center in East Garfield Park

CHICAGO (WLS) -- They call themselves a beacon of hope on the West Side. For 100 years, the Marillac Social Center has opened its doors to families to help them get services they need. Now as the agency celebrates is centennial anniversary, it's welcoming a new addition so it can serve even more neighbors in need.

These students are thrilled to be just weeks away from having a brand new full-sized gym where they can play. Organizers hope it will also attract youngsters who may not be enrolled at the center and help keep them out of trouble.

"We teach our kids to be leaders. A lot of them don't have maybe that father-figure, many of them not in the home and if they have a brother they may be part of some of the violence that's going on and what they see is what they learn. That's all they know. We teach them that there's another aspect to life outside of this community," said Albert Richardson, youth counselor, Marillac Social Center.

The gym is a welcome addition included in the new Vince and Pat Foglia Family and Youth Center. In addition to classrooms and a computer lab, it also houses a food pantry that has been open during construction and serves about 1,500 families a month.

"People's first choice is probably not to come to a food bank, but if you need a food bank then we can be one that offers something really worthwhile and something that they really need to feed their family," said Deanna Hallagan, director of programs at Marillac Social Center.

When construction is complete, several of their growing programs will move to the new building. They serve children from pre-school through young adulthood.

"They help us with our homework and they teach us right from wrong. They help us with activities. They make sure we stay in school and doing something active not out here in these streets," said Kevon Clemons, 8th grader.

"It's not like a program with other people. It's like a family now and that keeps me coming back," said Janae Brown, 9th grader.

On September 20th, the Marillac Social Center is hosting a centennial celebration that's open to the public. Francis Cardinal George is scheduled to attend and bless the new building.

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