Federal Grant Will Help Project Oz Curb Sexual Exploitation

“The efforts of Project Oz to combat youth homelessness, exploitation, and sex trafficking are crucial not just for McLean County, but for Illinois as a whole.

“Project Oz is exactly the kind of local resource we need to prevent this criminal industry from growing and save at-risk children in our communities from becoming victims. Thank you to the team at Project Oz for helping make a difference in the lives of children in Central Illinois.”
–U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville WGLT Article Link

#GivingTuesday -> You can help by donating here.

“The grant will help Project Oz pay for nine new beds for homeless youth who are at risk of exploitation or already being exploited,” said Project Oz Vice President Lisa Thompson. “Many homeless youth who are being exploited are engaging in some type of “survival sex. Picture an 18-year-old who’s staying with someone 40 years older than her, giving her food and a place to stay in exchange for a sexual relationship.”

Lisa Thompson is vice president at Project Oz in Bloomington.

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SAVE THE DATE for #Giving Tuesday, November 28, 2017

SAVE THE DATE for GIVING TUESDAY, November 28, 2017.

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving, fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday & Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

One of the best ways to get involved is in your own community.

The countdown is on!

Mark your calendars for November 28th and donate to Project Oz the day after the busiest shopping days of the season!

Join the movement with Project Oz and give back!

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Join our Youth Action Board for upcoming October – November Events!


WHEN: October 28, 2017, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
WHERE: Normal Police Department, 100 E. Phoenix Avenue, Normal, IL
WHAT: Dispose of your unwanted and/or expired prescription drugs safely.

The DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible way to dispose of prescription drugs, and also educate the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.

Project Oz’s Youth Action Board and Bloomington High School’s H.Y.P.E. Club will assist the Normal Police Department collect unwanted and/or expired prescription drugs for safe disposal.

We’ll make it easy for you! You don’t have to even leave your car. Just drive your car through Normal Police Department’s circle driveway at 100 E. Phoenix Avenue, Normal Illinois. Students and police officers will collect your unwanted prescriptions for safe disposal.

Below is a link to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Take Back Day which occurs on October 28, 2017 all across the nation.


The following police departments in McLean County will be participating in the DEA’s National Drug Take Back Day:

Bloomington Police Department, 305 S. East St., Bloomington 309 434-2700 M-F 9:00am-11:00pm

Normal Police Department, 100 E. Phoenix Ave, Normal, 309 454-9535

Chenoa Police Department, 209 Green St, Chenoa, 815 945-7627

Colfax Police Department, 307 N Harrison, Colfax, 309 723-6241

Danvers Police Department, 105 N Broadway, Danvers 309 963-6330

Heyworth Police Department, 108 S Buchanan, Heyworth, 309 473-2811

Leroy Police Department, 207 S East St, Leroy, 309 962-3310

Lexington Police Department, 329 E Main, Lexington, 309 365-3871

Stanford Police Department , 200 S Grant, Stanford 309 379-2026


Project Oz’s Youth Action Board will host a booth at Miller Park’s Spooktacular on Sunday, October 29, 2017, from 12-3 p.m.

Please come out and join us for a fun afternoon at the Zoo.

Please see the links below for more details.



Sign up here:

Visit our Facebook page: http://bit.ly/2xlcOdH

We hope to see you for a beautiful day to RUN DRUGS OUT OF TOWN!

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‘Never an option’: Teens, adults discuss ’13 Reasons Why,’ suicide

“The Ending the Silence program is not about suicide. It’s about hope. It’s not about how bad things were. It’s about how good things can get.” Colleen O’Connor, Project Oz Prevention Specialist, explained during the discussion at Normal Community West High School, Normal, IL, about the Netflix television series “13 Reasons Why” and the topic of teen suicide.

Part 1 of the 9-10-17 article in the Pantagraph may be found here.

Part 2 of the 9-11-17 article may be found here.

To teens grappling with depression or suicidal thoughts: “Don’t hold it in,” Jordyn Washer, now an IL State University senior, who previously confided in a close teacher which helped pull her out of the darkness of depression and self-harming when she was 15.

Help Is Available.

Warning signs that a person may be contemplating suicide include talking or writing about hurting or killing himself or herself; looking for pills, weapons or other means of dying by suicide; expressing hopelessness; increasing risk-taking behavior such as through alcohol or drug use; giving away prized possessions; saying goodbye; withdrawing from friends and family; dramatic changes in mood; feeling no sense or purpose.

Take the warning signs seriously. If you have an immediate concern, call 911.

Ask the person if he or she is thinking about taking their life. Listen to them. Validate their feelings. Don’t leave them alone until the crisis has passed. Remove weapons or other possible means of dying by suicide. Tell the person that thoughts of suicide are common, don’t have to be acted on, that help is available and people care.

Help is available locally from:
PATH (211 or 309-828-1022
Center for Human Services (309-827-5351)
Center for Youth & Family Solutions (309-820-7616)
24/7 Crisis Text Line (text START to 741-741)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255)
Trevor LGBTQ Line (366-488-7386)
NAMI Livingston/McLean Counties (ETS@NamiLivingstonMcLean.org or 309-287-9913).

Sources: Kimberly Klepec, Tosha Maaks, Kristina McDowell, Mental Health First Aid USA, Colleen O’Connor, Adam Snell, Karen Zangerle.

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New Host Homes Needed in Livingston County

Host Homes Needed!

Are you willing to open your heart and your home to help keep young people safe and strengthen families?
Temporary placement (1-3 nights) in the Host Homes program helps provide families with time to resolve conflicts and problems. When a situation has become more than a youth or family can immediately deal with, Host Homes provide a reprieve to the family that allows them time to work with our counselors and seek out resources and guidance in resolving the situation.

Willingness to provide a safe and welcoming temporary shelter for teens experiencing a family crisis. Host Homes can be any family size and employment status. Host Homes may be couples, singles, families, and retirees. All it takes is a spare bedroom and the desire to lend a helping hand. You don’t have to become a counselor. Project Oz works with the youth and family to help them build stronger bonds and happier homes. Host Home families receive training and have access to Project Oz staff 24 hours a day.

How does it work? Host Homes in the program take turns being “on call” to receive youth, usually for a month at a time. During that month, each Host Home generally provides 3-5 nights of shelter. Project Oz staff respond to crises at all times of the day, so calls for placement may occur outside of regular business hours. All Host Homes undergo licensing by the state, which requires a full background check on everyone 13 and older living in the home, an interview and site review, and completion of a 40 hour training course. Costs for training and licensing are paid by Project Oz. Host Homes receive a modest stipend for the months they are on call, in order to reimburse the costs of providing care.

Interested in learning more about this program or becoming a Host Home to help keep families in our community together? Contact our Host Homes Liaison Anita Smith at Asmith@projectoz.org or call her at 309-827-0377.

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Internship Program Builds Bridges to Success

Project Oz – Learning and Leading Program

Summer days were anything but lazy for Bloomington-Normal high school students participating in Project Oz’s Learning & Leading program. This year, 33 students completed the 8 week paid internship program, with placements at State Farm, Country Financial, Growmark, and the Illinois Farm Bureau. The program helps bridge the opportunity gap for low-income students and students from at-risk environments by empowering them with the skills, training, and work experience they need to succeed in college and a professional career.

In addition to the work they do in their assigned area, students also participate in numerous educational and service opportunities over the summer. Young people learn about the importance of “soft skills” needed for success in the workplace, such as showing up for work on time, dressing appropriately, managing stress, resolving conflicts with bosses and coworkers, communicating with others, and working as part of a team. Program components include:

• Job preparation skills, such as how to create a resume, interview for a position
• Participation in Toastmasters to gain confidence in public speaking
• Weekly group service projects to build connections to the group and their community
• Training in financial literacy, such as how to set up a bank account, budgeting and saving money
• One-on-one mentoring to focus on developing personal skills, career goals, and planning for the future

The impact of Learning & Leading continues well beyond the summer. Students return to school with a new sense of what they can accomplish and the many options available to them for the future. Mentors and supervisors often stay in touch with youth after the program, and several current mentors are also graduates of the program. One former participant described the impact of the program on her in this way:

“You truly did change my life for the better and let me have a shot at life on my own and gave me a whole new start to gain not only experience but also learn how the real world works and gave me that extra push. It is truly astonishing how many lives you have changed with the Summer Jobs program you have put together.”

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Project Oz’s Opioid Prevention Communication Campaign

Prevention Specialist Colleen O’Connor, CADC, discussed the opioid epidemic and Project Oz’s upcoming Opioid Prevention Communication Campaign with WJBC on 7-11-17.
Please listen to the interview here.

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