Funding cuts force anti-violence group to reorganize
October 11, 2012 6:40PM
Updated: January 15, 2013 4:26PM
Crime. Domestic violence. Substance abuse.
While everyone is unique, a lot of anti-social behavior shares common roots. Many police officers, social workers and community leaders agree everyone benefits if solutions are found for someone at a young age.
For 18 years, the Building Esteem Support Team (B.E.S.T.) has offered anger management workshops and programming to children, teens and adults at Will and Grundy county schools, churches, community centers and detention centers.
Debralee Townsend and other volunteers created B.E.S.T. as a response to escalating violence and gang activity. Providing kids with activities to do instead of getting involved with gangs was fun, but Townsend felt a bigger impact was needed on what volunteers determined led to violence — anger.
Thousands of children and adults have attended the B.E.S.T. Anger Adjusters’ workshops.
This summer the organization learned the state budget would provide no funding for its upcoming fiscal year.
“There were warning signs over the past few years, but it is always a shock when it actually happens,” Townsend said. “It is no different with an agency than with individuals and families when the plant closes or the corporation downsizes. Rent is due, and decisions must be made.”
After deciding to try keep the doors open and continue prevention and intervention programs, the group reorganized. Jody Mankins has taken over as director and Dominique Bryant has been named assistant director.
“I’m proud to (remain) on the board because this decision to not just give up, get depressed, stick our head in the sand ... in the end students will have a better chance to succeed,” Townsend said.
As Townsend “passes the baton” to Mankins, the reorganization includes tweaking the name. While the initials remain the same, B.E.S.T. is now Building Educational Services and Training.
But the mission remains the same: to save lives, the group said.
Students and coaches continue meeting at various libraries, the monthly Anger Adjusters workshop is held in the Joliet police community room, and individual anger management sessions still are available.
“The police are big fans of this group and support any alternative to violence,” Joliet Chief Mike Trafton said. “Anything is better than kids going out and killing kids and B.E.S.T. has stepped up to provide that. I hope it continues.”
Townsend called her fellow volunteers a group willing to go the extra mile to better the community.
“(We) will not give up on renewing a mind to stop think and resist negative behavior and embrace graduation and moving on with their purpose in life. We do what we love and we love what we do,” she said.
To raise funds, B.E.S.T. will host “A Black Tie Affair” on Oct. 27 at Broken Arrow Golf Club in Lockport. It is also seeking donations.
For more information, call 815-725-8014 or write to P.O. Box 731, Joliet, IL 60434.