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Western Avenue Community Center celebrates 95 years | Lifestyles

BLOOMINGTON — The Western Avenue Community Center will celebrate 95 years with a birthday party event on Saturday.

A bike clinic is planned from 10 a.m. to noon for children to receive a helmet and learn how to drive safely.

A block party from noon to 4 p.m. will include food, balloon artists, a silent auction and a chance for the WACC to show off new landscaping. Nancy Gordon Phillips, a granddaughter of the WACC founder, will also attend the event. Her grandfather was a minister and created the foundation for the social service programs. 

“We just wanted to have a birthday party for our community, our neighborhood and board of directors” said Executive Director Mary Tackett. “I’m excited to be back here. I want to interact with the community, get to know them and introduce myself to them as the new director.”

The center hired Tackett in June. She is an Illinois Wesleyan University alum from Iowa and graduated in 2012 with a degree in elementary education and Hispanic studies. Tackett was introduced to WACC as an intern with the Hispanic Outreach program. She taught at Monmouth and Moline and in Spain for two years, and went onto receive her master’s at Western Illinois University.  

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WACC is a recreation, community and social service center that offers several programs to support members of the diverse community. They are a member agency of United Way of McLean County. Their main goal is to open doors of hope and love through faith in Jesus Christ. 

Mike Jones, the WACC board president, has been a lifelong Bloomington-Normal resident and grew up on the west side of Bloomington. He used to come to the center at age 7. He had a 43-year career at State Farm, but has been retired for seven. He has been on the WACC board for 15 years and this will be his third year as president. 

Since March 2020, Illinois residents unable to pay rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic have been protected from eviction through Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive action, but that reality could change come Sept. 1 when executive and Illinois Supreme Court orders are scheduled to expire.

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“It [WACC] was and is a safe place with caring adults” Jones said. “I’m excited to see where we can continue to go under Mary’s leadership. We both have a passion for kids, community and multiculturalism.”

Tackett and Jones want to help the center be more financially stable, grow partnerships, create more opportunities for fundraising and donations, get to know people and make sure they know their story, enhance programming and provide hope to those who come to the center and help them grow. 

“I want to continue that. I hope the community is excited and hopeful, everyone has been so kind and welcoming” Tackett said. “We use to say that the WACC is the best kept secret on the west side, but we don’t want to be a secret anymore.” 

The birthday party event is free to the public and will feature several of WACC’s partnerships including the WBRP, McLean County Wheelers, Constitution Trail and the Tinervin Family Foundation, who helps the WACC deliver over 300 food boxes per month.

There will also be food provided from La Bamba, Janet’s Cakes & Catering, Carl’s Ice Cream, Burrito Poblano and The Dinner Bell. Bloomington fire and police will also be making appearances. 

Those who wish to attend the event should RSVP to WACC at 309-829-4807.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday signed House Bill 12, which expands access to family and medical leave for educational support staff in school districts, public universities and community colleges.






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