Adult & Teen Challenge Illinois — a faith-based, nonprofit addiction center — is turning a Pekin property into a new center that ATCI hopes to open in a few months.
Founded in 1958 in Brooklyn, the organization, which until recently was called just Teen Challenge, has more than 240 centers across the United States in addition to other facilities around the world. It has had a center working out of Peoria’s south side since 2000.
ATCI helps adults males 18 and up through group therapy, addiction, anger and temptation classes; pastor counseling; and through various lessons and work programs that teach them things like a work ethic. Participants also go to church a couple times a week, they have a mandatory rec night where everyone exercises and they get to see their family on Saturday. As part of the program, all the men join the ATCI choir. On Sunday, they visit area churches for “choir outings” that are used as a way to spread awareness. Participants’ week days are long, beginning at 5:15 a.m. and ending at 9:40 p.m.
The problem is the Peoria facility is in rough shape and can only house five men, said ATCI Executive Director Randy Atchley. This is an issue for the organization when they receive so many applications a month, 63 in April. That’s one reason why ATCI started renovating a building at 2400 N. Eighth St. in Pekin, which it’s aiming to open in the next two to three months. The 7,400 sq. ft. facility will easily be able to board 36 men in its normal housing area and 10 in its transitional housing section.
“The benefits of the new location for us (is) we will be able to triple our bed space, which will enable us to reach out to more that are lost and hurting right now, and also, as a result of that, the benefits from that will also enable us to get back into the schools to do drug awareness, which is something we did at one time (in Peoria) prior to downsizing,” said Atchley.
“So, we know that the drug epidemic starts (in) ... middle school,” said Atchley. “Most of these men that come in here, their story starts when they’re 9, 10 years old. So, we want to try to reach them with awareness, and that’s going to be a big plus for us in helping the community’s youth is steering them in the right direction.”
ATCI will also be able to do more community outreach and volunteerism, which is how ATCI tries to give back. ATCI will also use 10 apartments in the building for transition housing. After finishing the full 13 months of the program, a participant will come back to do a volunteer internship for three months. ATCI at that time will help the person obtain a driver’s license, ID card or Social Security card. The organization will also help the participant prepare a resume before aiding in job placement. The person will learn money management and how to be a better steward “with what (he’s) given,” said Atchley. Finally, ATCI will help the person find a place to live.
“We know that when they come in, many of them don’t have anything, and when they graduate, they going back to nothing,” Atchely said. “So, we don’t want to set them up for failure. So, this is a huge part of the benefit of being in the new facility.”
ATCI takes in anyone of any race, religion, etc. ATCI, however, does not accept sex offenders.
People can join the program by calling the organization at 309-673-3716 or visiting ATCI's website at teenchallengepeoria.org and filling out an application. The intake department then looks the application over. The department will then call the person back and go over the application. Atchley said there isn’t much of a turn around time. If all goes well, ATCI can get someone into the program the next day. While there is a one time fee of $1,200, ATCI has sponsorships that will enable people to still get into the program if they can't afford the fee.
“We will never turn someone away that is ready for treatment as long as they’re sincere about getting help ....” Atchley said.
Program participants will spend four months at the Pekin facility during what’s called the induction phase. Participants then move to ATCI’s Chicago branch for the final nine months or what’s called the training phase. ATCI is looking to eventually phase Chicago out and do the whole 13 months in the Pekin facility.
“There’s a lot of good stuff going on in the area,” Atchley said. “We just want to do our part the best we can as a part of the whole, the collective that’s out there. And there’s a lot of different treatment programs. There’s in-patient and out-patient; there’s faith-based, which we are ... and we understand that with all the people out there battling addiction, there’s no one program that works for everyone, but for everyone out there, there’s one that will. They just got to find the one that’s best for them.”