PEKIN — A Peoria, faith-based, nonprofit addiction center is turning a Pekin property into a new center that it hopes to open in a few months.
Founded in 1958 in Brooklyn, Adult & Teen Challenge Illinois, 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 worked out of South Peoria since 2000.
ATCI helps adults over 18 with group therapy, addiction, anger and temptation classes; pastor counseling; and through various lessons and work programs that teach things like a work ethic. Participants also attend church a couple times a week, have a mandatory exercise night. They get to see their family on Saturday. As part of the program, all men join the ATCI choir. On Sunday, they visit area churches for “choir outings” that are used as a way to spread awareness.
The problem is the Peoria facility is in rough shape and can only hold five men, said ATCI Executive Director Randy Atchley. It's become an issue for the organization as they have far more applications -- 63 in April -- than space. That’s one reason why ATCI started renovating a building at 2400 N. Eighth St. in Pekin, which it hopes to open within three months. The 7,400 sq. ft. facility can house 36 men in its normal housing area and another 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,” he said. “So, we know that the drug epidemic starts (in) grade school (and) middle school — 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. It will also use 10 apartments in the building for transition housing. After finishing the full 13 months of the program, a man 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 man 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 find the public housing.
“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 accepts anyone of any race, religion, etc. ATCI does not accepts 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. Atchley said it doesn't take long to review. ATCI can get someone into the program the next day. While there is a $1,200 fee, there are sponsorships that will enable the person to still get into the program.
“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. Buit the longterm goal is to elimiate the trip north and to do all 13 months in Pekin.
“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’s one that will. They just got to find the one that’s best for them.”