After two years of operation, the Community Connections Center on the south end of Mount Prospect appears to be a strong success, local leaders say.
The center opened in 2009 in a shopping center near the intersection of Algonquin and Busse roads. It's designed to give the residents of the area, many of them recent immigrants, easy access to key social and municipal services.
"We knew there was a need there," said Nancy Morgan, head of the village's human services department. "And once we started getting going on it, it was obvious this was going to be a good thing."
The village works with a number of other civic groups to provide services at the center. The Mount Prospect Public Library runs a South Branch there. Northwest Community Hospital, Elk Grove Township District 59, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and Elk Grove Township all provide educational and support programs.
Residents appear to be responding. So far this year, 31,299 people have visited the library's South Branch. In 2010, a total of 60,923 people visited. District 59's Ready! program, which is geared toward parents with very young children, has served 174 families. Last year, the police department liaison stationed at the center responded to 1,682 inquiries about everything from criminal matters to the safe installation of child car seats.
"It's really gone well," Morgan said. "There's a low-key atmosphere there. It's very welcoming."
The area around the Community Connections Center is home to a diverse population of residents. Hispanics make up a big portion of the population, but Polish and Indian immigrants live near there as well, Morgan said.
In the past, language and cultural issues have kept some of the residents from accessing services in the municipal buildings located in the downtown area. Transportation is an issue, too, said Larry D'Urso, manager of the library's South Branch.
"For many residents, it was just too difficult to make it to the main library," he said. "The idea of opening a branch in that area had been nestled in our heads for some time."
The South Branch includes four computers for public use, and those have been a huge draw, he said. Books and newspapers are also on hand. If a resident wants an item the South Branch doesn't carry, the main library can send it along.
"We've been delighted with the response," D'Urso said. "The computers, which are always in use, are particularly valuable now, when so many people are looking for jobs."
Northwest Community Hospital offers a series of educational programs in the center, including classes on diabetes and well-child care.
"The center is located in an area with a population that often lacks insurance or access to these kind of programs," Karen Baker, the hospital's director of community services, said. "That's exactly the group we want to target."
Northwest Community doesn't offer any actual health-care services on site because it is too small, Baker said.
"We'd love to provide that, but at the moment there just isn't the space," she said.
The center was planned and launched with the help of three grants of $50,000 each. The library budgeted about $167,000 for the South Branch this year. The village budgeted a little more than $307,000.
Morgan said the village continues to look at new ways to utilize the center.
"We want to build on the success we've already had," she said.