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Elgin council hears from social service agencies, arts groups

Updated: April 2, 2013 6:04AM

ELGIN — Presentations about what 24 Elgin area social service agencies and the city’s cultural arts commission have been providing to the city led off Wednesday night’s city council meeting.

Karen Beyer, executive director at Ecker Center for Mental Health, and Leslie Edstrom, program administrator at Senior Services Associates, shared the podium and noted that in 2010-11, the Elgin agencies dealt with more than 108,000 requests for service, while more than 82,000 other requests came from people living outside of Elgin.

As Councilwoman Tish Powell noted, this equated to about one request per Elgin resident.

For the same time frame, the agencies reported that almost 6,300 volunteers provided 197,500 hours of service. The two dozen social services accounted for more than 1,500 employees contributing to the local economy and spent more than $2.5 million with Elgin area vendors, the women stated.

The duo oversaw the city’s Knowledge Gap Work Group, and their data reflected input from those who participated in the group and/or in a survey. Not all social service agencies operating in the city participated, and the women said they did not know offhand how many of those agencies are here.

Edstrom mentioned that the state, which funds a bulk of local efforts, has been running about three months behind on paying agencies promised money, putting a burden on operations.

Arts commission

The Cultural Arts Commission overview noted that in 2012, it funded 12 arts organizations, accounting for 18 percent of their budgets and helping them produce more than 100 performances involving more than 1,000 artists that attracted more than 7,000 viewers.

Kathy Matthews of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra noted that grants from the city have helped the organization grow over the last 14 years. In a video clip, classical composer and Elgin native Daniel Brewbaker noted that the city built a foundation for his life in music.

Rise D. Jones thanked the commission for an individual grant that helped her produce her “Legacies in Song” series.

Other ECAC funded projects have included free events and provided an affordable rental stage space in the Professional Building, which has resulted in more than 600 performances seen by more than 30,000 patrons.

Group spokesman Sean Hargadon said that the support given through ECAC grants has resulted over time in $1.5 million being spent in the city and generated $1 million in household income and $140,000 in government revenue.

In a letter included in the presentation, Greg Shannon, owner of Elgin Public House downtown, stated, “What’s nice about all of this activity is it pulls people from surrounding communities ... . That creates more interest in our city, enhances our image and helps benefit local businesses with more traffic.”

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