Timothy Ozment of First United Methodist Church

First United Methodist Church

can get help completing paperwork for birth certificates and state identification every other Wednesday. The church even subsidizes the required filing fees. It’s a game-changer. "You can't sign your kids up for school if you don't have an ID. You can't get an apartment if you don't have an ID. You can't fill out an application for a job without an ID,” he said. “So that's one of the niches that we found and have been helping people with." On the other end of the spectrum, Loaves and Fish is a more traditional way to help people in need. The program started before Ozment arrived, but he’s proud of the free meals, food pantry options and medical services it provides for up to 300 people every Saturday. When a fire burned down a local soup kitchen, First United Methodist stepped up so that people wouldn’t go hungry. It was supposed to be a temporary effort. The ministry has continued for 26 years and pulls volunteers from multiple faiths and organizations. When bellies are full, souls still need to be fed. First UMC offers a casual service on Saturdays for Loaves and Fish attendees, who may not have transportation to the church a second day. Traditional and contemporary services are available on Sundays. The church also offers a bilingual service for Peoria's Hispanic community. ‘A CHURCH IN THE CITY, FOR THE CITY’ Just a few blocks from First United Methodist, another congregation

he was out there, the Lord gave him a vision for a Dream Center here in Peoria." The vision was there, but again, the building wasn't. The congregation started visiting neighborhoods a few blocks away where they could help people with household needs like shoveling snow or painting porches. In 2004 they purchased the old YMCA building on Hamilton Boulevard and formally opened Dream Center Peoria, one block away from RCC. Throughout the year, Dream Center Peoria (DCP) hosts many specialty programs. Backpack Peoria lets families register for school, pick up a backpack filled with school supplies, and get their children's required medical and dental exams. Serve the City unites people twice a year to perform service projects for Peoria neighborhoods. PROMise of Hope ensures high school girls can attend PROM feeling beautiful and dignified by letting them select a free dress and donated accessories. Day to day, DCP has a shelter for those in need of a place to sleep. A housing program with life skills training is available for families trying to break the cycle of homelessness. Job skills classes, coffee shop training, and gardening classes are available to help people out of poverty. After-school tutoring and mentoring give children and teens a foundation to grow. RCC also offers classes to supplement Sunday services. Weekly Wednesday night topics include Bible study, divorce support, and financial literacy. Ritchason has seen these smaller groups significantly impact people's

is ministering to the Downtown community in its own way. On any given Sunday, you'll find Pastor Michael Ritchason preaching in jeans, a hoodie and tennis shoes. It may seem too relaxed for some, but it's deliberate. "I want people to know you can just wear whatever," Ritchason explained. "I want it to be a place where you don't have to have the suit and tie. You can if you want to, but I want to make it a space where no matter your background, no matter your budget, no matter your individuality, you have a place here. You can find a home." Riverside Community Church (RCC) began in 2000 when Pastor John King, Ritchason's father-in-law, felt drawn to serve in Downtown Peoria. At first, the church didn't even have a building. Parishioners met in the conference room of a Downtown hotel. When the Shrine Mosque building on Monroe went up for sale, it seemed perfect. Unfortunately, the $3 million price tag was prohibitive. Through what Ritchason calls "a miracle that only God could do," the church purchased the building for just $550,000. It left RCC with enough money to renovate and to start helping people. "Riverside, since its inception, has been in a church in the city for the city," Ritchason said. "And very early on, we just felt we wanted to reach out to our neighbors, our neighborhoods. About a year after we were in this building, Pastor John, our founding pastor, was at a conference in Arizona. He heard from somebody who had started the Los Angeles Dream Center. And while


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