It’s been a tough seven months for local social services as the state continues to operate without a budget.

Today, there’s a slight silver lining as the Heart of Illinois United Way announces its 2015 campaign results. They raised more than $11.6 million, a 2-percent increase over last year.

“We are the second largest funder of health and human services after the state government,” HOI United Way President Michael Stephan said.

And since the state government is not funding health and human services during the budget impasse, United Way had to step up.

“Absolutely critical that we raise the maximum dollars,” he said.

They did, exceeding 2014’s total. It’s a small sigh of relief for organizations like EP!C using the grant from United Way to help it’s community employment services.

The program helps people like Alexander Hall.

“Usually I’m in the back off loading parts that can weigh quite a bit,” he said.

But he has bigger dreams, “I’m working to get an outside job that pays minimum wage.”

With the help of EP!C,  he’s learned a lot…

“I learned how to iron a shirt, how to pull a hand jack.”

…and is waiting to hear back from a few potential employers.

United Way is giving the employments services program $40,000, but with several services struggling, the organization is being careful with its money.

“We look at the outcomes of those programs, and we want to make sure that we’re the best investment for the charitable dollar,” Stephan said.

With United Way investing in people like hall, the hope is it will all come full circle, back into the community.

“I have a lot of drive for a lot of reasons, but I think my biggest reason is wanting to donate to charity,” Hall said.