PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Ahead of the holidays, the Peoria Park District Foundation launched a pop-up gift shop at the Noble Center to support the Moonlight Coalition.
The shop is an extension of the gift shop at the Peoria International Airport (PIA). Foundation leaders said community members asked how they can support the shop if they are not flying out of PIA. From there, the pop-up shop was born.
The Moonlight Coalition is a free General Education Development (GED) program for those in Peoria County who do not have a high school diploma. Hedy Elliott-Gardner, Director of Adult Literacy for the foundation, said it’s estimated that tens of thousands of people in the county do not have a high school diploma.
“Getting that high school diploma at any age, it doesn’t matter. We have students from 16 all the way up to 82,” Elliot-Gardner said. “It’s really kind of getting them back in the swing of things, getting them back into the economy, and hopefully, improving the local economy by getting people back to work.”
She said the airport shop started as a way to achieve sustainable funding for the Moonlight Coalition. She said GED tests are very expensive, and the goal is to eliminate any barriers to get the certification.
She said without a high school diploma, people are often unemployed or underemployed, and this has community-wide ramifications.
“Through the years, we’ve helped thousands of people coming through our doors,” Elliott-Gardner said. “We get a couple hundred students every year coming through Proctor and Logan and we’re hoping to even build that even more.”
According to Elliott-Gardner, the merchandise at the gift shop is all from local vendors.
The shop only accepts cash or check, and runs until Dec. 22.