PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria’s South Side Mission is making strides in its effort to help develop the skill set of one of the city’s most at-risk populations.

On Wednesday, the organization received a considerable donation from the Gilmore Foundation, which supports the development and improvement of Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties.

The foundation donated $250,000 to support the South Side Mission’s Vision Possible Youth Ministry expansion. The Gilmore Foundation presented a check of $125,000 upfront and has pledged another $125,000 challenge grant to encourage others to give as well.

Reverend Craig Williams, CEO of the South Side Mission, said the youth expansion program is a vision that has been years in the making.

“We’ve been praying about it, we’ve been strategizing, we’ve been collecting data, we’ve been doing everything we believe that will help us to ensure that they [youth] will get the quality learning opportunities and well as life skill opportunities to grow and to be positive people in our community,” Williams said.

Williams said their plans include a tech center, a virtual library, a new worship center, culinary opportunities, Spanish and American Sign Language instruction, and more.

“We wanted to do something new and fresh to make sure that individuals had a safe place in our community to come, especially our young people and all the things that they’re fighting against and have to compete with out in the community,” Williams said. “We wanted to have something here in a safe place but also something that was modern technology that would actually attract their attention just as well as everything outside of here.”

He said he hopes the program expansion’s educational values and life skills can send a message of encouragement and confidence.

“If they can see it they can be it. If they can have the opportunities to see that I can do something, be something different than what I see everyday when I walk out of my door, then that gives them the opportunity,” Williams said.

Laura Cullinan, president of the Gilmore Foundation, said their donation to the South Side Mission couldn’t have gone to a better cause.

“The youth are our future and we can’t go wrong with giving people opportunity and education, wraparound services, support, mentoring,” Cullinan said. “I think there’s no better place to invest than in children.”

Williams said the financial goal is $500,000, and they’re still heading into Phase 1 of their plans.

He said the Mission will have a fundraiser and a Vision Possible event on Sept. 26 at St. Paul Church in Peoria.