A Publication of WTVP

Turning Dreams into Reality.

That is the tagline of Dream Center Peoria (DCP), a faith-based, nonprofit organization located in the heart of Peoria. Their vision is to change lives and communities by empowering people to realize their dreams—through dedication, relationships, education, action, ministry and support.

At the heart of the organization’s mission—and that of Executive Director Andy King—is the youth of the inner city. By understanding the unique needs of those who ask the Dream Center for assistance, DCP’s small staff and ranks of volunteers are able to reinforce the value of family through ministries and the teaching of new skills.

The Many Faces of Poverty
As stewards of the inner city, what really fires up King and his colleagues is poverty—particularly children living in poverty. “There are many faces to poverty: financial poverty, social poverty, emotional poverty and spiritual poverty, just to name a few,” explained King. “As a faith-based organization, we believe that addressing the spiritual poverty in life can and will change the way you live your life. You don’t have to be poor to be in poverty spiritually. However, when all the odds are stacked up against you, making some major life decisions can help change the path that your life will lead.”

To fight this battle against poverty, not only must we treat the present-day symptoms—the poor quality of life created by poverty—we must also look at how to prevent or reduce the number of future cases. The Dream Center addresses the issue in a number of ways. “It may be coming alongside the single-parent mom and helping her with clothing for the kids, or helping with her bills by getting her to purchase Angel Food [a DCP program which offers restaurant-quality groceries at significantly reduced rates]…therefore freeing up money for other things around the house,” said King.

“It may be giving the supplies to help the child succeed in life, or even finding a mentor for him or her. It may be giving the child a two-hour break…from the life that he never asked for. We are here to serve families, especially kids who see poverty day in and day out.” Through these and 17 other programs, the Dream Center works to improve the quality of life for all those living in poverty in Peoria.

Bringing the Dream to Peoria
The idea for the Dream Center came to Peoria more than seven years ago when King’s father, John King, the pastor of Riverside Community Church, heard about the enormous success of the Los Angeles Dream Center. While at a conference in Phoenix, John was introduced to the model which lowered crime around Echo Park, a neighborhood northwest of downtown L.A., by 73 percent. “At that time, [John] and the leadership [of Riverside] were praying about doing something in [Peoria] that would unite the church, yet make a visible impact in the inner city of Peoria,” Andy reported. “When [John] got to the Dream Center in L.A., he knew he had found a model that we could…adapt for Peoria.” King explained that it was Riverside that birthed Dream Center Peoria, which is seen as the outreach arm of the church.

According to King, Dream Center Peoria broke away from Riverside and became its own entity so that other churches, nonprofits, businesses and organizations could become involved and make an even bigger impact in Peoria. “Riverside will always be at the center of what we do, and [our relationship with them] also gives us at DCP accountability with someone close.”

The Fearless Leader
King has been involved in the church all his life. Born and raised in Nuneaton, England, he began youth pastoring at age 16 and even spent a year doing missionary work in Asia and Australia. After coming to America and working at his dad’s church in Washington, Illinois for a year, King felt it was time to move on and broaden his horizons.

He then went to Northwoods Mall, walked into the first store he came to, which happened to be Pearle Vision, and applied for a job. He was hired as an optician on the spot and worked his way up to become assistant floor manager. After holding several different optical jobs with various employers in the Peoria area, King found himself working as a sales representative for Marchon Eyewear, the largest eyewear company in the world. He felt confident in his position as the top sales rep in his 12-state region, training representatives from all over the country not just how to sell, but how to be strategic in business, and life in general.

After learning that the executive director position at the Dream Center was open, King felt up for the challenge and submitted an application, without his father knowing, of course. “My time at Marchon really prepared me for the business side of my job, as I was working for Marchon but considered self-employed and running my own business…Yet with my few, young years of experience, I knew that I was born for the role of executive director of Dream Center Peoria. Each day I get up and thank God for a life in which I can first impact my family with regards to God and life, and then be able to…impact a city and hopefully inspire others to make a difference right where they live.”

Making an Impact
Regardless of age, gender, nationality or family status, Dream Center Peoria offers hope to the people of Peoria. “Success to me,” said King, “is making an impact, whether it’s on a large scale like HOPE store [Helping Other People Everyday—a DCP program which accepts and redistributes clothing, toiletries, baby items, bedding, etc. to those in need at no charge] or a small scale, like helping the lady who walked into our office [having] just lost everything in a house fire. We were able to help her immediately. Both are success stories to me.” iBi