A Publication of WTVP

At Friendship House…

by Marcellus Sommerville | Photos by Ron Johnson |
Families receive food from volunteers at Friendship House
Families receive food from volunteers at Friendship House

saving lives, empowering families

Looking back, the past three years at Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service have been a time of tremendous progress!

Our strategic focus and willingness to adapt to the changing needs of our community positioned us to increase services for our clients. We know that each day brings significant pressures on the operations and leadership of nonprofit organizations. Yet, we also know that nonprofit leaders rise to those challenges every day with ingenuity, compassion, resilience, fortitude and integrity.

Coming on board

In 2020, Peoria Friendship House shut down due to COVID, like most businesses in our community. I had retired from a 14-year professional basketball career to return home to my family and pursue further opportunities. Not knowing what path would be presented to me, I put my faith and trust in God to lead the way.

In April 2020, Peoria Friendship House offered me a position as president and CEO. The future of the organization was uncertain. Families were struggling with food, childcare, youth programming, health services and more.

The state of emergency prompted us to open our doors. We spent the next six months operating at half capacity to ensure the safety of all our clients. We started with a small staff but were able to renovate our facility and revamp our program to align with the needs of our community.

The following year, our city faced new challenges, specifically in youth school attendance, low test scores, crime and job insecurity. Despite lagging donations and fundraisers on pause due to the pandemic, Peoria Friendship House took action! We implemented a new strategic plan to help us identify our objectives and regain our momentum. And we remained hopeful.

Soon, new grant opportunities became available and we were blessed with two new vehicles to help transport food to families in need. This was life-changing for many families.

Over the next year, the clients we were able to help tripled in number.

Marcellus Sommerville, president and CEO, interacts with the children who visit Peoria Friendship House
Marcellus Sommerville, president and CEO, interacts with the children who visit Peoria Friendship House


A year of accomplishment

The year 2022 at Friendship House saw

150,000 meals distributed to more than 37,500 families

Health services and financial assistance provided to 1,400 clients

1,317 youth provided with mentorship and inspiration

90% grade level success for students in our STEAM Academy

On-site job training for 19 high school students

Increased participation in our Parent Mentor Program, now at 32 parents in five schools

911 Latino families provided with translation and social services.

Meanwhile, the vision of our Community Center is evolving day by day. We created a drive-through service and mobile pantry to make it more convenient for our families to access food and hygiene products. Our after-school programs and day camps are now free to families in need. We developed a curriculum to enhance the education provided by the school district and help fill the learning gaps we now face following the pandemic. The Peoria Police Department is working with us on the Peacekeepers Network to identify at-risk youth before they commit crimes.

Turning despair into direction

For more than a year, staff at Peoria Friendship House knew of student Quinton Scott’s plans. He wanted to graduate and begin working with a local union to advance his carpentry skills.

In 2023, more children will be reading at grade level, and more families emerging from poverty

At about 3:30 a.m. on July 3, 2022, Quintin Scott was shot multiple times in the chest and leg while in the 600 block of Northeast Adams Street. He died there about an hour after the shooting.

It wasn’t supposed to happen. He was supposed to be a union carpenter and come back and share his story and then mentor young men and women in the community. Quintin’s story testifies to the trauma our community faces.

One of his co-workers was traumatized after the murder. It was his turning point.

Today, he has completed high school and is getting his commercial driver’s license through Peoria Friendship House. We hope to provide an avenue for others to continue their journey.

With the continued support of this community, we will have more children reading at grade level, more people living healthier lives, more families emerging from poverty, and more people feeling empowered!

We are pleased to deliver more robust programs and services to meet the needs of our community, and we continue to execute our vision of “empowering families by giving them hope and a path to prosperity.”

Marcellus Sommerville

Marcellus Sommerville

is president and CEO of Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service