The Best Place Yet!
The Unity Community Center is a multicultural center that provides programming for youth from families with limited resources. As an after-school site, Unity offers a positive, structured learning environment for youth 5-18 years old. During the summer, week-long enrichment camps are offered. For details about registering for these programs, please contact local staff at (309) 862-4041.
Unity Community Center
632 Orlando Avenue
Normal, IL 61761
Enroll in Unity Summer Enrichment Camps! TBA Spring 2023
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Celebrating 20 years of being the “Best Place Yet”
Unity Community Center is celebrating their 20th year in 2023. It had humble beginnings and today, is still a thriving, growing community center in North Normal.
Unity was the sole brainchild of former Extension staff, Kathy Johnson. Kathy was a single mother living in the Orlando Avenue area and saw first-hand the need for youth and families in the neighborhood. Kathy first attempted to offer 4-H programming in centers located in three of the apartment complexes in that same area. After much planning and promoting, no one showed up to the offered programs. Sadly, the neighborhood and community suffered a tragedy. This event solidified Kathy’s vision and fueled her passion to start an after-school center. She went to the Extension County Director and shared her vision, and was told if she could find fiscal support, that the U of I Extension in McLean County would match it and be the lead agency.
Kathy found a three-suite building that had a vacancy. The building also housed the Normal Police substation and a laundry mat. She contacted the property owner who supported the idea and gave her time to find resources to pay the rent. Kathy began forming partnerships with the Town of Normal, Unit 5 school district, local churches, and businesses including State Farm. The momentum and excitement could not be contained and more partners came to Kathy wanting to help, including Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Heartland Community College. These new partnerships came with monetary or in-kind donations and along with awarded grants, Unity opened its doors June of 2003. The opening was celebrated with an Orlando Block Party where there was a contest to name the center and Unity Community Center-The Best Place Yet was born!
Although Kathy moved on from Extension, others share her passion and today, the Unity Community Center encompasses all three suites of its original building, taking over both the vacated laundry mat and a police substation. Our partnerships also remain strong with support including teaching classes to our youth, donations, national recognition of partnerships and projects, and more. Unity started with one full-time staff person and now has three, as the number of youth has increased. We cannot wait to see what is in store for Unity in 2023!
Unity offers programs to both youth and adults from Monday through Friday.
- Computer Lab
- Civic Engagement
- Enrichment Classes
- 4-H Future Leaders
- Children's Discovery Museum
- Master Gardeners
- Foreign Language Lessons
- Healthy living
- Financial literacy
- Summer Enrichment Camps
- Access of center resources and computer lab
- Community resource information
- Conversation Cafe