Pubdate: Wed, 21 Jun 2006
Source: Peoria Journal Star (IL)
Copyright: 2006sPeoria Journal Star
Note: Does not publish letters from outside our circulation area.
Author: Molly Parker
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Women)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Plight of recent murder victims spurs Peoria pastor into action

PEORIA - What struck the Rev. Tim Criss hardest about the eight women 
Larry Bright killed over 15 months was the similarities of their problems.

As police began to discover women's bodies dumped or buried by Bright 
in 2003 and 2004, one of the first links was that most of them led 
lives of prostitution. That's not what Criss found so striking.

"We did some research with the family and once we got a chance to 
know some of them, we found out that with many of the ladies, their 
common denominator was not prostitution. Prostitution was a means to 
which they were able to finance their drug addiction. That was the 
key issue," he said.

Criss was so moved by these women's tragedies that he wanted a place 
where people with similar problems could turn to for help. He 
envisioned the kind of place that would take in the despondent and 
help turn their lives around through addiction treatment, job 
counseling and spirituality.

 From that idea, the Robert J. Criss Reclamation Center was born in 
South Peoria. Criss hopes the center, named after his father, opens 
about the first of August, at which time his staff plans to begin 
providing services to more than 30 people a day.

Students from the Methodist Medical Center College of Nursing will 
work at the center providing care and treatment while also earning 
college credits. Criss said he also is close to hiring a medical director.

The center, at 2232 SW Adams St., across from the City of Refuge 
Church where Criss pastors, will largely run on donations.

On Tuesday, Criss was joined at a news conference by state Rep. Aaron 
Schock and AT and T Illinois, which presented the center with a 
$3,000 donation, its second company pledge of what Criss hopes is 
many to come. Muir Graphics of Peoria also made a donation, and more 
pledges are expected by the end of the week.

Company representative Dennis Pauley said AT and T Illinois made the 
donation as part of the "hometown team" effort to support the 
community. Schock has been helping solicit donations for Criss's 
center since he first took a tour of the building project a year ago.

"My first time in this facility it looked much different than it does 
today. I think, beyond the purpose . . . of reclaiming some of the 
folks' lives that it's going to help, it also has helped improve what 
was a blighted building that had not been inhabited for many years," 
Schock said.

The center is housed in what was a vacated First Bank building that 
had been constructed about 1970, Criss said. Congregation members 
volunteered their time to convert the 10,500 square-foot bank. 
Roughly 135 windows were removed that made the building impossible to 
efficiently heat and cool. Many of the offices were turned into exam 
rooms and classrooms for GED training.

The upstairs includes a commons area that will be equipped with 
computers for job searching and career counseling.

Also, Criss said a methadone treatment program will be offered for 
heroin addicts, which have grown astronomically in the Midwest and 
the Peoria area, Criss said. Methadone acts as a supplement to wean 
addicts off the powerfully addictive drug.

Currently, the only center that offers this popular treatment program 
in Peoria is the Human Service Center, and there is an approximate 
18-month wait, Criss said.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman