John Anthony likes to dream big.
A Plainfield resident and Kendall County police officer, Anthony has seen kids fall into drugs and gangs, and in his words, waste their lives. Anthony grew up in Cabrini Green, a public housing development on Chicago’s near north side, and saw up close just what happens to kids without an education, or a strong positive influence.
For the last 10 years, he’s been thinking about how to help kids avoid that trap. And this year, he and his wife Deborah are planning to do something about it. Their idea is called the YARN Foundation, and Anthony’s goals for it are huge, yet simple: to change lives for the better, as many as he can.
YARN stands for Youth and Restoring Nations, and it’s an idea they want to take global. But they’ll start in Montgomery. The Anthonys plan to open the YARN Foundation center at 71 Boulder Hill Pass, next to Dollar General, in June. And once they do, Anthony said, they have a multitude of programs ready to go.
The Foundation, a not-for-profit, will offer GED classes for those looking to complete their education. Anthony said Kendall County currently doesn’t have a place where large groups of people can get training for the GED, and take the test in the same room. They’ll also open a community center, called the Cave, where they plan to offer a free after school program, counseling, a pregnancy crisis center and other services.
The foundation has a board of directors listed on its website, with John Anthony as president and Deborah Anthony as vice president. Anthony said the group has been getting some good reaction in the community.
The missing link, as it often is, is money—the foundation needs at least $250,000 to open its doors, Anthony said. And that’s where the fundraising comes in.
On Saturday, YARN Foundation volunteers will be out in the Montgomery, Boulder Hill and Oswego communities, passing out flyers and putting up posters. The idea is to draw attention to a fundraising event called Jump Start, scheduled for March 31 at the Family YMCA on Washington Street in Oswego.
“We want to hit all the businesses, and introduce people to us,” Anthony said.
The Anthonys are not new to the non-profit game. Six years ago, they started Chosen Daughters of Destiny in Chicago, working with the public schools to enrich the lives of young girls.
Anthony said he and his wife have spent much of their life savings—more than $20,000—on setting up the YARN Foundation, beginning with a needs assessment they conducted in Kendall County to determine what services they should provide. But he believes this project has the potential to do a lot of good.
“I really believe we will change the trajectory of so many kids’ lives,” he said.