Janesville Community Center Executive Director Ray Jewell, left, and Treasurer Roger Merry pose for a photo last August inside Hedberg Public Library. The organization recently earned nonprofit status, clearing the way for fundraising and programming.


It’s taken Ray Jewell a long time to turn his idea for the Janesville Community Center into reality.

More than two years, in fact.

But the fledgling group earned its nonprofit status in June, clearing the way for the organization to start fundraising.

And the Janesville Community Center will begin its first programming series Wednesday. It’s a six-week course geared toward helping people find jobs and providing other employment-related skills.

The organization mostly will try to help those living in poverty or on the brink of poverty. Efforts will initially begin in the Fourth Ward (the center is currently using All Saints Anglican Church, 169 S. Academy St., as its home for programming), but the group later could expand throughout the city, Jewell said.

Jewell, the center’s executive director, said it took about six months just to develop a business plan and submit an application to receive nonprofit status. He credited others on the board, many of whom already are involved in community service, with helping push the center to this point.

At first, he had an eye on an organization that would focus on race relations. That shifted in late 2017, when a local school principal told him how many students are living in poverty, he said.

Jewell’s philosophy toward helping those in poverty is “hand up, not handout.”

“If you’re just giving handouts, they’re just going to keep living the way they’ve been living,” he said. “But if we can help them out of that situation, that’s the ultimate goal.”

Nonprofit status is one achievement for the community center. Now Jewell’s attention is turning to donations.

Becoming a nonprofit means Jewell and others can start searching for grants that apply to the group’s mission. He likes the idea of someday holding a banquet between donors, group volunteers and those who have completed programming.

It would be a way to see the impact of donations. That could possibly lead to more funding and allow the community center to increase its programming.

Those interested in donating to the organization can send money to Treasurer Roger Merry, 515 St. Lawrence Ave., Janesville.

For now, the center has its sights on ensuring the first job training program runs smoothly. The program will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the church and run for six consecutive Wednesdays.

The program is free but will require registration. Those interested can register by emailing Jewell at jcenterinc@gmail.com or call him at 608-898-8800.

After that, Jewell hopes to cultivate a personal finance program.

More ambitious future plans include having a vehicle or two that community center volunteers could use to transport people to job interviews. It’s also possible the community center eventually finds its own permanent, physical home, but Jewell said nothing is imminent.

The community center does have someone handling public relations, but word of mouth is how the group will blossom. He hopes those who receive job training spread the message to others.

“Getting that first group through the course, seeing them get a job and succeed in that job … and make it into a career,” Jewell said. “We’re going to shoot high.”

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