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Project Oz receives service award

Project Oz receives service award

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BLOOMINGTON — A social service agency was honored Wednesday for helping homeless, runaway and locked-out youths to become self-sufficient and stay in school.

Project Oz, represented by Executive Director Peter Rankaitis, received the Philip Covey Memorial Award of Excellence at the United Way of McLean County’s 2010 awards reception at U.S. Cellular Coliseum. The agency was chosen because it has advanced the common good in McLean County in the past year, said United Way President Greg Cott.

Project Oz in the past year has helped 160 homeless youths with housing, counseling and education, Cott said. Most of them stayed in school and graduated on time.

In addition, the agency ensured the safety of 260 runaway or locked-out youths. Eighty-seven percent of them were reunited with their families, others found safe living situations elsewhere and none remained on the streets, Cott said.

Project Oz also taught 1,500 students how to avoid getting involved with drugs.

“Separately and together, these activities result in a stronger community,” Cott said.

Also honored at the reception were retiring United Way board members Willie Brown, Don Fernandes, Deanna Frautschi, Rankaitis, Mons Schrantz, Jeff Schwartz, Dale Strassheim and Ralph Timan.

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