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BLOOMINGTON — YWCA McLean County was chosen to receive $75,000 from the Google.org Impact Challenge Illinois, and the organization could win an additional $250,000.

Ten nonprofit organizations were chosen for the Impact Challenge grants that will support their “innovative work to create economic opportunity in Illinois,” according to a news release from Google.

YWCA was selected for its Labyrinth program, which “helps formerly incarcerated women get back to work,” said Christy Germanis, director of marketing and public relations.

The program gives women the opportunity to gain employment and build skills in a supportive workplace. The women learn marketable skills such as bookkeeping, marketing and product development.

The panel of advisers selecting the winners included Larry Dietz, president of Illinois State University, and Jim Edgar, former governor of Illinois.

Of the 10 organizations selected, one will be chosen by popular vote to receive an additional $250,000.

The public is invited to vote online at g.co/illinoischallenge from Feb. 7 to Feb. 14. Voters can select their choice once per day per device in the weeklong voting period, Germanis said.

“(The additional $250,000) would definitely be an economic boost and it would enable us to grow this program a lot more quickly,” Germanis said. “This would be a boost not just to YWCA and the women we serve, but also for our local economy — getting qualified people into the workplace.”

Labyrinth, based at 616 W. Monroe St., Bloomington, has an overall goal to reduce recidivism.

“Forty-eight percent of people go back to prison within the first three years of being released,” Hilary Pacha, YWCA senior director of prevention and empowerment services, said in a prepared statement. “The number one reason is because they cannot find gainful employment. Women also have a higher level of poverty and lower level of employment history, which adds an obstacle to them finding gainful employment.”

Six of the 10 chosen nonprofits are based in Chicago. Germanis said she’s hoping a downstate organization will win the extra funding as it will “really help our economic development.”

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Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.


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