Peoria’s Hult Center for Healthy Living has provided health education and wellness services to the area since 1986, serving nearly 60,000 people last year.
But to some it’s still a hidden gem.
Cristy Hasty of Mackinaw had never heard of the nonprofit center until she went with her 3-year-old son, Ryan, and his daycare center on a field trip there last year.
“It was really educational for the kids,” Hasty said. “They talked about exercise and did some cardio with the kids. There was an entire room set up on how to properly brush your teeth, and they also talked to the kids about healthy foods to eat. I really enjoyed how they handled the kids and how they approached nutrition with them.”
Ryan and his daycare friends were among 43,000 kids who participated in Hult Center youth programming last year, while 16,000 adults took part in adult education programs, according to Holly Bill, assistant manager for youth health education.
Located at 5215 N. Knoxville Ave., the center is funded primarily through grants and fundraisers with some private donations. A fundraiser this month will offer the public a chance to help the center while enjoying food, wine, beer, cocktails and dancing.
“Uncorked” takes place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. March 29 at the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino, 21 Blackjack Blvd., in East Peoria. It’s one of four major fundraisers the Hult Center hosts each year.
“Several restaurants and food vendors will be there, so people can walk around and sample all the different kinds of food and wine and beer,” said Morgan Koehler, the center’s marketing and special events coordinator. Dexter O’Neal and the Funk Yard band will provide entertainment, with room for dancing.
The event will also feature a silent auction, a booze bucket raffle and a raffle of three pieces of jewelry sponsored by Bremer Jewelry.
Tickets for Uncorked are $75 each and can be purchased online at www.hulthealthy.org or at the Hult Center for Healthy Living.
“Last year Uncorked raised just under $34,000. Our goal this year is to raise $44,000,” Koehler said.
The funds will go toward the Hult Center’s health education programs, senior programs, mental health programs and oncology programs and services.
“Our youth education programs can cover everything from healthy eating, exercise, drug abuse, alcohol use, sexual health and mental health,” Koehler said.
School groups can visit the center’s four health education learning theaters or can make arrangements for Hult staff to visit them for a small fee. “All the programs are adjusted based on grade level and on what they’re seeking for education,” Koehler said.
Adult programming includes monthly informational sessions on topics such as Medicare and what to expect from a colonoscopy, as well as a national diabetes prevention program certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “That is a year-long program that is offered at a very limited cost of $25,” Koehler said, noting that the program sometimes costs as much as $500 elsewhere.
The Hult Center also has been offering oncology programs since merging with the Cancer Center for Healthy Living in 2011.
“We have two dietitians and a counselor at our Illinois Cancer Care office,” Koehler said. Free counseling and nutrition assistance is available for people in treatment, survivors and caregivers, as well as oncology massage at a discounted rate. Healthy living classes, including yoga and aerobics, are free to cancer patients, survivors and caregivers, and just $5 for others.
The center also merged in 2013 with the Mental Health America of Illinois Valley group, at which time it began sponsoring the annual Whitney’s Walk for Life for suicide prevention and awareness each July.
“The services we provide are constantly evolving because healthcare is evolving,” Koehler said.
Bill added, “There are four different categories of needs in our Tri-County area: mental health, cancer, obesity and reproductive health. So you’ll see new programs in all four of those areas, depending on the needs of the community.”
The Hult Center is open to anyone from pre-K through adults, but most clients come from within a one-hour radius, Bill said. Most of the adult programs require pre-registration, although some are open to walk-ins.
“Some of them might include a meal or they might only have so much seating in the room, so those do require registration,” she noted. “But for the most part with the Encore programs, you can just walk in. We used to say they were for seniors, but participants keep getting younger and younger. It’s really for anyone 18 and older.”
Upcoming Encore programs include chair yoga on March 21, Taming the Legal Lions on March 26 and the Writer Within on March 27. The later is an opportunity to learn how to write your life’s store in memoir form to pass on to family members and friends.
With 14 staff members, the Hult Center relies on volunteers and interns. “We have volunteers who help answer phones and help with mailings, while others might help serve lunch or help make dental bags (that are given to the kids on field trips),” Koehler said.
Volunteers must be able to pass a background check.
“We had about 282 volunteers last year with over 4,000 hours of service. That’s a big deal,” Bill said.
For more information on Hult Center for Healthy Living programs, “Uncorked” or how to volunteer, visit the website at hwww.hulthealthy.org or call 309-692-6650.