Empowering Work of KFACT Featured at 25th Annual Ecumenical Benefit Brunch
By Lynne Conner, Observer Correspondent
October 19, 2023
ROCKFORD—The Rockford Deanery Council of Catholic Women (RDCCW), the Lutheran Women from the North Conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (WELCA) and their guests who gathered for the 25th annual Ecumenical Benefit Brunch at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church got a glimpse into the worthwhile and fulfilling work of the Rockford non-profit group Keeping Families and Communities Together, KFACT. 
“I started KFACT because I grew up here in town, in poverty. I had a drug-addicted mom. I became a mother at 14 and lived a life of childhood trauma,” said Shamika Williams, KFACT’s founder and executive director. Williams credited several mentors for helping her overcome the obstacles of her young life to rise out of poverty, earn a college degree and incorporate KFACT to help other girls in similar situations. 
“My mentors changed the narrative of what I had known and encouraged me to go to college even though I was a teen mom,” she said. “That’s what we aim to accomplish through KFACT: taking a holistic approach that includes school-based prevention education groups, intervention services, youth advocacy, college and career mentorship and transitional assistance upon completion of high school to post-secondary education.”
KFACT’s outreach to girls in the Rockford Public Schools begins as early as sixth grade when school counselors typically refer academically or personally at-risk girls to the program. “We tell the girls to come as they are but be willing to work because mentorship is a two-way street,” Williams said. Once accepted into KFACT, middle and high school girls meet with KFACT mentors during and after school for Taco Thursday Tutoring.
Girls can continue being mentored by KFACT volunteers through high school and college. “The girls we mentor in KFACT have some startling statistics,” Williams said. “Ninety percent live in poverty, 55 percent have an immediate family member incarcerated, 94 percent live in single-parent homes, 73 percent have self-disclosed physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect, and 92 percent of our girls are not aware that they are at risk because living in crisis is the ‘norm’ for them.” 
“The stark reality of these girls’ lives can be turned around through their involvement with KFACT,” Williams contended. “One hundred percent of girls in our program graduate high school each year, 96 percent pursue post-secondary education, and all of our girls participate in career-readiness events and community volunteer opportunities,” she said. 
Williams challenged those gathered at the brunch to support the work of KFACT through volunteering, fundraising and donating needed supplies for KFACT mentorship groups. “I believe in the power of 10,” she said. “If everyone here can tell 10 people about the mission of KFACT and our work in the Rockford community, that expands our outreach to recruit more volunteers and resources to help the girls we serve. Empowering girls isn’t an option; it’s a must,” she said. 
The annual Ecumenical Benefit Brunch is a cooperative effort between the RDCCW and the WELCA as one way to honor a covenant made by the late Bishop Arthur J. O’Neill of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford and the late Bishop Ronald K. Hasley of the Northern Illinois Synod of the ELCA. The bishops signed the covenant in 1992, urging Catholics and Lutherans to “strengthen our common witness to Christ in our quest for social justice” and to “encourage our clergy and laity to come together for prayer, Bible study, reflection, edification and a better understanding of each other.”
Proceeds from a silent auction at the brunch went to benefit KFACT.
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