Even off the clock, community-service award winner never stops helping others

Even off the clock, community-service award winner never stops helping others

CHAMPAIGN — Alissia Young's three adult kids like to joke with her about always being at a meeting.

One day, it's chairing the city of Champaign's Human Relations Commission. Another, it's presiding over the National Council of Negro Women's local section.

Or it's the Ministerial Alliance of Champaign-Urbana. Or a local city council meeting.

"I like it, though. I consider it an honor and a privilege to do the work that I do," said Young, who isn't referring to her actual job.

All of those meetings are part of her volunteer and community advocacy efforts, and they aren't nearly a full list of the service contributions of Young, who works full-time as a social worker for the Champaign-Urbana Dialysis Center and still finds the time to help others in many ways — serving on the planning committee for Read Across America; mentoring young mothers with YoungLives; and counseling domestic violence victims and their families, to name three.

"I consider what I do something that I do from the heart. To me, it's my obligation to try to help others," said Young, who has earned this year's Doris Hoskins Prestigious Community Service Award, which she'll be presented with at Friday's Champaign County MLK Celebration at The Vineyard Church in Urbana.

Debarah McFarland, vice president of the Council of Negro Women, said Young, its president, has the spirit of servitude.

"That's who she is to the core, and she just enjoys doing it," McFarland said. "When you are around her, you can just feel the love and passion she has. It radiates off of her and onto others."

Young is the type of person others just like to be around, McFarland added.

"I don't call too many people this, but she is one of those quiet giants, very humble," McFarland said. "She knows she's a servant, and she doesn't expect any kind of reward in return."

'Wanting to help'

That helping spirit was instilled in Young as a little girl, observing her mother, a licensed child care provider and Sunday school teacher, who always seemed to be helping other families.

"I think that's probably where that came from, being able to be around that environment," said Young, a Champaign-Urbana native who already had her nursing assistant certification by high school graduation and immediately began working at Carle Arbors Nursing Home in Savoy.

"A group of us girls all bonded in high school, and we said we wanted to be nurses. We all had that general love for wanting to help people."

But Young, who married future Champaign County Board member Charles Young and had three children, eventually realized that social work was more her calling.

"The field is so wide open. You are not boxed into one area in the field of social work," said Young, who decided to go back to school. She fulfilled a lifelong dream in 1998, when she earned her bachelor's degree from the UI in human resources and family studies, all while raising a family. She continued on, earning her master's from the UI in 2002 in social work, specializing in child welfare.

From 1993 to 2015, Young worked at the UI's Child Care Resource Service, which serves Champaign, Vermilion and four other counties, supporting the well-being of children and families by providing various services to parents, child care providers, businesses and community organizations.

"That was the bulk of my social work experience," Young said. "Because you are able to tap into this and that and help all kinds of families."

But outside of her regular work schedule and college courses, Young never stopped helping others as a volunteer.

'People are hurting'

One mission near to her heart has been the local section of the National Council of Negro Women, a women's advocacy organization.

"I'm a person who definitely advocates for women and children and minorities, knowing the hardships women face on a daily basis," she said, mentioning the wage gap between men and women and sexual harassment as two examples. "And there are a lot of single women head of households out there. Moms working two to three jobs to put food on the table."

During a recent uptick in gun violence in the community, Young was part of the Ministerial Alliance's effort to bring together local clergy, law enforcement and city officials to identify ways to address the issue. She has also been instrumental for years in the lives of young people through mentoring programs and her church congregation.

She said her friends have told her that she has a talent for helping others find their calling.

"I like to help people figure out and find out what their gifts are and help push that individual in that area, help them perfect that gift, so they can then share with others, because someone needs it," Young said. "My heart is definitely about trying to make people's lives easier ... whatever little bit I can do to alleviate problems and help people feel loved.

"That's one of the things we need more of. People are hurting, and they are not getting enough love. ... I think everybody deserves that, no matter who you are, what you look like, whatever your background."

Young said it wouldn't be possible to help others at the level she does "without my husband and our children being patient with me and allowing me the flexibility to do the work I do.

"But one reason they are so supportive," she said, "is because they know I love to do it."

Honor roll

Leading up to Friday’s 5 p.m. event at The Vineyard Church of Urbana, News-Gazette Media will profile three award winners who’ll be saluted at Champaign County’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration:

Alissia Young, Doris Hoskins Prestigious Community Service Award

First Followers, James R. Burgess Jr./Susan Freiburg Humanitarian Award

Seon Williams, Dr. King Outstanding Achievement Award

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