“It’s something that needs to happen in our community,” Rev. Eric Hansen told Illinois Times.
The Dream Center would operate out of Dawson and Weaver halls on the former Springfield campus of Benedictine University that once housed Ursuline Academy.
Destiny Church, 1425 N. Sixth St., is holding services on the campus and plans to purchase its space. Through Dream Center Springfield, Destiny Church plans to also buy Dawson Hall, a three-story building at 1500 N. Fifth St., as well as the connected Weaver Hall, from a nonprofit founded by former Sangamon County Circuit Clerk Tony Libri.
Libri and his wife, Ann, are buying most buildings on the 25-acre campus from Benedictine, a Catholic university based in Lisle, for the couple’s nonprofit, called Preservation Inc. Libri wouldn’t disclose the total amount of money that will be paid for the buildings and properties.
Libri said two of the buildings already have been sold to other developers. The structures include the George M. Brinkerhoff House, which has been developed into office space, and King’s Daughters Home, which may be renovated into an assisted-living site, Libri said.
Libri, who is retired from government work, including a stint as Sangamon County auditor, said he supports Dream Center’s goals.
“Our youth is the most important gift we can give to the future,” he said.
Hansen’s nondenominational Christian church moved to the site on Springfield’s north end and held its first service there in March after spending about $100,000 on painting, carpeting and new signage.
Hansen started Destiny Church in 2017 after leaving iWorship Center, previously known as the First Assemblies of God Church. IWorship Center, 3200 Shaler Road, continues to operate under different pastoral leadership and under a different name – Radiant Church.
Destiny Church previously held services at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 2200 Meadowbrook Road, before renting space in Town & Country Shopping Center the past three years.
Hansen said he had been talking with people at Destiny Church about his idea for Dream Center Springfield for the past two years. They have supported the concept, as has the neighborhood’s representative on the Springfield City Council, Ward 5 Alderwoman Lakeisha Purchase, he said.
“I like to build things,” said Hansen, 59, a Bloomington native who grew up in Pekin and has lived in Springfield with his family the past 30 years.
Hansen is chief executive officer of Dream Center Springfield, which he said will be modeled somewhat on Dream Center Peoria. That organization is based in a former YMCA building in downtown Peoria and offers a variety of programs for low-income people and youth.
At Dream Center Springfield, however, Hansen said: “Our primary purpose will be education. It will be an educational center.” The Peoria nonprofit organization’s annual revenue was $2.6 million in the fiscal year ending in December 2020, according to the group’s IRS Form 990 report.
Peoria’s Dream Center is associated with Riverside Community Church in Peoria, said John King, retired pastor and a founder of the Peoria Dream Center.
King, who is on the board of Dream Center Springfield, said Hansen’s goals are “excellent.” There never are enough services to assist low-income residents and youth, King said.
Although Dream Center Springfield will be affiliated with a church, the people served won’t be required to take part in religious services, and people of all faiths and backgrounds would be welcome, Hansen said.
Dream Center would start out small, purchasing Dawson and Weaver halls and renovating a handful of classrooms among the total 44,000 square feet of space in both buildings, he said. Dream Center would provide after-school instruction on various trades to high-school-age students to get them interested in jobs and prepare them for trade schools, Hansen said.
He said he plans to reach out to Springfield School District 186 and Midwest Technical Institute to discuss ways Dream Center could work with them.
Plans also call for Dawson Hall, originally built in 1929, and Weaver Hall, built in 1961, to be used for Bible school classes for adults interested in Christian vocations and ministry, and for elementary and secondary school students interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Hansen said he hopes within a week or two to hire an executive director for Dream Center. That person will focus on startup details, including securing potential funding from government and private grants and foundations, he said.