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Building a better community: BUILD Peoria seeking community support for this year's project

Jaymee Barra
BUILD Peoria is a nonprofit that seeks to improve the Peoria area through community service projects. Voting for this year's community project is open to the public through May 31, and the project with the most votes will be announced on June 3.

BUILD Peoria is a nonprofit organization that unites donors of all giving abilities and chooses one community project to physically build, leaving that project for current and future generations alike to enjoy.

Voting for this year’s project ends May 31, and this year’s choice will be announced on June 3.

Jaymee Barra is a board member forBUILD Peoria, and she also runs social media for the organization.

Barra said ultimately, the main goal of BUILD is to give people a voice in growing and improving their community.

“All of our projects come from the community. Anyone can submit a project. Our requirements are that they have a budget of around $50,000 and can be completed in a year. Also, every project we complete, we pass off to an entity that’ll maintain it for the years to come,” Barra said.

This year’s four finalists

The four finalists for this year include Grateful Gazebos, Together We Play Accessible Playground, Little Free Libraries, and Market 309 at Trewyn.

Barra said the Grateful Gazebos project is truly about reflection and designating a spot in Peoria’s parks where people can sit, reflect and gather with others to enjoy their time together. This project would consist of several gazebos being implemented in various Peoria parks.

The second project, Together We Play Accessible Playground, would be located at Tower Park in Peoria Heights.

“Together We Play Accessible Playground is a really great project, because there’s no accessible playgrounds in our area, and there are thousands of people in our community who can benefit from those. It’s for everyone, not just people with disabilities, but anyone can go out and enjoy that,” Barra said.

The third project is Little Free Libraries which consists of small structures being built and placed throughout Peoria for children to borrow or take books free of charge, and the libraries allow anyone to donate books for other community members to access.

Barra said the Little Free Libraries is a great opportunity for people to recycle and make sure all children have access to literacy.

“We know the value of reading, especially for kids and how that helps for their development, and so we want all kids to have access to books even if they can’t make it to a library or bookstore,” Barra said. “So, those are really valuable, and those bring the community together because people donate books to those as well, so it’s an ongoing community effort.”

The fourth project, Market 309, is designed to target food dessert issues in Peoria. Barra said Market 309 is a project of Peoria Grown, which holds classes for Peoria Public School children to learn about the value of preparing fresh foods.

Barra said this market will be specifically working alongside Trewyn Middle School to increase access to fresh produce for children and their families.

“So, just bringing the fresh foods to that area of town would be really important to have access to because in some of those neighborhoods, all they might have is a Dollar General that doesn’t necessarily have those fresh foods. So, it helps them just get more nutrients and know the value of those healthier options,” Barra said.

How BUILD makes Peoria better

Barra said since she moved to Peoria 10 years ago, a major issue she has noticed is that many people do not value what Peoria has to offer.

“They say there’s nothing to do or areas are run down, and so rather than complaining about the opportunities for growth we have here, we want to do something about it,” Barra said. “So, for example if you say, ‘there’s nothing for my kids to do in Peoria,’ well then maybe choose the playground. It’s something else to go and do with your children. It doesn’t cost anything.”

Barra said for her personally, knowing she lives in a community with constant events and unique organizations makes her want to value her community and share her appreciation with others.

“Also, I have a son who’s 4 months old, and I want him to grow up in a community he can be proud to be from, whether he stays here or not, and always have something to do. So, we’re hoping to add onto that every year,” Barra said.

BUILD Peoria was established in 2017 after founder Nick Yates attended a charity Wing Fest years ago, and he was inspired by the ability to both bring the community together to do something fun while also raising money for a good cause.

Barra said all board members at BUILD are passionate about making Peoria a better place for their children, grandchildren and so on through the projects funded by both donations and community-wide events.

“We really want people to see the value in Peoria and also add to that value. So, that’s why we want to be an inclusive nonprofit for everybody,” Barra said. “We just want to have fun while also making the community a better place. So, we try to hit on a little bit of events for everyone that everyone can enjoy.”

Improving the quality of life for Peoria citizens is also a key component of BUILD’s goals.

Barra said one past project in particular stands out to her as impactful: the resident officer house near North Valley built in spring 2020.

“Making a safe environment for people of all ages is really important, and if we can contribute to decreasing crime in those neighborhoods, I think that we’ve done a pretty good a job,” Barra said.

Barra said this specific project for the Peoria Police Department combats the complaint many express about Peoria being unsafe.

Projects that are not voted on still can make an impact.

Barra said many semifinalists in previous years were nominated again for this year and have a chance of winning. Though these potential projects can still become a reality beyond BUILD.

“Some of this year’s projects are going to go forward with or without us. It’s great to know they’ll happen either way. They’ll just take different avenues towards fundraising and building, so that’s good to know,” Barra said.

Ultimately, Barra said it is not about the specific projects but about focusing on the impact people can make in Peoria when they come together to improve the city.

“My outlook has always been ‘you can either complain about something or you can make it better.’ So, why not go the more positive route? I’m an optimist, and I’d like to hope that’s contagious and spread it to other people and just really enjoy what’s going on in Peoria,” Barra said.

Barra said if people truly want to be happy, there is a way to do so in Peoria.

Jordan Mead is a reporting intern at WCBU. She joined the station in 2021.