Community

Johnson County Crisis Center reopens fundraising drive.

Food warehouse expansion faces rising construction costs

Shelves of soup and other food are shown June 24, 2016, at the Johnson County Crisis Center food pantry in Iowa City. Bids on a new food warehouse expansion are higher than expected, leading the center to seek more donations. (The Gazette)
Shelves of soup and other food are shown June 24, 2016, at the Johnson County Crisis Center food pantry in Iowa City. Bids on a new food warehouse expansion are higher than expected, leading the center to seek more donations. (The Gazette)

Though the Crisis Center of Johnson County met its fundraising goal for an expansion and plans to break ground Friday morning, rising construction costs are forcing the organization to look anew for more donations.

In August 2017, the Crisis Center began a capital campaign to expand its food warehouse at an estimated cost of about $350,000. The fundraising goals were reached by November, thanks in particular to a $45,000 donation from the University of Iowa Community Credit Union.

“We would be so much farther behind had it not been for that generous match,” said Sara Sedlacek, communications and development director for the center. “We call that a transformational gift.”

But bids for the project came in about $50,000 over the original estimate. Material costs have skyrocketed due to the high amount of rebuilding happening in Texas and Florida after last year’s hurricanes there, Sedlacek said.

“We had already anticipated an increase, but didn’t anticipate it high enough,” she said.

The Crisis Center is hoping to raise another $50,000 to $75,000 by the time Apex Construction completes the project in June. Sedlacek said she believes a June deadline for the additional fundraising goal is feasible.

“This community is always so supportive of the Crisis Center,” she said. “We have some grants out that we really hope are going to come back as close as what we wrote them for as possible. We really didn’t do a huge capital campaign in the fall, so having to go back to some of the organizations that are supportive of us isn’t a huge worry.”

The food warehouse expansion is needed because the number of people seeking food assistance from the facility has tripled in 15 years, Sedlaceck said.

“We built the warehouse in 2003, and we were serving about 350 families a week and 500,000 pounds of food annually,” Sedlacek said. “Now we have over 1,000 families a week and about 1.6 million pounds of food annually.

“I think we have had stagnant wages, but the cost of everything else has risen and the cost of housing in Iowa City has risen. There are about 19,500 food-insecure people in Iowa City. That’s about the size of Coralville. Imagine if all of Coralville didn’t know where to get their food.”

The expansion will allow the Crisis Center to store eight to 12 more pallets of food. Additionally, another walk-in cooler and full donation drop-off location in the back of the building will be added. The repackaging room will be expanded, and a second bathroom will be built for the 50 to 75 clients at a time who pack into the center’s waiting room.

“There are days back there you can’t even move,” Sedlacek said. “We want to make the experiences better for our volunteers so they aren’t frustrated and feeling the squeeze. It will be better for our clients.”

To donate:

Visit jccrisiscenter.org and click “Grow Your Local Food Bank” under the “Donate” tab.

l Comments: (319) 368-8516; makayla.tendall@thegazette.com

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