116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Catherine McAuley Center, which among other its services helps homeless women, teaches English as a second language and supports refugees including nearly 250 Afghans, has topped its goal of raising $5 million in a capital campaign disrupted by the pandemic and derecho.
The goal of the campaign, which started in 2018, was to fund a new building and to establish an endowment fund. The center moved into its new building in 2020.
“It’s a very hard thing for many nonprofits to build an endowment. Current expenses always demand priority. So it really takes a lot of foresight and a lot of courage … to make a commitment to build an endowment,” said Susan Ovel, a co-chair of the “A Place of Welcome” capital campaign.
The campaign aimed to raise $5 million, and exceeded that by raising $5,062,000. Raising the money took longer than expected because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the August 2020 derecho.
The derecho happened just four weeks after the nonprofit moved into its new building. High winds took off most of the roof. The cost of repairs were mostly covered by insurance and didn’t cut into the “A Place of Welcome” campaign funds, according to Paula Land, executive director of the Catherine McAuley Center.
While the campaign was still ongoing, the money was already being put to use. The nonprofit purchased the new building, at 1220 Fifth Ave. SE, in 2019 for $1,675,000. The pre-development for the building cost $217,545, and construction and renovation cost $2,353,610. The new building is 32,802 square feet, a huge increase from the center’s previous building at only 8,724 square feet.
“We were bursting at the seams quite literally. We had staff members in basement closets for their offices. People were crammed together. We truly had no space,” Land said. “We had to limit the number of people who could come at certain days or times because there just wasn’t enough space.”
Land said the Catherine McAuley Center was lucky to already be situated in their new building when refugees started arriving from Afghanistan in 2021. The center helped resettle almost 250 refugees in just three months, which Land said it wouldn’t have had the capacity to do in the smaller building.
The endowment fund received $413,000 from the campaign, and the rest of the money raised will go toward professional fees and services and other campaign expenses, according to a handout provided by the center at an event Thursday.
The campaign started off strong in 2018 with a $1.5 million donation from the Hall-Perrine Foundation and a $500,000 donation from the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. The rest of the money was raised by reaching out to known donors and long-term volunteers, as well as holding various fundraising events.
“Through volunteer fundraisers, we could reach out to a lot of people who knew about the center but maybe had not supported it in the past,” Ovel said. “They clearly recognized what a key role the Catherine McAuley Center plays in this community.”
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