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Iowa City nonprofit hosting gift drive for domestic violence victims
The Domestic Violence Intervention Program in Iowa City is hosting a gift drive during the month of November that will benefit domestic violence survivors.
The drive started on Nov. 4 and will run through Dec. 24. Several businesses and organizations in Johnson County are participating. The locations each have a gift collection barrel with an attached list of gift items needed.
Participating locations include:
- Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City
- Orscheln Farm & Home, 655 Hollywood Blvd., Iowa City
- Williowwind School, 950 Dover St., Iowa City
- First Presbyterian Church, 2701 Rochester Ave., Iowa City
- Lepic-Kroeger Realtors, 2346 Mormon Trek Blvd., Iowa City
- Zen Salon & Spa, 4 S. Linn St., Iowa City
- Scheels, 1461 Coral Ridge Ave., Coralville
- Iowa Gym-Nest, 2550 Holiday Rd., Coralville
- Applebee’s Bar & Grill, 200 12th Avenue Center, Coralville
- Bluebird Diner, 650 W. Cherry St., North Liberty
- Reds Alehouse, 405 N. Dubuque St., North Liberty
The items collected during the drive will be used to fill the program’s Holiday Store in Iowa City, where domestic violence survivors can select free gifts for themselves and their children, according to Alta Medea, the director of community engagement for the nonprofit. The Holiday Store program is an annual program that’s been going for about 20 years.
“Being able to give that option of shopping and picking out something meaningful for your child really impacts our clients, and we opened the Holiday Store with that in mind,” Medea said. “Kids’ opinions and wants change pretty frequently and being able to just let parents get the art supplies because their kid has just gotten into drawing, because they’ve never done that before … it isn’t something that necessarily a stranger is going to know.”
Each parent who comes to the store gets to choose three large gifts, three small gifts, a pair of pajamas, a blanket and a pillowcase for each of their children. Parents of teenagers can receive a gift card to Target or Walmart instead of picking out toys. The parent also gets to choose a gift for themselves.
Children who are currently living in the program’s shelter get to come to the store with a youth advocate to pick out a gift for their parent.
“One of the individuals we worked with last year … she walked in and picked out one item, and we said, ‘OK, you have five more to go,’ and she just started crying … She had never been able to purchase her 5-year-old daughter a gift for the holidays. It was not something her abuser allowed her to do. Being able to give a gift, I think we take that for granted a lot of times,” Medea said.
Squishmallows are the most requested children’s gift this year, closely followed by Bluetooth headphones, Minecraft toys and African American dolls, according to Allison Tippe, the volunteer coordinator for the Domestic Violence Intervention Program.
“Another important thing is sets of things, like Lego sets, Hot Wheels sets, not just getting one Hot Wheels car but to get the whole set,” Tippe said. “One thing that was super popular last year, that I’m hoping we get again, were play kitchens.”
Tippe said she’s also hoping to see a greater variety of adult gifts this year, and more pajama options for older children. While the Holiday Store usually has plenty of pajamas for young children, there aren’t as many pajamas donated that will fit older children and teens, many of whom wear adult sizes.
Medea said the program has received gift cards and cash donations that she will use to fill any gaps in donations, like buying larger pajama sizes.
The Holiday Store opens for survivors starting Thursday, Dec. 1, and Medea said the appointments for the first few days after opening are already fully booked. The store is open to anyone who has received services through the Domestic Violence Intervention Program in the last year, or anyone seeking help between now and Christmas.
The donation bins will remain up through Christmas Eve, and any toys that are collected but aren’t used this year will be used to fill the program’s year-round birthday closet, or will be saved and offered in next year’s store.
“Holidays are often a really hard time for victims of trauma, for a lot of reasons, and any way that we can alleviate some of that stress certainly helps with that healing process,” Medea said.
Domestic Violence Intervention Program lifeline, Iowa City: 1-(800) 373-1043
Waypoint Domestic Violence Resource and Support Line, Cedar Rapids: 1-(800) 208-0388
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