116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
As a teacher in Cedar Rapids in the late 1910s, Jane Boyd saw the needs of the children in her school, whether it was hunger, threadbare clothing or persistent illnesses.
She knew they couldn’t learn if their basic human needs were not met.
Boyd, a Tipton native, set up a school program to help the immigrants from many cultures who settled in the Oak Hill-Jackson neighborhood. She made sure the children had fresh milk, mended their clothing and took them to the doctor at her expense. Boyd taught children how to cook and make their own clothes.
In October 1921, the first community house opened near the former Tyler School.
Now, 100 years after that five-room house opened its doors, the Jane Boyd Community House continues to serve the children and families of Cedar Rapids. Youth and families still are the focus of the not-for-profit headquartered at 943 14th Ave. SE.
“Over the years, there are some common threads we’ve tried to stay true to,” said Director Megan Isenberg. “It’s no longer learning to make your own clothes, but it’s literacy or recreation. It’s still meeting basic needs and developing skills around that.”
The center also supports families with parenting education and food assistance.
“Children live in their family environment, so they are only as strong as their family unit,” Isenberg said.
Jane Boyd’s largest program is the Achievement Academy, which has about 200 children enrolled in after-school and summer programming. Most of the students come from Johnson, Grant, Arthur and Wood elementary schools, but the academy serves the entire Cedar Rapids school district.
The program is vital to working families in Wellington Heights, Isenberg said. During the early part of COVID-19, the Achievement Academy stayed open, providing child care for parents, many of whom are essential workers who couldn’t work from home.
The center also has staff who work at Grant and Johnson to help families gain access to mental health services and basic needs, like food, toiletries and housing.
Through the PATHS program, started in 2013, Jane Boyd serves about 60 young adults a year with career development skills, including time management, budgeting and professionalism.
“While most of the PATHS participants won’t go to college right way, many will realize if they want to get to a certain position, that will require a two-year or four-year degree,” Isenberg said. “We create a road map to get there.”
Jane Boyd’s Harambee House, at 404 17th St. SE, offers walk-in services that include a clothing closet, free internet and phone access and help with finding housing.
Like many nonprofits, the Jane Boyd Community House struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic to have consistent funding and volunteers. Some Cedar Rapids residents don’t know the center provides so many services beyond the gym scheduled with youth sports every weekend.
“One of our biggest needs is people who can volunteer to help in Achievement Academy, either in the after-school hours or during the day during summer or winter breaks,” Isenberg said. The center is looking for volunteers 18 or older to help kids with reading, run arts and crafts, lead games or sports and just “be an adult who can be consistent,” she said.
Jane Boyd also needs volunteers for one-time activities, such as the upcoming Halloween trunk-or-treat.
People interested in volunteering can sign up under the “you can help” tab of the Jane Boyd Community House website.
The center is 68 percent of the way toward raising $100,000 to carry out Jane Boyd’s mission. To donate, go to the center’s website.
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