116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Matthew 25 puts tools, hoes and hope in people’s hands
By Tara Thomas-Gettman, for The Gazette
Feb. 24, 2021 4:25 pm
Clint Twedt-Ball wasn't satisfied reaching people just from the pulpit.
In 2007, the Methodist pastor and his brother, Courtney Ball, left their respective churches to form Matthew 25 - a nonprofit that's since grown to include everything from an urban farm to a tool lending library. It helped rebuild the Taylor and northwest Cedar Rapids neighborhoods after the 2008 flood and is now helping people rebuild and repair their homes after the Aug. 10 derecho.
'I have been blessed in many ways,” said Twedt-Ball, 49. 'As we've grown over the years, it has empowered us to support even more people.”
Matthew 25's first office was an old choir robe closet in donated space at Trinity United Methodist Church at the corner of Third Avenue and Fifth Street SW. Today, it's at 201 Third Ave. SW in Kingston Village in Cedar Rapids.
FOOD, HOUSING, EDUCATION
Since its inception, Matthew 25 has offered programs focused on neighborhood revitalization through the building blocks of food, housing and education.
'After the devastating flooding in 2008, we helped rehab more than 350 flood-impacted homes,” Twedt-Ball said.
'In 2011, we created a tool library where community members can access tools and supplies to maintain and improve their homes, gardens and communities,” he said.
'In 2012, we created Iowa's first urban farm, where we grow fruits and vegetables using sustainable practices and offer community garden plots,” he said, helped along by 15 high school students who learn entrepreneurial skills and help with the gardens during the summer.
A MONDAY AFTERNOON IN AUGUST
Then came the derecho in 2020.
Matthew 25 was positioned to help low-income residents whose homes were damaged, thanks to the Providing Assistance to Community Homeowners (PATCH) program already in place with several other housing nonprofits.
The idea was borne out of Linn Area Partners Active in Disasters (LAP-AID), a coalition of 45 human service organizations that's been collaborating since the 2008 floods.
'As we listened to homeowners, we heard of several gaps in derecho recovery,” Twedt-Ball said.
'First, there was no program that was providing financial assistance and construction oversight for people who felt overwhelmed. Second, people were wanting to volunteer to help their neighbors and the larger community, but they didn't know where to turn.
'Third, some people knew that resources were on the way from their insurance company or FEMA, but they needed immediate help while they were waiting for other funding.”
So several Cedar Rapids-based groups - including Matthew 25, Waypoint, HACAP, Housing Fund for Linn County, Neighborhood Finance Corp., and others - began meeting with city and county representatives. A system was developed to support recovery through PATCH immediate assistance and PATCH loan programs.
MUCH WORK AHEAD
How does it work?
'All calls for assistance begin with a screening process,” Twedt-Ball said. 'Once it is determined whether the homeowner needs immediate assistance, a loan or a combination, they are referred to the appropriate organization.
'Matthew 25 is leading the immediate assistance efforts. Housing Fund for Linn County is leading the loan efforts. Collaboratively, all the organizations involved are working to identify any remaining gaps and get them covered.”
To date, at least 100 homeowners have reached out for assistance.
'The needs vary, from having water coming into a house through a small hole that can be easily tarped to mobile homes that have had trees fall on them and are in rough shape with people still living in them,” he said. 'Volunteers and contractors are working as fast as they can to help as many people as they can throughout the next year.”
The PATCH program has received more than $650,000 in support from Alliant Energy, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, United Way of East Central Iowa, World Class Industries, Skogman, McGrath and others.
'Our estimate is that this is enough funding to support approximately 200 homeowners,” Twedt-Ball said. 'There may exist a need to help as many as 1,000 homeowners over the next couple of years. So, while we are off to a great start, we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
HOW TO HELP
Like the Bible verses in the book of Matthew that call for others to help the least among them, the organization's mission is to empower people to transform neighborhoods.
'In the 25th chapter of Matthew, Jesus points out a few things,” Twedt-Ball said. 'First, he tells a story of people multiplying the talents that they have been given by God. He makes it clear that God's expectation is that Christians use the talents they've been given.
'In the second part of this chapter, Jesus shares that however his followers have treated the hungry, sick, naked, imprisoned and immigrants is how they've treated him. Taken together, these stories call on us to invest in people and places that have been overlooked or marginalized.”
And Matthew 25 - which relies on volunteers, students, VISTA workers and a small paid staff - could use your help.
'The first and most important way that everyone can help is by checking in with neighbors and making sure they are OK and their home is safe to live in,” Twedt-Ball said. 'We have a lot of vulnerable people in our community that may be tentative about asking for help.
'If you are part of a community group, church, corporation or just a single person that has some basic construction abilities and a willingness to help, please reach out to us,” he said.
'We also need skilled contractors and laborers to be willing to take on some of these jobs. As anyone trying to get work done knows, we are very short on contractors in our community.”
In-kind and monetary donations can be made at hub25.org.
'The best part, though, is seeing the many volunteers and supporters that work through Matthew 25 get the chance to learn about the challenges other people face and to have the joy of helping,” Twedt-Ball said. 'I believe the world has plenty of resources and abundance to help everyone out.”
Name: Matthew 25
Address: 201 Third Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids
Phone: (319) 362-2214