116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Local nonprofit Foundation 2 Crisis Services is pursuing a more than $3 million renovation of the historic Witwer Building in downtown Cedar Rapids — largely supported by federal COVID-19 relief funds — to serve as its new headquarters facility.
Foundation 2 plans to renovate the building at 305 Second Ave. SE. The project will consolidate the organization’s five existing buildings into one hub to better help people seeking care and to offer trainings.
“Under this one roof, we'll be able to create a structure where anytime anybody walks into the building, we can offer them the crisis support that they need,” Development Director Katie Curtis said Thursday.
The project is among two in Cedar Rapids that received a share of $40 million Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds awarded to 24 nonprofit projects using federal COVID-19 relief funds allocated through the Democrat-backed American Rescue Plan Act.
Reynolds, who opposed the American Rescue Plan Act, said in a statement the grant funds “will put Iowa’s nonprofits in a better position to serve those in need.”
Reynolds last year called the American Rescue Plan Act nothing “but a blue state bailout.” Democrats say Reynolds’ announcement is another in a string of instances where she has touted funding for child care, broadband and school safety made possible by the federal spending package she adamantly opposed.
Another Cedar Rapids organization, Freedom Foundation, received $990,000 to acquire and renovate a building to expand services and support to veterans in need.
Foundation 2 will consolidate crisis services
The state announced Wednesday it awarded $500,000 to the Foundation 2 project. Linn County awarded $2.3 million and the city of Cedar Rapids awarded $250,000, both using ARPA funds. The total project budget still is being ironed out, Curtis said.
After closing on the purchase of the building by Oct. 1, the renovations are anticipated to take nine months, until approximately May 2023. Once completed, the building will include office space for more than 100 Foundation 2 employees. It will offer a variety of crisis services and include room to expand.
Foundation 2 Chief Executive Officer Emily Blomme said in a statement that the organization appreciates the local and state investments in mental health and crisis services. She said the funds will enhance Foundation 2’s ability to provide rapid, 24/7 crisis services, increase program collaboration and offer the most up-to-date training and support for crisis care providers.
“We know the need for accessible mental health and crisis support in our communities and across Iowa continues to increase,” Blomme said. “This an important part of ensuring we can continue to provide the life-changing and lifesaving care we have for over 50 years.”
Foundation 2 owns the Crisis Center, 1540 Second Ave. SE, and an administrative building at 1714 Johnson Ave. NW. Those will be sold.
The spaces at Tanager Place, 1030 Fifth Ave. SE, and two on Boyson Road in Hiawatha are leased. Foundation 2 will end those leases.
Foundation 2 will keep the Emergency Youth Shelter at 3015 12th Ave. SW.
Curtis said having this new facility will allow Foundation 2 to offer community trainings related to suicide prevention and mental health out of the facility.
It’ll also allow Foundation 2 to better serve a “large population downtown who could benefit from our services,” Curtis said, and better accommodate walk-in services. Sometimes people walk into the administrative building seeking crisis support, she said, but that’s not where the staff best equipped to respond work.
The Witwer Building made sense for Foundation 2 from a cost standpoint with purchasing and renovating, Curtis said, but it also is better suited to connect with people who are in a crisis. She said its proximity to Interstate 380 was a bonus because it will help staff who work on the Mobile Crisis Outreach Program to quickly access the interstate and respond to calls.
“It's a great location for us to really publicly be able to remind people who we are, and that downtown location we know is a really premier spot for people to be able to see us and stay connected to us,” Curtis said.
Curtis was not able to provide information about what would happen to the current Witwer building tenants. The facility is occupied by White Star, Country Underground and some office users.
Freedom Foundation will serve more veterans
Lexi Coberly, executive director at the Freedom Foundation, said the grant money will allow the nonprofit to expand its services and support for veterans by facilitating a move next year to a larger space.
Coberly said a “wonderful supporter” purchased the former Local Craft Ale House last fall and donated the building at 4001 Center Point Rd. NE to the Freedom Foundation, which is responsible for renovations.
The foundation has already raised some money, and the addition of the $990,000 in state grant funding will allow the group to “outright purchase” the building and provide a permanent location to help veterans, Coberly said.
The nonprofit provides programs and services for veterans, including a food pantry, employment placement program, a temporary housing and shelter program for homeless and displaced veterans, a veterans emergency financial assistance fund, and a free weekly meal.
Last year, she said the Freedom Foundation saw 4,400 veterans and members of the public pass through its doors, and assisted 95 veterans with emergency financial assistance. The group also paid for hotel rooms for 10 veterans close to being homeless and provided 26,000 pounds of food and personal hygiene and household items to more than 1,200 veterans.
“We have grown over 25 percent since then, so we are rapidly increasing the number of veterans that are joining us and just the amount of items and food that’s going out the door,” Coberly said.
The group has reached capacity serving about 80 veterans a week at its Thursday luncheon, whereas the new space will allow the foundation to serve more than 100 veterans inside and 50 outside at a time, Coberly said.
“We’re also looking to expand and do family movie nights and that type of stuff to encourage younger veterans and active duty members to come down and join us,” she said.
Renovations have already begun, and Coberly said the foundation anticipates moving to the new location in early February.
Gazette reporter Tom Barton contributed to this story.
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