Community

Cedar Rapids man aims to give kids 'One Less Obstacle'

Jamarco Clark hugs Jan Hanks, family resource coordinator, as she thanks him for a donation at Van Buren Elementary School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Clark was at the school Friday to donate a box of coats, gloves and hats collected at a drive at the African American Museum of Iowa and purchased through his nonprofit One Less Obstacle. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Jamarco Clark hugs Jan Hanks, family resource coordinator, as she thanks him for a donation at Van Buren Elementary School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Clark was at the school Friday to donate a box of coats, gloves and hats collected at a drive at the African American Museum of Iowa and purchased through his nonprofit One Less Obstacle. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — When Jamarco Clark, 26, was a student at Iowa Wesleyan University, he took a class that assigned a service project. He organized a shoe drive for elementary school children in Mount Pleasant.

It inspired him to keep finding ways to give back, and last year he started an effort called One Less Obstacle. For now, it’s just him doing good deeds when he can to help area children, but he hopes to apply for official 501(c) (3) nonprofit status soon.

Things really kicked off for One Less Obstacle last summer when he posted on a “Buy, Sell, Trade” Facebook group that he wanted to purchase school supplies for a few kids in need. Fifteen minutes later, he had a list of 25 children.

He had only planned to buy things for a couple kids, but, “I was sitting in my driveway, and I looked at this, and I said, ‘OK,’” he said. “Removing an obstacle for a kid doesn’t solve everything, but it removes one obstacle for the kid, for the family, for the teachers.”

He knows what a difference something like that can make.

“I grew up in Florida, and my family was helped a lot,” he said. “I grew up in a rough area. Sometimes, we didn’t know if we were going to eat. We went to food pantries. I want to give back. My hope is to help others.”

He estimates he’s helped more than 200 kids so far.

“If only 50 of them do something to help others when they get to my age, we’ll be in a good spot,” he said. “Small seeds can turn into big, blossoming flowers.”

Until recently, Clark was the director of volunteerism and service learning at Mount Mercy University, and he took students on trips to Guatemala and Belize in January and May of this year. In Guatemala, he connected with a student whom he is paying school tuition for.

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“A lot of folks go to these countries and are done, but I wanted to find a way to do more,” he said.

Now, he is the director of student life at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa. However, Clark plans to still do One Less Obstacle work in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area. He also coaches football at Coe College and is on the board of the African American Museum of Iowa.

The museum has been a partner is some of his efforts. Earlier this month, he hosted a winter clothing drive for students at Van Buren Elementary, collecting donated coats in the museum’s lobby. He supplemented them with hats and gloves he bought with his own money before delivering them to the guidance counselor’s office. Earlier this year, the museum was a distribution center for about 75 backpacks with school supplies.

People or organizations who want to get involved can watch for upcoming drives and efforts and get in touch with Clark via his website, onelessobstacle.com.

This holiday season, for example, he’s hoping to create care packages for homeless people in the community.

“At first, it was just something I wanted to do, and it’s taking off,” he said of One Less Obstacle.

l Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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