Community

New services at Wellington Heights house means displacing some programs

Dan Everts picks up a pumpkin on Oct. 28, 2016, outside the Wellington House, 392 15th St. SE in Cedar Rapids. The pumpk
Dan Everts picks up a pumpkin on Oct. 28, 2016, outside the Wellington House, 392 15th St. SE in Cedar Rapids. The pumpkins were given away for free as part of an annual event hosted by the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Owners of a Wellington Heights neighborhood resource center are expanding services to accommodate more nearby residents. But the new uses mean displacing some longtime programming, including an addiction recovery support group that has been meeting there for nearly two decades.

Wellington Heights neighborhood Association owns the two-story house at 392 15th St. SE and runs it as a repository for information and resources, such as setting up spay and neutering appointments, handing out bus passes, and running a small food pantry one night a week.

The house is open about 12 hours per week, said Bob Grafton, president of the neighborhood association.

“We have identified ways to better serve our community and neighbors and need the evening space,” Grafton said. “So as our programming development expands, this will allow us to better meet the needs of our neighbors in the Wellington Heights neighborhood.”

The recovery support group has been meeting twice a week in the evening for 18 years. Grafton said while the changes mean some groups will need to find other accommodations, operators of the resource center have offered to help identify potential meeting places and have provided ample notice.

“A lot of people in the neighborhood have daytime jobs, so we want to do more in late afternoon, early evenings,” he said. “Unfortunately, some programs conflict with when we want to do other activities.”

He noted the house is privately owned — not owned by the residents of the neighborhood — and therefore the space is not considered public.

Serving more people also could make the house eligible for more financial support. The association gets $9,000 per year in federal Community Development Block Grants, Grafton said.

Changes include restructuring space to accommodate more storage for donations to the food pantry in a neighborhood with a great need. Grafton said 80 percent of children there qualify for free or reduced price lunch at school.

Operators of the center also could work with the Iowa State Extension Office and the Linn County Master Gardeners to develop classes geared toward health and personal growth.

“We want to expand on learning opportunities and will be seeking out ways to bring more classes to the neighborhood, such as GED prep, new homeowner basics, parenting and dealing with difficult behaviors,” Grafton said. “We are also planning to use and grow leisure and social opportunities for residents in Wellington Heights with more informal opportunities for gatherings within our resource center.”

The new services will start in March.

The house also will be getting security cameras, and there will be better tracking of who is using the house and who has keys.

“We don’t always know who’s coming and going,” Grafton said. “With the new programming, we hope to have a better sense of what is happening.”

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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