CEDAR RAPIDS — Officials are planning to renovate the Ladd Library, the city’s westside public library branch, to create a new center designed to help working families and individuals improve their financial positions and access a range of other services.
The Opportunity Center, which is a partnership of several organizations including the library, United Way of East Central Iowa and Kirkwood Community College, would connect people’s work and career goals with employment opportunities that offer livable wages and a career path.
People could find resources for education, job training, job placement, financial literacy, housing, and other services.
“It’s all about finding those next steps to creating a better life for people,” said Amber Mussman, library community relations manager. “It’s not just solving one problem, but a multitude of problems.”
The center would help clients navigate services, and could step in with resources in some emergency situations, such as someone who didn’t have housing or food, she said.
Warehouse space connected to the back of Ladd Library, 3750 Williams Blvd. SW, would be renovated to accommodate the center. It would include two classrooms, an office and bathrooms, according to design plans.
An $88,000 first phase was completed last year. The library board approved spending $99,860 on construction for phase two, but that is contingent on obtaining a grant.
The library has applied to the Hall-Perrine Foundation for grant funding.
The center could open in January 2019, but the time frame remains tentative, Mussman said.
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The library, United Way and Kirkwood have signed a memorandum of understanding to “help job seekers gain employment through education, on-the-job training programs and other services that are supported by local employers,” according to library documents.
Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, other unconfirmed community organizations, and the neighborhoods and citizens located near the library also are involved. HACAP secured a grant to staff a role called “center navigator” to lead the center on a day-to-day basis.
Carol O’Brien already has been hired, and she has been meeting with organizations, Mussman said.
The area surrounding the library has been seen as one in need of more services to support a larger immigrant population and lower average incomes compared to other parts of Cedar Rapids, which makes the library a good location to host the center, she said.
The center is not a new concept but rather follows the model and best practices outlined by the Center for Working Families and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, she said.
“A lot organizations offer services, but others don’t know about it,” Mussman said. “This will be one place where everyone has access to all of it. It changes the ballgame.”
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