ELECTION 2020

Volunteering at derecho center shows voters 'what kind of person I am,' Hinson says

Raymond Siddell (left) leads a tour of the Iowa Derecho Storm Resource Center with Ashley Hinson, Republican candidate f
Raymond Siddell (left) leads a tour of the Iowa Derecho Storm Resource Center with Ashley Hinson, Republican candidate for US House District 1, in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. The resource center grew out of a Facebook page after the August 10 storm, and is now in the process of applying for 501c3 nonprofit status as well as looking for a permanent location. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — State Rep. Ashley Hinson’s campaign for a seat in the U.S. House amounted to a pallet of green beans Monday.

Hinson, a Republican seeking the congressional seat held by Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer, and campaign staff members were breaking down a pallet of canned greens and sorting other donations at the Iowa Derecho Storm Resource Center, a place she volunteers on a regular basis.

The center, started by Raymond Siddell of Center Point and friends, accepts donations of food, clothing, diapers and other supplies needed by people harmed by the Aug. 10 hurricane-force derecho.

“The pandemic and the derecho have been a one-two punch hitting families really hard,” Hinson said at the center housed in the former service bay of the McGrath Ford car dealership at 4001 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids. “A lot of people who were food secure before the derecho aren’t anymore.

“Children can’t focus on learning if you go to school hungry, and parents can’t focus on their jobs if they’re worried about feeding their families,” Hinson said.

Siddell didn’t expect the need to extend more than two months, but he plans to continue to collect donations and distribute them to people with needs. He’s in the process of organizing his effort as a nonprofit under the name Together We Achieve.

Noting the newly fallen snow, Hinson said the center will fill a need for people who may have to choose between heating and eating.

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She encouraged people to continue to make donations either at the center or online.

About a quarter of Iowa voters already have cast their ballot, according to the Iowa Secretary of State, and Election Day is 16 days away. Hinson said she was spending time at the derecho recovery center to “lead by example.”

“I want to show voters what kind of a person I am,” she said. “I want to show people what kind of a community-minded person I am.”

In the context of the campaign, Hinson said her volunteering demonstrates that she’s willing to meet voters, to hear their concerns and answer their questions.

“This is an important time for our country to move forward with rebuilding our economy, restoring our way of life and restoring the American dream,” Hinson said. “I think I’m the candidate here in the 1st District to do that. I’m out listening to people. I’m not hiding.”

She criticized Finkenauer for not agreeing to more than one debate.

However, a Finkenauer spokesman said the congresswoman has kept a busy schedule of tele-town halls, forums with community groups and meeting with newspaper editorial boards — which Hinson declined to do.

Finkenauer is on a 20-day tour of the 20-county district. She spent Monday at a Benton County farm observing extensive derecho damage to farm buildings and crops as well as the second story of the family’s home.

“The storm took a lot the day it ripped through & I’ll continue fighting to get #ia01 families help. The road is long, but Iowans give me hope,” Finkenauer posted on Twitter.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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