Guest Columnist

A place to park, and much more

Iowa City's 1105 Project marks five years of innovation and collaboration

The exterior of the 1105 Project building in Iowa City, on Sunday, September 7, 2014. (Sarah McCarthy/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
The exterior of the 1105 Project building in Iowa City, on Sunday, September 7, 2014. (Sarah McCarthy/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

I remember 8 years ago when Becci Reedus, executive director of the Crisis Center of Johnson County, told me about an idea she had — it really just started because she wanted a parking lot. Of course, as all good ideas do, it grew into something much bigger and challenged our ideas of community leadership and cooperation.

Collaboration is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but rarely in a way that honors its intention.

As someone who has worked in the human services community of Johnson County, there are organizations we turn to, almost daily, to help meet the most basic needs of our neighbors either in crisis or responding to difficult life transitions. But true collaboration goes beyond feelings of respect based on our experiences of quality, respectful services. Collaboration is the opportunity for a group of organizations, having no physical ties, to come together to create shared resources and develop opportunities for growth in ways none could accomplish individually.

The 1105 Project, a collaboration of four nonprofits (Crisis Center of Johnson County, Free Lunch Program, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Johnson County and Domestic Violence Intervention Program) is a model of that vision.

This year the 1105 Project celebrates five successful years. But equally important is another anniversary, one that made the 1105 Project possible: Becci’s 10th anniversary with the Crisis Center. Becci’s first day was June 23, which coincided with the peak of the Iowa City floods that summer. Quite the introduction to our community, as the CCJC became the hub for emergency services, and her leadership hit the ground running!

As I said, this all started with a parking lot. Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan remembers that day. Becci stopped him after a meeting and asked for an easement for the former Public Health Building (situated next to the CCJC), his response, “I’d rather give you the building than grant you an easement.”

As Becci thought about the comment, she started connecting nonprofits — important community entities struggling to meet specific needs. The Free Lunch Program was facing relocation of a meal program. DVIP and NAMI needed space to provide critical outreach and drop-in services.

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As these four programs came together, Becci facilitated an open, collaborative process that included organizational staff, board members and volunteers committed to each agency’s mission. This required skilled leadership and vision, and the capital campaign hadn’t even been launched yet.

Running a capital campaign for any organization is a tremendous, and sometimes overwhelming, project — but running a capital campaign with four organizations with different missions, sizes and needs, was herculean. Becci kept it all on track and our organizations campaigned for $1.25 million to renovate the 1105 Project building.

This project couldn’t have been accomplished by any one of our programs, but, with Becci at the helm, we succeeded together in creating a project unique in Iowa. Amazing what a parking lot will get you these days!

• Kristie Fortmann-Doser is executive director of the Domestic Violence Intervention Program in Iowa City.

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