Guest Columnist

Cedar Rapids' YouthPort shows we're stronger together

Tanager Place on 5th Street in downtown Cedar Rapids on Wed. Feb. 24, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Tanager Place on 5th Street in downtown Cedar Rapids on Wed. Feb. 24, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

YouthPort is a 501c3 nonprofit formed by a collaboration of Tanager Place, YPN and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Corridor. Since its inception, there has been one major focal point: how can we work to bring the strength of our organizations together to better help those we serve. For over seven years, YouthPort has been coming together to find solutions and support for families.

Daily, it is difficult not to catch a news story or article that does not speak of the need to unify as a nation. While many of us agree there are deep divisions within our society that must be addressed, the strength in our unity and the unity of YouthPort is proof of the many ways in which people and organizations come together. By linking people to the support and services they need, YouthPort can provide a strong foundation for the development of children and the family unit as a whole. This shared mission has been a guiding force of inspiration in helping keep the collaboration not just going, but thriving.

The impact 2020 had on the community, and our organizations, and all of us personally was significant. Forever it will be remembered as a year that pushed us in ways we did not think possible. Our organizations, like many others in the community, had to figure out how to meet our mission under the toughest of circumstances. Difficult decisions were necessary to navigate the uncertain future. Weekly, we meet to discuss our partnership, address issues and collaborate with YouthPort Project Director, Megan Bogden. You might imagine that when three nonprofit leaders get together, especially during turbulent times, there are jumps from topics to tangents. At the same time, some laughter and candid conversations about issues and current events rise to the surface. It is during these conversations when we step back and realize the true power of what a collaboration can be — support, validation and encouragement. It is not just about the work, it is about our shared love of this community and our belief in the mission of all three organizations. It would have been easy to walk away from our efforts, but we stayed the course, not just for our amazing team members, but also because we believe in what we are doing for our community. That shared mission kept us going (even as an inland hurricane taught most of us a new word while we learned to cope with the pandemic).

Some believe that collaborations cannot be sustained, and are too much work. We adamantly disagree. Collaborations are not easy, and we do not always agree on everything. Yet we see how working together has its benefits. Not only do we work together as a team, we also have our own individual network of other amazing nonprofits in the area with whom we collaborate regularly. There are many remarkable people who work at these organizations; and so many board members who serve organizations and many more dedicated volunteers who demonstrate what true unity and purpose look like. There is so much good in this community. While there may be deep divisions in our society, we stand together and remind you, there is incredible unity happening, too. We should not overlook it. It brings profound hope to each of us. We are stronger together, don’t forget that and find your own way to unite. You will be grateful you did!

Okpara Rice is CEO of Tanager Place, John Tursi is executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Corridor and Alejandro Pino. is executive director of YPN.

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