Guest Columnist

CommUnity: Crisis services grow with the community's needs

The Gazette asked Eastern Iowa nonprofit leaders to write about the changing needs of our community in 2020

Steve Schuette of Iowa City stacks canned goods at the new CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank in Iowa City on Monda
Steve Schuette of Iowa City stacks canned goods at the new CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank in Iowa City on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The new location opened Monday, Nov. 9. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CommUnity’s top priority this year has been enhancing safety measures to continue providing services. Early in the coronavirus pandemic, that meant shifting our Food Bank from shopping style back to prepackaged grocery bags and offering walk-up services. After just a couple months of operating this way, it became clear that this would not be a long-term solution to the rising needs of our community.

We often say that many of our neighbors are just one degree away from crisis. The events of this year have been hard on all of us, but even more so on those who were already struggling to afford basic necessities. An ongoing global pandemic, the national economic crisis and a statewide natural disaster have pushed more Americans into poverty, forcing them to lean on social service organizations. We truly would not have been able to answer this call without the support of our community.

It is the work of our organization to provide immediate and non-judgmental support for individuals facing food, financial or emotional crisis. CommUnity accomplishes this by offering crisis intervention, suicide prevention, mobile crisis outreach, food bank, and basic needs services. For the last 50 years, our organization has grown and evolved around the needs of the Iowa City community. This year has been no different.

When the coronavirus pandemic forced our neighbors to shelter in place, we began a grocery delivery service to reduce their barriers to food. When our neighbors faced job loss and found themselves unable to afford rent and utilities, we applied for funding to provide relief. When the emotional distress of social isolation began surfacing, we increased the capacity of our crisis line and began providing additional support groups. And, after months of planning and preparations, we reopened our Food Bank doors for shopping at a new location in Pepperwood Plaza.

As we approach the cold winter months, the need for these essential services will continue to rise. Nonprofits will need your support to reach our neighbors in need. Here are the ways that you can help CommUnity provide food, financial and emotional services:

Volunteers are critical to CommUnity’s mission. We have a variety of volunteer positions available in the Food Bank! If you are healthy and have been practicing social distancing and mask wearing, sign up for a shift at builtbycommunity.org. No prior experience is necessary in the Food Bank, and opportunities with or without client contact are available.

As a nonprofit, 60 percent of CommUnity’s annual funding comes from individuals like you. Your contributions sustain our programs and allow us to provide these critical services. Whether it’s $5 or $5,000, your support will have a direct impact on families right here in our community. Make a contribution online at builtbycommunity.org/donate or send a check by mail to CommUnity at 1121 S. Gilbert Ct, Iowa City, IA 52240.

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Reaching out to your personal network can also be a great way to support nonprofit organizations! Check with your employer about matching donations, invite your friends and family to support your favorite organization with a Facebook fundraiser, or host a food drive with your faith community, business, school or neighborhood.

CommUnity also accepts donations of food and consumable household items. Visit our website for a list of Top 10 donation items and to schedule a donation drop-off.

This December, CommUnity’s Project Holiday will provide the ingredients for more than 1,500 Johnson County families to prepare and share a holiday meal. Each $25 donation covers the cost of a turkey, ham, chicken, turkey loaf, or vegetarian option, and all of the traditional holiday side dishes! Learn more and donate at builtbycommunity.org/project-holiday.

As we enter the holiday season, we’re reminded of all the things that we’re grateful for. From everyone at CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank, thank you for helping us help others.

Becci Reedus is executive director of CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank.

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