Guest Columnist

We're not alone on this ride

Laser-focused conversations are already underway to address how facets of the nonprofit sector will contribute their expertise to the goal of creating a stronger and more resilient community post-pandemic.

Okpara Rice, CEO of Tanager Place, at the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, February 24, 2019.
Okpara Rice, CEO of Tanager Place, at the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, February 24, 2019. (Cliff Jette /The Gazette)

How has this weekslong emotional roller coaster courtesy of COVID-19 been treating you? Read the news and the clicketyclack of a steep emotional incline begins. Remember how everything has changed and lose your stomach during the subsequent plummet. Learn about new victims or potential symptoms and white-knuckle your way through the loop the loop.

As a nonprofit leader in our community, husband, father and everyday human, I’m ready for this ride to end. And yet I also understand the ripple effects of this unwanted journey are likely to expand for years to come.

Each day I think about how area nonprofits can continue to meet needs and manifest our missions during a time of so much uncertainty. As a seven-year member of the local nonprofit landscape, I know I’m not alone with these thoughts. I also know that’s exactly the point: We’re not alone on this ride and we won’t be alone in its aftermath.

Laser-focused conversations are already underway to address how facets of the nonprofit sector will contribute their expertise to the goal of creating a stronger and more resilient community post-pandemic. The collaboration, intelligence and passion I’ve seen displayed as we search for ways to make sure all community members have what they need to thrive is inspiring. Many have demonstrated agility and flexibility, much needed during this unprecedented challenge, and I am so proud to be part of this community safety net.

I know, as we are all whipping around the track, it is difficult to appreciate the landscape. But gratitude for what we have, even if it is now reduced to a fleeting glance, is a valuable virtue that can bring us through this crisis.

One of my personal blessings is working with board members who live the Tanager Place mission as part of their DNA. At a time when their attention could easily be spent on their own businesses, not a week goes by without one of them reaching out to see how Tanager Place is doing and what they can do to help us achieve mission. I hear similar stories from nonprofit leaders throughout the area, and my gratitude grows. Please know that your service, leadership, expertise and support is valued every day, but never more than it is valued today. Nonprofit sector, private sector, public sector — we are all connected and it is our shared commitment to this community that will mark the path forward.

Another personal blessing, one I share with all of you, is being a part of this community. So many are struggling, yet the people in our community find a way to financially support a variety of nonprofits and invest in their missions. People want to help and they give of themselves and their resources at whatever level they can. Our donor community has been responsive and attentive, we are most grateful. This generosity continues to be humbling to me. I hope you are often reminded that we simply could not do what we do without you.

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I do not know the exact location or timing, but eventually we will pull to the platform and step off this coaster. Until then, please keep your hands and feet inside the ride until we come to a full stop. We’re going to need each other on the next part of this shared journey.

Okpara Rice is chief executive officer of Tanager Place.

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