As a North Liberty resident, I find it easy to feel insulated from big city problems. I don’t think my neighbors are hungry. I don’t worry that they are abused, unable to pay their bills, or struggling with mental illness
Local statistics shatter those illusions:
26 North Liberty residents received shelter or other resources provided by the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) in the last six months of 2013 (17 more so far this year); 588 were assisted by the Crisis Center of Johnson County between July 2012 and June 2013, including 103 who received $9,906 in emergency assistance to help pay electric, gas, or water bills; and the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Johnson County (NAMI-JC) provided programs or resources for 75 North Liberty individuals and families last year.
Last summer, I began helping raise money for The 1105 Project– a collaboration the three agencies above and the Free Lunch Program– to renovate a building at 1105 S. Gilbert Ct. in Iowa City for the agencies’ joint use. By sharing spaces in the building, the agencies can operate more cost-effectively and collaborate more easily to serve each others’ clients.
Also, the Crisis Center and NAMI-JC needed larger, private spaces for support groups, DVIP needed a safe yet public space to greet victims, and the Free Lunch Program had long been searching for a space more suitable for serving 40,000 meals per year.
I live here, the project is there, but many of the services at 1105 aren’t yet available here, and we have neighbors who need them. I know at least one North Liberty family left their home recently because they couldn’t pay the mortgage. At a PTO meeting a few years ago, I learned that 40 students at Penn Elementary were homeless.
Despite the need for services the 1105 agencies provide, in North Liberty and elsewhere, fundraising hasn’t been easy. The project’s $1.25 million price tag is a huge challenge. Johnson County generously sold the building for $1 based on its future as a social services hub, but the building needed repairs and an overhaul to provide conference rooms, private offices, a kitchen, and dining room.
Because we were still about $300,000 short on our Jan. 1 move-in date, we asked the City of Iowa City for help. It agreed to give us $100,000 if we can raise $200,000 by April 14, with its contribution proportional to the amount we raise, making every new gift before then worth 50 percent more.
This means North Liberty’s recent $10,000 gift, for which we are very grateful, is worth $15,000 to 1105 with Iowa City’s contribution. We also are grateful for 37 gifts from North Liberty residents who have collectively donated $18,684 to our campaign. With nearly 15,000 residents, we would love to see those numbers increase. At this point, we need an additional $140,000 to receive Iowa City’s full gift and conclude our one-time campaign.
At the request of the city council, we also have begun exploring opportunities to increase 1105’s impact in northern Johnson County. We met March 5 with the Unity Coalition– a group of North Liberty residents, churches, and social service agency representatives. It was an eye-opening opportunity to learn more about our community’s needs and efforts already underway to address them.
I look forward to the day North Liberty residents can access all of the services available at 1105 without traveling to Iowa City. Until then, I hope you will join me in donating to 1105, where four agencies are helping our neighbors in ways we may not realize, providing some services our community can’t yet provide.
To donate to The 1105 Project, visit http://the1105project.com . To learn more about the North Liberty Unity Coalition, contact firstname.lastname@example.org .