Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity is working together with the South District Neighborhood Association (SDNA) to deliver Iowa City Community School District school meals to children's homes in the South District.
This is a concerted effort between the SDNA and IVHFH to ensure that all children living in the South District have access to breakfast and lunch combined, delivered at their door step.
Soon after the school year started in the Fall of 2020, the ICCSD rolled out a free Grab & Go Meal Program for all children enrolled in the public school district of Iowa City.
Facing uncertainty, whether it is safe for children to return to a hybrid system, in January 2021, The South District Neighborhood Association and their President Angie Jordan started regular conversations with many parents in the South District to assess the current situation. They concluded that, while a majority of children in the SD were still enrolled in 100% online learning from home, many did not have the facility to pick up their meals directly from their school on a daily basis.
In the same month of January 2021, Angie Jordan gathered a list of interested families and started driving school meals from SE Junior High directly to families in need. Shortly after, IVHFH joined efforts with the SDNA to help support the newly created Grab & Go lunch home delivery program and expanded to more families in need living in the South District.
Since then, we have seen an amazing response from our families in the South District, as we grew from driving and delivering 26 to 97 meals day in a matter of weeks. The positive feedback from families in the SD has been very humbling as we continue to welcome new families to join our list of deliveries every day. As more families are showing interest and requesting to be included in our meal distribution program, we are adding 8 new families per week and delivering 25 added meals a week, on average.
Moving forward, we are quickly approaching the 100 meals a day threshold, and we are in need of more volunteer drivers to continue to deliver those meals on a daily basis, so we can continue to expand while making sure every meal gets delivered on time every day of the week.
Those interested in helping the SDNA and IVHFH with this continuous effort to help feed more home-schooled children in the SD, can sign up for any daily shifts still available, any weekdays this Winter and Spring of 2021. You can sign up here or log on to your volunteer account on United Way volunteer opportunities and sign up here.
For more information, please visit the SDNA Facebook page or contact the SDNA Grab & Go Lunches Delivery Program Coordinator for the South District at email@example.com.
We look forward to working with you to provide relief and happiness to children all over the South District neighborhood.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with long-term Habitat supporter and community partner, John Barr. We came to know John through his volunteer work on construction with First Presbyterian Church. Since then, he has remained involved with our organization as a member of our Interfaith Builds committee as well as through the Consultation of Religious Communities where John currently serves as Communications Secretary. We were most excited to learn that John is a poet!
IVHFH: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is one interest/hobby that people are usually surprised to learn about you?
John Barr: Composing haiku
Requires concise expression
From this verbose guy
IVHFH: You are Professor Emeritus in Physical Therapy at St. Ambrose University, where you tenured for over twenty years, and you were a faculty member at the University of Iowa before that. What values and beliefs as a clinician, a researcher, and a professor inspired your religious community agency work, and vice-versa?
John Barr: My personal values of compassion, interest in social justice, and stewardship of personal and natural resources have inspired most of my community work.
IVHFH: Do you remember your first experience as a faith community advocate for social and economic justice?
John Barr: One of the projects of the Servanthood Ministry at First Presbyterian Church, Iowa City, was to help address food insecurity through Table to Table and the Free Lunch Program (FLP). I was involved in fundraising for both organizations and continue to serve as a FLP volunteer.
IVHFH: How would you describe the impact that had in your life, and how did that change your outlook on things?
John Barr: The Free Lunch Program partnered me with a range of volunteers from other local faith communities and allowed me to directly interact with individuals who received our meals. It opened my eyes to this real need that many caring individuals in our community were also striving to meet.
IVHFH: You are currently the Consultation of Religious Communities (CRC) Communications Secretary. How would you describe your current role, and what CRC programs are you working on at the moment, or planning for the near future.
John Barr: The primary duties of the Communications Secretary are to oversee our Google Group network and website (www.crc-ic.org). Group members from faith communities and local service agencies/organizations receive regular notifications about social justice issues, lectures/educational programs, and volunteer needs. The CRC hopes to add a “portal” for community volunteer opportunities on our website.
IVHFH: What is your favorite part of your work at the Consultation, and what is the part of your work that you least enjoy?
John Barr: I do enjoy the daily ritual of sharing information via the Google Group; least enjoyable, with my limited skills, is attempting to keep our website up-to-date.
IVHFH: Give us one or two more recent examples of your work with communities of faith that illustrate why interfaith dialogue is key to success for different religious communities in Johnson County.
John Barr: Gabe Martin oversees the Interfaith Committee of the Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity. Participating representatives from local Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faith communities have worked with Gabe to review national Habitat interfaith resources in order to develop a worksite orientation manual, promotional materials, and formats for devotions at worksite groundbreaking ceremonies, workdays, and dedication ceremonies. In 2019, two Interfaith Build homes were constructed on Blazing Star Drive in Iowa City, through the diligent work of hundreds of interfaith volunteers. I have had the honor of serving as the First Presbyterian Church and CRC representative for these projects which resulted in joyful outcomes.
IVHFH: During these particularly challenging times, not only through COVID, but also with misinformation spread in news media, spikes in hate crime, and a growing perceived mistrust of public institutions, what can interfaith dialogue do to help bridge that social and economic divide in our communities today.
John Barr: I believe that this divide is fueled by fear and lack of opportunities for members of diverse faith communities to meaningfully interact. While dialogue certainly is important to eliminating this divide, there is much to be gained through working shoulder to shoulder on community projects (e.g., Habitat home building), sharing culturally diverse meals, and together celebrating the successful completion of these projects.
IVHFH: Finally, what do you find is quite unique about the faith communities in Johnson County that could inspire other religious communities all across Iowa and the Midwest?
John Barr: Our organization was originally founded in the late 1960s as the Ecumenical Consultation by exclusively Christian churches in Iowa City. In 1996, at the request of faith communities other than Christian, membership was open to all faiths and we became the Consultation of Religious Communities. It is my belief that intellectual and spiritual curiosity, respect for other faith traditions, sincere concern for the welfare of members of our community, and the desire to celebrate our common accomplishments have been important motivators for our faith communities. I prayerfully envision that these and additional factors could be inspirational to faith communities throughout our country during these challenging times.
Want to learn more about the Consultation of Religious Communities of Iowa City? Or interested in getting involved? Visit their website at https://www.crc-ic.org/.
Fiston and Nadege's family have been anxiously awaiting two important events: the completion of their new Habitat home and the birth of their third child. 2021 started off with the arrival of their son, John, and they will soon be moving into their new Habitat home this spring. We recently spent some time with them touring their newly completed home and presenting them with gifts from the community, including the keys to their new home!
Fiston and Nadege are from the Democratic Repulic of the Congo and came to the US through the Diversity VISA program. They have a daughter, Fistina, and two sons, James and John. Fistina says, "Thank you to everyone who is building our house. They make us feel welcome in our community." Read more about Firston and Nadege here.
Before and After Photos of Fiston and Nadege's Remodeled Home
Fiston and Nadege's future home is a Habitat renovation project that was started in summer 2020. Some updated features include a remodeled kitchen, newly finished basement to add additional living space, construction of a deck, and installation of new flooring throughout the home.
If you’ve been on an Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity construction site any time in the last 25 years, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve run into D’Grouch. William “D’Grouch” Laubengayer helped build over 100 Habitat homes with our affiliate—102 to be precise. William passed away in December of 2020, and we would like to take this time to honor the incredible man that he was.
William was always a bit of a legend around the Habitat offices. He’d been with the affiliate much longer than any of our current staff members and many of our volunteers. That coupled with a nickname like D’Grouch might have caused one to be a bit intimidated upon meeting him. However, getting to talk to and work alongside William, it quickly became clear that the self-imposed nickname was a bit of a misnomer. Grouch was a stickler for quality. Double- and triple-checking Construction Manager Christy’s measurements—often to wryly announce that she was off by a 64th of an inch—wasn’t out of the ordinary. If he was stern, it was because he wanted Habitat homes to be the best, pushing us to exceed code and permit requirements. Grouch wanted Habitat homes to be the highest possible quality, and he knew it could be done.
William was also an endless fount of knowledge that he was always happy to share. Countless Habitat volunteers and homeowners know the proper way to use a tool, the most efficient way to use materials, and the importance of not being done until it’s done right because they learned it from him. Grouch donated his personal shop’s tools to Habitat so that we could open D’Grouch Workshop in 2017. For years to come, Habitat volunteers will continue to learn important construction knowledge in a space built to honor him.
In the spring of 2017, William was one of three Iowans that year to be inducted into the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame. As a part of the nomination process, we did the math on all the time he has given over the years, and the numbers were staggering. In his 25 years with IVHFH, Grouch averaged 1,000 volunteer hours each year. On paper, or in a day planner, that looks like a lot of time. In reality, that looks like so many walls raised, volunteers taught, and families in safe, quality homes. Not to mention relationships built and smiles and laughs that were the result of a classic Grouch joke.
While this loss is impossibly difficult to bear, we vow to keep William’s spirit alive. We will continue to honor volunteers that go above and beyond with the annual William “D’Grouch” Laubengayer award. We will continue to instill in others the values he has instilled in us. And we will always remember that beneath that gruff exterior was a heart so filled with love, so filled with compassion, who we were blessed to know in this life. To William.
-Article written by Leda Rouse, IVHVH Volunteer Coordinator
Even in 2020, some traditions couldn’t be changed. Like each preceding year, autumn in 2020 brought pumpkins, costumes, piles of leaves, the first snow of the season, debates about the best Thanksgiving side dishes, and difficult decisions about white or dark meat. For Dana, the comforts that come with these traditions were nearly overshadowed by the stresses of a broken stove and critters sneaking through the gaps in the skirting of her mobile home. These worries were worsened by a loss of income. Without the financial means to replace her stove nor the ability to pay someone to winterize her home, Dana and her son were facing a winter of microwaveable meals and constant anxiety about whether the unwelcome guests below her home were causing damage. After hearing about our new ERMAR service, Dana called IVHFH to learn more about our work and request an application.
Since rolling out our ERMAR (Emergency Repair and Major Appliance Replacement) service on October 1, 2020, the response has been noteworthy. Our office has been inundated with calls from members of our community needing speedy, affordable, and trustworthy home repairs. Even prior to the pandemic home repairs and appliance replacement was a financial burden for many of our friends and neighbors, but the COVID-19 economy brought further hardship and greater demand for our services. Fortunately, our generous donors and amazing partners including the Community Foundation of Johnson County, St. Mary’s Peace and Justice Commission, Mid-American, and West Bank, have supported us in meeting these needs. Together we provided ERMAR services -including furnace replacement, furnace repair, simple electrical and plumbing repairs, roof patching, stove replacement, and winterization- to nine households in the last quarter of 2020. In keeping with our values and mission, each project was completed without creating a financial burden for the homeowners. And with demand remaining strong into 2021, we look forward to continuing our work so that members of our community have access to safe homes.
As for Dana, soon after receiving her application our staff saw to it that her home was winterized. Best of all, staff also arranged for a new stove to be installed before Thanksgiving. Even in 2020, she was allowed her to fill her plate with white meat, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberries on the side. Some traditions can’t be changed.
-Article written by Scott Hawes, IVHFH Helping Hands Manager
*An important disclaimer from Angie Jordan: "I speak as an individual and not on behalf of [South District Neighborhood Association] SDNA. These are MY own, individual opinions. To obtain the opinion of SDNA, questions must be submitted to our Leadership Committee for Approval."*
You have heard IVHFH talking about collaboration in the South District of Iowa City and there is a lot of exciting work we cannot wait to share with you in the coming year! Through our work in the South District, we have had the privilege of getting to know South District resident, Angie Jordan. So many community organizations and groups operate successfully under the leadership of passionate and driven individuals and Angie is that leader for the South District. For the past two and a half years, Angie Jordan has started up and led efforts through the South District Neighborhood Association (SDNA) which includes the Pepperwood, South Pointe, Weatherby, and Grant Wood neighborhoods, and currently serves as the association's president. The SDNA recently became a 501(c) nonprofit in 2020 and continues connecting and engaging fellow residents in the neighborhood she proudly calls home. One surprising thing Angie shared with us, "I am not currently employed, formerly educated or trained to do neighborhood development! Everything I do in my neighborhood is 100% as an unpaid, constantly learning, volunteer-resident."
Angie was born in Iowa City and attended Horace Mann Elementary; when she was eight she moved down to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas where she grew up playing many varsity sports, was involved in theater, Destination Imagination, ecology club, creative writing, Girls State, and a part of high school Rotary Interact, Pentathlon, Honor Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, along with other service organizations.
Every summer she would return to Iowa to visit family and enjoy the many amazing things Iowa City had to offer for a kid, teen, and young adult. Angie went to Williams College in Massachusetts for undergraduate students and double majored in cultural anthropology and psychology with a cognitive focus. After college, through the Community Corrections Improvement Association with the 6th Judicial District, she designed and started Children of Promise Mentoring Program in Johnson County to serve youth with parents in prison. Before starting her own family, Angie would go on to be a family support advocate through the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County and has served on the NCJC Board of Directors since 2017.
Angie has been a part-time adjunct instructor at the University of Iowa for 11 years teaching Team-Building on the University’s high and low ropes challenge course. She has also been a knitting instructor for the past seven years in her small business, Banjo Knits where she has taught group and individual classes at local yarn shops and at the Senior Center. Last year, she started a new LifeTime Leisure Skills class at the University--Beginner Knitting: Mindfulness/Patience.
During the past four years, she has founded and coordinated The Banjo Knits Project, an effort to increase the number of knitters in the world who practice mindfulness, patience, and kindness with themselves and others. Angie focuses this effort on underserved populations--low-income elementary schools, juvenile court services, emergency youth shelter, immigrant populations, parole and probation, and adults and children who might not be able to afford to take a knitting class in the community. She collaborates heavily with the fiber arts community in the Iowa City area. The Banjo Knits Project offers youth and adult programs, knitting support, silent auction fundraisers, and the opportunity to explore curiosity and self awareness.
In the recent past, she was the Administrative Coordinator at Inside Out Reentry before resigning to become Director Household and Online School Education Coordinator to her two children due to COVID-19. She has also been the Billing Department Coordinator at a local chiropractor and worked in local retail. Her volunteer service also includes Archibald Alexander Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Organization, a 501(c)3 nonprofit.
Angie is the mother of two elementary aged kiddos who keep her on her toes, and the wife of an Iowa City Firefighter who has served for 19 years. When Angie is not working or volunteering, she loves improvisation classes, going for neighborhood leisure bike rides, getting her "swole" on, knitting, playing board games with friends and family, or gardening in her backyard.
IVHFH: What originally brought you to the South District?
Angie Jordan: When my life-partner and I were looking to relocate from North Liberty to Iowa City in 2015, we wanted a larger, affordable forever-home in a neighborhood with tons of established amenities to raise a family. We wanted to be in a part of town that was very familiar to both of us, where we felt safe within and able to actively engage and be a part of. We also wanted our children to attend an elementary school where they were in the majority as children of color, where we knew the teaching staff.
IVHFH: As the President of the SDNA, what drives you to tackle this kind of work?
Angie Jordan: It’s important to share that I do not do any of this as work, I don’t get paid for the time, energy, knowledge, or skills that I bring to SDNA efforts. I was not trained or educated or hold any titles or certifications in neighborhood development. I believe that in some cases leadership is not sought after, it is placed on certain individuals because they are biased towards doing things that have not been done before.
It’s important for folks to know that for me, the neighborhood in which my family lives is an extension of our home. My life-partner and I want all the things we didn’t have and/or did have growing up that empowered us for our children. We want this in our neighborhood, in our home, so they grow up on a solid foundation knowing they’re important and valuable and know how to engage the challenges and beauty of life long after we are gone. We have a lot of “skin in the game” to consistently and sustainably engage and lift our neighborhood because it takes our investment of time, energy, knowledge, and skills and directly applies it to the future--our children. We hold a belief in our family that it takes a village to raise children. It’s important to both of us to bring our neighborhood, our home, into an awareness of the power it has and can create to be the change for a brighter future together.
IVHFH: What will the SDNA be tackling in the coming weeks and months? Is there one project or event that you are most excited about or most hopeful to get done over the next year?
Angie Jordan: I am most excited about the future of our brand-new neighborhood association committees. They are a step closer to ensuring initial neighborhood efforts continue and grow from within the actual neighborhood. There are many residents to engage and eager allies to integrate into the creating and maintaining of our neighborhood identity.
We have only just begun to scratch the surface of what is possible for our neighborhood. And, it is important we create a framework and process that can support our big ideas while genuinely and organically connecting residents to each other to see how interconnected we are. The development of the committees allows for more folks to come together within the neighborhood, practice and learn how to be a team working towards resident-led and identified goals. The more hands, the lighter the load.
The committees provide a safe space for residents to explore, develop, support, connect, and identify shared ways to dream, lead, and to get things done. I believe this will create and build trust and meaningful, lasting relationships between people who call the SD home.
I am most excited about the development of our committees as their efforts will streamline actions towards goals and dreams our neighborhood has had for many, many years even before I lived here.
IVHFH: 2020 has been a year that presents even more challenges for households to simply survive, and for communities to provide necessary resources. What is a major concern you have when it comes to keeping residents safe and healthy?
Angie Jordan: SDNA strives to focus on building and maintaining neighborhood identity through traditions while ensuring connection to each other and to the greater Iowa City area through individual connections and advocacy. It is so important that our voices in the South District can be heard and engaged to inform decisions that surround us in local government, our schools, and in other parts of the greater community. I believe the major concern and goals of SDNA have not changed but have been amplified by 2020 and that, in short, is lifting our voices to be heard and keeping our residents informed to ensure long-lasting safety and health within our neighborhood.
IVHFH: What do you think are some of the SNDA’s greatest accomplishments over this past year
IVHFH encourages you to learn more about the South District. SDNA is active on Facebook where you can stay informed and up-to-date on events that are always happening in the community. Or visit the SDNA website.
Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity is excited to partner with the South District Neighborhood Association to collect and distribute winter clothing on behalf of residents of the South District of Iowa City. The Winter Clothing Drive & Distribution is now accepting donations of new and gently used winterwear of all styles and sizes including coats, hats, gloves, scarves, and more.
Drop off donations at Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore, located at 2401 Scott Blvd SE in Iowa City. Donation hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Donations will be accepted through Friday October 23rd. Please call ReStore at (319) 338-5687 with any questions.
Donations can also be made via local realtor Julie Dancer at her office located at 2346 Mormon Trek Blvd in Iowa City. Julie can be reached at (319) 310-5522.
All donations will benefit the South District resident community of Iowa City and will be distributed at the South District Mural Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on Friday October 23rd from 3:30pm to 5:00pm. The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will take place at 1030 Crosspark Ave in Iowa City.
My name is Solano and I am an AmeriCorps Vista working with Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity. I decided to become an AmeriCorps Service Member so I could work closely with people in the communities where they live. I was lucky to be recruited by a team of passionate individuals who dedicate their lives to serving this community.
I am excited to work with Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity where I have been given an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. Now more than ever, community means everything and there’s no better time to slow down, listen to our neighbors, and to reach out to and invest in each other and our community. In these difficult times, every gesture of kindness makes a difference and while the stakes are higher than ever before, we’re left with no better choice than to pour our gifts into the communities that we belong to.
We should all feel proud to live in the Iowa City area because here runs an endless stream full of raw talent and pure compassion. This is our treasure, breathing and walking within our community. Our job, then, is to look for any loose ends and tie those knots as close together as we can. Everyone has a unique talent. Everybody is invaluable.
Each morning when we arrive at IVHFH, already the place is bursting with activity: Residents drive in to make donations to ReStore that will soon be purchased and taken away again. Some bring in antique furniture to be restored or repurposed, many drop off surplus construction materials, and they can even dispose of recyclable items on site. At Habitat, we have a dedicated team of builders and a long tradition of AmeriCorps Service Members who get out there every day and go back home feeling a sense of accomplishment. In a way, IVHFH feels like one of the many hubs of our community; a place where people come to be a part of something larger than themselves.
Myself, I mainly work with the South District in Iowa City. I am in permanent contact with many residents there, but when given the chance, I’ll jump at any opportunity to meet a few more. I make it my job to make contact and to maintain open communication with residents of the South District. I am always eager to meet new people and I want to listen to any stories you want to tell me about your experience of living, working, or going to school in the South District. At Habitat, we value our neighbors and we want to give back to the community. With the help of neighbors like you and our residents/business owners’ expertise about our South District neighborhood, I want to amplify your voices all across this community. If you’d like to reach out, feel free to give me a call at (319) 337-8949 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
plumbing, and electrical. IVHFH will also complete roof repair, ramp construction, and other carpentry work.
IVHFH Executive Director, Heath Brewer, sums up the program, “ERMAR is a response to an unmet need in our community. We get a lot of calls about work that needed to be done yesterday, and a lot of these situations are especially complicated for very low-income households. So, we’ve adjusted some of our processes and procedures and fundraising to be able to respond appropriately to these needs.”
For more information about the program or an application, please contact program director, Scott Hawes, at email@example.com or (319)519-3275.
Our goal is to assist at least 10 Johnson County homeowners in the next year, but we need your help to achieve this goal. Make a donation to the ERMAR program today!
At Iowa Valley Habitat, we — like so many — are adapting and continue to work with compassion and hope (and safety!). We are balancing how best to assist our community members through this time while also considering what our organization may look like in the future. For the past two months, we have directed much of our efforts to support other agencies providing much-needed services like food delivery and rapid re-housing. To continue our work of improving housing stability through affordable homeownership, we have also completed and sold both of our new affordable homes in Hills, are finishing up a rehab in Iowa City, and continue to complete Helping Hands projects. Although we are unsure when we might get back to building new affordable homes, our greatest goal at Habitat throughout this strange time remains the same: to lovingly work in partnership, for the betterment of all in our community.
-Article written by Gabe Martin, IVHFH Community Outreach Director