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HotelVetro hosts benefit

BY CAROLINE BERG | FEBRUARY 04, 2010 7:30 AM

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A network of six homes sprouted in 1971 in Iowa City; the founders intended to house disabled children in an non-institutional environment. Thirty-nine years later, the human-resources agency Systems Unlimited Inc. provides 15 major services to more than 1,100 children, adults, and families in 45 satellite locations up and down eastern Iowa.

“Our staff works really hard to create a loving home environment for people who have nowhere else to go,” said Mona Dowiat, the assistant director of support services at Systems Unlimited.

Bolstered by its growth, Systems Unlimited seeks to magnify its name in the community with the agency’s fifth-annual Snowflakes and Strings Wine Gala and Silent Auction at hotelVetro, 201 S. Linn St., at 7 p.m. Friday. Advance tickets are $35; tickets at the door are $40.

The benefit will auction gifts including salon, tanning, and massage packages, a houseboat-cruise wine party, and a 10-person cocktail party at the Mansion in Iowa City. The Marion Chamber Trio will provide music, and hotelVetro will cater hors d’oeuvres and a chocolate fountain.

“The money we raise will go toward enhancing the home environments of the people we serve, as well as their work environments,” said Megan McCannon, a community-resource coordinator at Systems Unlimited. “Some of the money will go to funding trips, which are important for breaking the routine for the people we serve.”

The agency will channel a portion of the proceeds toward its “Keep on Moving” Memorial Fund, she said. In 2008, Coralville residents Larry and Judy Smith established the fund in memory of their son Steve Smith, whom Systems Unlimited served for 22 years. The fund has supported trips to Adventureland, in Des Moines, a indoor water-park and river-boat tour in Dubuque, a dinner-theater trip in Rock Island, and a visit to the Omaha Zoo.

“My experience working for the agency has been incredibly positive,” McCannon said. “I’ve seen so many success stories with enabling the people we serve to live and work in the community.”

The agency partners with Jumpy Monkey Premium Coffee, which assists individuals with disabilities to attain meaningful and purposeful employment. Wild Bill’s Coffee Shop, City High School, and 808 Restaurant are among a collection of community venues that serve Jumpy Monkey coffee.

Dowiat regards the opportunities she receives to work directly with both individuals and staff at the agency as most valuable. At one point, she left Systems Unlimited temporarily to lend the UI her counseling expertise. However, she missed the direct contact available to her at the agency, and she has been back on the staff for around a year now.

“I love the passion our staff has in providing quality service to those in need,” Dowiat said.

She attends career fairs to recruit councilors. She has seen many UI students come to work temporarily at the agency and wind up on permanent staff because of the emotional attachment they have formed with their work.

McCannon is proud that Systems Unlimited has sustained the same principles upon which the agency was founded nearly four decades ago: Individuals of any age, background, or capability are equally important, and all have the right to achieve their maximum potential and quality of life.


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