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Guest opinion: Support the 1105 Project

BY SARA LANGENBERG | DECEMBER 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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Every year, hundreds of University of Iowa students, staff, and faculty members support the greater Iowa City area through volunteer service to nonprofit agencies. It’s no secret we have the highest volunteer rate in the nation, a ranking due in large part to the UI community.

At least four nonprofit human-service agencies are grateful for the dedicated support of so many UI volunteers, but now these agencies need a different kind of help: financial assistance.

The 1105 Project — a collaboration among the Crisis Center of Johnson County, Domestic Violence Intervention Program, Free Lunch Program, and National Alliance on Mental Illness — needs donations to renovate a building at 1105 Gilbert Court so the agencies can reach more clients via proximity and interrelated programming.

Sharing space to improve service access and reduce overhead costs is a novel concept among nonprofits in this area, and the 1105 effort may be the blueprint for similar collaborations in the future. Unfortunately, this innovation carries a steep price tag.

With move-in scheduled in just a few weeks, the collaboration is about $490,000 short of paying for the $1.24 million cost to renovate and furnish the building, in which the agencies expect 45,000 requests for service each year.

If you support the university’s missions of teaching and service, consider bolstering 1105’s building fund with a gift through the United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties or the Community Foundation of Johnson County. UI employees can designate gifts through the human resources self-service site. UI students can donate via our website at the1105project.com.

Your gift will support opportunities for UI students to gain experiential learning and increase their understanding of diverse populations serving some of our community’s most vulnerable residents: people struggling with food insecurity, mental illness, domestic violence, or another personal or financial crisis.

Already, across a wide range of majors, at least 280 UI students are “learning by doing” by volunteering at agencies in the 1105 collaboration.

About 170 volunteer at DVIP, which shelters up to 300 women and children each year. It serves an additional 1,800 abuse victims through outreach. Students represent about 65 percent of DVIP’s volunteer workforce. Helping abuse victims increases student confidence, skills, and competence working with diverse populations, and they learn to respond compassionately and without judgment when helping people in crisis — a huge asset to post-degree employment prospects.

An additional 110 students support crisis intervention efforts at the Crisis Center. During its latest fiscal year, the center provided around 51,000 requests for food-bank assistance, nearly 12,500 requests for crisis counseling, and more than 2,000 requests for financial aid to avoid eviction, loss of utility service, or access to prescriptions. Many times, people need these services all at once and more than once.

Approximately 70 Crisis Center volunteers — usually students in social work, psychology, or sociology — counsel clients outside any classroom. Six have internships or practicums in communications or program evaluation, touching on the university’s research mission by evaluating program data.

Mental-illness alliance volunteers come from UI programs in social work, public health, rehabilitation counseling, and departments in the College of Nursing and the Carver College of Medicine.

Faculty and staff contribute, as well, often by voluntarily serving on agency boards. Volunteers at the Free Lunch Program, serving more than 41,000 free meals per year, include work crews from the UI Foundation and the UI Public Policy Center, who periodically help prepare and serve meals.

A graduate student is on its Board of Directors. Medical students provide basic health services to its clients once a month.

Opportunities for student learning and community engagement will only grow as agencies in the 1105 collaboration hit their stride.

Your gift will support additional opportunities and the university’s mission to provide unparalleled opportunities for public service and community engagement.

Learn more online at the1105project.com.

Sara Langenberg, a UI alum and former employee, is the capital campaign head for the 1105 Project.


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