Fundraising for a van and the kids


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A local nonprofit is trying to raise $35,000 to replace its ancient, inadequate van with a brand-new minibus for its childcare group.

4Cs Community Coordinated Child Care runs Home Ties, a transitional childcare center that offers a haven for families that are homeless, nearly homeless, or facing crises.

“The van is very old,” 4Cs Director Susan Gray said. “I think I went and got it in Des Moines in 1999.” 

Homes Ties uses the van to transport the 24 children enrolled in its program to and from the Iowa City Shelter House and the Domestic Violence Intervention Program shelter, as well as on frequent educational trips.

Home Ties takes care of children for up to three months free of charge. In that time, parents have the opportunity to look for work, permanent homes, or permanent childcare.

In order to raise the money for the bus, the group started a GoFundMe page; it has so far only raised $815 out of the $35,000 it needs.

“[Home Ties] is a really happy place … the kids are in their situations for no fault of their own, and we just try to supply the routine, structure, and TLC during the day,” Home Ties teacher Amanda Nelson said. “We see a big improvement, even in kids who can only stay for three months.”

For Home Ties, having a good van is vital for providing care to the children and families, Gray said.

“If you couldn’t go and get the kids from the shelter, the kids wouldn’t be here,” she said.

Currently, the van the group seats 16 passengers; however, because of safety reasons regarding the transportation of children, the group may only use the first 12 seats. The van also has an array of mechanical and accessibility issues.

“The van is high up off the ground,” said Jan Koch, a Home Ties coordinator. “Right now, I have a mom up at the shelter pregnant with twins, and there’s no way she can eve step up to get her little guy out of there. [We need to] just get something that’s more accessible for parents and teachers.”

Nelson said that although they only take the van on short, 5- to 10-mile trips, because of the age of the vehicle, wear and tear are more damaging than usual.

However, the van isn’t just used for transporting kids from their homes. Home Ties also takes the children on educational trips to places such as libraries and parks — new experiences for many of the children.

“We really rely on it for a lot of enrichment,” Nelson said. “We really like to give the kids a lot of outdoor activities as well. Some of our kids don’t know how to swing or climb. They just haven’t had those experiences.”

For Koch, helping a child learn and grow when they’re young is a vital long-term investment.

“If we can benefit a child, when they’re 2, 3 years old, they will carry that benefit with them forever,” she said. “If they get too old, and they live in deprived circumstances, then they carry that with them.”

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