Iowa City Catholic Worker celebrates one-year anniversary

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Mike Stenerson, of Iowa City, adds finishing touches on his mural at the Iowa City Catholic Worker Shelter House on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. — photo by Lauren Shotwell

Iowa City Catholic Worker House Dinner and Concert

St. Patricks Catholic Church (4330 St. Patrick Dr, Iowa City) — Sunday, April 30 at 4 p.m.

Iowa City Catholic Worker, an organization that provides food and shelter to those in need, celebrates its one-year anniversary with a benefit dinner this Sunday, featuring live music by the Home Brewed Blues Band.

“They’re like a local garage band that hosts benefit concerts and fundraisers all over town,” Iowa City Catholic Worker co-founder David Goodner said. The event will also include a raffle, a silent auction, a short program around 5 p.m. and lots of Mexican food donated by local restaurants.

“The Catholic Worker Movement was started on May 1 in 1933 by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, during the height of the great depression,” Goodner said. In contrast to other charities, “the Catholic Worker is generally more of an intentional community,” Goodner said. “Our ministry really is to serve the poor,” he said, citing the life of Jesus Christ and a biblical passage from Matthew 25 as inspiration for the organization’s work:

“‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ – Matthew 25:35-37.”

Iowa City Catholic Worker particularly aims to serve unaccompanied youth ages 16-21, women leaving prison, migrant farmworkers and refugees. On May 1, 2016 they made an offer on a historic victorian house in Southeast Iowa City, and within two months had raised enough money for a down payment. Since then, they took in $100,000 in donations in their first fiscal year.

The house, furnished with donated furniture and supplies, is run entirely by hundreds of volunteers and has housed over 50 people so far. Goodner said next year they hope to make renovations and add beds in the current house, and, once the mortgage is paid, raise money to purchase a second house.

“We still get 3-4 calls a week … with families and individuals who need transitional housing,” he said. “It’s a clear need that still isn’t being met yet.”

Community member David Goodner; advisory board members Angel Hernandez and Tess Judge-Ellis; community member Emily Sinnwell; and advisory board members Sarah Thomas, Evalee Mickey and Juan Manuel Galvez Ibarra. — photo courtesy of Iowa City Catholic Worker

Volunteers provide meals on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons to about twenty-five people, mostly homeless men, during times when other soup kitchens are closed. They offer guests clothing, toiletries and medicine, and host variety of activities for kids like reading and tutoring. They also offer religious programming like mass and bible study.

If they meet their fundraising goals next year they hope to build little free food pantries around town and set up a free farmers market, offer free haircuts and foot care and possibly start a daily free breakfast program.

Since Catholic Worker isn’t a nonprofit, they don’t accept money from the government or foundations. “It helps us stay small, and is a more pure form of giving,” Goodner said. All donations go directly to the community land trust (the legal framework under which the house operates, which owns the bank account and will eventually own the house.)

The land trust is overseen by an advisory board made up of members of the local Catholic community: Sarah Thomas, M.D.; Angel Hernandez of Civco Medical Solutions, and parish president at St. Patricks; Juan Manuel Galvez Ibarra, reporter and editor at El Trueque magazine; teacher and nurse Tess Judge-Ellis; and retired farmer Evalee Mickey.

Can’t make it to the event but want to lend a hand? Sign up to volunteer by emailing or donate by sending a check to Iowa City Catholic Worker, 1414 Sycamore St, Iowa City, Iowa 52240.

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