The project began when the building at 1105 Gilbert Court — formerly a public health building — was sold to the Crisis Center of Johnson County by the Johnson County Supervisors in 2012. Four human service agencies are now preparing to move into the space by the end of this year, and they’re asking for the community’s help in raising $1.2 million to cover the costs of both interior and exterior renovations.
The building, located next to the Crisis Center, will soon host the Free Lunch Program, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Johnson County, and the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP). The Crisis Center will also utilize parts of this location in order to train volunteers — an effort to relieve some of the “space crunch” the program has been experiencing at its current location.
Sara Langenberg of the 1105 Projects says the benefits of such a collaboration are numerous.
“Sometimes, the clients of one agency might need the services of another agency,” Langenberg said, pointing out that the building itself is in close proximity to Iowa City bus lines. “One of the ideas I’ve heard discussed by the agency directors is, for example, the National Alliance on Mental Illness [of Johnson County] holding support group meetings or information meetings before or after the Free Lunch Program … The potential for the agencies to reach more people in need of their services is very advantageous for the community of people who need these services.”
Langenberg points out that DVIP’s upcoming move into the Gilbert Court location is especially important because, although the program offers shelter services, it has previously lacked a “public front” to represent said services. She went on to explain that multiple agencies utilizing the space at 1105 Gilbert Court will create easier opportunities for spousal abuse victims to seek support.
“A lot of times, people who are victims of domestic violence, the spouse or partner will sometimes stalk them,” Langenberg said. “So, they can take their kids [to 1105 Gilbert Court] and they can tell their abusive spouse, ‘I’m going to the crisis center to get food,’ or one of the other agencies.” Langenberg added that, for the protection of abuse victims, only those with authorization will be able to enter DVIP’s section of the building.
Mary Palmberg, director of the Free Lunch Program, is also looking forward to the move, and with good reason. The Free Lunch Program’s lease at the Wesley Center expires on December 31, and its move to 1105 Gilbert Court comes just in time.
“We won’t miss any lunches,” Palmberg said, referring to the some 40,000 meals the Free Lunch Program serves up each year. “Our current moving date is December 15.”
Palmberg says that the moving date very deliberately falls on a Sunday — a day when the Free Lunch Program does not serve. She says that the new location will ease transportation challenges for volunteers as well.
“We’re very excited to share this project with the community,” Palmberg added. “There are clients of all sorts of agencies that will benefit from this collaboration and a lot of the people in the community who are involved with at least one of those organizations, so they know what it meas to their clients.”
Langenberg hopes that the November 5 restaurant fundraiser will give a good boost to ongoing efforts. The City of Iowa City has already awarded the project approximately $285,000 in community development block grants. In addition, more private donors have given more than $200,000 thus far.
“We really appreciate the participation of the 18 restaurants because it really shows, to me, that they understand the importance of this project to our entire community and the people in it who need the services of these agencies,” Langenberg said. “We’re just tremendously grateful.”
For information on how to give directly, visit the 1105 Project’s donation page.