Best of the CRANDIC Spotlight: Mandi Nichols created the Corridor Community Action Network Facebook page just in time

Corridor Community Action Network — Jason Smith/Little Village
Best of the CRANDIC 2021 winner: Best Local Facebook Page

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself with an overabundance of diapers that my daughter had grown out of. Disoriented and feeling cut off from friends, family and usual donation options, I threw out a plea on Facebook asking where I might safely gift them. A friend directed me to the Corridor Community Action Network, the CRANDIC’s Best Local Facebook Page. It was then a comparatively small community on the site. Mandi Nichols, who founded CCAN in August of 2019, connected me with an organization in need just blocks from my home.

CCAN is now a Facebook page boasting over 1,500 likes. The org posts daily calls to action that offer direct ways that individuals can make a difference in their communities, along with sharing posts and information from other like-minded groups. It’s like your own personal mutual aid 101.

Nichols, whose family moved to North Liberty from Okinawa when she was 14, moved to Iowa City at 17 and has been raising children here for over 18 years. She’s worked at UIHC for over 15 years. In addition to her work with CCAN, she is chair of the Iowa City Community Police Review Board, co-chair of the University of Iowa Safety and Security Committee and a member of the UI Council for the Status of Women.

What is CCAN’s mission statement?

Corridor Community Action Network serves to facilitate resident participation and empowerment, raising awareness about opportunities to improve the quality of life for all individuals in the Iowa Corridor. We take action to promote individual and community equity and quality of life through policy and advocacy work, service projects, volunteer efforts and the formation of alliances, partnerships and coalitions with other organizations.

Why did CCAN choose Facebook as a launchpad?

CCAN originally began as a Facebook group where residents could share and find ways in which they could actively help our community. Over time it grew and changed in response to local needs, eventually starting some of our own initiatives and becoming the nonprofit that we are today. We created the public Facebook page prior to our first CCAN-Con, a tabling convention of nonprofit and grassroots organizations that allowed members of the public to speak with representatives and find opportunities that were good fits for them. In the future, we hope to host conventions two to three times per year.

Shortly before the pandemic reached Iowa, we also began hosting monthly networking meetings, which allow organizational representatives to come together, share their needs and plans for the upcoming month and collaborate on shared goals. After a long break, we began holding these meetings on Zoom and inviting the public to view them through Facebook Live. We have found that holding meetings virtually actually works better, as it removes barriers and allows more representatives to attend.

While I believe that interacting with people in person can go a long way towards building relationships, I would say that most of our deepest community connections continue to begin through Facebook interactions.

What CCAN accomplishment are you most proud of?

The CCAN accomplishment that I am most proud of is providing nearly 100 students with new backpacks and all needed supplies for the 2020-2021 school year. We worked directly with student family advocates at Elizabeth Tate High and Grant Wood Elementary in order to assure the supplies went to students who needed them the most.

Why do you value community action?

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I value community action because such action is necessary in order to create an equitable community in which everyone is valued, safe and has their needs met. Since that is the type of community that I want myself and my children to live in, I have a responsibility to do my part to make it a reality.

Little Village Best of the CRANDIC is presented by City of Iowa City.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 301.