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Project Holiday returns for 35th year of home-cooked meals, with fewer barriers for families in need



A sample table of holiday food provided by Project Holiday, on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. — Adria Carpenter/Little Village

CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank’s Project Holiday has helped families experiencing food insecurity enjoy a home-cooked holiday meal for 35 years. It provided traditional entrees and sides to almost 1,500 families last year, and this year has eliminated the need to register in advance to receive a meal in order to reach as many people as possible.

“The hope is that eliminating registration will increase the accessibility of Project Holiday and provide meals for more local families,” Krystal Kabela, manager of CommUnity’s food bank, said in a statement.

Like other food banks, CommUnity has seen an substantial increase in the number of people using its services this year.

As in previous years, MidWestOne Bank is sponsoring the program, but CommUnity is also turning to members of the community for support. Thirty dollars covers the cost of all the essential groceries a family will need to prepare holiday meals, with entrees including turkey. Vegetarian options are also available.

Donations can be made online, or mailed to CommUnity’s office.

CommUnity
1121 S Gilbert Ct,
Iowa City, IA 52240

Meal distribution will happen at CommUnity’s food pantry at Pepperwood Plaza in Iowa City (1045 Highway 6 East) from Monday, Dec. 12 through Saturday, Dec. 17. Project Holiday also offers home delivery for people who can’t come to Pepperwood Plaza to pick up their groceries. CommUnity is looking for volunteers to help with distribution.

“Duties range from stocking shelves to helping clients carry grocery bags to their cars, and making deliveries throughout Johnson County,” the nonprofit explains on its site.

Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up for a two-hour shift online.

Executive Director Becci Reedus unveils the new name of the Crisis Center, now known as CommUnity. Feb 25, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

CommUnity was founded as the Crisis Center of Johnson County in 1970. It grew out of the efforts of two University of Iowa freshmen, Kathy Szymoniak Keeley and Carolyn Hock, whose roommate attempted suicide in 1969. They got medical help for the roommate, but realized there were no crisis counseling services available in the area. The two started working to change that, and with the help of other members of the community, founded the Crisis Center.

In response to community concerns over food insecurity, the Crisis Center opened its food bank in 1978. Two years ago, CommUnity — the nonprofit adopted its new name in 2019 — opened a much larger food bank facility in Pepperwood Plaza.

Anyone with questions about Project Holiday, or food assistance in general, can call the food bank at 319-351-0128. Its hours of operation are noon-4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; noon-7 p.m. Tuesday; 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Thursday; and 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.

The CommUnity food bank at Pepperwood Plaza. — courtesy of CommUnity

Other free Thanksgiving week meals across the area include:

Monday through Saturday, noon-1 p.m.: Iowa City Free Lunch Program, 1105 S Gilbert Court

Tuesday: Willie Ray’s Q Shack, Cedar Rapids – 250-300 free meals given out

Wednesday, 5:30-7:30 p.m.: The Breakfast House, Cedar Rapids

Thursday, 11 a.m.: Mr. B’s and Sam’s Pizza & Deli, Cedar Rapids

Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Holy Trinity Parish Life Center, Kalona (RSVPs were requested by Monday)

Thursday, noon: St Joseph’s Parish Hall, Elkader – Carry-outs follow meal, if available. Reservations can be made my calling Parish Center (319-245-2548) or calling or texting Courtney (563-880-0863).


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