After almost 50 years serving people both within Johnson County and well beyond the county’s borders, the Crisis Center of Johnson County is changing its name.
“Our organization will now be known as CommUnity Crisis Services and Foodbank, CommUnity for short,” Becci Reedus, the nonprofit’s executive director, announced on Monday evening.
“I can’t stress enough that our new name, our new logo, does not impact us as an organization,” Reedus explained to people gathered at the MidWestOne Building for a reception. “We still are the same organization, the same us as we were yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our services will not change, we’ll not change the way we work with our clients.”
But the new name should make it easier for the nonprofit to gain access to national, statewide and regional grants.
Since 2011, the center has been part of a nationwide network, offering crisis counseling over the phone — including text — and via a computer chat platform. Some of the calls that go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are redirected to the center.
“Our Crisis Center is one of the top-ranked centers in the United States with our programs,” Reedus said. “We’ve really been at the forefront of developing the Crisis Chat program.”
Reedus explained that maintaining a crisis intervention program with a nationwide reach means looking for sources of funding beyond the county.
“We’ve been limited, and we’ve actually lost access to some very large grants because of our name,” Reedus said.
Those opportunities were missed because grant-making organizations assumed the Crisis Center only served Johnson County residents or was funded through the county’s annual budget, according to Reedus.
“So, over the past year, we began working with Meld Marketing out of Coralville, and really what we asked them to do was help us find a new name that represents our organization,” Reedus said.
Reedus believes CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank does just that.
“We’re staffed by volunteers and individuals right from this community, we’re supported and funded by the community, which includes government, schools, churches, businesses, service organizations and individual donors,” she said.
The change extended to the url for CommUnity’s website: builtbycommunity.org.
“I have been saying this organization has been built by the community for years and years and years,” Reedus said.
The Crisis Center 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. They started working to change that, and with the help of other members of the community, the Crisis Center of Johnson County opened its doors in 1970.
In response to community concerns over food insecurity, the Crisis Center opened its food bank in 1978 (which expanded significantly last year). Working in partnership with local religious groups, the center began offering financial assistance for families struggling to pay rent and utility bills.
The center’s newest addition is its work assistance program, which helps people in need get basic items — such as boots or uniforms—when they start a new job.
One of the things that won’t change is the center’s annual pancake breakfast at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. This is the 46th year for the fundraiser. Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for children, ages 10 and under, and will be available at the door.
Breakfast will begin at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. Our Redeemer Lutheran Church is located at 2301 E Court St.