From the Director’s Desk: Planning for the Future

To our CMC community,

As you may have seen in the news last week, the Catherine McAuley Center has been making plans for our future!

For many years now, the need for CMC services has outgrown our current facilities:

  • Today, we serve more than 460 students, double the number of students in 2011. There are nearly 100 other adult learners eagerly awaiting class during times when all other study spaces are occupied.
  • Funding priorities for homelessness have shifted, resulting in a growing need for transitional housing for women who have experienced trauma.
  • With the addition of new refugee and immigrant services in 2016, our basement storage and classroom space is now filled with client meeting areas and workspaces for our 9-person staff and AmeriCorps team. Additional storage must be rented off-site.
  • We know that the lack of parking and an elevator causes difficulties for many residents, students, clients, and volunteers.

We are proud to continue responding to calls to serve critical needs in our community, as the Sisters of Mercy did when they founded CMC in 1989. We’re honored that you’ve believed in this mission and share your support in so many ways. We appreciate your flexibility as we continually re-arrange our spaces to accommodate our growing services, and we have only seen private financial support and community enthusiasm grow as we adapt to meet community needs.

Through all these changes, our board and committees have been working behind the scenes to quantify our need for space and evaluate more than 35 possible options for our future home, including UnityPoint’s Living Center East after learning it would be up for sale. Not only does this facility meet all of our criteria and allow us to deliver all programs under one roof, but its location at 1220 5th Avenue SE is in close proximity to other non-profit organizations and CMC’s community garden.

Current facilities and Living Center East

Top: Catherine McAuley Center’s current facilities Bottom: 1220 5th Avenue SE, future site of the Catherine McAuley Center

From the very beginning of our consideration of Living Center East and through our purchase late this summer, we were pleased to honor UnityPoint’s request to allow time for the New Horizons program for physically and intellectually disabled adults to transition to other facilities over the course of three years. As of learning last week of UnityPoint’s announcement that they would instead be closing the New Horizons program in February 2019, we have yet to finalize a timeline for the move. Please know that our goal is and has been to keep you, our best supporters, informed of significant updates on this project before hearing through the local media.

While renovation plans and an exact timeline have yet to be determined, we look forward to opening the doors of our future CMC home as early as Spring of 2020. We remain committed to our mission to offer hope and opportunity through educational and supportive services for women who are healing from trauma, our refugee and immigrant neighbors, and adult learners. While the core of our services will not change, we see so much potential for being more welcoming and inclusive in the delivery of our services. We hope you’ll follow along!

With hope,

 

 

Paula Land
Executive Director

Protecting and Building Communities in Cedar Rapids

Last week at the Cedar Rapids Public Library the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission hosted the event, “Forum on Protecting Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Communities.” This educational program focused on the definition of “hate crimes,” and included presentations and panels discussing the legislative processes, local resources, and opportunities to assist affected communities.

The Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) consistently works with diverse, and oftentimes marginalized, groups. In 2016 the Adult Basic Education Program alone had 404 students representing 49 countries from around the world. Taking opportunities like this forum to learn how to advocate and protect members of our CMC community aligns with our values– supporting inclusive communities that welcome, respect, and support a diversity of individuals and ideas. Communication and Administrative Intern, Madison Clark, attended the event due to her belief in this tenet, and to share this valuable information with a wider audience!

What is a hate crime?

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Iowa Department of Human Rights, and the Anti-Defamation League of the Plains States Region explained that hate crimes are difficult to prosecute due to their nature. Unlike most other crimes, the prosecutor is expected to prove the motive of the defendants instead of simply proving the crime happened. 

A hate crime can include, but is not limited to:

  • Violent acts enacted on a person, their property, or a place of worship,
  • Threats of violence,
  • Attempts to intimidate or interfere with living
  • Obstruction of free exercise
  • Conspiracy against rights
  • Trespassing

Hate crimes are not common in Iowa, and are especially uncommon within the Cedar Rapids community. Knowing the scope of potential issues will simply help community members continue to protect the individual rights of everyone who call Cedar Rapids their home.

When and to whom should concerns be reported?

According to the law enforcement panel, hate crimes go tremendously under-reported. This means that the current data being worked from is not covering the full scope of issues being faced by marginalized communities. With this in mind, the representatives made it overwhelmingly clear that individuals should report any concerns to their local law enforcement, even if it’s only a suspicion, and that they should be reported right away.

The panel explained that the possibility of something being a hate crime, regardless of whether or not it’s prosecuted that way, is always noted. This is so future incidents might have better evidence behind them that could enable victims receive justice. Basically, if it looks and feels like a hate crime, law enforcement will respond to it as such.

If there’s been an incident that could potentially be a hate crime, call the non-emergency number, or 911, depending on the urgency of the situation.

How can we address the growing tensions?

The community panel, including representatives from the Eastern Iowa Islam, Sikh, and Hindu communities, followed the law enforcement panel. This group spent time discussing how recent political tensions have increased the threat of hate crimes towards their communities, as well as what others might be able to do to help.

Overwhelmingly, the community members agreed that what would have the greatest effect would be getting the Cedar Rapids community involved in education sessions about each group. They felt that educating and increasing community awareness would lead to a more enriched community through diversity and new perspectives. Each group’s community center offers trainings, tours, and will welcome anyone interested in learning more. They also expressed a willingness to collaborate with other community groups, businesses, or schools on events ranging from volunteering to positive media campaigns supporting diversity.

When a crime motivated by bias occurs, it reverberates throughout all communities. This forum aimed to say, “You are not alone,” to the people of many diverse perspectives and practices who call Cedar Rapids their home. Many groups have started to see a rise in threats and tensions over the last few years, and it’s the responsibility of Cedar Rapids residents to create a safe and inviting community for everyone. CMC aims to supports this effort, and believes everyone has, and should continue to have, the potential to create and live a purposeful and fulfilling life.

20 Instances of Community: A Reflection

The Catherine McAuley Center celebrated communi-TEA at the 20th Annual Catherine’s Tea on Sunday, October 2, 2016. In honor of this 20th anniversary, Laurie, a resident peer leader at CMC, shared 20 ways that she and other residents see their community actively working in their lives. Find the full transcript below!

Laurie shared 20 ways that the residents in the Transitional Housing Program see their CMC community at work in their lives.

Laurie shared 20 ways that the residents in the Transitional Housing Program see their CMC community at work in their lives.

Good afternoon, my name is Laurie Cramberg and I am the senior peer in the Catherine McAuley Transitional Housing Program.

I’ve been at CMC since February 2015. I came to CMC after substance abuse treatment. I was homeless afterwards and needed guidance on how to live my life as a productive, healthy, responsible adult. My needs were not only housing, but also a safe place to live and grow in my sobriety and mental well-being.

I am now sober over 2 years with the help and grace of God, lots of prayers, and of course the community and help of the Transitional Housing Program.

About 6 months ago the housing program manager Jennifer came to me with the proposition of becoming the senior peer at CMC. I accepted and now I help the other women in the program build a strong community.

As a senior peer I’ve been given the opportunity and challenge to lead a group in our program. This is a group we have named “Community.” In our group we plan times to spend together as a community as well as time to give back to CMC and Cedar Rapids.

In honor of this being the 20th anniversary of the Catherine’s Tea, the ladies in the housing program, staff, and I would like to share with you 20 ways we see our CMC community in action in our lives:

As you all know, last week Cedar Rapids prepared for the flood. In this sad and frightening time, we saw how our CMC community comes together.

  1. Last weekend, one woman at CMC organized a group of women to help at the sandbagging stations.
  2. We welcomed five women who needed to be evacuated into the program. One of the current residents has been a gracious host for the evacuated women—sharing her living space and has helped show them where things are at in the house and helped them get settled in.
  3. One the first night of evacuation, one CMC resident prepared quite the feast for the evacuees with us. She made homemade spaghetti, garlic bread, and a salad with items from the garden. We had great conversation and full bellies that night!
  4. One resident led a group meditation on Saturday night. The response from the women was so appreciative, and it really seemed to help make everyone feel more safe and calm.
  5. And on Sunday, the women who moved into CMC after evacuating made dinner for all of us. It was so awesome seeing everyone work together and being so giving.
  6. Many of us have worked hard in our community garden all summer. We have had an abundance of produce to share. During the flood, we used some of the produce from our garden to make meals together with those who were evacuated from their homes.

The flood is a strong example of our CMC community, but I’d like to share with you some other ways we can see our CMC community in action in our lives throughout the year

7. This past spring we invited our neighbors, students, tutors, and family to a Garden Party in our community garden to celebrate our pollinator garden where we share not only in the beauty of the flowers we’ve planted but the hope for an increase in the population of the Monarch butterfly.

8. Which reminds me of the CMC picnic where we share in fellowship with the students, teachers, staff and family members.

9. During cooking groups at the Center, we share recipes, mistakes, and successes that’s the food, of course—and laughter and fun.

10. We share in fellowship cooking out in our back yard. It’s not always just a cook out. On National Night Out in August, we stayed out to play games as part of a national protest against violence in our community and to encourage our neighbors to help us create a safe neighborhood.

11. On Women’s Equality Day, we take time to remember the women who won our right to vote and honor three women in our community who we feel are an example of courage, commitment, and service.

12. Being engaged in activism and social issues is an important part of our community. We invited a representative from both the Democratic and Republican party to teach us how to caucus and other ways to use our voices to make a difference.

13. We like to find ways to build community in greater Cedar Rapids too, like taking opportunities to volunteer at our local food banks.

14. During our weekly Community Groups where we not only share a reading to help us reflect on our lives. We share our successes and challenges with each other. And we brainstorm for upcoming events.

15. In the future we plan to have a baby shower for one of our alumnae, and who doesn’t love babies or a reason for cake?

16. This upcoming Tuesday night we are planning a board game night with a dose of homemade nachos on the side.

17. We each have an opportunity to share and maintain our communal living areas. Different residents add decorations or do projects to improve the spaces and help create a comfortable home.

18. We listen to each other and help each other whenever we can. We help carry groceries in for each other and help people move in and out of the houses. I am grateful for one woman in particular for helping me when I am in need—cat sitting.

19. Our support for each other is especially important around the holidays. We have dinners together on Thanksgiving and Christmas and celebrate together.

20. Our fall retreat—where we are offered the opportunity to explore who we are, our needs, or just plain regroup—is one of my favorite times we have been blessed to share.

So what is community? The dictionary says that community is “bonds of harmony and brotherly love.” And that’s the kind of community we strive to be at CMC.

Thank you.

Community: José’s Story

In celebration of communi-TEA, José shared stories of how he first relied on others when he came to the United States and how he now helps his friends and community thanks to skills he learned at the Center.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is José Hermosillo, I’m originally from a small town in Jalisco, near of Guadalajara, Mexico. In Mexico, I studied animal science, and my family and I ran a farm there. Many of my ancestors were farmers.

I would like to introduce my family: my wife, Margarita, my daughter, Fernanda, and my son, Christopher. Right now, Fernanda is a sophomore at Xavier High School, and Christopher is attending 5th grade at St. Joe’s in Marion.

I first came to the US because I needed to work back in 2003. When I first came everything was difficult. For example, at that time I had a car. I knew how to do maintenance and some repairs, but I don’t have the knowledge to order brake pads. To get the pads I need to have a friend to go with me to the auto parts store. He ordered the parts for me. I was always asking for his help when I needed something.

Later another friend of mine recommended to come to the CMC to enroll in the English classes. I decided to come to CMC because I needed to learn English and be more independent and self-sufficient.

When you first start learning a different language you are afraid to do some things. People might start laughing on you, and you are afraid to ask some things. The community at CMC is very helpful and friendly. My teacher Linda back in 2003 invited me to dinner at her house. She is from Wisconsin and her husband is from Brazil. We had a good dinner. We started a friendship. CMC also helps me with other issues like immigration, health insurance questions, and other concerns.

José reflected on how learning English at CMC has empowered him to live more self-sufficiently and help his friends do the same.

José reflected on how learning English at CMC has empowered him to live more self-sufficiently and help his friends do the same.

I started work at a dairy farm in Marion in 2003. When you work on a farm you don’t need high level English. But back then if I don’t know some word, I asked my boss with a translator or a white board to write the word and tell me how it sounds. That way I learned a lot too.

Now things are more easy than back in the past.

I have met different people from other countries at the CMC, and now they are my friends. They are from Brazil, Congo, Vietnam, Syria, and my actual tutor is from the UK. Over the years, I’ve also worked with different tutors and several staff members. I have nearly completed 4 books. Learning English at CMC has given me much more confidence in my daily living in this country.

Now I’m helping other immigrants to find a job, taking them to apply or to interviews, look for a car or apartment. I help them with the same problems I had in the beginning. And all these things thanks to the English I learned here at CMC.

I want to say thank you to all the community at the CMC for the great job they’re doing transforming lives one at a time.

100+ Corridor Women Who Care- about CMC!

DSC_2400

We are very excited to announce that the Catherine McAuley Center has received a generous donation from the 100+ Corridor Women Who Care organization. 100+ Corridor Women is an organization of women who support the growth of our local community by pooling resources to make focused, effective contributions to local charities. The mission is to bring together 100 or more women, each willing to contribute $100 four times a year to help the community and local charities.

The generous donation on behalf of 100+ Corridor Women Who Care will go to support the needs of the growing Adult Basic Education program, which proudly serves more than 400 adult learners who are working hard to brighten their outlook for the future by learning English, studying for the U.S. citizenship exam, or improving other basic academic skills. Many thanks to Kim Hillyard, CMC board member and volunteer tutor, for sharing about the CMC mission with the 100 Plus Corridor Women Who Care!

Because we were selected as the beneficiary of this quarter’s 100+ gifts, CMC will receive 40% of proceeds of the products sold through the 100+ Corridor Women’s One Mission fundraising campaign!  One Mission is a local business based in Mount Vernon devoted to “changing the world, one mission at a time”. Browse their online shop for soaps, candles, graphic prints, apparel, home décor and more—and be sure to click “Support this Cause” on the 100+ Corridor Women Who Care page so that your purchase benefits the students of the Adult Basic Education program!

one mission

Remembering Sister Mary Cephas

Sr. M. Cephas WichmanIt is with sad hearts that we share with the Catherine McAuley Center community that board member Sister Mary Cephas Wichman passed away on May 6.

Sr. Cephas was a long-time supporter of the Catherine McAuley Center. She generously shared her time and talent and served in many roles at CMC. Her extensive service includes serving as Board President and on the Fundraising, Planned Giving, and Catherine’s Tea Event Planning committees. She was instrumental in creating an endowment for CMC and served on the Endowment Committee in addition to the Board of Directors.

Sr. Cephas was an integral part of the Catherine McAuley Center community and knew the names, faces and stories of many CMC donors and volunteers. Beyond lending her direction and guidance to the Center, she generously baked hundreds of the famous scones served at Catherine’s Tea each year.

Sr. Cephas was active throughout the entire Mercy community and served 25 years as the VP of Development and VP of Planned Giving at Mount Mercy University, as well as many hours at the Sacred Heart archives and front desk. She has also served in leadership roles at Mercy Medical Center, Mount Mercy University, Discovery Living, Girl Scouts, and Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center.

Sister Shari Sutherland, CMC board member and former Executive Director shared of Sister Cephas with Mount Mercy University, “Sister Cephas filled many lives with a friendly smile and good things to eat. She always had words of encouragement and was willing to be involved and help others be involved. I am so grateful for her wisdom, knowledge and guidance throughout my years in ministry.”

We extend our heartfelt condolences to Sr. Cephas’ friends, family, and fellow Sisters of Mercy. We are grateful to have known such a strong and giving woman and will miss her tremendously!

Stuff for Stuff, Etc.!

Spring cleaningAhh, springtime!  The trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, the windows are open, and the bunnies are scurrying about…dust bunnies that is! For many of us, as we emerge from hibernation, we find ourselves rubbing our eyes in disbelief at the dust, stacks of papers, and sheer amount of clutter that has somehow accumulated during the long months of winter. Fresh and inspired by the warm spring air and the sound of birds singing outside our windows, we busy ourselves with washing curtains, airing out our bedding, and finally, finally tackling that overflowing closet whose door won’t close.

CMC staff have done some spring cleaning too!Does that dress no longer spark joy? Is that box of dishes in the attic just gathering dust? Secretly want to sneak out that well-intentioned birthday gift from Aunt Mildred? Is it finally time to 86 the orange recliner that’s messing with your feng shui?

As you embark on your tidying marathon, consider making your clutter count by consigning it at Stuff, Etc. under the Catherine McAuley Center’s name. Last year, CMC received nearly $500 in proceeds from Stuff Etc. consigners, funding which helped support CMC’s Adult Basic Education and Transitional Housing Programs.  The life-changing magic of tidying up can contribute to life-changing programming for CMC students and residents too!

To consign at Stuff, Etc.:

  1. Make sure your items will be accepted by Stuff, Etc. Take a look at things they need  and things they don’t accept.
  2. Call 319-373-2380 (Cedar Rapids location) to make a drop-off appointment. Walk-ins are usually accepted but we suggest calling before in case Stuff, Etc. isn’t taking drop-offs that day. You may be restricted to a 1 or 2 tote minimum.
  3. At the drop-off counter at the store, let them know you’re donating your items on behalf of the Catherine McAuley Center. On the form you’ll fill out, please write “Catherine McAuley Center” in the name field and list our account number, #19579.
  4. Your donation is tax-deductible! Ask Stuff, Etc. for a donation receipt to use for tax purposes.

As a friendly reminder, CMC does not accept used clothing, bedding, personal care products, or TVs/appliances directly. Please consider consigning eligible, gently-used items to Stuff, Etc. However, if you have new, unopened items that are on our wish list, give us a call!

Thanks for supporting the Catherine McAuley Center mission. Happy cleaning!

December Declared Human Rights Month

Human Rights Month proclamationLast week, the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) was proud to stand with the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission and other local leaders to receive a proclamation from the Cedar Rapids City Council declaring December as Human Rights Month.

At CMC, we believe that our future depends on inclusive communities that welcome, respect, and support a diversity of individuals and ideas.

A transcript of the proclamation, signed by Mayor Ron Corbett, follows:

Whereas, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 thereby recognizing each December as Universal Human Rights Month; and 

Whereas, the Declaration states in part that the “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world”; and

Whereas, the Declaration continues that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”; and 

Whereas, the City of Cedar Rapids values dignity, fairness and diversity; and protects citizens from discrimination based upon their age, color, creed, familial status, gender identity, marital status, mental disability, national origin, physical disability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or association with members of those protected classes; and

Whereas, in efforts to create safe and secure communities, the City recognizes that all people deserve the chance to chart their own destiny, free from any form of discrimination and all citizens should work together to ensure that all people can gain equality, dignity, and freedom. 

Now Therefore, I, Ron Corbett, Mayor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, do hereby proclaim December 2015, as “Human Rights Month” and encourage all citizens to observe this month by striving to treat everyone with dignity and respect for the betterment of individuals and our City as a whole. 

CMC thanks the City of Cedar Rapids and Mayor Ron Corbett for the invitation to receive the proclamation and for its encouragement of all Cedar Rapids citizens to exhibit a recognition of universal human rights in their daily lives.

Library Reaches Out to Refugees

Bhutanese classBy Erin Zaputil of the Hiawatha Public Library

The Hiawatha Public Library has been a proud partner with the Catherine McAuley Center since 2014 to provide English language classes for a group of Bhutanese refugees. Since August 3, 41 Bhutanese students have studied 1,217 hours at the library.

These refugees, who speak Nepali, were forced to flee Bhutan due to violence and persecution stemming from religious, cultural and political issues. Many have spent decades living in camps in Nepal without sufficient food, clothes, health care, shelter and education.

Many of the students live within walking distance of the Hiawatha Public Library, and do not have transportation to travel to another destination. Katie Lanius, Education Program Coordinator at the Catherine McAuley Center states that if they didn’t have the space at the library “they would never be able to get downtown to the Center, they would never have an opportunity to work on their language skills.”

library giving treeProviding space for English language classes is an important part of library’s long-range service plan. Library Director Jeaneal Weeks says, “This is really important to me personally because I believe that our community is a welcoming one. We hear so much about immigration in the news these days. I’d like to focus on what we all have in common, which is striving for a good life. Our Bhutanese patrons are eager to learn English and to learn how to function here. We should welcome that initiative and hard work. These people are part of our community, we will try to serve them and meet their information needs just as we do for all in our community.”

Many of the refugees come to their new homes with very little, and many are ill-prepared for the coming winter. The Hiawatha Public Library is hosting a “Giving Tree” to gather donations of needed items for the students and their families. If you would like to participate please stop by the library, take a leaf from the tree, and bring the donated item back to the library. If you are unable to stop by please call the library for a list of needed items. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration!

This post first appeared on the Hiawatha Public Library’s Facebook page and was published here with permission of the author. Please show your support of their partnership with CMC by liking their page!

Preserving a Heritage of Immigration

GlobeCMC is blessed with volunteers who are active across the community, and we love it when they find ways to spread the word about our mission! Thanks to Rich Patterson for his article in the October 18 issue of the Cedar Rapids Gazette for highlighting CMC’s work to help new immigrants adjust to life in the U.S. by offering English as a Second Language instruction.

As Rich describes, immigration isn’t a new trend in the U.S.; it’s a part of each one of our family histories. The Corridor is blessed with several ethnic museums that preserve this heritage of immigration and remind us of our past, thereby encouraging acceptance of the individuals who are working hard to establish a new pattern for their own families after recently immigrating to the U.S.

To learn more about CMC’s Adult Basic Education Program and how you can get involved in offering hope and opportunity to the immigrants and refugees who study at the U.S. click here.