Q & A with Peggy Rubero

Back in the fall of 2019, we welcomed Peggy Rubero to the Catherine McAuley Center team as our Community Partnerships and Grants Manager. Peggy had previously worked for Pearson, a global education company, for 11 years prior to accepting a job with us. Here are a few questions to get to know Peggy and what this brand new position means for CMC.

Can you briefly discuss your background and how you ended up at CMC?

“I worked for Pearson, and their mission is focused on helping people improve their lives through learning. They do lots of textbook publishing, but also have programs in schools to help children learn. They do this around the world, so even though North America was probably our biggest revenue driver, there was such a need for learning and education in countries that are outside of what we do. They had a really big heart, centered around the question of ‘How do we help people who really need learning and education?’ I loved their mission, but I was also volunteering here at Catherine McAuley. Due to their work with education and helping people make their lives better, especially with the immigrant and refugee community, I saw them as very similar. It was really cool because when I had the opportunity to come here I told my boss ‘I can do what Pearson tries to do on a global level but I can do it locally’, with the addition of knowing that we also had education, immigrants and refugees, and women who were homeless that we were supporting and helping them regain their lives. So when this opportunity came up I said yes to it because I felt like it was not leaving the mission of Pearson in a way, but it was doing something locally. I felt like I was doing something that was closer to helping the community.”

What exactly does this position involve?

“The grants side is easier (to explain) because it’s something that all nonprofits have to do – you do grant writing, and you look for funding sources and companies that are aligned to our mission. Grant writing is a really critical piece because it helps us with a lot of the funding that we need, and some of the grants that are less restrictive allow us to help in ways that some grants and some sources won’t help you. It involves working with the existing granting agencies that we’ve had in the past and trying to grow our relationships there, but also connecting what we’re trying to do strategically and looking for grants and funding sources that will allow us to grow in support and the way that we see. There are things that we may have been doing five years ago that we don’t do in the same way today, so we need other funding sources to help us grow the programs beyond what they looked like a few years ago. Sometimes it’s making sure that sources are still aligned to what we’re doing, and then looking at new opportunities and new granting agencies that we haven’t used before. There’s a fair amount of prospecting that you do as well.”

Which community partnerships have gotten off the ground, and are there any organizations that you hope to get involved with?

“Community partnerships is really working with other agencies that are also working with our clients, and figuring out how we work together to streamline services and get them the support they need – how we coordinate so we’re not stepping on each other, how we make sure we’re clear on how we are helping them together. We work with many agencies through United Way, Eastern Iowa Healthcare, the Abbe Center, and all sorts of places that are trying to do the same thing for our collective clients. 

At Raining Rose, for example, some of our clients that are coming to us through immigration and refugee services, or through our adult education services, are employed there. We bring ESL classes onsite for them, and that’s really cool because it’s helping the employee – who is an immigrant that we’re working with in different capacities here – have a secure job that they can grow in. At the same time it does something for the employee base, because now they’re working with more diversity. Having access to people from other parts of the world changes the way we think, it changes what we do sometimes – in a really good way. People may not have an opportunity to work with somebody from Tanzania, or someone from El Salvador, and you can learn from them and they’re learning from us. That partnership started before I came on board so I can’t say ‘Guess what I started!’ but there was a need, and there was a realization that having classes on site there would be good. We’ve been doing that since last fall. 

I’ve also met with Mercy Medical Center. Sarah Blakeney (CMC’s Employment Services Coordinator) works on employment support, and Mercy Hospital is one place that we’re trying to help. They need employees to help them with some of their services, and we have people that are qualified and looking for jobs. That’s really exciting, because you’re helping immigrants, you’re helping the hospital or the business, and you’re helping the employees. You’re helping them understand how we’re trying to be welcoming to people from anywhere, and now they develop relationships with people that they possibly wouldn’t otherwise. I think it is a lot of mutual benefit. I also think there are barriers – we have to acknowledge that there are language barriers, there are cultural barriers, and a way that you break down some of those barriers is by working together. We still have a lot of work to do but it’s the right thing, and it aligns also with what the city of Cedar Rapids is trying to do with this Gateways for Growth project that they took on a year and a half ago. It’s all around ‘How do we make this a more welcoming place?’ Immigrants contribute an extensive amount to the community. Some of it’s very tangible, some of it’s intangible, but it’s all really important. 

I think it’s important to say ‘Let me tell you about the people that are coming here, let me tell you about these barriers,’ but let me statistically tell you a few things that you wouldn’t know. You can tell a compelling story through a narrative, and have numbers that are embedded in that narrative. It all leads to ‘This is why we like having this diverse community.’”