Community Learning Series Features Equity in Disaster Recovery

Published: September 21, 2021 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

More than a year after a derecho tore through Eastern Iowa, community members and leaders came together to discuss challenges faced by many in our community during disaster recovery. At the Community Learning Series: Equity in Disaster Recovery event, guest panelists, Community Foundation staff, and community members explored the link between disaster recovery and equity issues.

Held virtually on August 31, this was the second Community Learning Series event of 2021. The series is an effort by the Community Foundation to elevate awareness, generate conversation and encourage action around important issues facing our community. The August event sought to increase understanding of the challenges that many in our community continue to face during their recovery from the pandemic and derecho, and to discover how we can reduce these challenges in the future.

“Some people in our community may have the impression that we’ve recovered from the derecho,” said Karla Twedt-Ball, Senior Vice President, Programs and Community Investment. “But for many, the process has been slow and is still ongoing. Their homes and property are still in need of repair, and that can prevent them from moving past the trauma of the storm.”

Cari Cullen, MA, Director of the Midwest Early Recovery Fund at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, shared regional and national data and information about equity in disasters. “Disaster recovery takes an average of three to ten years, but dollars pretty much stop coming in after six months” Cari said. “We need to think about immediate needs, like food and shelter, as well as the long-term solutions.” Cari also pointed out that those with fewer resources before a disaster are the ones who will struggle during long-term recovery.

Two local leaders, Ashley Balius, MSURP, Community Outreach & Assistant Director at Linn County Community Services, and J’Nae Peterman, Director of Housing Services at Waypoint, shared local information and challenges they have observed regarding long-term recovery for many in our community. Ashley and J’Nae have both been leading efforts by Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster (LAP-AID), which has been working to get resources to the community’s most vulnerable people.

The event was facilitated by three Community Foundation staff members with extensive experience in disaster preparedness and recovery, including Karla Twedt-Ball, MPP, Senior Vice President, Programs and Community Investment; Carrie Walker, Nonprofit Network Manager; and Elizabeth Cwik, Senior Program Officer.

These three staff members have built their expertise through participation in the Philanthropic Preparedness, Resiliency and Emergency Partnership (PPREP), a cohort of Midwest grantmakers who work together to build disaster preparedness and response skills. PPREP is led by The Funders Network with curricular support from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, which works to embed an equity lens into the cohort’s learning. The Community Foundation joined the group in 2014.

Through a video shared at the event, attendees also heard directly from a homeowner who has faced a wide range of challenges since last August. Melody, who lives in a mobile home community in southwest Cedar Rapids, made a number of appeals to FEMA without success. Eventually, Melody received assistance through Providing Assistance to Community Homeowners (PATCH), a collaborative effort led by local nonprofits and funded in part by the Community Foundation, which is helping homeowners with derecho-related repairs.

“FEMA didn’t help too much—trying to get through to somebody was a nightmare,” Melody said. Eventually, like many, she was denied support from FEMA. While talking to Alliant Energy about utility services, Melody learned about Waypoint, Matthew 25, and the PATCH program.

“Matthew 25 will never understand what they did for me,” Melody said. “They really took care of everything that they could possibly help me with.”

A recording of the event and the video of Melody’s story can be found here.


Providing Assistance to Community Homeowners (PATCH) Program Collaborators

Nonprofit Organizations:

Habitat for Humanity

Hawkeye Area Community Action Program

Housing Fund for Linn County

Iowa Legal Aid

Matthew 25

Neighborhood Finance Corp



Funders and Partners:

The Alliant Energy Foundation

Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust Company

City of Cedar Rapids

City of Marion

Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation

Linn County Community Services

United Way of East Central Iowa

World Class Industries


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