The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation opened the Creating Safe, Equitable and Thriving (SET) Communities Fund in 2018, after a report was released from a task force created to address systemic causes of youth violence in Linn County. The fund at the Community Foundation was established with funding from the City of Cedar Rapids, Linn County and the Cedar Rapids Community School District to create a grantmaking process focused on working toward the recommendations identified in the task force’s report.
Since the fund opened in 2018:
- SET Program Officer, Rachel Rockwell was hired by the Community Foundation to facilitate the grant programs.
- Over $620,000 in grant funding has been awarded to 14 nonprofit organizations.
- A $465,000 grant secured from an anonymous funder to increase the funding pool for local nonprofits and to bring the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) model, developed by the National Network for Safe Communities to Cedar Rapids.
- GVI training occurred with community partners and the model was implemented in 2021.
- By the end of 2021, the Cedar Rapids Police Department recorded a 24.5 % decrease in shots fired from 2021 and a 50% decrease in gun violence victimization rates for black males ages 15-24 in Cedar Rapids. According to the CRPD, victimization of Black male youth fell from 1,361 (per 100,000) in 2019 to 1,099 in 2020 and 628 in 2021—a reduction of more than 50% in just two years.
There is much to be proud of. We want to provide an update for the future of the SET Fund and GVI work.
Rachel Rockwell has recently resigned as the SET Program Officer at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation and will transition to Central City Development Corporation to help build community capacity to prevent violence through their community-based work. She plans to remain involved in the GVI strategy through this alternative vantage point. We are very grateful for the work she has done so far with the SET Fund and Group Violence Intervention strategy, and we are pleased she will continue violence prevention work in our community.
The SET Policy Committee — including representatives from the City, County, Cedar Rapids Community School District, along with multiple community members – has provided guidance for the community collaboration in launching and incubating the GVI strategy. The Community Foundation is a funder, so our engagement in the program management role is temporary while we work with community partners on a long-term implementation strategy.
We are pleased to see that strategy taking place. Foundation 2 has capably stepped into the Support and Outreach role. With funding from the SET Fund at the Community Foundation, and the Linn County Public Health PREVAYL grant from the Center for Disaster Control, they have hired two Community Outreach Workers and a Violence Prevention Specialist. The Law Enforcement Work Group, under the leadership of the Cedar Rapids Police Department, is working well. And the results to date are surprisingly good, and we are so grateful for all the community partners that are working together toward a safer and more equitable community.
Going forward, our community will build out the last components of the GVI structure, including a more formalized governance structure as befits a community collaboration. The model for this is forming already, and the GVI Stakeholders Group that has convened a few times will play a key role in an on-going supportive structure. We will also develop the long-term strategy for the GVI Project Manager position, together with our funding and implementation partners.
The Community Foundation is grateful for the broad community partnerships that have brought us to this point, and we look forward to continuing this work together.