Since its establishment as the Junior League of Cedar Rapids (JLCR) in 1934, JLCR members have been behind impactful community projects such as the Waypoint Madge Phillips Center, Cedar Rapids Science Center and Playtime Poppy. In 2010, the organization began researching a new cause to throw their weight behind.
After hosting an informational open house, doing hours of research and interviewing countless community leaders, it became very clear where JLCR’s support – of time, talent and treasure – could be wisely invested.
Of the approximately 900 children in foster care in the Cedar Rapids area, roughly 40% are teens. Every year, a number of these teens turn 18, leave high school, and find themselves without the emotional and financial support to live as independent young adults. It was the “gap of care” that the Junior League of Cedar Rapids membership stepped in to fill with the launch of the “Bridging the G.A.P” Project in fall of 2011.
“We wanted to bring to light a group of teens that would have otherwise been cut off from the system,” explains Kristin Roberts, JLCR’s 2012-2013 President. “This is a group that has been generally underserved.”
The three “G.A.P.” project tracks: Guide, Advocate and Provide, came with specific tactics, goals and measurements of success. For example, with the Guide track, JLCR and Foundation 2 connected with the Partnership of Iowa Foster Care Youth Council’s Achieving Maximum Potential (“AMP”) group to provide healthy meals and fellowship to AMP participants.
Twice a month, League members cook a healthy dinner for 30 hungry young adults, all AMP participants, at the Four Oaks Bridge. “When those teens come walking down the hall and they smell the home cooked meal and they hear laughing as we all gather in the kitchen to cook, they get that experience of coming home,” says Roberts. “For many of them, it is the closest sense they get of what ‘coming home’ feels like.”
Another key component of Bridging the G.A.P. project is the “suitcase program”. Since November 2012, JLCR has provided over 100 suitcases full of supplies to young adults who are aging out of the foster care system.
To financially support their new project, JLCR applied for and received a grant through the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation in 2012. This grant made up $5,000 of the project’s total budget of roughly $6,600.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do what we did without the Community Foundation,” says Maria Sanchez-Masi, JLCR’s President-Elect. And thanks to the Community Foundation’s continued support in 2013, the group was able to double their budget and double the number of kids that they are helping.
Program Grant Fund
Fund Purpose: Support programmatic innovation and sustainability
Grant Award: $5,000