Collaboration Key to Successful Community Response: New PATCH Program

Published: December 9, 2020 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

New PATCH Program Addresses Housing Repair Needs

Our community has faced a number of disasters in recent memory, and as trying as these events have been, they have also been learning experiences. In the wake of the August 10 derecho, those experiences have helped us support our friends, family and neighbors.

After the 2008 flood, the Community Foundation began participating in the Philanthropic Preparedness, Resiliency and Emergency Partnership (PPREP), a program of The Funders Network. This cohort of 23 foundations is facilitated by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) with the goal of building resilience and disaster response proficiency in communities throughout the Midwest. Our work with PPREP allowed us to hit the ground running in August, quickly connecting donors with the organizations that were meeting the most urgent needs in the days after the storm.

As those organizations worked to meet the most pressing needs, and as local funders worked to support those organizations, it became clear there was a need for extensive collaboration. To ensure all needs were identified and services were not being duplicated, the Community Foundation coordinated with United Way of East Central Iowa, Alliant Energy Foundation, the City of Cedar Rapids and Linn County.

Through this partnership, and with input from Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster (LAP-AID), housing repair was identified as a primary need and a new program called Providing Assistance to Community Homeowners (PATCH) was developed. With winter approaching, the goal of PATCH is to make homes habitable, even if funding or contractor availability delays the more permanent repairs.

Several nonprofits came together to make PATCH a reality—Matthew 25 and Habitat for Humanity have lead home repairs with volunteers and contractors, Waypoint has handled program intake, and HACAP and Iowa Legal Aid have helped homeowners navigate FEMA applications and insurance claims. Grants from the Community Foundation’s Disaster Recovery Fund covered construction materials and part of the PATCH Program Volunteer Coordinator position.

The program is also supported by local companies. Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust provided a lead gift of $100,000 to establish a revolving loan fund for homeowners facing budget gaps, and TrueNorth Companies has offered free claim assistance for those struggling to navigate insurance. The Community Foundation and United Way each contributed an additional $50,000 to the revolving loan fund.

“PATCH shows the value of having LAP-AID acting as a convening group for disaster response in our community,” said Clint Twedt-Ball, Executive Director of Matthew 25. “We have a strong group of nonprofits involved in housing, each with its own unique set of skills. Working together with this incredible team to create a patchwork of support for our community has been a joy and will hasten community recovery.”

Nearly 70 homeowners have accessed home repairs through PATCH. Dozens of qualified volunteers have helped with the simpler projects, like siding and gutters, with more extensive repairs being handled by contractors.

One of those homeowners is Holly Hartkemeyer, a single mother of three who just purchased a new home last July. As a server, Holly was already facing challenges brought on by the pandemic. After the derecho, she came home from work to find a whole new list of challenges.

“About half of my siding was gone,” Holly said. “The air conditioner was pulled way from the house, the roof was damaged, our tree had fallen and ripped up the sidewalk. All of the downspouts and gutters were gone, the screens all had rips, and the front and back porches were sagging.”

Friends and neighbors helped Holly with immediate concerns, and she was able to find a contractor to start the rebuilding process, but supplies were running low. She would have to wait until spring for siding and gutters.

Then her mom told her about the PATCH Program.

When volunteers showed up from as far away as Wisconsin, Holly said she felt like she was witnessing a miracle. The volunteers were able to patch the siding, install gutters and downspouts, and stabilize the porches.

Holly has always considered Cedar Rapids to be resilient, but she admits to feeling overwhelmed before getting connected to PATCH. “It was an absolute weight lifted from my shoulders when everything felt helpless,” she said. “As easy as it is to get discouraged, you have to keep looking up.”

To give to the Disaster Recovery Fund, click here.

To learn how to help or how to enroll in the PATCH Program, click here.

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