The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Wed., June 2, 1999
GUEST COLUMN Tom Aller
One of Eastern Iowa’s most community-minded organizations recently learned a lesson in the value of community — the hard way. On the night of May 16, while the rest of the area was experiencing high winds and driving rain, a small tornado touched down between Center Point Road and Oakland Road NE. It damaged several buildings. One of these was the headquarters of MidAmerica Housing Partnership (MAHP), 701 Center Point Road NE.
When the staff arrived the next morning, they found the roof missing, interior beams torn away from the structure, and computers, files and office furniture in need of replacement. While a full estimate of the damage is still pending, figures of from $200,000 to $700,000 have been mentioned.
THE ONLY BRIGHT spot in all this was the generous response of the community. From Aegon USA came Kevin Bestick of the construction department who, together with people from Rinderknecht Construction, began a thorough assessment of the damage.
Firstar Bank called with an offer of office space on the third floor of their building at 222 Second Avenue SE. Mark Clark was instrumental in hooking up all available office equipment, and Five Seasons Transportation provided a bus to help in the move downtown.
All in all, it was a magnificent demonstration of the value of community, with generous and talented people pitching in to help a neighbor in need.
Ironically, the tornado struck just three weeks prior to a two-day conference, “The Art of Community,” co-sponsored by MAHP and the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC). Participants will select from 28 workshops designed to provide active leaders with the skills they’ll need to effectively guide their communities in the century ahead.
The. sponsoring organizations — both non-profit — make an interesting mix. MAHP is a development corporation that partners with communities, businesses and organizations to create adequate and affordable housing opportunities for people in urban neighborhoods and small towns. Its activities serve as a springboard for strengthening neighborhoods, stabilizing families and as a tool to promote sustainable economic development.
FIC is a national organization interested in fostering connections and cooperation among communitarians and their friends. This is the fourth Art of Community conference conducted by FIC and two more are scheduled, one next fall in New England and another next spring in the Southwest.
PAST CONFERENCES have received high marks from participants for the wide, relevant range of workshop topics as well as the intelligence and energy of program presenters.
While the overall tone of the conference is genuinely inspirational, the majority of the workshop topics are intensely practical. Participants will find useful tips and information on topics such as consensus building, decision making, conflict resolution, meeting facilitation, fund raising, planning, dealing with diversity, troubleshooting, communicating, forging partnerships and relationships, and making choices other than fight-or-flight.
The conference has much of value to people from all parts of the community: city, state and federal government, neighborhood associations, financial institutions, construction companies, real estate companies, community planning and development institutions, zoning commissions, transportation companies, architects, educators, students, human resources people and anyone else interested in making Eastern Iowa an even better place to live. I am looking forward to being there, and I hope I’ll see you there, too.
The conference will be this Friday an Saturday on the Coe College campus. The information Center is in Gage Memorial Union, where instructions on locating the various workshops will be provided. Registration can be done via phone, fax or mail. Student and scholarship discounts are still available.
FOR MORE DETAILS, call Tracey Johnson at 368-4068 or e-mail the MidAmerica Housing Partnership, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Aller, executive vice-president of 2001 Development Corporation, is chairman of the board of directors of MidAmerica Housing Partnership.
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