When her kids’ schools moved online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Claudia Longoria wasn’t sure what to do. Her kids, ages 12, 10 and 5, would be home all day, and Longoria and her husband both work full time outside of the home.
During the first week of online learning, she took off from work to support her kids, and quickly realized the older two wouldn’t be able to focus on school while being responsible for the 5-year-old.
“I told my husband I thought I would have to quit my job,” Longoria says. “I couldn’t really afford to quit, but I knew that if my kids were home alone, they would probably fall behind.”
Then she learned about the School Learning Academy, run by the Highland Park Community Development Association. Each school day, about 35 kindergartners through eighth-graders from low-income families come to the academy to do their online schooling in a supported environment. In addition to sending her kids to the academy, Longoria ended up getting a job there, helping kindergartners and first-graders.
“Each age group is supported by a different teacher who’s able to focus on helping them however they need,” she says. “I understand what the other parents are feeling because I’m going through it too. I’m so grateful this academy is here.”
The Highland Park Community Development Association is one of four Des Moines-area nonprofit organizations receiving grants from A Community Thrives.
A Community Thrives is a grantmaking and crowd-funding program from the USA TODAY NETWORK, which includes the Des Moines Register, and is part of the Gannett Foundation. A Community Thrives supports nonprofit organizations with projects focused on community building and has helped to contribute more than $12 million since 2017. This year’s grants were publicly announced Dec. 10.
Highland Park Community Development Association
This organization empowers families in poverty in Des Moines’ Highland Park neighborhood. The association runs the learning academy, a summer enrichment program, a day care and a program to help families transition out of homelessness. The association received a $10,000 grant from A Community Thrives, which is going toward remodeling a home in the neighborhood for a previously homeless family.
The family pays $700 to rent the three-bedroom home, as they develop a steady income and strong credit record with a goal of transitioning into their own home in two or three years. After the success of this first home, the association will be building three new homes to support additional families.
Family Promise of Greater Des Moines
Family Promise provides overnight shelter for families experiencing homelessness through a rotating network of 14 religious organizations.
During the day, three families stay at the organization’s day center, where they receive support from a case manager to secure housing, employment and other services. Because of the pandemic, families haven’t been able to safely stay at churches, so they’ve been staying overnight at the day center, increasing the organization’s expenses this year by $46,000.
A $10,000 grant from Community Thrives will help offset those extra expenses.
Everybody Wins! Iowa
Everybody Wins! Iowa is a children’s literacy and mentoring nonprofit offering weekly one-to-one read-aloud experiences with caring adult mentors.
Through the Power Read program, volunteer mentors read aloud in individual sessions with 815 students throughout central Iowa who need help with reading, English as a second language or general mentoring. The organization also gives books to participating students to add to their home libraries.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Everybody Wins! lost funding from several ongoing grant and corporate sponsors. A $5,000 grant from A Community Thrives will help offset those lost funds.
Capital City Pride Des Moines
Capital City Pride hosts Des Moines’ annual Pride Fest, bringing together 30,000 people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and their allies. The 2020 festival was canceled because of the pandemic.
A Community Thrives offers bonus challenges in each week of its fundraising campaign. During the week starting Oct. 5, the challenge offered $4,000 to the six organizations (three each from two tiers) with the most unique donors during the time period.
Out of 900 participating organizations across the country, Capital City Pride had the most unique donors that week in its tier and earned the $4,000 bonus grant. The organization is using those funds toward the new Pride People of Color Council.
“Watching the challenge as each day went by got more and more exciting,” said Jen Carruthers, president of Capital City Pride. “On the last day we literally were flip-flopping in and out of the top three nonstop. We jumped 204 donors in less than 24 hours with a final count of 479 individuals and $10,970.
“We were strategic in our approach because we didn’t want everyone to donate in the beginning of the challenge and show all our cards,” she says. “We also wanted them to walk away with this emotional feeling of being proud that their contribution, no matter how small or large, was a part of something bigger than them or their one-time donation.”