Graceland and Decatur County Collaborate on COVID-19 Response Grant

Graceland and Decatur County Collaborate on COVID-19 Response Grant

The end of 2020 marked the end of a grant program that served Decatur County well. Graceland University’s Sustainability Director and Grant Writer Jen Abraham-White '08, alongside Decatur County Hospital employee Shannon Herb, ran this grant process start to finish, but say it was a community effort.

Abraham-White co-wrote the Iowa Economic Development Authority Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). This program awarded Decatur County with a COVID-19 Response grant worth $30,500 and was funded through the state’s annual CDBG’s allocation.

Leading up to the April grant application, Abraham-White and other staff from Graceland University, Decatur County Development Corporation, Decatur County Board of Supervisors, Decatur County Public Health, and Decatur County Community Services collaborated to identify a public program and populations in the county that could use additional support in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Abraham-White stated, “It was a big collaboration all around. We got feedback from the food pantries in Leon, Lamoni, and Grand River to be sure we met the needs in our county.”

Sterling Barlow and Tom Kotz at Crown Colony, Troy McBroom at SCICAP, Tammy Harrah at Decatur County Community Service, Jeremy O’Neal at Sodexo, HyVee Manager Melissa Leonard and Decatur County Public Health and Home Care Administrator Holly Rash were all hands-on throughout the entire process.

A central theme that repeatedly arose in the preliminary discussions were issues of food insecurity in Decatur County. With this, the grant application and award broke down as follows:

Meal Delivery Program for Vulnerable Populations $ 20,000
Provide Medical & Hygiene Kits to Vulnerable Populations $ 7,500
Assistance to Leon Community Meals Program $ 3,000
   
Total Funding Request to Respond to COVID-19 Pandemic $ 30,500

Through this program, 5 rounds of meal kits were distributed with roughly 120 county households benefiting from each round. With the help of many volunteers, meal kits were prepared and distributed from Graceland University's food service building as well as the Decatur County Hospital.

Members of the community expressed their thanks to Jeremy O’Neal and the Sodexo staff for their ongoing support of the program. The community also acknowledged the Decatur County Hospital Dietary staff and auxiliary for assistance with food procurement and kit packing.

Other organizations that helped facilitate the meal delivery program were South Central Iowa Community Action Program (SCICAP), Grand River Community Center, Lamoni Food Pantry, Lamoni Hy-Vee, Central Trail FFA, representatives of Crown Colony and students and faculty of Graceland University. Overall, there were over 50 community volunteers who contributed throughout the life cycle of this funding program.

Meal kit contents included items, both perishable and non-perishable, that could be used to assemble a family meal. Of the 5 rounds of meal kits that were distributed, 2 rounds were holiday-themed with whole chickens, pork roasts and pumpkin pies as featured meal-kit items. One holiday meal was boosted by a grant received from Iowa Select Farms Operation Christmas Meal Program, secured by Central Trail FFA and Lamoni FFA.

Abraham-White cold-called community members to help organize and distribute holiday meal baskets. “It made me want to help more, especially for those households that are isolated. There’s folks out there that are hurting bad, you could hear it in their voices.”

The medical and hygiene kits were distributed along the first and second rounds of meals. Each medical kit consisted of a digital thermometer, a travel-size hand sanitizer, an N-95 mask, a medical kit and a container of sanitizing wipes.

“Due to efficient use of this funding, Decatur County residents, who experienced increased food insecurity, due to the pandemic, were provided healthy, delicious food to supplement their regular meals,” shared Abraham-White.

The grant committee would like to say THANK YOU to all the community organizations and volunteers who helped make this program a success.