Gene’s truck, Lucy, loaded down for fun in Iowa and Missouri
Our first Book Trip ended up being filled with wonderful experiences – better than we ever expected. And, it had very little to do with selling books. Once again, it was about the people that we met, and those with whom we reconnected.
Our first studio experience, Talk of Iowa, on Iowa Public Radio
Sure, Gene and I got to be on the radio for the first time ever: Iowa Public Radio’s program, Talk of Iowa, with Charity Nebbe. With her bubbly personality and excellent interview skills, she calmed our newbie jitters in no time. I almost forgot other people might be listening. Well, except for the cool headphones, the microphones and the brightly-lit “On Air” sign.
Sue Davis, owner of River Lights Bookstore, welcomed us warmly and found a spot for Paddle for a Purpose on her shelf!
We also got a chance to meet Sue Davis, owner of River Lights Bookstore, who arranged for us to do a reading and signing while we were in Dubuque. Friends, new and old, attended to hear sections about our service with The Open Closet clothing ministry of St. John’s Church and about the day we spent on the river with the ever-ebullient Connie Roling. (You can read about Connie and her husband, Dave on pages 194-199 of Paddle for a Purpose!) Connie brought several members of her family to listen, Paul and Carol, in the area from Waukesha, surprised us, and we even met some new friends who heard our interview. If you live in the Dubuque area, be sure to stop in and browse at River Lights. You’ll even find Paddle for a Purpose on the shelves!
Staff and Volunteers at The Open Closet
While in Dubuque, we reconnected with Pastor Jay Ilten and volunteered again with The Open Closet. We helped with preparations on Friday, and with Open Closet hours on Saturday, when over 330 customers came to choose free clothing while their children were invited to create painted frames for their silhouettes, drawn by an on-site artist. Ruth, the director of The Open Closet, and her husband, Richard, hosted a lovely dinner where we met even more people involved with the awesome ministries happening at St. John’s.
Gwen, Executive Director of Almost Home, ministries of St. John’s Lutheran Church
Speaking of awesome ministries, Gwen Kirchoff, our host in Dubuque and director of Almost Home, St. John’s title for the umbrella of ministry services, explained more about the new community partnerships they have developed since we were last there. “St. John’s is involved in so many things that benefit the community,” she said. “We’re known as the Little Downtown Church that’s Doing Big Things.” New initiatives include:
* expanding the existing 12-bed Guest House men’s shelter by creating 6 transitional living apartments
* partnership with Habitat for Humanity to construct the apartments and remodel the kitchen
* Path to Employment program provides intense case management, mentorship and monitored linkage to employment to prepare homeless individuals for living-wage employment and housing
* Partnership with North Iowa Community College provides classes and vocational coaching
* Partnership with Greater Dubuque Development Corporation researches jobs that are needed in the Dubuque County area
* Partnership with Resources Unite connects men to job coaches
* Let’s Put Daddy to Work program uses grant money to hire homeless fathers so they can afford to pay child support
* Homeless men are hired to work at the Guest House
* Free bus passes are provided for necessary transportation to interviews
* Dress for Success area in The Open Closet stocks business attire, such as dress slacks and white shirts suitable for interviews and employment
* McDonnaugh Foundation and Mercy Hospital provide scrubs for individuals working in health fields
* Black Hills Energy Company provides used heavy construction clothing
* New steel-toed boots are provided for those going into a construction program
* Claire Cares makes lunches and delivers them for men to take to work, puts on a Christmas dinner, and makes winter care bags
* The As You Grow consignment store donates children’s clothing that isn’t sold or picked up, and J & J Consignment does the same for adult clothing
* Holiday Inn, Best Western and Divine Word Seminary donate gently used bedding and towels
*The Open Closet provides sweats and new underwear and socks for health rooms at six elementary schools
* Sleeping bags and tarps are given to homeless during the winter, and the church is opened up as a cooling center during extreme summer heat
*The Red Basket program provides feminine hygiene products and Depends for older men and women
* Pre-assembled emergency bags are assembled for specific boys’ and girls’ sizes can be given out whenever needed
* The Open Closet is available on special nights for women from the area women’s shelter, so clients who may have lived through trauma can feel safe. Only women volunteers assist during these times.
* The Alliance for Opportunity helps people who are behind on rent or utilities to go through case management to get vouchers written out to landlords or energy companies
* The Open Closet gets volunteers from surrounding colleges, the Dubuque Eagles Eyes on the Future Youth Leadership Program, Mary’s Inn for pregnant women, Catholic Charities, Hills and Dales program for the disabled, Capable Volunteers (Part of Resources United), and the Living on the Outside program (women from the Elm Street Correctional Facility)
* Thrivent Action Teams help with special projects like providing shelving, totes and baby products
* Wartburg Seminary sends seminarians for field work at St. John’s to learn about working with area businesses, other non-profits, and the city government
Thank you, St. John’s, for your example, seeing the needs in your community and making connections which help make the greatest possible impact, serving those in need and accompanying them on a path toward independence.
A morning hike group selfie with Professor Joe
In Hannibal, our last stop, we got a chance to catch up on five years of family news with Professor Joe Coelho, from Quincy University, as we hiked together through a nature preserve. We not only got some exercise on a sweltering day, but learned more from Joe about the flora and fauna of Missouri. One thing that gave us a chuckle is that chipmunks are a delightful rarity in those parts. We offered to send him a box of them from our yard in Wisconsin. (You can read about Professor Joe on pages 221-224 of Paddle for a Purpose!)
We can’t wait for our trip to northern Minnesota this July. If you want to schedule a book event, or just get together to say hi, we’ll look forward to seeing you!