Donations Sought for Local Response to COVID-19

Assisting Neighbors During the Coronavirus Crisis

The newly formed Decorah and Winneshiek County Mutual Aid Network invites the public to help our community members respond to COVID-19. The Decorah Area Faith Coalition has set up a fund for financial donations to be used for Winneshiek County residents adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Decorah and Winneshiek County Mutual Aid Network was created recently to connect area residents to the resources they need, including each other, so that everyone has the opportunity to feel safe, connected, and whole.

“The COVID-19 presents challenges to us all but it is also an opportunity for us to reach out to our neighbors and share the gifts we each have for the betterment of all. It also provides a wonderful way to share and receive information so that we can all stay connected and informed, ” says the mutual aid network administrator Kristin Eggen. 

The Decorah Area Faith Coalition is partnering with the Mutual Aid Network to address the Covid-19 pandemic. The Decorah Area Faith Coalition is a collaborative group of faith leaders working together to raise funds and support existing area projects and initiatives. Formed about 25 years ago, they have been working over the past few weeks to maximize their connections and empower local partners and organizations during the COVID-19 crisis. 

One of dozens of members of the faith coalition, First Lutheran Church, has agreed to collect donations that will specifically be targeted to help people and families on behalf of the Decorah Area Faith Coalition. “We have the resources and experience with managing donations during a crisis. Our faith coalition has always worked closely with Northeast Iowa Community Action Corp. (NEICAC) to distribute funds quickly and effectively.” says Pastor Chad Huebner from First Lutheran Church. Checks can be made payable to First Lutheran Church at 604 West Broadway in Decorah and earmarked for the “Mutual Aid Network.” Financial contributions can also be made online at the First Lutheran home page. Use the “Give Online” link and the pull down tab on the “Give To” box to reach Mutual Aid Fund, or use this direct link: https://tithe.ly/give_new/www/#/tithely/give-one-time/255283?giving_to=Mutual%20Aid%20Network

NEICAC is experienced in administering donations collected at area churches. Through the partnership, NEICAC will help impacted community members by paying vendors directly from their crisis fund to help cover bills, including rent, pharmacy, dental, water/sewer, electricity, gas and other bills. NEICAC will also connect clients with other programs that can offer assistance, such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Income can be based on 2019 annual income or from income within the 30 days prior to the request. NEICAC LIHEAP Outreach Director Karen Henry said that they expect most people dealing with reduced income because of the COVID-19 pandemic will demonstrate low income during the 30 days prior to request for assistance. “We have many hardworking people who are out of work right now and still have to pay their bills.” says Ruth Palmer from St. Benedict Catholic Community. 

The Winneshiek County Community Foundation (WCCF) has also set up a fund specifically to help nonprofits during the COVID-19 crisis. WCCF Board Member Marcia McKelvey noted, “We will use funds donated to the WCCF COVID-19 Disaster Response Fund to help nonprofit organizations that need equipment and other assistance at this critical time. This would include organizations like our hospital, fire departments, ambulance service, food pantries, meals on wheels and others.”

Eggen noted, “The Decorah and Winneshiek County Mutual Aid website and Facebook Group is a place where individuals and businesses can look for assistance. These and other local opportunities for contribution are listed on the Decorah and Winneshiek County Mutual Aid Network Facebook Page and Website, including a fund set up by the Decorah Chamber to help local businesses that are struggling right now.” ” 

Faith Coalition representative Dave Judisch from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church stressed that many who can not contribute financially may consider how they can help in other ways, such as grocery delivery, childcare, running errands, providing temporary work, or offering the gift of connection and presence by calling a shut-in or communicating in other ways.“Since people need to stay home, it is important to address the feelings of isolation and helplessness that many people are experiencing. People’s responses have been inspiring to everyone involved with the Decorah Faith Coalition and Decorah and Winneshiek County Mutual Aid Network. Winneshiek County is truly an amazing place to live,” said Don Holmertz from Decorah Covenant Church.

Both “I Can Help” and “I Need Help” forms are available on the Mutual Aid network webpage. Anyone without access to a computer can call (563) 362-2288 Monday through Friday between 9 AM to 7 PM.  For additional information email mutualaid@decorahnow.com.