Iowa City Area Development group announces winners of new resiliency award

The Iowa City Area Development group recently announced the five winners of their new resiliency award for 2020, representing large and small businesses, nonprofits, and community projects.


Katie Goodale

Iowa City is seen on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.

Claire Benson, News Reporter

The Iowa City Area Development group recently created the Iowa City Area Resiliency Awards, where community members nominate large and small businesses, nonprofits, community projects, and individuals who have shown great positivity, strength, and resiliency in response to COVID-19.

There were 25 nominations for this award, and ICAD chose five winners. The winners of the resiliency awards were announced over Zoom at ICAD’s annual meeting on Oct. 8.

ICAD President Kate Moreland said the team chose to create these awards to emphasize the positive events occurring in the community during a chaotic and unpredictable time.

“Over the course of the last seven months or so, we started to notice that in a time of crisis, a lot of good things can happen when people come together to respond,” Moreland said. “We wanted to reach out to the community at large to ask for nominations, so we can capture some of those during this time, and acknowledge them and celebrate some of the good things that have come from this.”

Winners of this award include Proctor and Gamble for the large business category, OpenLoop for small businesses, Dream City for nonprofit, local photographer Rebecca Sanabria  for individual, and the Food with Love campaign was recognized as top community project.

Moreland said she hopes these awards do more to inspire others to make similar efforts, as well.

“I think we hope during this time that people recognize other people and organizations that have really been creative during this time and resilient,” she said. “It might even spark new collaborations or ideas for how we can make our community better.”

The community leader added that as the city goes through an economic recovery within the next few years, these awards may be something to continue.

Jon Lensing, CEO and co-founder of OpenLoop, said the company greatly increased its efforts to further its mission during the first few months of COVID-19. His team helped medical facilities in hard-hit areas such as Indiana and Florida gain the additional staff they needed to operate efficiently.

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“We went into the medical field to help people, patients with diseases, to make patients feel better about themselves,” Lensing said. “Transitioning that over to business and being able to do the same thing has been a very gratifying experience. To be recognized for that, especially at this early stage for us has just been overwhelmingly humbling.”

Lensing said he cannot take all the credit for the company’s recent success, as his staff played a key role, as well.

“I don’t take any credit for it; I really want to give all the credit to my team,” he said. “They’ve been phenomenal, working around the clock. It speaks to the work they’ve put into this.”

The recent initiative to help combat food insecurity in the Iowa City area, called Food with Love, was the winner of the community project category.

LaTasha DeLoach, Iowa City Senior Center coordinator, said she was heavily involved in this initiative. It furthered her passion for helping those struggling with food insecurity.

The coordinator said Food with Love began with restaurant owners coming to city government for help because they wanted to do something about the growing issue. She opened up a pantry at the senior center about nine months ago because of this, she said.

“For me, it was huge, because I was able to give back in a way that I would have normally not been able to,” DeLoach said. “What it did, was it showed some flexibility in our community about how we do things.”

She added that she believes the COVID-19 pandemic helped community members realize how grave of an issue food insecurity is within the community, and that they continue to support those struggling with it during and after the pandemic’s effects.

“That need was there all along – it became apparent in people’s hearts that this was a significant problem, and I would hope that people hold onto those images in their minds that people are struggling and that they have been struggling, and will continue to struggle,” DeLoach said.

RELATED: Food With Love project aims to serve freshly prepared meals to Johnson County residents in need

The awards also recognized Dream City, a nonprofit organization in Iowa City that helps children and families within the community through advocacy, art, wellness and community connections.

Executive Director of Dream City Frederick Newell said it was enlightening to win the award and know the community is aware of their services and mission.

“It was definitely a great feeling,” Newell said. “I didn’t even know that many people knew what we were doing, because we kind of kept it under wraps, so when I saw the nomination for our summer program, I was just honored and blessed to know that people are recognizing the work that was taking place.”

Over this past summer, Dream City was forced to pivot its in-person workshops to an online format in order to provide younger children with a medium to make connections and learn valuable skills — something Newell credits his hardworking staff for making possible.

The director said the organization s currently doing a blend of online and in-person activities for children. They are providing in-person opportunities for children doing online school and having difficulties with that at home.

Newell said although Dream City was forced to move activities online this summer due to health and safety concerns with COVID-19, they could still make an impact on youth in Iowa City, which is what matters most to him.

“For me, it’s not even about getting an award or the recognition,” he said. “It’s really about continuing to make an impact on the lives of young people and their families that we have the opportunity to serve.”