As East Central Iowans were finding new ways to cooperate in devastated neighborhoods after the 2020 derecho storm, they did the same at a regional level, bringing together the resources for a concerted, resilient response. A network of organizations, including the ECICOG Housing Team, quickly realized they could accomplish more by joining forces. So, in late 2020 they formed the PATCH program, which is still helping Iowans to rebuild damaged housing in our region.
PATCH stands for Providing Assistance to Community Homeowners, and it has received three awards citing it for impact, innovation, and collaboration. So far, PATCH has:
Assisted 261 owners of single-family and mobile homes with repair projects.
Weatherized 88 manufactured homes to prepare for winters.
Invested more than $3.4 million of government and private funds for derecho repairs in Benton and Linn counties.
One of those homeowners helped by the PATCH program is Emily Avelar of Cedar Rapids, whose insurance paid for repairs to her house but not to her detached garage. “They were only offering $12,000, and you can’t build a garage for $12,000,” she said. In 2021, she heard about the program from a radio ad. “I did not know (PATCH) was around, and it was a year after the derecho, so I was shocked and thankful that this existed.” Avelar’s garage was finished 10 days before Christmas, so she put a bow on it, took a photo, and sent Christmas cards to her contractor and to ECICOG.
Repairing hundreds of damaged structures like Avelar’s garage required a multitalented group of organizations and individuals who gave their time and expertise to make the PATCH program so effective. The Housing Fund for Linn County (HFfLC) provides financial oversight for the entire program, while ECICOG manages the application process for homeowners and collaborating organizations. ECICOG Housing Recovery Coordinator Nicole Beuc administers the program with a focus on identifying homeowner needs and then coordinating with the other organizations to ensure the homeowner receives the necessary assistance.
Some of the funders who provided PATCH program contributions to the Housing Fund for Linn County are: The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation ($896,000), United Way of East Central Iowa ($546,000), the City of Cedar Rapids ($1 million), and Linn County ($1 million). Other participants in the PATCH collaboration include:
Matthew 25, which took the lead on providing construction management for homeowners who needed assistance in working with contractors.
Neighborhood Finance Authority, which volunteered to be the loan administrator for the forgivable loans provided to homeowners who needed financial assistance in completing repairs.
Waypoint Services, which staffs a phone line for handling PATCH information and applications, in addition to its core mission of helping East Central Iowans in dire crisis to find resources and safety.
Beuc praised the participating non-profits and agencies for their selfless cooperation and determination. “Collaborating with numerous organizations within the community, united by a shared goal of aiding people in rebuilding after a disaster, was an incredibly positive experience,” she declared. “Each of our partner organizations contributed their expertise, resulting in a remarkably successful program that touched the lives of numerous individuals in need.”
PATCH received two awards in 2021, the Impact Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) and the Iowa Finance Authority’s HousingIowa Innovation Award. The recognition continued this year with the Non-Profit Collaboration of the Year award from the Corridor Business Journal’s 2023 Connect for a Cause Awards.