In-person tutoring services are returning to pre-pandemic levels at the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC), which primarily serves two populations: Refugees and immigrants new to Eastern Iowa, and women who have experienced abuse or other trauma. “In terms of (immigrant) student numbers, we are back on track,” said Katie Splean, CMC’s volunteer and outreach manager. “We […]
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In-person tutoring services are returning to pre-pandemic levels at the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC), which primarily serves two populations: Refugees and immigrants new to Eastern Iowa, and women who have experienced abuse or other trauma.
“In terms of (immigrant) student numbers, we are back on track,” said Katie Splean, CMC’s volunteer and outreach manager. “We are nearing the halfway point (of average numbers served), and we’re coming to the end of the second quarter for our fiscal year.”
It’s been a long road back for CMC, where in-person services were suspended for more than a year in some areas as the COVID-19 pandemic surged.
“When the pandemic first began, we thought it was going to be short-lived,” Ms. Splean said. “We just halted things for a few weeks, and when schools were closing down, and everybody was social distancing, we decided to take it week by week. But by late spring, when things were still dragging on, we had tutors who were really missing volunteering, and they approached our staff asking ‘could we just do this via smartphone or something?’ Some of those crafty tutors were wanting to reconnect with their students, especially during such an isolating time.”
It’s been helpful, however, for tutors and students to return to in-person contacts, especially at CMC’s new facility at 1220 Fifth Ave. SE, the former home of Living Center East, which offers expanded opportunities for private sessions and social distancing.
CMC primarily offers two tutoring services for refugees and immigrants – help with learning English, or assistance studying for citizenship exams – and demand for those services has remained relatively stable during the pandemic, though the center still has need for Dari or Pashto speakers to aid with refugees arriving from Afghanistan.
But the demand for another key CMC service, its food pantry, has continued to climb.
“In a lot of ways, the (August 2020) derecho has been the big contributor to increased demand for our services,” Ms. Splean said. “So many vulnerable communities were disproportionately impacted, many of those being refugees and immigrants. They opened an emergency shelter in response to the people left homeless as their homes were destroyed, and that program was very busy helping people apply for assistance and get the resources that they needed to regain stability and rebuild their lives. Even as people have started to regain stability, we know that we’re going to continue seeing the impact in our community for the coming years.”
Another prominent nonprofit born out of the derecho’s aftermath, Together We Achieve, also continues to see strong demand for food and other essential items, founder Raymond Siddell said.
“We always need people who are ready and able to participate in our organization and give back whatever time that they feel appropriate for what they can do,” Mr. Siddell said. “What I say to everybody is, find what you’re passionate about. Put that passion into giving back, whether it’s time or money or other in-kind resources, because somebody is going to benefit from doing that, and that takes some of the stress and burden off the organizations and individuals who are doing it every day.”