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Agency - Neighborhood Centers Of Johnson County

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Neighborhood Centers Of Johnson County
Last updated on April 22, 2014


Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County is dedicated to creating a better future for people in Neighborhoods through programs that educate, strengthen families, and create a sense of community.

Our goal is to improve the quality of life for the community by strengthening families and neighborhoods. In order to do so, we depart from the typical human services model driven by a single set of issues. Our partnerships and services continually evolve to reflect the ever-changing needs of children, families, and neighborhoods in transition. We support children in their transitions to Kindergarten and from childhood into adolescence and adulthood. We support families through issues such as immigration, homelessness, child care, and job readiness. We support neighborhoods in coming together to establish and maintain community safety, recreational opportunities, and other neighborhood-based services.

In fall of 1973, a small group of parents from the Pheasant Ridge neighborhood (then known as Mark IV Apartments) came together out of concern for their neighborhood. They were troubled by high incidences of child abuse, vandalism and disputes among neighbors. They decided what they needed was a place where families could come together for community gatherings and activities for children. The group approached the apartment management and was granted the use of a three-bedroom apartment to serve as the first Neighborhood Center. Meanwhile, the University of Iowa School of Social Work helped recruit volunteers to organize afterschool and teen programs. Since 1973, the Pheasant Ridge Center has offered on-site educational and recreational opportunities, connected people to resources in the community, and encouraged a sense of community.

The success of the Pheasant Ridge center prompted the Iowa City community to support the addition of a second Center. In 1988, we expanded our efforts to the Broadway Street neighborhood. Like Pheasant Ridge in 1973, the need for prevention programs was evident in the disproportionate number of child abuse cases, police reports and juveniles on probation. Neighborhood Centers joined forces with Head Start and built a 6,000 square foot facility in 1990. Since the Broadway Street Neighborhood Center has been in operation, the quality of life in the neighborhood has improved, as seen by the decrease in child abuse reports. In 1995, we started work in the western part of Johnson County, bringing resources and programs to some of the underserved mobile home parks in that area. In 1996, we opened the Clear Creek Neighborhood Center.

The Neighborhood Center concept is unique in that we bring programs to the people who would otherwise have difficulty accessing services, either because of transportation, child care, or financial constraints. In addition to neighborhood-based services, an important function of our agency is to connect our neighbors to other resources in the community. We are also very reliant upon partnerships with a diverse array of community agencies, institutions and businesses. Our shared efforts have added value to our programming and yielded important successes for families. Through collaborative work with partners such as the Iowa City and Clear Creek schools, Iowa City Police Department, Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Center, United Action for Youth, MECCA, and the Sixth Judicial District, neighborhoods are safer, children are healthier and better prepared for school, adults are returning to school and learning new job and life skills, parents and children are learning English, and people in all of our neighborhoods are discovering and rediscovering what it means to be part of a neighborhood and community.

Over the years Neighborhood Centers’ methods have evolved to meet the changing needs of our neighborhoods and our community. One striking example is in the area of child care. The welfare reform initiatives of the 1990’s created a great demand for full-day childcare. As more parents move from welfare to work, we retooled the agency to meet these changing demands. As a measure of the increased demand, it is worth noting that in 1995 we offered a total of 12 childcare spaces in our cooperative - this year we have 106 full day childcare spaces. We are also very proud of the quality of our early childhood programs. In 1998, the National Association for the Education of the Young Child (NAEYC) accredited childcare programs at Broadway and Pheasant Ridge.

This past year, we maintained our efforts in areas outside of Iowa City as we continued prevention programs in the Clear Creek area of western Johnson County. We have also continued to see significant change in the population in the Pheasant Ridge area. Sudanese refugees now represent a solid majority of families in the neighborhood. We also continued the PREP program (Preschoolers Reaching Educational Potential). PREP as an intensive 11-week summer program intended to prepare children for kindergarten. With the support of Juvenile Court Services and DHS, we are offering an intensive afterschool program for highly vulnerable middle school youth.

Contact people:
 Andrew Coghill-Behrends, Volunteer Coordinator, (phone), (email)
Sue Freeman-Murdah, Centers Director, (phone), (email)
Brian Loring, Executive Director, (phone), (email)

Office fax number: (319) 358-0484

 PO Box 2491
Iowa City, IA 52244

Web Site: http://www.ncjc.org
Last updated on April 22, 2014

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