Parenting a freethinker made easier

Parenting a freethinker made easier

Gazette Column
Two decades ago, as our family reeled from a full-term stillbirth, I grappled with ways to help our then 6-year-old daughter work through the grief of losing an infant brother. I searched for resources to offer reassurance and comfort, but there were scant few on the topic of death. And none I could find on stillbirth. So, we muddled forward with our own words. Was I saying the right things? Were there “right things” to be said? About a decade later, when a different daughter’s best friend died unexpectedly, I was given a book, “Parenting Beyond Belief,” edited by Dale McGowan. Suddenly I had a compass to help guide my child through grief, and advice on many other thorny topics. McGowan later co-authored a practical, companion book and, this past year,…
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Equality coalition names five Women of the Year

Equality coalition names five Women of the Year

Gazette Column
More than 130 local women have been honored over the years in conjunction with Women's Equality Day Women and men will gather Saturday night, on Women’s Equality Day, to add five more women to the ranks of those named Women of the Year. The women, nominated by friends and co-workers, were chosen because of their commitment to improve the lives of area girls and women. Their names will be added to a list of more than 130 who have been honored by the Women’s Equality Coalition of Linn County over the past four decades. Women recognized in 2017 are: [caption id="attachment_1303" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Those chosen as 2017 Women of the Year by the Women's Equality Coalition of Linn County are (beginning top left) Denise Bridges, Barbara Chadwick, Charrisse Cox, Monica Brown Challenger and Eden…
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Statewide conversation on affordable, supportive housing begins

Statewide conversation on affordable, supportive housing begins

Gazette Column
Spotlight reveals challenges within the Creative Corridor DUBUQUE — Every county in Iowa lacks a sufficient number of affordable housing units, which, in turn, contributes to the prevalence of homelessness most apparent in the state’s population centers. Although intensity varies, this lack of housing is a statewide challenge that affects the ability of communities to attract business and sustain a workforce, the need for taxpayer-funded safety net programs and overall health and well-being. So, this week, the Iowa Finance Authority launched the first of three statewide conversations on housing with a specific focus on the overwhelming need for supported living arrangements. “What we’ve learned from recent experiences in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City,” explained Carolann Jensen, chief programs officer with the IFA, “is that the push for housing, especially supportive…
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Affordable housing tour offers necessary spotlight

Affordable housing tour offers necessary spotlight

Gazette Column
Work on a project for months, put your heart and soul into it and, even so, you’ll be hard-pressed to pick it out of the pack. This is the lesson lost to those who skipped the Cedar Rapids Metro Affordable Housing Bus Tour last Thursday. “I think we’re coming up on it now,” Jeff Capps, executive director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, said from the front of the bus, holding onto the back of a front seat while bending and swiveling to peer out the windows. “Pretty sure we’re getting close now,” Renie Neuberger, Affordable Housing Network director of real estate development, said later in the drive while striking a similar pose. “It will be on your right. It’s painted green,” directed Ron Ziegler, executive director of Hope Community…
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Atheist, humanist invocations planned at Iowa Statehouse

Atheist, humanist invocations planned at Iowa Statehouse

Gazette Column
This month the Iowa Statehouse moves closer to its “people’s house” nickname when first an atheist, and then a humanist, offer invocations from the well of the House chamber. The General Assembly has a long-standing tradition of invocations, which are brief meditations or prayers. It’s become routine for lawmakers to invite people from around the state to offer these morning speeches, marking a solemn beginning to the legislative work day. Throughout the years, a variety of religious and community leaders have spoken. Christian denominations hold the lion’s share of these appearances, but legislators also have heard from Jewish rabbis, Muslim imams, and one Wiccan priestess. And now two secularists will join their ranks. This Wednesday, Manchester native and atheist Justin Scott will lead the ceremony. Then on April 17, Roxanne…
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‘AMP’ing up possibilities for success after lockup

‘AMP’ing up possibilities for success after lockup

Gazette Column
Third in a series on Linn County-based Fresh Start Ministries Communities have a good reason to invest and engage in the jail transition process: The majority of those in our jails are residents of the local community who will soon return home. Yet many in Linn County, as well as counties throughout the state, view jails and inmates solely as the purview of the criminal justice system and not an issue the larger community need address. Too many times the past is held against those who have paid for their crimes, creating additional struggles for those who hope to re-enter neighborhoods and move forward. Volunteers trained as mentors through a program under the umbrella of Linn County-based Fresh Start Ministries are aiming to turn the tide by offering themselves and…
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GOP lawmakers create Saturday conflict

GOP lawmakers create Saturday conflict

Gazette Blog
Some Eastern Iowans hoping to hear from both of their state legislators this Saturday will need to figure out how to be in two places at once. For decades the nonpartisan Linn County League of Women Voters has set aside one Saturday morning each month while the General Assembly is in session for a legislative forum. All area lawmakers are invited to come together, provide individual updates and answer questions from the public. That tradition will be broken this Saturday. Linn County’s Republican lawmakers — Rep. Ken Rizer, Rep. Ashley Hinson, Rep. Louis Zumbach and Sen. Dan Zumbach — have partnered with Farm Bureau to schedule a separate forum at the same date and time as the long-standing — and I cannot stress this enough — nonpartisan League forum. [caption…
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Former inmates ‘rise’ with program’s help

Former inmates ‘rise’ with program’s help

Gazette Column
Second in a series on Linn County-based Fresh Start Ministries Maridee Duggar won’t like that I started this column with her name. Yet there’s no other logical way to launch a discussion about Linn County’s RISE program. The Reintegration Initiative for Safety and Empowerment program largely was born from Duggar’s two decades of volunteerism at the Linn County Correctional Facility on behalf of Fresh Start Ministries. She understood that if former jail inmates were going to transition successfully into communities — and if communities were going to reap the benefits of the successful transitions — those communities would need to offer guidance and support. With that understanding, she began to plan. “I was just one person who had some insight based on experiences with the chaplaincy program. Many of us…
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First in a series: Weighing the benefit of a ‘Fresh Start’

First in a series: Weighing the benefit of a ‘Fresh Start’

Featured, Gazette Column
45-year-old Linn County ministry is only of its kind in the state Hundreds of people quietly working behind the scenes on behalf of Fresh Start Ministries can’t be easily labeled. Then again, neither can those who serve as the face of the organization, or those who rely on its services. To be sure volunteers include local pastors and church members. But there are also social justice advocates and social workers. Some business leaders are part of the mix, as are elderly and other shut-ins throughout the area. Past and current members of law enforcement are present too. A few who were once recipients of the program’s outreach have come full circle and now work to help others. Many, but not all, are Christians. I first became aware of the organization…
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Still a lot of work to do

Still a lot of work to do

Gazette Column
Throughout the community one question seems to dominate personal interaction: “How are you feeling?” I’ve been asked by people I see each day and those I only have occasional opportunity to speak with. Convenience store clerks, local members of the clergy, co-workers, neighbors, transit riders and drivers and community activists of all stripes are curious, some perhaps morbidly so, on my and their other neighbors’ state of mind. So, how are you feeling in these first post-election days? I am, of course, disappointed that the nation has not finally elected a woman to its highest office. I’m especially concerned by the years of misinformation and sexism that led to undeserved backlash against Hillary Clinton, and a campaign with an overall anti-women tone. More than shock at Donald Trump’s public disrespect…
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