Four Oaks Pushing Closer to $6 Million "TotalChild" Program Goal

By Chris Earl, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — As a handful of children played outside Johnson Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, dozens of city and Four Oaks leaders talked about what it will take to finish an ambitious goal.

"It's extremely important because we are at a stage where gifts of any variety of size are critical and we're going to need hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people making those gifts," said Jim Ernst, president/CEO of Four Oaks, after an hourlong presentation on Wednesday afternoon at the school.

The two-year-old campaign, now referred to as "Commit to a Child", seeks to raise a total of $6 million to be split for programming services to 1,400 children involved with TotalChild. The other half would continue the process of purchasing and renovating nearly 100 homes in the Wellington Heights neighborhood of southeast Cedar Rapids.

"This is giving kids the opportunity to be successful," said Skogman Homes President Kyle Skogman and also a co-chair of the fundraising campaign.

As of mid-September, Four Oaks leaders say $3.8 million in funding has been raised toward that $6 million goal.

Four Oaks says about 500 children are enrolled in the TotalChild program, which helps children and families gain access to one of the group's support program.

The TotalChild program works to provide supporting needs to what Four Oaks calls "at-risk" and "in-crisis" children and reports a more stable situation for more than 95% of all children involved.

Broken down into smaller portions of revenue as Four Oaks is seeking a wider layer of donors, here is what the group estimates each gift can provide:

$100,000 — A Renovated Home
$50,000 — A Renovated Apartment
$25,000 — One Child for 10 Years
$2,500 — One Child For One Year

A more tangible effect of this campaign can be seen in parts of Wellington Heights as properties are being converted into single-family homes.

George and Natasha Leach have lived in their new home since July 31. This four-bedroom single-family property on 15th Street SE allows a bedroom for each other children, Kimmora, 7, George III, 4, and Kemma, 1.

George Leach works nearby and, for the past year, wanted to move from an apartment into this home and is now on a rent-to-own basis through Four Oaks' Affordable Housing Network Inc. initiative to purchase up to 100 homes throughout an 18-block stretch.

"It's a great opportunity for those who are actually trying and want to do better in life," said Leach, 26, who said he has lived in Cedar Rapids for two years.

Currently, Four Oaks has purchased 68 properties throughout the neighborhood, renovating half. A handful have been sold to homeowners and 20 are in the rent-to-own program that Leach participates in.
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