Mount Mercy receives $1M gift from alumni couple
CR moves forward with decade-long plan to reforest
In the CBJ: Then and now — Brucemore
Alliant Energy gives back to communities, customers
• Mercy Iowa City to protest UI hospital proposal
• Corridor events, KCRG-TV9 headlines and First Alert Forecast
Mount Mercy receives $1M gift from alumni couple
Mount Mercy alumni Lonnie Schwartz and Linda (Kalb) Schwartz have gifted Mount Mercy University more than $1 million to establish two endowed scholarships that will benefit future students for generations.

This gift was made in memory of their parents, Norbert and Geraldine Schwartz and Clair and Rita Kalb.

“As proud 1987 graduates of Mount Mercy, we are thankful for the values and skills gained through our education, and we believe supporting Mount Mercy's vision will create well-rounded, faith-based leaders for the future,” the Schwartzes said in a Mount Mercy release.

The scholarships will benefit Iowa students within Mount Mercy’s largest academic areas, accounting and nursing, representing the Schwartzes' undergraduate fields of study.

“We are tremendously grateful to Lonnie and Linda for their extremely generous support. This gift will help students afford a great education and ensure that they have access to the resources they need to thrive while at Mount Mercy,” said Charlie Rohde, Mount Mercy’s board chairman.

“Lonnie and Linda met as students at Mount Mercy and have been supportive of their alma mater for decades,” said Brenda Haefner, vice president for development and alumni relations. “We are so grateful for their ongoing connection with the university. The Schwartzes’ extraordinary gift and longtime support demonstrate their generous spirit and confidence in Mount Mercy’s excellence. Their gift is the single largest investment in Mount Mercy by an alumni couple in the university’s history.”

PHOTO: Lonnie Schwartz and Linda (Kalb) Schwartz. CREDIT MOUNT MERCY UNIVERSITY
CR moves forward with decade-long plan to reforest city
After losing more than 65% of its tree canopy in the Aug. 10, 2020 derecho, the Cedar Rapids City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a memorandum of understanding with Trees Forever aimed at reforesting parks, public spaces and even private residential properties.

The agreement puts nonprofit Trees Forever at the helm of the city's ReLeaf Cedar Rapids initiative alongside consultant experts, including Jeff Speck of Speck & Associates, and Confluence, Inc. The organizations will work collaboratively to develop a long-term reforestation effort that will address the urgency to reforest public spaces and outreach for planting in public spaces, as well as to help address private property plantings.

In a presentation before Tuesday's vote, Parks and Recreation Director Scott Hock said the city had lost 6,000 trees in public rights of way and 11,000 in parks alone, not including those lost in wilderness areas or on private property. In total, city crews have hauled away nearly 3.3 million cubic yards of tree debris, and the effort is ongoing.

Mr. Hock said younger, less established trees tended to weather the storm.

"We didn't lose a lot of those, we lost our older, more well-established trees, which provided a lot more of the canopy for us," he said.

The city has committed to contributing at least $1 million per year to reforesting efforts for public trees. The agreement with Trees Unlimited approved Tuesday outlines monthly payments in an amount not to exceed $500,000, which covers the cost of consultants Speck and Confluence. The cost to implement the plan is $348,500, which includes expenses incurred by Trees Forever related to the planning project, tree adoption program expenses, a fundraising program and overhead.

“It will take years to restore the trees that were lost, and that’s why it is so important that we begin the work quickly with a strong plan to move forward,” said City Manager Jeff Pomeranz in a release. “Our community has an opportunity to not only plant trees, but to do so in a meaningful and equitable way that maximizes long-term benefits.”
The plan, to be fine-tuned over the next several months, will include three months of public engagement, including virtual meetings, polling and questionnaires. A steering committee representative of the community will guide outreach and input. A priority will be placed on creating guiding principles that include equity, diversity and resiliency for residents and trees.
“Like any serious long-range plan, this effort is directed at making sure its choices align with the principles and goals of the community," said Jeff Speck, a city planner and author of the 2012 book, "Walkable City." "Only once we’ve made a deep dive into what’s important to the people of Cedar Rapids, can we provide direction on questions like native vs. imported species, consistent vs. varied streetscapes, and where to plant first."
The ReLeaf Cedar Rapids program will include:

  • Goals for replanting public spaces, including detailed plans for street right-of-ways and 38 public parks
  • Evaluation of pre-derecho street tree inventories and creation of a post-derecho public parks tree inventory and private institution tree inventory
  • Prioritization and phasing plans including neighborhoods, corridors, parks and other locations
  • Outreach plans for public tree plantings, private yard trees, and private tree locations including institutions such as colleges, corporate campuses and apartment complexes
  • General tree planting priorities, strategies and best practices
  • A “green print” plan for leaders, volunteers, Trees Forever and residents to follow for multiple decades while rebuilding a healthy urban canopy
  • Expansion of the Growing Futures program, which employs teens to plant and care for trees
  • Recommendations regarding policy and advocacy strategies to further the implementation plan
"This is a long-term plan ... that is going to be put together in a way that will guide us over a decade," said Trees Forever Founding President Shannon Ramsay, adding the ReLeaf program hoped to learn from the examples of Galveston, Texas and Calgary, Alberta, which suffered natural disasters and launched similar long-term reforestation initiatives that had difficulty maintaining momentum past year five. "So we're hoping that this plan will give us that green print, maintain momentum and keep [us] going strong."
IMAGE: The city of Cedar Rapids estimates it lost 65% or more of its tree canopy in the Aug. 10 derecho. CREDIT WEATHER.GOV
In the CBJ: Then and now — Brucemore
On Aug. 10, 2020, hurricane-force winds up to 140 mph marauded though a swath of Iowa, including a major portion of the Corridor, leaving $11 billion in damages, downed power lines, a communications breakdown, and hundreds of thousands of insurance claims in its wake.

We asked readers to give the perspectives downed communications didn’t allow, hoping to offer a small window into the region’s resiliency. We heard from family-owned and small businesses, manufacturers, a hospital and one of the region’s most recognizable tourist attractions.

Here is one of those stories:

A changed landscape

Already coping with ways to offer safe programming amid the pandemic, the bucolic Brucemore estate was forced to temporarily halt those efforts entirely when the derecho tore through the property, wreaking $2.5 million in damage.

In all, seven historic and three modern structures on the property took hits, according to Director of Community Engagement Tara Richards, as did outdoor statuary, a number of historic features and 26 acres of gardens, orchard, wooded areas and cultural landscape – including an astonishing 70% of the estate’s mature tree canopy.

“Efforts to repair the buildings, mitigate further risks to the historic structures, and to clear the estate of trees and debris are underway,” said Ms. Richards, adding that Brucemore plans to also begin a landscape design process guided by original early 20th century designs from nationally renowned landscape architect OC Simonds, with replanting efforts set to begin in 2022.

As one of the state’s top visitor attractions, donors have been generous in helping fill the gaps insurance won’t cover. Shortly after the storm, the Cedar Rapids Garden Club applied for a grant from the Garden Club of America on behalf of Brucemore, offering the successful $10,000 award to the nonprofit in December. That same month, Brucemore received a grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs thanks to CARES Act funding aimed at relief for Iowa’s arts and culture industry and announced it had surpassed its $5 million capital campaign goal, raising $5.19 million for reinvestment in the property’s structures and landscape, upgrading infrastructure and enhancing security.

Brucemore officials credited a surge in donations in the aftermath of the August storm.

“After seeing the extensive damage across the estate, many donors reached out and offered additional support,” said Executive Director David Janssen. “We designated these post-derecho gifts to landscape recovery efforts, which will be a major focus for Brucemore over the next few years.”

Read the full members-only story in this week's print or digital editions of the CBJ.
Alliant Energy gives back to communities, customers
In an effort to support customers and communities in Iowa and Wisconsin, Alliant Energy, its Foundation and employees achieved a collective impact of $8.7 million and over 64,000 volunteer hours in 2020.

“Helping those in need was more important than ever as our customers faced unprecedented challenges in 2020,” said John Larsen, chairman, president, and CEO of Alliant Energy, in a release. “Every day, our employees live our value to Care for Others as they deliver on our purpose to serve customers and build strong communities. And we will continue to support organizations and initiatives that make a difference in our communities in 2021 and beyond.”

In response to COVID-19, racial injustice and the Aug. 10 derecho, Alliant Energy and its Foundation found innovative ways to meet the ongoing needs of customers and communities. Their ongoing giving programs provided further assistance. 

Highlights of the foundation’s impact in 2020 include:

  • Alliant and its Foundation donated more than $340,000 to food banks, community action agencies, United Ways and other nonprofit organizations helping customers throughout the pandemic. In addition, more than 40,000 diapers were collected for local families through an employee diaper drive.
  • The Foundation emphasized diversity and inclusion by contributing to the Madison YWCA’s 2020 Racial Justice Summit and continued its longtime partnerships with the Madison Region Economic Partnership and the African American Museum of Iowa. They also donated $15,000 to the Black Enterprise Fund.
  • Project ReConnect was launched after the derecho to assist Iowa customers who needed electrical repairs before power could be fully restored to their homes. A total of $315,000 was donated to the program. Project ReConnect expanded to provide housing repair assistance. 
  • Nearly $900,000 was awarded to over 375 organizations through the Community Grants program. The grants supported hunger and housing, workforce readiness, environmental stewardship, and diversity, safety and well-being.
  • Nearly two million meals were donated to fight hunger. The Foundation’s Drive Out Hunger golf event raised $385,000 and supplied 1.5 million meals to seven food banks. Through a $100,000 donation, 2,000 holiday food boxes were delivered.  
  • Through an employee Matching Gifts program, more than $1.4 million was donated to nonprofits. Employees and retirees volunteered over 64,000 hours.
  • Over 130 students received scholarships from Alliant Energy, totaling more than $120,000.

“We are proud to serve our customers, support local communities and do all we can to help improve lives,” said Julie Bauer, executive director of the Alliant Energy Foundation, in a statement. “It takes everyone working together to make our communities stronger.”
Mercy Iowa City to protest UI hospital proposal
Mercy Iowa City is protesting the University of Iowa Health Care's proposal to build a new
$230 million hospital in North Liberty.

Today, leaders from Mercy Iowa City will present remarks at a 2 p.m. Zoom conference call to share their beliefs that the proposed hospital is not a prudent use of taxpayer funds.

According to a release from Mercy Iowa City, many area hospitals are opposed to Iowa taxpayers funding a hospital that would duplicate services in the region and unnecessarily compete with community hospitals.

The press conference will include Sean Williams, president and CEO of Mercy Iowa City; Tom McLaughlin, Mercy Iowa City Board of Directors chair; and Dr. Steve Scheckel, chief medical officer of Mercy Iowa City.

In February 2020, the University of Iowa Health Care facility unveiled plans for a new North Liberty complex at the intersection of Forevergreen Road and Highway 965. The facility would include a Level 4 emergency treatment center, urgent care services, outpatient clinics, diagnostic services, surgical suites and acute inpatient beds.
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Short Term Event Planner

Feb. 12
Health Care Summit, by Corridor Business Journal, 8-11 a.m., online. This virtual event examines national health policy issues and refocuses them to the regional level through speakers and panel discussions. The 2021 program will focus on “Finishing the Fight: What’s next for COVID-19 and the Community.” Keynote by Dr. Robert Pearl, former CEO of The Permanente Medical Group and former president of The Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group. Free. To register, visit
Feb. 17 
1 Million Cups, by 1MC Cedar Rapids, 8:30 a.m., online. Join for community connections and presentations by entrepreneurs, established companies, experts and more. Free. For more information, visit
1 Million Cups, by 1MC Iowa City, 9 a.m., online. Join for community connections and presentations by entrepreneurs, established companies, experts and more. Free. For more information, visit
Marketing and Business Plans by America’s SBDC Iowa, by Iowa Economic Development Authority, 9 a.m., online. Laurie Pieper from SBDC Iowa will talk about resources available to help develop marketing and business plans. Free. To register, visit
COVID-19 Economic Aid Overview, by Small Business Administration, Iowa District Office, 10 a.m., online. Overview of the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL), SBA Debt Relief program for its regular loan programs and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG). Free. To participate, visit
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Headlines from KCRG-TV9
These news items are provided by KCRG-TV9 

The Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market that so many have come to love is coming back in 2021 as they remember it (mostly) from previous years. The in-person market will be returning with COVID-19 precautions in place, including mask and glove requirements, as well as other social distancing measures. The markets will be happening from 7:30 a.m.-noon on these Saturdays: June 19, July 3, July 17, Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Sept. 4, Sept. 18 and Oct. 8. Anyone interested in becoming a vendor, click here.
For more information, click here.

Waterloo police are investigating after a man was shot several times early Thursday morning. Police said they received a call about the shooting at around 4 a.m. They said the shooting happened near West 1st Street and West Wellington Street, but the victim was found near the intersection of University Avenue and Sergeant Road, near Highway 218. The victim was taken to the hospital where he underwent surgery. Police said they plan to talk to him when they can. The investigation is ongoing, but there have been no arrests.

These news items are provided by KCRG-TV9
Your KCRG-TV9 First Alert Forecast
Plan on another cold day as this overall pattern continues. Snow may generate a couple inches of accumulation over portions of our northwest and northeast zones, with an inch or less farther south. Much of it will be pushing through during the afternoon and early evening. Quickly following this system will be another for later Friday into Saturday. That system could also produce some minor accumulation in our area as well. Very cold air is still on track to arrive this weekend and in regards to daytime highs, Valentine’s Day will be the coldest on record. Wind chills this weekend may get to -40 or colder for a time, especially Saturday night and again Sunday night.