Denise Clark was elected president of the board of directors for Matthew 25. She served as the board vice president in 2015. OPN has a longstanding relationship with the nonprofit organization, which rose from the Floods of 2008 in the northwest neighborhoods of Cedar Rapids. Denise was part of a group that traveled to Morocco earlier this year to learn about women-run, organic food cooperatives, through which they are learning business skills, bringing running water and electricity to their villages and setting up education programs for their children. The group intends to continue building strong connections there, in part by supporting cooperatives.
The trip was relevant to Cedar Rapids for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Matthew 25 operates its on urban farm, which OPN and a collaboration of other firms and students from Iowa State University worked with the group to develop on two-acres of productive green space in the heart of the city. In addition to utilizing a space that would otherwise be empty and unused, the Matthew 25 Urban Farm provides an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables to an area that would otherwise be a fresh food desert.
We’re also in the second of a two-phased approach that will reconfigure 12,400 square feet in a century-old building for the group’s 21st century needs. All of the 6,800 square feet used by Matthew 25 – the remaining 5,600 has been set aside for future tenants – was improved to some extent as part of Phase I before the organization could move in. Phase II of the project, starting in the fall of 2015 and wrapping up early this year, will transform the offices into spaces that suite Matthew 25’s specific needs.