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2020 IOWA STRONG: Inspiring stories from a dark year

032420 IA Strong

(KWWL) -- This year, Iowans have experienced extreme hardships, but they have also come together to help each other get through these tough times.

We created the 'Iowa Strong' page in March to highlight the positive impact Iowans are making on their communities.

What started out as a page mainly focused on the positive stories coming out of the pandemic, transitioned into the inspiring and tireless work of so many in the aftermath of the devastating derecho.

Along with sharing the inspiring stories of Iowans helping Iowans, KWWL's Collin Dorsey created a cooking segment "Cooking with Collin" to provide some easy recipe ideas during the pandemic and our on-air talent did a weekly children's book reading for everyone stuck at home.

Here are some stories of amazing people helping their community this year.

KWWL has also created a COVID-19 coverage timeline and a 2020 Year in Review.


Local businesses mix batches of sanitizer to give away for free

Just as with PPE, hand sanitizer was hard to come by in the early days of the pandemic. Several local businesses filled that void for their communities.

READ MORE HERE and HERE.

Volunteer seamstresses helping create face masks

Back in March, Mercy Cedar Rapids was looking to address the possibility of future shortages of protective face masks and volunteer seamstresses stepped up to help.

READ MORE HERE.

Transit system turned food delivery during coronavirus pandemic

The Linn County LIFTS service, which usually gives rides to seniors and those with disabilities, started picking up food donations throughout the county to help with food insecurity during the coronavirus outbreak.

READ MORE HERE.

Cedar Rapids organizations form 3-D printing network to fill need of protective shield masks

Amid a national shortage of protective face shields for health care workers, Eastern Iowa businesses, non-profits, and organizations got creative to help find a short term solution.

Three businesses partnered together to utilize 3-D printers to make protective shields to donate to local hospitals.

READ MORE HERE.

The Great Teddy Bear Hunt

On March 27, scattered in windows all over the Hawkeye State were stuffed animals resting in windows as a sign of unity amid the coronavirus crisis.

READ MORE HERE.

Cedar Falls teen plays music for people stuck at home during pandemic

Cedar Falls' Carter Guse is using YouTube to his advantage as a way to help people make it through these stressful times.

With performances canceled due to COVID-19 fears, Guse wanted to keep his skills up, and a way to do it was to go online and perform his music there.

READ MORE HERE.

U of I students running errands for people at high-risk of COVID-19

Young adults in Iowa City formed the group Iowa City Errand-ers to help seniors and people with compromised immune systems stay stocked with essential during the coronavirus outbreak.

READ MORE HERE.

 Local food truck offering free food to those in need

Mersim's Kitchen in Waterloo was offering food several days a week for those who might otherwise go hungry. Owned by Mersim Osmicevic, the food truck started less than a year ago, but Osmicevic has been cooking for more than 30 years.

READ MORE HERE.

Waterloo man turns overhead transparency sheets into face shields for healthcare workers

A student at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo was hoping to do something meaningful with his spare time when classes were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He decided to use overhead projector transparency sheets, foam for padding and elastic to create face shields for healthcare workers. 

READ MORE HERE.

Iowa City family plants sunflowers to lift spirits during pandemic

An Iowa City family planted sunflowers throughout their neighborhood, hoping to spread a little positivity during the pandemic.

READ MORE HERE.

Eastern Iowan brings community together to support nursing staff

One man from Waterloo made a huge effort to raise money to feed the nursing home staff members of the Cedar Valley, collecting over $1,000 worth of cans and bottles.

READ MORE HERE.

Nonprofit partners with local growers for virtual farmer’s market

Despite Governor Reynolds allowing farmer's markets to reopen with restrictions, Iowa City felt more comfortable with a virtual format and nonprofit Field to Family helped over 20 local farmers register.

READ MORE HERE.

Quarantine family photos help local homeless shelter

An Iowa City photographer went porch to porch, documenting over 100 families and their quarantine history. The sessions were free, but she still collected donations for Shelter House in Iowa City.

READ MORE HERE.

Waukon business owner steps up for community during pandemic

Dustin Rounds, owner of Rounds Chiropractic Clinic, gave personal donations to Waukon restaurants to "pay" for a portion of meals people would buy, incentivizing people to get carry out and support local businesses during the pandemic.

READ MORE HERE.

‘Adopt A Senior’ Facebook group helps students celebrate graduation

One Facebook group provided a space for family members to post about their student and people could comment on wanting to "adopt" that senior and help them celebrate graduation or send a gift.

READ MORE HERE.

Teaching at a Distance

KWWL's Olivia Schmitt met with four teachers in the Waterloo Community School District to see what it's like to teach remotely during the pandemic. Their experiences embody those of the thousands of teachers that have had to adjust in this abnormal year.

READ MORE HERE.

Youngest Iowa wish hero kayaks entire Cedar River for Make-A-Wish Iowa

Nine-year-old Liam Winninger raised thousands for Make-A-Wish Iowa on a nearly 20 day kayaking trip down the Cedar River with his father, all with the goal to grant a wish for an Iowan. Liam became the youngest wish hero in Iowa.

READ MORE HERE.

Marion officer selling shoes to benefit counseling for first responders

A 25-year veteran of the Marion Police Department and his family raised over $100,000 in shoe sales in one year to benefit mental health services for first responders.

READ MORE HERE.

Neighbors help 93-year-old with derecho clean-up

Following the derecho, neighbors came together to help a 93-year-old man break down fallen trees.

READ MORE HERE.

Willie Ray’s Q Shack gives out free food with help from ‘Advocates for Social Justice’

The owner of Willie Ray's Q Shack, located in Cedar Rapids, teamed up with the 'Advocates for Social Justice' to hand-out free food for those affected by the derecho. In September, they were awarded a recipient of $25,000 from Discover credit card company's "Eat it Forward" program.

READ MORE HERE.

Mount Vernon boy creates unique gift out of storm debris

Twelve-year-old Tommy Rhomberg from Mount Vernon spent 10 hours creating a baseball bat, "The Great Derecho," using a fallen branch from the derecho. He has since made and sold 113 bats to support storm relief!

READ MORE HERE.

Cedar Rapids boy inspires others with clean-up efforts

11-year-old Christopher Brown started cleaning up after the derecho hit and after his mother reached out on Facebook for more tools, other strangers joined Christopher in his efforts.

READ MORE HERE.

Newhall bakery provides food for derecho clean-up

Shelly Dengler, owner Shelly's Sweets in Newhall, decided to keep her store open after the derecho hit her town, even though the building had no power.

READ MORE HERE.

Sailors assigned to USS Iowa submarine help with derecho debris clean-up

Four Navy sailors constructing the USS Iowa SSN-797 Submarine traveled 19 hours to begin a week-long clean-up for neighbors in Marion who were been hit hard by the derecho. The sailors brought hundreds of supplies to the state of Iowa that were donated by a support group.

READ MORE HERE.

From debris to dazzling sculptures, Mount Vernon man brings new life to trees lost in derecho

Clint Henik of 'Carve R Way' has been carving wood into works of art for six years and saw a big boost in business after the derecho hit! Check out some of his awesome creations!

READ MORE HERE.

Local artists come together to create “Derecho Mixtape”

Dozens of local musicians used their talents to help victims of last month's derecho. They collaborated and donated songs to put together a special mixtape to raise money for relief efforts.

READ MORE HERE.

Marion community and first responders came together to save 8-year-old’s life after the derecho

8-year-old Hattie was close to death after an uprooted tree stump fell back in place and landed on her two days after the derecho. It took an entire community, including four Marion police officers to save her life.

READ MORE HERE.

Cedar Rapids couple still feeding those in need 2 months after derecho

Six days a week, Bridgette Robinson and her husband continued to feed meals to those in need, months after the derecho tore through the area.

READ MORE HERE.

7-year-old uses her art skills to help others in need following the derecho

7-year-old Rylee Rail sold stainless steel tumblers with her own artwork etched into them and donated the proceeds to a Cedar Rapids nonprofit to help with derecho relief.

READ MORE HERE.

Ms. Wheelchair Iowa pushes for more inclusive playgrounds

Heidi Kriener, an English language learning teacher for Turkey Valley Community School District, was crowned 2020's 'Ms. Wheelchair Iowa,' and created a platform to push for more inclusive playgrounds.

READ MORE HERE.

Cedar Rapids homeless shelter ‘Operation Christmas Backpack’ to provide a useful gift to those in need

The Willis Dady Homeless Services was seeking donations of backpacks filled with useful items for their clients, hoping to gift donations to those experiencing homelessness for the holidays this year.

READ MORE HERE.

‘RESCUE CHRISTMAS’: A KWWL Salvation Army special

KWWL aired a special report on The Salvation Army's efforts to support families facing poverty, hunger, and job loss during this tough holiday season.

READ AND WATCH MORE HERE.


Find all of KWWL's 'Iowa Strong' stories here.

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Andrew Pearce

Social Media & Digital Content Manager

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