DEWINTER: Good things are happening in Muscatine … because of great people
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DEWINTER: Good things are happening in Muscatine … because of great people

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Just like the rest of you, these last two weeks have been extremely challenging for Muscatine Community College faculty, staff and students. Like other colleges across the nation, we have begun employing remote instruction for all of our classes. Faculty and staff were trained and technology was deployed. All of our student services employees now offer remote services for things, such as financial aid, advising, and tutoring.

We thought we had things pretty well planned out for offering instruction and services. Then, we decided that shutting down student housing was the best and safest thing to do for our students. It was the final piece of the puzzle, because we understood that for some of our students, on-campus housing was their only housing option. Our dean of students began contacting students personally and ensured them plans were in place. A handful of students had no other options.

This is when I began to reach out to some of my colleagues in Muscatine. We will forever be indebted to them.

• Charla Schafer, executive director of the Community Foundation. She treated our problem as though it was her problem and provided multiple suggestions for housing, including converting her office space to a living area. She volunteered her husband, John, to rig a shower area upstairs. Since John did not have to build a shower, I think he still owes me a home improvement favor.

• Jim and Rebecca Howe. We talked about the possibility of our students staying at the Merrill Hotel Muscatine for an extended time. They were very willing to assist us. I heard back from them about five minutes after I reached out last Saturday morning. They had already been working with local businesses to see if the hotel could be used as a resource to keep operations moving safely.

• Scott Dahlke, executive director of MCSA. Scott offered an immediate housing option for two of our students in a home owned by Dr. Michael and Shelly Maharry. Scott assured me that housing the students was more important than the students’ ability to pay and that there would be no charge for rent.

• Joni Axel, MCC Foundation Board member, offered multiple potential solutions, offering to make connections with others in the community whom, I have no doubt, would have been eager to help, especially with a nudge from Joni.

• Carolyn Levine, Muscatine Rotarian. Carolyn offered to help one of our students without access to wi-fi. Carolyn has become a friend of the college in many ways, supporting our theater students and performing “Forktales” alongside our English Language Learners (it’s on Muscatine’s Public Access YouTube channel).

• Jodi Royal-Goodwin, community development director, city of Muscatine. Jodi saved the day. She worked with the students to access housing near the campus, using housing vouchers. These students have very little or no income and certainly weren’t prepared to pay a deposit, rent and utilities, on top of what they already paid the college for their housing. Jodi and her staff met with the students, explained the process, and were extremely helpful and patient with us.

I also want to thank the Muscatine Community College Foundation Board who unanimously decided to pledge up to $25,000 to help MCC students with emergencies related to the coronavirus pandemic.

As former mayor and MCC alumnus, the late Dick O’Brien, liked to say, “Good things are happening in Muscatine”. It’s because of the great people who have chosen to care for this city and its people. My thanks to all of you.

Dr. Naomi DeWinter is the President of Muscatine Community College, “The Community’s College”. MJC/MCC was established in 1929 and has proudly served the community for over 90 years. Contact ndewinter@eicc.edu.

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