By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Carrying a loaf of homemade banana nut bread, a smile formed on Barb Kennedy’s face as she took a look around Johnson County Right to Life’s new office location in downtown Iowa City Jan. 10. “It’s so nice,” the advisory board member said as she prepared to celebrate the office’s open house.
The space is a major step-up from the former office of Johnson County Right to Life (JCRTL) said its director, Sheryl Schwager. Previously, JCRTL had a basement storage space that couldn’t fit all of the signs, brochures, books and other materials the organization uses to promote the sanctity of life from womb to tomb, let alone host meetings or allow for office hours. Schwager used her own home and car for additional makeshift storage at times, and board meetings often took place in homes, libraries or restaurants.
The organization received a huge blessing when a donor offered to pay for an appropriate office space last year. Additional donors helped fill out the space with furniture — JCRTL will be responsible for utility costs only, said Alice Hale, an advisory board member. The new office, at 840 square feet, has ample room to store materials and it also has a break room, a multi-purpose main area equipped for hosting guests and meetings, and a restroom.
Mary Anderson, a member of St. Wenceslaus Parish-Iowa City, was impressed by the space, especially the room that houses shelves of informational materials and fetus models. “This is great! There is so much here … it is so organized,” she commented.
Hale added that it’ll be nice to have a space for volunteers to work on projects, such as wrapping fetal models in preparation for the organization’s Johnson County Fair booth this summer. She feels the central location will “encourage more people to stop by and help.”
Schwager admitted that it’s nice to have a space for everything, but she’s even more encouraged by the office’s location — on a street that gets a lot of foot traffic from University of Iowa students. She hopes the location at 345 East College St. will encourage curious passersby to stop in and take a look around during office hours Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1-3 p.m.
JCRTL hopes to expand its hours in the future. “We are less than a block from the Iowa City Library and within close proximity to many establishments frequented by University of Iowa students and others. … It is important to have a central location where individuals can access educational materials and learn about upcoming pro-life events and volunteer opportunities.” JCRTL also plans to host educational events for college students in the office space as a way to foster more dialogue on abortion.
“We want to be able to more effectively increase outreach to our community,” Schwager said.