Already a subscriber? Log in
- Unparalleled business coverage of the Iowa City / Cedar Rapids corridor.
- Immediate access to subscriber-only content on our website.
- 52 issues per year delivered digitally, in print or both.
- Support locally owned and operated journalism.
On Tuesday, Oct. 18, YouthHope proudly showed off a bright, colorful and lasting investment in the young people the agency serves as well as in the 11th Street community its Rock Island youth center calls home. A crowd of community leaders and young people braved a cold and windy late afternoon to help dedicate that investment: A large, arresting mural that promises “There Is Hope!” and fills the exterior north wall of the center, located at 2707 11th St. The project was initiated by the Rock Island Rotary Club as its 2022 Rotary District service project and a contingent of members – including Rotary President Cindi Gramenz and Dave Hodge, Rotary member and director of centers for YouthHope – were on hand to celebrate its official unveiling Tuesday. Ms. Gramenz said every year the Rock Island Rotary applies for a grant from Rotary International District 6420. “For my year as president, I wanted the project to involve youth and focus on the arts or literacy,” she told the QCBJ. “So I put it out to the club to give me ideas and asked the board to vote on their favorites and the mural won.” “I chose YouthHope because I believe in their work and their mission,” she added. “I spent many years in youth services in nonprofits and will always be passionate about nonprofits that work with youth.” The mural project idea originally came from fellow Rotarian Gary Rowe, Ms. Gramenz said. Once the mural was selected by the club, she added, “Gary agreed to chair the project and we immediately went to work trying to figure out how we would secure the funding as it was going to be more than what the district grant would be.” Additional funders for the project who stepped up to help included: the Rock Island Community Foundation, Doris and Victor Day Foundation, Modern Woodmen of America and Rauch Family Foundation I, which Mr. Rowe leads as executive director. According to YouthHope, the mural project helps show its students they are worth investing in, they are seen, and their perspective is valuable. In addition, the agency’s news release said, the mural also has fostered a sense of pride, community and ownership along Rock Island’s 11th Street. “The voices and perspectives of the kids and teens at YouthHope are seen, felt and incorporated into the artwork,” added the agency whose mission is to bring children and teens from low-income areas into a life-changing relationship with Christ through encouraging, equipping, and empowering them. “The youth were involved in the project from the beginning and every aspect of the project from brainstorming to design and ultimately the painting,” Ms. Gramenz told the QCBJ. “My understanding was they wanted the mural to represent them and the diversity within their community. My goal was that Rotarians would be involved with the painting (and they were) and it could be a sort of mentoring program.” The youth volunteers, who are served by YouthHope, worked closely with the mural artist Johan Umaña of Muscatine, Iowa, to create a piece that reflects them and the heart of what they experience at YouthHope. Youth Hope students gave feedback, helped in the design process, and added color to a large portion of the mural. And from the beginning, Youth Hope students, volunteers and staff worked together to make the project a reality. “It was truly amazing to watch these kids work,” Ms. Gramenz said. “They took such ownership of the project and to see them work with the artist just reiterated why programs like YouthHope are so important in our community.” Ms. Gramenz thanked those students for allowing her to witness their “passion” and their “commitment” over the past several weeks as they helped create a mural that is an extension of YouthHope’s Creative Arts Programs and a collaborative mentoring project for YouthHope students, including several from the nearby Moline YouthHope Youth Center. On Tuesday YouthHope also thanked the Rotarians who worked with students to help fill out the artist’s design, other volunteers and everyone who donated to an effort. Ms. Gramenz called it “a great example of the way our Rock Island community works together on a project that benefits the community.”