Maquoketa Community Cupboard opens doors in new location

A Maquoketa man who lost his job at John Deere in the 1980s recalls how he went without a paycheck for three months. During that troubled time, the Maquoketa Community Cupboard helped him feed his family until he was called back to work. This story is one of many dating back to the Community Cupboard’s opening in 1979, when it operated out of the basement of the United Methodist Church. The Community Cupboard continues to help those in need from a new location in Maquoketa.

For the first three decades of its existence, the Community Cupboard was able to carry on its ministry without the expense of rent or utilities — meaning that nearly every dollar donated was used to purchase food and essentials given to those in need. Last year, the organization’s location was sold, and it became obvious that purchasing the former Movies America building, a 4,000 square-foot space priced reasonably at $125,000, was the most economical and forward-looking choice. Thus, the Community Cupboard embarked upon a capital campaign to cover the cost of the building and needed renovations. A $135,000 endowment campaign began simultaneously to support the organization’s annual operating budget in perpetuity.

The Community Foundation of Jackson County (CFJC) holds both the capital campaign and the endowment funds. “They gave us a good starting strategy, encouraged us at the beginning and helped identify several of the major donors to get things kicked off,” said Pastor Jeff Dadisman, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the Community Cupboard.

On average, the organization serves 135 families (or 374 individuals) each week at a cost of about $2.60 per person, purchasing much of the needed supplies at a fraction of retail price from St. Stephen’s Food Bank in Dubuque.

In response to that level of need in the Maquoketa area, CJFC awards $10,000 of its grantmaking money to Jackson County food pantries. “The money is divided among the six food pantries according to people served,” said Mary Jo Gothard, CJFC executive director. “In addition, CFJC grants money to the Jackson County Backpack programs offered by the area schools. St. Stephens Food Bank also partners with the backpack program in our area.”

“Maquoketa State Bank secured the loan for the initial purchase and helped us navigate the closing,” said Dadisman. About $185,000 has been raised for the cause thus far. A small team is making local contacts and writing grants to help close the funding gap.

At the Cupboard’s new home, Dadisman oversaw volunteer crews demolishing old walls and interior rooms as well as repairs and arrangement of new shelving. “Local volunteers did most of the painting, cleaning, building of new shelves and setup before the actual move-in,” he said. “We had a big day when 29 volunteers came on a Saturday and moved everything across the street — food, tables, inventory and serving shelves.” A trio of clergy who serve as the organization’s board lined up contractors for air conditioning, electrical needs, cement work, roof repairs and a new floor, and the Community Cupboard didn’t miss a single pick-up day for families in need.

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Founded in 2002, the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque strengthens communities and inspires giving. We are dedicated to improving the quality of life throughout Northeast Iowa by serving donors, making grants to local nonprofit organizations, and providing community leadership through convening and collaboration. Guided by the values of integrity, equity and inclusion, collaboration, excellence and innovation, we seek to ensure a vibrant and inclusive Greater Dubuque region with resources and opportunity for all.