Group Running Out Of Donations After Mt Pleasant Raid

Aug 9, 2018

A group helping pay bills for Iowa families affected by an immigration raid is running out of money. Volunteers in the southeast Iowa city of Mount Pleasant have raised $120,000 since Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detained 32 workers from a concrete plant in May. But organizers with the group IowaWINs, which stands for Iowa Welcomes its Immigrant Neighbors, say the money they've raised in the past four months will run out by the end of August.

In the hours after ICE agents arrested workers from the Midwest Precast Concrete company in Mount Pleasant, members of IowaWINs sprung into action. The group and the church it operates out of, First Presbyterian, became something of a clearinghouse: reaching out to affected families, cataloging their needs and matching them with local food pantries and support services.

"You never know! We certainly really never thought there would be a ICE raid in Mount Pleasant. But it happened here." - Tammy Shull, IowaWINs organizer

Quickly, people from across Iowa and all over the country were flooding the group with thousands of dollars in donations. IowaWINs organizer Tammy Shull said they learned the ins and outs of nonprofit management quickly.

"You never know! We certainly really never thought there would be a ICE raid in Mount Pleasant. But it happened here," Shull said.

The group calculated it could allocate $4,500 to each of the affected families: $2,500 for household expenses like rent, groceries and utilities, and $2,000 for legal expenses, including fees for attorneys, for asylum applications or DACA renewal applications. 

Martha Wiley oversees finances for IowaWINs, tracking donations, expenses and disbursements in a growing system of folders and spreadsheets. When families ask for their allocation, the organization cuts a check directly, Wiley explained.

“They present a bill, or they present a statement from their landlord and we make the check straight to the utility company or straight to the landlord or straight to the attorney that presented an invoice," Wiley said. "So it’s not really cash in their hand, it’s a bill that’s paid for them.”

But four months after the raid, donations are slowing down. Wiley said without more community support, the organization's days of cutting checks are numbered.

“The majority of the families still have between $300 and $600 that they could ask for help with, of the money that we have at this point," Wiley.

"We need more money! And we're not going to abandon them, but we don't have the resources in this little church to do everything that they need." - Martha Wiley, IowaWINs finance supervisor

But at least two families have already used their full $4,500 allotment. Wiley estimates the remaining funds will last the other families only until the end of the month.

“But to keep moving forward, because their needs don’t end at the end of August, we need more money!" Wiley said. "And we’re not going to abandon them, but we don’t have the resources in this little church to do everything that they need. They don’t have the resources to do everything they need."

While 24 of the 32 workers have been released on bond and have returned to their families, members of IowaWINs said many have not been able to work since the raid. Five of the men have been deported, while three others face criminal charges, with hearings scheduled in the coming months.

In the days since the May 9th raid, Iowans from 68 cities across the state have donated to the effected families, along with residents of 23 other states, including Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as Florida, Texas, Georgia and Virginia. 

Wiley said she has been amazed by the outpouring of support. 

"I have no clue how we got the funds to begin with," Wiley said. But she hopes the donations keep coming.

"Faith is a wonderful thing."