Community Foundation of Jackson County supports students and teachers with disaster relief grants

The seasons have changed, but the Community Foundation of Jackson County continues to see new pandemic-related needs arise throughout Jackson County, particularly in schools, child care settings and households. 

Since its inception at the end of March, the Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund has granted more than $36,000 to 20 nonprofits working on the front lines of the pandemic in Jackson County. The Foundation has focused recent grants on return-to-learn strategies.

Teachers at Cardinal and Briggs Elementary Schools received grants to help students release energy appropriately and interact positively. After students spent five months at home, teachers recognized an opportunity to assist with social-emotional skills like communication, empathy, self-regulation, goal-setting and community-building. A grant from the Foundation provided a new curriculum of games, activities and crafts that can be used by guidance counselors in individual sessions, with entire classrooms, and even with online learners. 

To keep students safe and socially distanced, Cardinal second-graders spend most of the school day at their desks. Thanks to a grant, these young children have access to ball chairs, chair bands and fidget items that do not interrupt class time yet allow students to release energy at their desks and improve focus on academics. New outdoor recess equipment, also part of the grant project, is helping students learn to take turns, work together and solve problems. These lessons would typically take place in guidance or physical education classes, which are limited by the pandemic. 

“We are beyond grateful for these funds and the impact that they are having on our students. They allow us to provide more opportunities than we would have been able to, and in these times, that is paramount in making school as normal as possible,” said Cardinal Principal Caleb Bonjour. “The grants also provided some incredibly happy moments for our staff, which has helped to keep morale high during these stressful times.”

Students at Andrew Elementary also are benefitting from a grant for coping tools, such as sensory items, mindfulness activities and a variety of books to help them understand and manage the big emotions many are feeling.

A grant to Bellevue Middle and High School was used toward the purchase of sanitary water bottle filling stations. Another provided technology and supplies to help preschoolers at Cardinal Elementary adapt to online learning: Styluses so students can learn to hold a pencil correctly while using tablets, headphones to limit distractions, tripods so teachers can record lessons as they happen in the classroom, and face shields for students who attend school in person. 

“It may be years before we understand the real impact COVID-19 has had on our youth,” said Mary Jo Gothard, executive director of the Foundation. “Teachers are doing everything they can to help students thrive in spite of many challenges. Thanks to the generosity of Jackson County residents, we are able to support their needs with grants from the Disaster Relief Fund.”  

More recent grants include:

  • Delaware, Dubuque, Jackson County Regional Transit Authority to transport low-income residents to the Maquoketa Farmers Market, where they can use vouchers to purchase healthy food
  • Bellevue Community Cupboard for food and hygiene products
  • Jackson County Agricultural Extension for farmer appreciation gift bags
  • Little Shepherd Preschool and Day Care Center for a washer and dryer to eliminate the need for staff to wash cot sheets at home

“Community needs have evolved over the past several months, and the Foundation is still receiving grant applications from nonprofits working on the front lines of the pandemic,” said Lori Loch, incoming Foundation director. “Donations are still appreciated so the Foundation can continue addressing the impacts COVID-19 is having in Jackson County.” 

Gifts can be made online to the fund at Checks made out to Jackson County Disaster Recovery Fund may be dropped off at the Maquoketa State Bank walk-up teller window (north entrance of main bank) or drive-through teller window at the MSB West Side Office location. They also can be mailed to the Community Foundation of Jackson County, P.O. Box 645, Maquoketa, Iowa 52060.

To apply for a grant, visit or contact Mary Jo Gothard at 563.588.2700 or