JoMarie Morris calls settling into the new Jeremiah Program campus a “joyous challenge.”
“We have 25 families that have already moved in, and we’re on track to have the building full by the end of the year, but just dealing with all protocols surrounding the pandemic and keeping families safe and getting up and operational all at the same time has definitely been challenging,” said the executive director of the Rochester program.
After years of discussion, fundraising and planning, the campus with 40 housing units and support facilities opened in July amid COVID-19 concerns.
Jeremiah Program is a Minneapolis-based national nonprofit addressing the cycle of poverty for single mothers and their children. Its campuses seek to offer two-generation prosperity solutions by helping single mothers obtain career paths and support as they move out of poverty.
After nearly four months of operations in Rochester, the newest Jeremiah Program campus is planning to open its doors — virtually — to the community that helped make it a reality.
“First and foremost, it’s a community celebration around how this incredible need was addressed by a cross-section of the community that really came together to make this happen,” Morris said of the online event, which will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday and include a virtual tour of the site, as well as an interview from a Twin Cities program alum.
The virtual event will also feature a sneak peek at part of a 30-minute documentary created to spark community discussions of intergenerational poverty at future events.
“The whole idea is to make it a catalyst for discussion around interrupting intergenerational poverty,” she said of the film, which includes stories of Rochester program participants and glimpses of the July move-in day.
Morris said more needs to be done, and the local Jeremiah Program effort is working to expand beyond its campus, with the hope of nearly doubling the families it can serve next year.
“The vision of what that exactly looks like hasn’t been fleshed out yet,” she added.
Meanwhile, she said the program has been struggling with its campus launch amid the pandemic.
In addition to trying to raise the final funds for the $16.9 million Rochester campus near the intersection of 19th Street Northwest and Valleyhigh Drive, Morris said operating expenses have grown due to safety precautions.
Meanwhile, business support has been hindered by economic challenges, volunteers have been sidelined and a planned fundraising gala was canceled.
“It wasn’t a very good time for the pandemic to hit us,” Morris said, noting the program has a $150,000 funding gap for the year.
To answer the need, Jeremiah Program is asking for donations in connection with Tuesday’s virtual event. With a $50 donation suggested, Morris said participants will be able to contribute when signing up for the program or throughout the one-hour event.
At the same time, she said donations aren’t required to discover more about the program.
“We are really in the process of informing a lot of the community about Jeremiah, so we are looking to really bring in a broader tent of folks from across southeast Minnesota,” she said of efforts to attract attention to the online event.
If you go
What: Jeremiah Program’s Many Hearts Make a Home grand opening
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Online virtually from the Rochester campus
Register: Visit http://bit.ly/JPHearts to sign up.
1993 — Planning for creation of the Jeremiah Program starts, according to current President and CEO Gloria Perez.
1998 — First Jeremiah Program effort launches.
2014 — Olmsted County Deputy County Administrator Paul Fleissner hears Perez speak about the program, which starts a push to expand to Rochester.
2016 — Jo Marie Morris hired as a consultant to lead a feasibility team for the Jeremiah Program effort in Rochester.
2017 — Morris named executive director of the Rochester program.
2017 — Rochester philanthropists Jack and Mary Ann Remick donate 2 acres of land near the intersection of 19th Street Northwest and Valleyhigh Drive.
July 2019 — Groundbreaking held for Jeremiah Program’s Rochester campus, with plans to open the 40-unit housing complex and other services in June.
July 2020 — Families move into the Rochester campus.
August 2020 — Families First of Minnesota opens a child development center to provide day care for children of Jeremiah Program mothers.
Nov. 10 — Many Hearts Make a Home virtual grand opening set to be held.