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The Week in Social 12/21 - 12/31

Everywhere you look, Iowans are uniting like never before. While times may be tough right now, we’re seeing it won’t stop the great people in the state from supporting one another. Many have taken to social media to help those in their communities, share helpful resources or to simply highlight something positive to bring joy to others. The Week in Social will round up the best of #IowansUnite and share these uplifting stories.

The COVID-19 pandemic and August derecho left many Iowans searching for help where they could get it. Those calls for help have sparked community outreach programs throughout the state, helping out in whatever ways they can. One such program recently received a big boost.

Bridgette Williams-Robinson and her husband, Jovountae Robinson, have been feeding members of their Cedar Rapids community five days a week.

“It’s not just people that are unemployed. It’s people that are working that are just struggling,” Williams-Robinson said.

Robinson and her husband, with their five children, were homeless eight years ago. They moved to Cedar Rapids to be closer to Bridgette’s sister, where the couple eventually found jobs and a welcoming community.

“We couldn’t help with tree removal and roof damage. But I knew how to cook, and we had the means to help, so that’s what we started to do,” said Williams-Robinson.

The efforts were supposed to be temporary, but the response has been so overwhelmingly positive that Bridgette is making this a permanent fixture. She founded Bridge Under the Bridge, which will provide year-round food service to the Cedar Rapids community.

“Helping people makes her happier than anything that I’ve seen in 15 years. Now, she’s found her place,” said Robinson.

The couple was even surprised with a donation of a brand new food trailer from eBay after an interview with “Good Morning America,” making it that much easier to continue providing help to the community.

Iowa State University’s (ISU) Nanovaccine Institute researchers are in the process of creating a new kind of vaccine to combat COVID-19. Pfizer and Moderna developed first-generation COVID-19 vaccines, but ISU’s new vaccine will be a one-dose, needle-free vaccination. The vaccine also won’t need to be refrigerated, making it more easily transportable than the current vaccines. The Nanovaccine Institute obtained $2 million in federal CARES Act funding and expect to have this new nanovaccine in the next year and a half.

“This is why we wake up and come to work every morning, right, is for the opportunity to do things that can help save lives, that can help better humanity,” said Balaji Narasimhan, director of the Nanovaccine Institute.

Starting 2021 off in the right way is easy with Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) First Day Hike Challenge. The best news? There’s even a prize drawing for a free two-night stay at a cabin in Lake Darling Park.

Every year, Iowa state parks host guided hikes on January 1 to kick off the new year. To account for COVID-19, the Hike Challenge was done through the Iowa State Park Passport. Using the Passport, visitors could check into more than 50 participating state parks between January 1 and January 3. Every check-in qualified and counted as a contest entry. Though the First Day Hike Challenge has ended, the State Park Passport is still available and ready to help you have adventures in Iowa’s state parks all year long.

TapOnIt, a Davenport-based messaging technology company, was recently awarded a $250,000 Innovation Acceleration Propel fund award from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Board.

Sisters Katie and Sara Wilson started their company more than five years ago. TapOnIt provides a platform that enables businesses to reach, engage and convert opted-in customers through personalized multi-channel messaging, known as TapOnIt Technology. The platform helps automate a brand’s entire customer engagement and retention strategy.

TapOnIt currently has more than 71,000 subscribers in the Quad Cities (promoting 200 local businesses) and more than 300,000 subscribers in 18 states. Katie says the fund will help power nationwide growth and increase their 20-person staff to 60 employees in the next year.

“The additional funding [IEDA] provided, it is fantastic,” Katie said of the new grant. “I think one thing we don’t do a great job in Iowa is bragging about ourselves. There are great resources available to people wanting to grow something here. It’s a huge help, and I’m happy to have that, especially with the year we’ve all been dealing with.”

Published January 04, 2021

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