Cultural center in Webster City seeks funding

All Cultures Equal needs immediate help, director says

WEBSTER CITY — A unique Webster City multicultural center that has hosted events and classes since its founding is in dire financial straits.

As 2017 comes to a close, All Cultures Equal needs immediate financial help to keep its doors open, Janet Toering, ACE education and immigration director said.

“Donations to ACE are investments in the future of Hamilton County,” Toering said.

It costs the community center $12,000 a month to pay for utilities, insurance, other expenses and its employees, she said.

As Hamilton County continues to experience a shift in cultural diversity, ACE has hopes to continue to provide classes and programs to support and embrace the change, Toering said.

“We have so many services that are needed in this change of climate, but we have no money to support them because we are not a government agency,” she said. “We rely on lots of donations and volunteers.”

The ACE Community Center began serving Hamilton County and the surrounding area in 2001. It offers services focused on drawing members of the diverse community together. Accordng to Toering, there are more than 30 countries represented at ACE.

“Research shows that the rural communities in Iowa that are surviving and thriving all of the changes are the ones that embrace cultural diversity and have people from many countries living and working together,” she said.

“The primary purpose of ACE is to help encourage the acceptance and assimilation into the community indviduals of various cultural backgrounds by providing education and social opportunities.”

One of the many services ACE offers is language classes. Individuals can learn both Spanish and English. The classes are taught by either native speakers or certified teachers.

“ACE is ready and willing to help industry and the community embrace the ability to have more workers and take down the language barriers,” Toering said, adding, “It’s so enriching when you embrace people from other countries and share their knowledge and get out of our little boxes.”

She added, “That’s our mission, to embrace diversity and bring the community together. We have the ability to bridge so many gaps and bring people together.”

Toering took part in a community conversation about diversity in Webster City on Dec. 1. Storm Lake Police Chief and Public Safety Director Mark Prosser was the featured speaker. He noted the work it took to accommodate and embrace the changes Storm Lake saw after a series of cultural shifts in the community.

The language barrier was the No. 1 challenge Storm Lake faced, he said.

“The communities that haven’t embraced that are consolidating schools and maybe even city and county services,” Toering said. “We, as in the people in the Hamilton County area, are obviously embracing some big industrial growth and growth in general that will help all of us have a better quality of life.”

Prosser explained that the diverse population has been positive for Storm Lake, but breaking the language and cultural divides was, he admitted, hard work. He said that, thanks to a shift in culture, Storm Lake has become a more vibrant and better community.

“After listening to the conversation on Friday,” Toering said, “it became more clear to those of us that came from ACE that we have been working hard to do the same things that Storm Lake is doing. Our biggest challenge is to find the financial and community support to do those things.”

Toering said contributions can be sent to ACE Community Center, 1440 E. Second St., Webster City, IA, 50595. Donations can also be dropped off at ACE during open office hours Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Donations to ACE are tax deductible. ACE will send donors receipt letters for that purpose, Toering said.

“It is important for people to know that we are a diverse community. We have been for a very long time,” she said. “We’re encouraging people if you want to help your community and get to know people in the community, ACE is a great place to go.”

She added, “It’s a donation from the heart and passion to want to see this community thrive and bridge some of those language and cultural gaps. We can’t do that without help.”