Inviting grace into the room: Updates from the Midwest Early Recovery Fund

Recently, on yet another Zoom call, the speaker declared, “Let’s invite grace into the room.” Not realizing they were not on mute, a participant quickly responded, “Who is Grace and why does she get an invite?” After double-checking that I was muted, I laughed hard.

I laughed because we’ve been in so many online video conversations that I wonder what will happen when I’m back in a room with people and forget there isn’t a mute button! I laughed because the day’s topic was challenging and uncomfortable, I didn’t know the people on the other end of the screen, and I wondered if I should even be there because I was tired and anxious.

After the chuckle, I stopped listening to the topic of the day (my apologies to the excellent presenters), and started thinking about grace and what it means to invite it into this space as we enter the last quarter of 2021.

Inviting grace into the room means acknowledging that we are tired. I’m tired of bad news, of hurricanes, wildfires, flooding and severe storms. I’m tired of taking a reactionary stance and instead want to find the space to do regenerative and future-facing work. Amid the exhaustion and the wish for a different present and future, grace means finding the space to rest, dream and hope.

Inviting grace into the room means that we can look for and celebrate the wins. It means that we work towards and anticipate a better future. Please read some of our hope-filled grantee impact stories from this quarter here.

We’ve had a busy couple of months at the Midwest Early Recovery Fund. We are supporting communities as they recover from flooding in 2019, a derecho in 2020 and severe storms in 2021.

This quarter, new grantee partners include two organizations in Oklahoma – Oklahoma Indian Legal Services (OILS) and Recovering Oklahomans After Disaster (ROAD) – in response to the severe winter storms in February, and another in Iowa, Hawkeye Area Community Action Partnership (HACAP), for the support of child care providers affected by the 2020 derecho.

In partnership with CDP’s COVID-19 Response Fund, we helped extend the work of several of the recovery coordinators working with immigrants and New Americans in communities in Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa. Across our region, needs are being met by amazing grantee partner organizations and individuals who are on the frontlines every day. Read about one of them in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Inviting grace into the room means we value the process, not just the progress. As we look forward to the next few months, we plan to continue to find ways to champion and resource the disaster case managers, recovery coordinators and community leaders as they work towards full community recovery.

We are thinking a lot about equity and justice, how we use our influence to meet the immediate, essential needs in front of us right now while at the same time addressing root causes and unjust systems.

Grace means we can move forward with the challenging conversation and take the next movement towards equitable recovery.

As always, I’d love you to join us in conversations. Feel free to reach out any time. I promise to bring grace into the room!

Cari Cullen

Cari Cullen

Director, Midwest Early Recovery Fund

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