See your dollars at work
When you invest in a Community Foundation of Johnson County fund, you invest in our community's future!
During our first decade, the Community Foundation has reinvested $8 million in the community in the form of grants in the areas of arts, culture and humanities; education, environment and animals; health and human services; and public and societal benefit.
"The Free Lunch Program is not fancy; it's basically neighbors helping neighbors. FLP's mission is to provide 'an open door, a full plate, no questions asked."
Mary Palmberg Gives Generously, Creatively
It’s come a long way . . . from a basement kitchen at the Wesley Center to 1105 S. Gilbert Ct. with a main-floor, first-rate facility. Along the way, it’s had a lot of help from generous friends and devoted volunteers.
The Free Lunch Program (FLP) was one of four nonprofit social service agencies in the collaborative 1105 Project.
Mary Palmberg was an early and dedicated FLP volunteer.
FLP was launched in 1983 by Community Mental Health Center therapists working with members of St. Thomas More and St. Mary’s parishes who addressed a need for a free meal for clients.
When FLP grew to offer meals six days a week, Mary began volunteering monthly with her church’s serving team. Following her retirement in 1998 from the University of Iowa, Mary became the volunteer coordinator and in 2006 director of the nonprofit organization.
She points out FLP not only provides healthy midday meals, but also hospitality and unconditional respect for its guests. “The Free Lunch Program is not fancy; it’s basically neighbors helping neighbors.” FLP’s mission is to provide “an open door, a full plate, no questions asked.”
Many of FLP’s serving teams provide some of the food they serve. Items for the meals also come from local restaurants, grocery stores and food distributors via donations to Table to Table Food Rescue Organization. And FLP purchases food at low cost from the HACAP Food Reservoir to stock its pantry used by volunteers in preparing the meals they serve.
Today, the 31-year old organization has more than 900 volunteers working in 35 teams to prepare and serve nutritious meals.
After more than 25 years of service, Mary retired from FLP this past summer. Instead of hosting a retirement celebration taking resources from the program she has served long and well, Mary suggested friends and colleagues join her to help insure the future of FLP by making a donation to the Free Lunch Program Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation of Johnson County.
To honor her many years of service, the Community Foundation of Johnson County renamed the FLP Endowment Fund the Mary Palmberg Free Lunch Program Endowment Fund.
Mary hasn’t stopped volunteering or giving generously. Table to Table continues to receive her services, as does the “castoff triage,” a project Mary began years ago to connect donations to people and organizations with needs. She’s also a volunteer at Hoover Elementary where her grandchildren attend school, and is a new volunteer with Pet Peace of Mind, an Iowa City Hospice program that helps hospice patients care for their animals.