Originally Published: April 17, 2016 6 a.m.
PRESCOTT – In her color-pencil illustrated children’s book, “When I Dream,” author and Coalition for Compassion and Justice founder writes of a homeless girl who lives with her mother in the backseat of their car but dreams of a life as a little princess in a castle where she has food, clothes, and a magic bed.
The story speaks to Iverson’s commitment to comfort the impoverished and the homeless by raising awareness to their plight.
The proceeds for sales of this book – Iverson is the author of 19 books – benefit CCJ’s programs to benefit low-income and homeless individuals. Iverson is CCJ’s director of special projects, including supervision of the Open Door soup kitchen and food distribution program, regularly reads this book to local school children and at community events to remind them how they can make a difference. The last two pages of the book are devoted to tips for parents and teachers. Iverson, too, includes a paragraph about child homelessness in the United States – as of 2013 there were some 2.5 million homeless children in the United States, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.
The now 66-year-old grandmother has an understanding of what’s it like for families to worry about food on the table and paying the rent. As a one-time divorced mother raising two children, Iverson remembers all too well her own financial struggles.
Upon moving to Prescott, Iverson and her husband, Doug, joined forces with an interfaith group of people eager to seek solutions for those living in poverty.
From those conversations, CCJ was born.
For the last 15 years, the grass-roots non-profit organization with offices and communal feeding facility at the Prescott United Methodist Church on West Gurley Street has committed to serving those either living on the edge, or who have no place to live. Beyond the Open Door, CCJ provides a home repair program intended to keep people housed; a transportation programs to help clients get to work; operates a thrift store with proceeds to benefit families in need, and most recently started a program called “Second Chance Housing” based on the donation of recreational vehicles able to repurposed for homeless individuals and families.
“I was fortunate that people helped me, and I saw the difference that can make, to not have to face all those challenges alone,” Iverson said.
Iverson’s commitment to this agency, and the community, is considered so noteworthy that the Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation intends to honor her on April 23 with its Albert Lovejoy Award at a dinner ceremony to be held at Prescott College’ Crossroads Center South. Iverson will be the keynote speaker at the event with the Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The award Iverson will be presented is in memory of a founding member of the Granite Peak Universalist Congregation who is described as a man with a “heart for peace and justice efforts and was a quite leader who engaged in building healthy and just communities.” Lovejoy died in 2009. This will be the seventh year that this award was presented to a social justice advocate in the community.
CCJ Executive Director Paul Mitchell describes Iverson as a deserving candidate for this award because she “really lives out the ideal of being compassionate.”
“I think we are all lucky that Diane is the person who connects CCJ’s past with its present,” Mitchell said. “I love that Diane can work hard, very hard, and still be
funny and self-deprecating.”
Iverson is not one who just delegates duties to others, but will pitch in wherever she might be needed, be it painting a mural on the outside of the new thrift store or answering the office phones, Mitchell and others declared.
“One of the compelling reasons for me to come on board at CCJ was the chance to work with Diane,” said Mitchell who came to CCJ in April 2015. “She is a friend, a co-worker and someone I consider a mentor in the work of building a healthy community.
“I love what I do,” Iverson declared. “I look forward to coming to work every day. It’s a very authentic place to work.
“At CCJ, we meet our people with real needs as ourselves. We don’t just give them a food box, but we help teach them how to advocate for themselves, and find a path out of poverty.”
IF YOU GO
“When I Dream” bookmark verse by author Diane Iverson, a founder and special projects director for the Coalition of Compassion and Justice: “I dream of a world where every child has enough to eat, clothing to wear and a place to sleep. I dream that we help each other through rough times and support each other’s growth toward self-sufficiency, until each of us is able to contribute time and talents for the common good and a just society. I believe in and pledge to work toward the realization of this dream.”
Event info: Tickets are $25 per person for the dinner ceremony are to be held on April 23 at the Crossroads Center, South, Prescott College, 215 Garden St. For more information or to make a reservation, call the Granite Peak
Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 928-541-0000 or www.prescottuu.org
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