Building Your Village: Making Connections in Marion and Cedar Rapids

I remember when my preschool-aged kiddo triumphantly announced that he changed his chip from a triangle to a quadrilateral. And I remember knowing full well that I had nothing to do with it. 

I’m pretty confident that neither his dad nor I had ever told him about quadrilaterals. Ever.

And it was one of many examples when I witnessed the strength behind the African saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” My children are little disciples in a fantastic village, one that abounds with positive influences from friends, family, teachers, faith leaders, coaches, and other parents.

But I didn’t always have a village in Cedar Rapids.

When I first moved here from college, knowing no one, I wedged my way onto a spot on a sand volleyball team. I hitched my wagon with the other new hires at my company to find happy hour buddies. I started volunteering to meet more like-minded people. Many of the connections I made in those early years remain my connections today.

Those happy hour gatherings have morphed into playdates, and we’re watching our kids play sports instead of playing them ourselves.

Building Your Village: Making Connections in Marion and Cedar Rapids

I realize that not everyone is blessed with having a ready-made village when they become parents. The great news is that these little siphons of energy (aka your children) are a great way to help build relationships in the Marion and Cedar Rapids area.

Here’s how:

  • Are you a stay-at-home mom? Look for a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) program. Many are affiliated with a faith community, another way to build connections with others in our area. 
  • We adore the village we’ve created through our preschool and child care program.  Those initial conversations between parents at drop-off and pick-up time are a great way to begin expanding on the kids’ friendships.
  • It’s worth a little digging to find an altruistic opportunity you and your family can do together. We just signed up to help deliver leftover Panera bread to food pantries and other locations, an initiative that was coordinated through our church. The United Way of East Central Iowa’s volunteer database is a great way to find opportunities like this that the whole family can enjoy. You might make a few new connections along the way.
  • And maybe you can build a village for you and your child with a little protected “Me” time.  Some of my oldest friends in the Cedar Rapids area are those I first met on a nearby treadmill during our morning workouts. Today we are still part of each other’s lives. Check out the YMCA and fitness centers like the MAC that might offer child care while you get an escape. (Or look into family fitness options. There are yoga studios in town like Challenge to Change that offer classes that include even the littlest yogi.
Not every connection you make will ultimately be part of your village, but you might make one or two that stick. And that’s all it takes to realize their worth.

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Renee holds three titles that are of utmost importance to her: mom to Cale and Ian; wife to Andy; and Communications Director for Grant Wood Area Education Agency. Although she has a Master’s degree from the University of Iowa, her heart still shines cardinal and gold for Iowa State University where she received her undergraduate degree. Renee’s a foodie who loves cooking, travel, her friends, her family, the Oxford comma, and happy hour. Cheers!