In the bucolic setting of Davenport’s Annie Wittenmyer campus, the nonprofit Tapestry Farms has a new home in what seems like a fairy-tale cottage.
The comfortable, rustic, homey stone-and-brick building at 2800 Eastern Avenue, on the southwest edge of the Annie Wittenmyer campus, will be open to the public Thursday, Oct. 27, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The open house will feature tasty treats from the new Blue Spruce Bakery in downtown Davenport.
“We want a welcoming place for people,” Tapestry Farms executive director Ann McGlynn said Wednesday. They wanted to have an open house to showcase the new space for supporters of the five-year-old nonprofit she founded.
“The pandemic has been hard on everyone and it’ll just be a good opportunity for people to gather and celebrate something that is good,” she said.
The group works to eliminate barriers refugees experience to housing, education, medical and mental health care, work, food, transportation, community, and citizenship.
Its mission is to connect “refugees and neighbors in a shared hope of joyful, thriving, healthy lives — where every person has access to the resources to live well.”
They reclaim underutilized land in QC neighborhoods experiencing food insecurity, putting the expertise and talents of refugees to work growing culturally responsive food so that all in our community are abundantly fed.
The total cost of the renovations — begun in mid-August — was only about $10,000.
Other than the professional new flooring, most everything else (labor and materials) was donated, McGlynn said. She grew up on a farm in Clinton County with a porch swing, so she added a new one on the Tapestry Farms porch.
“Obviously, the pandemic changed everything for everyone and we were working on growing during that time,” McGlynn said. “Now that the pandemic is working its way out, mostly, we can be more in person than we could be previously. This space will give us an opportunity to gather with people – maybe have art classes and English classes here.”
Pre-pandemic, they were really small then, so they didn’t have the capacity to meet together, she said.
Moving from nearby
Tapestry Farms didn’t have to move far for their new digs. They formerly had a small office nearby on the city-owned campus.
“We noticed this building had become empty and we rent from the city,” McGlynn said, noting Family Resources previously used it. That nonprofit has other offices on campus as well.
“We started to know that we needed more space, especially emerging from the pandemic,” she said. “We have a big dream of having a really big space. But we knew also that we needed a medium, like in-between, so this is perfect.”
The new space is 1,600 square feet, more than double the size of the first one.
McGlynn became full-time director in late 2020, after working in marketing and communications at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport; she founded Tapestry Farms while at the church.
“We work with people from all religious backgrounds,” she said. “That’s on purpose, because we serve so many people from a variety of backgrounds.”
The past two years, they have hired seasonal employees who are refugees, and added two full-time caseworkers and two part-time who work with families on a variety of challenges.
Seven growing sites
Tapestry Farms operates seven garden sites – six in Davenport and one in Rock Island, each one a partnership with other organizations and property owners. They are at:
- Annie Wittenmyer Complex, Davenport
- 9th and Ripley streets, Davenport.
- St. Paul Lutheran, Davenport
- 6th and Vine streets, Davenport
- 3rd and Brown streets, Davenport
- Near Edgerton Women’s Health clinic, Davenport
- Property owned by Skip-A-Long near Century Woods, Rock Island
There is a seasonal staff of three refugees and they run a crew every day at the sites – planting, weeding, watering and harvesting the fruits and vegetables, McGlynn said.
Refugees are able to get food from the gardens at any time, and Tapestry Farms provides food at a pantry at JB Young Intermediate, Davenport, in partnership with St. Paul’s. They deliver produce to families and sell some at the market in the new location.
A collaboration between Community Action of Eastern Iowa and Tapestry Farms, Karibu Market offers culturally specific food for people from east and central Africa, as well as personal care items, all free for families who qualify (based on income).
Karibu means “welcome” in Swahili. The food and products at Karibu Market were chosen by staff members of Tapestry Farms who are from east and central Africa.
A freezer includes goat meat and tilapia. There are shelves of household cleaners and other personal care products.
Partnerships in renovation
Of the overhaul of the cottage, McGlynn wrote: “We are eternally grateful to Humble Dwellings for the absolutely breathtaking and gorgeous design – with almost all gently used and donated furniture and decor; City of Davenport for the opportunity and support; and Tapestry Farms staff, volunteers, partners, vendors, and donors who cheered us on, painted, inspired us to think big, washed windows, painted, gave so many things, put down flooring, made our new sign, moved our belongings, gave us house plants, tore out an old closet, fixed stuff, cleared away brush, installed new lights, painted, set up our hydroponic tower, assembled shelving, cleaned, cut wires, organized, created works of art, made lettering, and painted.”
There is a large, welcoming conference room area, with a fireplace, and TV (behind an artwork by Shelia Mesick of Davenport). She made the three other art pieces on one wall by the entrance.
“She’s been a lovely supporter,” McGlynn said of Mesick. “She’s done some art classes for our kids.”
She is talking with another volunteer, Laura Wriedt of the Figge Art Museum, about offering new art classes.
“We will still continue to be out in the community and go to people’s homes,” McGlynn said of overall services. They partner with many QC organizations that work with refugees, including schools, churches and Community Health Care.
“There’s a lot of organizations that intersect with refugees in our community,” she said.
Tapestry Farms is starting with hydroponics in a new plant room, growing some arugula and other plants.
The group’s greatest hope is that building trusted connections will create a Quad City-wide welcoming infrastructure — “a vibrant and thriving community for every single person, including refugees,” the website says.
For more views of the new space, see the slideshow below: