Eye of the Needle

When the duty calls, the Eye of the Needle responds.

Patricia King, the agency’s Executive Director, states, “that families look no further than her nonprofit for shoes, school supplies, school uniforms and hygiene kits for the upcoming school year.” BUT families must plan ahead, schedule an appointment and know their kids’ sizes when calling. Upon arrival, the family will need their social security card, proof of income and identification.

Since the floods of 2008, Patricia has been a beacon of light to those in need. Eye of the Needle was formed a short time after thereafter and now “The Eye” continues to serve the Cedar Valley. Originally located on Mulberry Street, the nonprofit has moved into a roomier space at 2207 – 09 Falls Avenue in Waterloo. For appointments or to make a donation, call 319.215.6151.

Thanks to the generous support of our donors, the Eye of the Needle has been a 3-time recipient of undesignated grant support from the Waterloo Community Foundation.


“It is all about helping our young people develop competences and skills to prepare for work and adult life.” These are words of Mike Robinson, the coordinator of the Back2Basics program that gives youth hands-on work and practical experiences.

As a successful recipient of an education grant through the Foundation’s competitive grant process last fall, Back2Basics is offered in two parts: The “Plant a Seed Project” gives practical experience with growing fresh produce, while the “Teach a Man to Fish” project is a multiple weekend event of camping and fishing events. Each program serves 20 young people age ranging 12-17 years old.

Mike goes on to comment that “many of these young people have never experienced working in or producing garden vegetables or a camping or fishing experience. As volunteers, we work to bring positive experiences in a safe setting and use our time together to provide teachable moments.”

Try Pie

For Marian Ambrose, an East High graduate heading to Warburg Collage, Try Pie has been a life-changing experience! Involved for 3 years and working as a paid employee of this student-drive social enterprise, Maria has learned to manage her paycheck, prepare for the future, and better understand her unique gifts. she reveals that recognizing the value of each other may one of her greatest takeaways.

Yes. Try Pie is a retail outlet for some of the area’s finest homemade pies, but what we observed was so much more. Board member Sam Holden states that “seeing these young people learn business basics like pricing, inventory control, and reviewing profit and loss statements is inspiring and encouraging!” And Board Member Scott Crowley adds that “we need to continue supporting and encouraging the work of these young people in the Cedar vAlley. Try Pie uniquely develops our young people into productive citizens and contributors to our society”

Northeast Iowa Food Bank

During the growing season, the Food Security Coordinator at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank regularly rescues produce from local farmers markets in Black Hawk County. She builds rapport with farmers and learns their story, and may even learn about the fruits and vegetables that they grow! One farm in particular, shown here, displays beautiful vegetables with purpose and marks them at a reasonable price for market attendees. Over the years, this family has been generous and donates many pounds of produce to the Food Bank. They give for a purpose: to support the mission of the Food Bank “to provide nutritious food and grocery products to nonprofits organizations and individuals in northeast Iowa, while offering hunger education programs to the area and those in need.”


Imagine the memories being made each year when a kid in our community gets to pick out their very own coat, hat, gloves, scarves, boots and snow pants. During the annual Koat4Kids distribution, volunteers hear kids say “it’s their best day ever” and “this is my first new coat”. Reaching more than 1,000 kids of all ages in our community each year, this effort lets kids be kids! Your generosity gives big smiles and laughter to a deserving young person.

Lincoln Park Improvements

When the city was founded in 1868, early settlers recognized the need for public space and platted two large city-central parks: Lincoln Park on the east side and Washington Park on the city’s west side. Today, Lincoln Park serves as a community gathering space for many cultural events, but that consistent usage has come at a cost to its amenities. Recognizing the resurgence of downtown Waterloo, this renovation project will enhance user experience. In 2020, our new “Central Park” will emerge with improved lighting and gathering spaces and walkable pathways.

Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage

In an effort to grow visibility and drive visitation to Waterloo and Cedar Valley partner sites, Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area tells the story of agriculture here at the Waterloo Regional Airport. Agri-tourism is seeing increased popularity and generates positive economic impact in Waterloo and surrounding communities. Silos and Smokestacks, federally designated as a national heritage area in 1996, aims to preserve and tell the story of American agriculture through a network of partners. This display makes an initial impression to travelers to our community.

Love of Reading and Learning (LORAL) Trust Fund

This Fund was established at the Waterloo Community Foundation in 2017 to deepen, inspire and increase the love of reading and learning of children and young adults in public and accredited private schools in Waterloo. During the project’s first year, LORAL Trust advisors selected 9 classroom projects that inspire the love of reading and learning. This young reader reacts when receiving his favorite book through the “You’ve Got Mail” project. Students identify their favorite books and then magically and mysteriously their book is wrapped and tucked inside this mailbox and delivered to the classroom!

Youth Art Team (YAT)

This diverse group of youth ages 5 – 18 from throughout the metro area, came together in the summer of 2019 to create this 3,000 square foot mural along the Cedar River, near the Waterloo Center for the Arts and Phelps Youth Pavilion. YAT engages young people in rich experiences of discovery, skill-building, and community through arts experiences that are often unaffordable, at this level, for low-income families. This permanent work of art honors the struggle and vision of the local community and will serve as a stop on the developing Waterloo Civil Rights Tour.