OTTUMWA — It all started when Bryce Lidtka and his wife, Brielle, saw an opening for a worship leader at Bridge Church.
From there, the Southeast Iowa Dream Center has taken on a life of its own.
The nonprofit Dream Center started in another form before Bryce arrived in Ottumwa just over a year ago, but he now leads what’s become a major offshoot of the church’s outreach efforts. It’s taken time to turn the Dream Center into a nonprofit, but the work never really stops for Lidtka, the nonprofit’s president.
“We’ve kind of formalized it a bit more, got some grant money and we’ve had more volunteers,” he said. “It’s been this way for a year. But I wanted to see what would happen if we separated it out a bit from the church.”
The results have been impressive. The Second Saturday program, which is just one of the programs offered through the Dream Center, consists of five or six teams tackling ‘projects’ every second Saturday of the month. The teams are made up of volunteers who are also skilled tradesmen — construction workers, mechanics or yard workers, etc. The teams can do anything from building ramps for the disabled, building decks, painting, or simply changing the oil in someone’s vehicle.
Lidtka said the program, like every other under the umbrella of the Dream Center, serves one purpose.
“We’re here to bless people,” he said. “But we also want to beautify Ottumwa, simply by putting siding on a house, painting or trimming trees.”
As far as material costs to the center, Lidtka said part of the grant money received for the center has gone to buy tools, etc.
“It can be different based on the situation,” he said. “We look and we say, ‘What resource is lacking?’ If we do need additional dollars, the church will kick in to help. Sometimes, maybe people just need a skilled person to do something for them, or maybe it’s just advice and pointing them in the right direction.”
Lidtka said the center hopes to purchase a house by the end of August, but not necessarily to flip it for resale. That’s only part of a bigger plan the Dream Center has for the housing market, as Lidtka was quick to point out the difference between rental and home ownership in Ottumwa.
“Home ownership is one of the problems here, and it’s also a huge step to get out of poverty,” he said. “If we can have access to and renovate houses, it’ll create a better look. How we vet that is still up in the air.”
Going hand-in-hand with the housing plan is also helping people with their finances, as Lidtka hopes to create a “financial coaching team.”
“If they have a bad credit score or budgeting is an issue, maybe we can make a house a rent-to-own situation,” he said.
Lidtka grew up in Grinnell, but he and his wife moved to Ottumwa from Cheyenne, Wyoming. Brielle became the church’s worship leader, but Bryce was amazed at the level of volunteerism in the area.
“It’s really given me an immense hope as far as what we can do to help people in their situation,” he said. “It’s really ignited my flame and I’ve been pretty quick to share that passion. The buy-in from people to help out has been incredible, and we’re really excited about what we’re doing.”
Lidtka also has ideas about what he wants to do moving forward. While his team already tries to advise people in certain areas of their lives, a project he’s excited about is the “First Point of Contact.”
“We don’t want to copy what others are doing, but we do want to point people to those they need,” he said. “What we want it to look like at is how we can help them connect with people (financial people, etc.), and make a game plan for some of those people to get out of their current situations.”
Though he is president of the nonprofit, Lidtka admits he’s just one person. The structure was in place before he arrived, but he did have a big role making the Dream Center a nonprofit. There is no central office, though the group works out of both Hub Coffee in the old YWCA building, and a warehouse owned by Carroll Construction.
“Really, this is mostly with our volunteers,” he said. “There isn’t a paid staffer.”
As for feedback from the community regarding projects already completed, Lidtka couldn’t be happier.
“That’s what I love about it,” he said. “People have opened up their doors to our volunteers, and we’re grateful for that. It really empowers us through action.
“People are opening up a piece of their heart,” he said. “That’s the greatest reward for us really.”
Anyone who is in need of a project through “Second Saturday” can apply through my.thebridgechurch.cc/registration/outreachprojectassistance