MOLINE, ILLINOIS—As SAL Family and Community Services (SAL) celebrates its 50th year, few people have witnessed the organization’s evolution as Loredia Nunn-Dixon has. Born and raised in the Quad Cities, Nunn-Dixon began 30 years ago as an office assistant, working her way up and then over into childcare and family services. There, she saw the nonprofit’s opportunity to offer the community a fuller range of services.
“Seeing the families that came in, I had a chance to experience firsthand that not only did they need childcare, but they needed other services as well,” Nunn-Dixon said.
When SAL decided to expand its services beyond childcare by piloting the Open Door Crisis Assistance program in 2009, Nunn-Dixon was chosen to direct it. Now, she ushers in the program’s latest development with the help of a $14,200 grant from the Chicago Community Trust’s Healing Illinois initiative. The project funded by the grant aims to strengthen relationships between community members in poverty and the volunteers trained to help them access resources and remove barriers.
Through Opportunities Quad Cities, an initiative managed by Open Door, these volunteers—known as “navigators”—partner with “neighbors” who have passed through Nunn-Dixon’s program.
“But navigators don’t always understand what neighbors have gone through in their life and what caused them to be there,” she said. As a result, well-intended advice may miss the mark or cause offense, harming the relationship and the support provided. Recognizing that race often plays a role in these ruptures, Nunn-Dixon requested the grant to facilitate moderated dialogues between navigators and neighbors, to be recorded and shared as podcasts, as well as professionally led bias and diversity training for participants over Zoom.
“We want to have what we call ‘courageous conversations,’” said Nunn-Dixon. “If a neighbor can tell the story of their struggles, their navigator can really understand the challenges they’ve faced.”
Starting on June 7, the racial healing podcast and training project will unfold over four weeks, but Nunn-Dixon sees potential for a longer-term impact on SAL’s commitment to fostering a more equitable and inclusive community. She hopes the project will allow Open Door and Opportunities Quad Cities to connect with more donors and volunteers.
“This work is all about bringing about healing—and not only healing, but awareness,” said Nunn-Dixon. “We want others to be aware that poverty does exist in our community. We want to get them involved in our movement.”
A certified poverty coach, she also plans to incorporate the recordings into future trainings and presentations across the country.
Separately from the Healing Illinois grant, SAL was recently awarded $25,000 by No Kid Hungry to increase food security among young children. While the bulk of the award will go toward food assistance for families in the organization’s childcare programs, $3,175 will support federal nutrition program education and enrollment for families using SAL’s Open Door and Welcoming Center. The dual nature of the grant underscores SAL’s broad reach.
“We try to focus on the entire family—it’s a holistic approach,” said Nunn-Dixon. “I’m really passionate about all the programs,” she added. “I’m passionate about it all.”