It’s been more than a week since a severe storm system known as a derecho tore through large swaths of the Midwest with winds topping 100 mph, causing widespread damage and leaving more than a million customers without power.

The Iowa city of Cedar Rapids, and surrounding Linn County, has borne the brunt of the derecho’s impact, with recovery and relief efforts complicated by a sudden storm that hit amid an ongoing coronavirus epidemic.

In response to this disaster, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation has established the Disaster Recovery Fund to channel charitable contributions to support Linn County communities — and provide resources where they are needed most, according to the foundation.

“The derecho has created a widespread disaster for our area,” said Les Garner, president and CEO of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. “This fund provides a way for donors and supporters to directly give to our community’s greatest needs.”

Children play in a makeshift pool to cool down outside their Cedar Rapids apartment on Monday, Aug. 17. Residents had moved into tents outside the unsafe buildings. Photo credit: Liz Martin/The Gazette.

The foundation, a member of the The Funders Network, is a participant in TFN’s PPREP learning cohort. PPREP, which stands for Philanthropic Preparedness, Resiliency and Emergency Partnership, was created to provide resources for community foundations to build their skills and leadership capacity in order to be better informed and prepared should a natural disaster strike their community.

Thousands of Cedar Rapids residents have been without power since they were hit by the fierce derecho. Nearly 97 percent of homes and businesses in surrounding Linn County were initially without electricity, and authorities have said it could take at least a week before full power is restored.

At least four deaths in the region have been attributed to the storm.

Hurricane-force winds gusting up to 112 mph in the rare derecho storm flattened 37 million acres of crops in the Midwest, including 14 million in Iowa, and damaged many homes and businesses, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But unlike a hurricane, which typically prompt a pre-disaster emergency declaration that allow emergency services to theoretically gear up in advance, the derecho hit vast swaths of the state with almost no warning.

“More than 1,000 homes in the Cedar Rapids area have been declared uninhabitable, raising the specter that hundreds of families could be without a place to stay at a time when the state remains in the grip of the pandemic, reaching an all-time high of 832 new coronavirus cases on Saturday,” according to the Washington Post.

Initially, the Disaster Recovery Fund will provide basic needs for those disproportionately affected by the derecho destruction. In the long term, the fund will adapt to evolving needs.

“Resources will be directed to where the need is most pressing,” said Garner. “We are working with nonprofits, city leaders, and community partners including the Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster (LAP-AID), to determine needs and distribute charitable resources in the most effective and efficient way. Philanthropy can help fill the gaps of needs not being met by other resources. This fund connects donors to help meet those needs.”

Read the foundation’s full announcement here.

Additional Resources

To learn more about how to help those impacted by the Midwest derecho, the Iowa Council of Foundations, another participant in TFN’s PPREP learning cohort, has prepared this fact sheet of resources for communities. In it you can find information on how to donate, where to volunteer, and how to access resources such as food distribution and other assistance. If you have additional resources to include, please email

To find out more about TFN’s PPREP cohort, which is drawn from a 10-state Midwestern region, please reach out to Vice President and Director, Member Services Maureen Lawless at

Featured image at top: Last week’s derecho left widespread damage in the Cedar Rapids area. Photo credit: USA Today.