This is why we CAN have nice things

Before I had a marriage and sons and a mortgage and a band or three and a music studio and a hearty case of sleep deprivation, I was an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer assigned to the Extend the Dream Foundation. My specific task was coordinating art and music experiences at Uptown Bill’s when it was first opening in Iowa City.

If you live in the Iowa City area, you already know that Uptown Bill’s is an incredible and unique place. It’s not just a coffee shop or a performance venue or a bookstore. It’s all of those things but so much more also. Here, let them tell you:

We’re Uptown Bill’s/Extend the Dream, a community non-profit organization in Iowa City.

In the spirit of Bill Sackter, we strive to nurture and encourage individuals with disabilities by providing:

1) A gathering place where people of all abilities are welcome
2) Employment and micro-enterprise opportunities for individuals with disabilities
3) A community forum on abilities awareness

We operate a coffee house, used bookstore, vintage shop and other enterprises. About 60% of our income comes from these businesses. The rest of our budget comes from donations — mostly from individuals like you.

These contributions support not only the various enterprises, but a host of activities which enrich our community including:

+ More than 200 concerts a year which are accessible to all
+ Six to ten hours a week for self-expression through art, literature and more for individuals of all abilities
+ Five to ten hours a week for musical performances of all types and for all abilities.
+ Sponsoring the largest ADA Celebration in 20 years.
+ Hosting the Ralston Creek Fair each Labor Day Weekend, a wonderful neighborhood event.
+ Organizing the Bill Sackter Birthday Bash, an annual tribute to the life and spirit of Bill Sackter, founder of Wild Bill’s Coffeeshop and the inspiration for Uptown Bill’s.

We also partner with a wide range of community groups from Combined Effort Theatre to the Iowa United Nations Association, from Wild Bill’s Coffeeshop to PATV, from Alpha Phi Omega to Access to Independence.

During my time as a VISTA at Bill’s, I established a regular Irish session that continues to this day. Once upon a time, we met weekly. Life does not permit such a luxury anymore but we do our best to gather the first Saturday of each month to play some tunes together. All are welcome.

As part of Uptown Bill’s fall fundraiser, we’re meeting a bit earlier than usual this month. Please join us this Saturday, November 1 at 3 pm instead of the usual 4:30. There’s been some talk of making this a potluck if enough people are on board with that idea.

Please consider sponsoring an Irish musician in our quest to continue jamming together each month by making a donation of any amount to Uptown Bill’s in one of our names. The donation will go directly toward assisting Uptown Bill’s to continue the good work they do in our community.

I’d be more than happy to play a tune for you in gratitude for your donation. Just say the word!

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