Response fund, other sources keep dodge house open during pandemic

Tim Johnson | The Daily Nonpareil
April 4, 2021

Relief funds and grants have kept the Historic General Dodge House going during the COVID-19 pandemic, Executive Director Tom Emmett said Friday.

They allowed the museum, housed in a National Historic Landmark, to get through the worst of the pandemic without taking on a heavy burden of debt, Emmett said.

The Dodge House benefited from grants of $3,000 and $6,000 from the Southwest Iowa COVID-19 Response Fund, a collaboration between the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation and the Iowa West Foundation, Emmett said.

“Those grants were to be used to maintain employment of staff, to pay utilities” and cover other operating expenses, he said. “I really appreciate how they came together to help local nonprofits.”

The attraction also received assistance through the federal Paycheck Protection Plan, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and other sources, Emmett said.

“We’re able to go from walking to running now,” he said.

However, it’s not as though the pandemic didn’t take a bite out of the museum’s revenue, Emmett said.

“COVID hurt us,” he said. “We cancelled 16 events.”

Still, Emmett feels good about how the Dodge House has done.

“We were the only museum (in the city) to stay open without reservations in 2020, and we did it by requiring masks, keeping tour sizes smaller — lots of (personal protective equipment) and lots of cleaning,” he said.

The museum did not accept bus tours or other large groups and has been open by reservation only so far in 2021, Emmett said.

“Effective May 1, we will go back to our normal hours,” he said. “We’re going back to our normal hours, because our staff and volunteers who wanted it have gotten the vaccination.

“We’re proud we stayed open in 2020, we’re proud we didn’t have any incidents with staff or volunteers,” Emmett said.

The Dodge House only closed completely during January, which it does every year to do a thorough cleaning and make repairs and improvements.

The Southwest Iowa COVID-19 Response Fund has provided emergency assistance to vulnerable populations, expanded infrastructure for public health and supported operational funding for local arts and cultural nonprofits throughout southwest Iowa, according to a post by the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation. The fund recently provided a grant to the Nishna Heritage Museum of Oakland to help the museum keep its doors open during the pandemic.

“Ensuring the organizations that make up the fiber of our communities are strong and able to deliver on their intended mission is essential to the purpose of the COVID-19 Response initiative,” said Donna Dostal, president and CEO of Pottawattamie County Community Foundation. “As we work our way through this extremely difficult time in our region, the generosity of businesses, foundations and individuals who are committed to the strength and resilience of our communities certainly is shining through and building on the hope of recovery from the devastating effects of this pandemic.”