Nonprofit Spotlight: Unity in the Community 

The mustard seed that initiated this organization was planted in Monique Scarlett’s heart after the world witnessed the slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012. Monique sat at home, watching the news with the rest of the world, wondering how to keep this from happening in her community. 

“I sat crying in my recliner that night watching the news because I didn’t want to see that happening here. I wondered what we could do to be proactive. We needed to collaborate,” stated Monique. That collaboration started with a conversation, specifically with some people on the city council.

“I spoke with past councilwoman Rhonda Capron, the Director of Human Rights Commission Karen Mackey, and former Chief of Police Doug Young. We had a good conversation, and they said they were on board with whatever was needed. I contacted some faith leaders in the community because I honestly believe the four components of unity in the community are love, hope, peace, and prayer. That’s what keeps us bonded together and in a spirit of unity,” said Monique.

This seed was planted with the hope that this group of people, an organization, would be able to sit down and have candid conversations that are sometimes very uncomfortable; however, it is necessary to learn from one another. In 2016, Unity in the Community was established.

“I’m so fortunate because I feel our organization is strong because of our police department and its contributions to our discussions. The strongest person is your leader, and then everything trickles down from there. Chief Rex Mueller started with us when he was a Sergeant and has continued since being promoted to Chief. That just really opened it up for true community policing and collaboration. Unity in the Community was just able to blossom and make connections,” stated Monique.

Once people understood the mission statement of the organization and the meaning behind it, more people got on board and involved. Now, you hear the word unity not just locally but also nationally!

“That’s what keeps us bonded together and in a spirit of unity. Our board would discuss a lot of topics. We felt so blessed that those discussions started here in Sioux City. Suddenly, people noticed and talked about it in Des Moines, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, and Omaha. It just began to grow, and we got calls from people in Kansas City and Colorado. People wanted to know what we were doing here in Sioux City and how Unity in the Community was truly bringing our community together,” said Monique.

Monique believes that the organization’s board deserves good credit for its success. “If you have an effective board, then you have an effective organization and a great team,” stated Monique, the Founder and President of the organization. 

“Margarite Reinert is the Vice President and a specialist in social work. She identifies and assists with the mental health issues we face. She recognizes the racial disparities and understands being a product of the world, and of the city, and being raised here. She’s just a true gem. She brings energy to everything. When we plan our annual block parties, that is her baby, she takes it up to a whole new level with interaction and collaboration,” stated Monique.

Other members of the board include Secretary Linda Steele, Assistant Principal at Dakota Valley, who brings in the educational piece of the puzzle, not only from the expertise in her field but also from the students’ perspectives; Treasurer Erin Cron, a Sioux City school counselor and is also hands-on in her community with the church and the school district; Marketing Director Jay Rhodes who taught at Briar Cliff University.

“Jay has lived and breathed the message that we’re sending. As a young man growing up, there were not as many positive interactions with law enforcement. I think that being a part of the board, he has grown and developed, and he appreciated hearing from the other side, so there’s respect on both sides,” said Monique.

In addition to the monthly meetings, the organization holds an annual block party and a Youth for Unity event. This year’s block party will be held Saturday, June 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Cook Park. The Youth for Unity event will be held Saturday, April 20, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., at the Boys and Girls Club, 823 Pearl Street, Sioux City, IA 51101. Lunch will be provided.

“It’s not just meetings; we have fun times, too. With the block parties, it’s great to meet and see local law enforcement, some on duty and in uniform, and some off duty and in plain street clothes. You can dunk Sheriff Sheehan or Chief Mueller in the dunk tank. We then had those conversations with them, saw them laugh, and built those conversations and relationships. It’s ok to laugh at them, with them, to high-five. The collaboration is just so great,” said Monique.

This year, for the Youth for Unity event, the organization targets middle school, high school, and college students. “We want them to come together and start building healthy relationships and collaborations with local law enforcement early. We want to help them see at an early age that just because, perhaps, our grandparents did not have a good relationship with law enforcement doesn’t mean that WE, Generation Z, can’t,” stated Monique.

This year’s Youth for Unity event was a hope and vision from Vice President Margarite Reinert. “She said we’ve just got to get to the YOUTH. Once Leadership Siouxland awarded us an opportunity to put our organization out there on a bigger page, that made a big difference, and we were able to make this happen. I believe that is why we’ve found success here in our community. You hear it at our city council meetings where our mayor has given the police department accolades. ‘Mirror our police department and watch them and what they are doing.’ You have to be very intentional if you want to understand your community. Your leaders and those that hold government offices should reflect what your community looks like; then you know you’re hearing everyone’s voice and perspective,” replied Monique. Unity in the Community is an organization that is alive and well and doing great things in this community.

See an article you like?

Share it with your friends on Facebook and make sure to like our page while you are there so that you don't miss out on other great stories.

You'll find us here >>>