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Association Of Black Social Workers, First In Corridor

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - The founding members of a new Corridor association are working to bridge a gap in Iowa. Iowa's Creative Corridor Association of Black Social Workers will be the first local chapter of the national organization, headquartered in Cedar Rapids.

The goal of the group is to develop cultural competency between social workers and the people they serve.

"The need is here cause there's been a large number of black families coming into the area from urban areas," Linda Topinka, a clinical social worker with Abbe Community Mental Health Center said.

"It becomes important to work with people that look like you, possibly think like you, or maybe even have experience with the things you're experiencing," Allen Bell, a family support specialist said.

That isn't always easy in Iowa. There are very few independent licensed black social workers, less than five in the entire Corridor, so the group hopes to teach all social workers how to better serve the black community.

 "If they're culturally competent, no matter what race they are, they work!" Topinka said.

Cultural competency is an imperative for success many in the group learned from Virgil Gooding who served as a mentor for social workers in Iowa for years. His cousin, Dedric Doolin, walked a similar path as Gooding. Doolin is the Senior Deputy Director of ASAC, a social worker and a board member of the National NAACP.

"That was one of the things he was big on was letting people define themselves and not just you defining who they are based on what they look like," Doolin said.

Gooding began his career in social work in the Iowa Department of Correction in the 6th Judicial District. Following that, he worked for Foundation II, and in his last 11 years of life, he worked as an independent licensed social worker. He also was a professor at multiple area colleges where his mentorship left a mark on students.

"He was a therapist, an activist, a community member, a father figure and a very dear friend. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for Virgil. Virgil had an uncanny ability to meet people where they were, to understand what they were going through, and even to be able to help them figure it out. He helped me get a start when probably it wouldn't have happened without Virgil," Bell said.  

Doolin fondly remembers working with his cousin who passed away unexpectedly on Monday, February 10, 2014 at the age of 73.

"Me and him had that mentality that we could go back to back and fight the world you know," Doolin said.

Topinka started out as a student of Goodings' while she obtained her undergraduate degree. Together they went on to form the African American Family Preservation Committee. She explained that he will be with the new ICCABSW as it moves forward.

"He's just here, you know he taught me so much, he's just gonna be in here forever as long as I live," Topinka said.

The association has 12 charter members and is looking for more. They're accepting membership applications.

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