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More than 200 people attended today’s ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion and opening of Linn County’s new Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris Building on November 22.
This state-of-the-art building houses Linn County Public Health and Linn County Child and Youth Development Services. The approximately 63,000 square foot building is located at 1020 6th St. SE, Cedar Rapids near the NewBo and Oakhill Jackson neighborhoods.
In a unanimous decision, the Linn County Board of Supervisors voted in 2017 to honor Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris posthumously by naming the Linn County Public Health and Child and Youth Development Services building after them in recognition of their lifetime of dedication and service to health and education in Linn County. All 12 of Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris’ children attended the ribbon cutting.
“Here we are, in the gymnasium of a new community institution that bears the names of two Black legends who overcame it all,” Linn County Board of Supervisor Chair Stacey Walker said during his remarks. “In this building we will treat patients of all colors and backgrounds. We will treat immigrants and refugees. We will teach and care for children. We will show them that a better world is possible.”
Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers added, “Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris devoted their lives to their community, their family, and their passion for medicine and education. It is such a privilege to honor their legacies with this world-class Public Health and Child and Youth Development Center.”
As part of Linn County’s commitment to energy efficiency and sustainable design, the Harris Building will meet Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards, a certification program that encourages green and sustainable building practices.
Linn County used a lease-purchase agreement to contract for the construction of the building to maximize the use of local workforce during construction and to help ensure on-time delivery of the completed building.
Linn County Public Health
Linn County Public Health serves all residents of Linn County through its numerous programs and services to keep the community healthy. Focus areas include:
“Together we bear a collective moral responsibility and opportunity to create a healthier Linn County – that is our mission,” Linn County Public Health Director Pramod Dwivedi said. “This state-of-the-art building not only allows us to continue our important work for the people of Linn County, but also allows us to expand and integrate our services. And this building inspires our staff and promotes efficiency.”
Child and Youth Development Services
“Our mission is to advance the dignity and well-being of at-risk and low-income children and families,” said Director of Child and Youth Development Services Gloria Witzberger. “Children are our first allegiance. Early child development and what children need to thrive and be successful are entwined with the community and society they live in. We know an investment in early childhood programs not only gives children the tools for a strong foundation and a bright future, it is also an investment in our community’s social and economic development.”
Service Improvements and Outreach
Program enhancements at the Harris Building include:
Linn County held community outreach meetings during the building’s design to engage the public in discussion about how the new building can be a neighborhood asset and to help ensure the building’s design and function fit the context of the historic neighborhood.
Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris
Dr. Percy Harris and his wife Lileah were respected community leaders, advocates for the arts and education, and champions of civil rights. The couple moved to Cedar Rapids in 1957 after Dr. Harris accepted an internship at St. Luke’s Hospital. Dr. Harris was the first African American physician in Cedar Rapids where he built his medical practice. Dr. Harris also served as Linn County Medical Examiner for nearly 40 years. Some of his other community roles included serving as president of the Cedar Rapids chapter of the NAACP, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jane Boyd Community House, serving on the St. Luke’s Hospital Board of Directors, and an appointment to the Iowa Board of Regents. He was also the recipient of numerous awards.
Lileah was a pianist, active church member, and an advocate for lifelong learning and education. Lileah earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian from the University of Iowa at the age of 62. Some of Lileah’s community roles included serving on the board of the NAACP, membership on the Cedar Rapids Human Rights Commission, and serving on the Board of Directors of the Cedar Rapids Symphony Guild.
Married 63 years, the Harris’ raised 12 children. Lileah Harris died in 2014. Dr. Percy Harris died in 2017.