50 Faces of Volunteers – Lindsay Leahy

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Nominated by Brittany Appleton, Waypoint, Cedar Rapids

Tell us a little about the volunteer (brief bio – student/profession, location in Iowa, etc.):

Lindsay leverages her personal adversity story, natural curiosity, sales expertise, plus leadership and business strategy experience to get to the root of what’s getting in the way of top performance. Her reflective, inspirational, and disciplined style challenges people to look inside and determine what’s most important, outline what their ideal state looks like, and then carry out a plan to get there. Lindsay is the Founder and Dream Builder for The Restoration Project, whose mission is to restore intention, empower connection, and inspire action. Lindsay volunteers with Waypoint’s Domestic Violence Program, providing advocacy, resources, and support to survivors of domestic violence.

What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? Waypoint

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 2 months

Why does this volunteer deserve to be recognized with a 50 Faces of Volunteers spotlight?

Lindsay has been an incredible asset to Waypoint’s Domestic Violence Program, signing up for several on-call shifts for medical advocacy each month and responding to hospital calls to meet with clients experiencing domestic violence. Lindsay is also a strong advocate for Waypoint, sharing her personal story and encouraging others to support organizations like Waypoint.

Lindsay Leahy

Tell us about a great volunteer! We would love to recognize them as one of our “50 Faces of Volunteers.” Volunteer Iowa will feature nominees as they are received. Contact Volunteer Iowa at info@volunteeriowa.org with “50 Faces” in the subject line for more information.

50 Faces of Volunteers – Julie Kliegl

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Nominated by Brittany Appleton, Waypoint, Cedar Rapids

Tell us a little about the volunteer (brief bio – student/profession, location in Iowa, etc.):

Julie volunteers for Waypoint’s Domestic Violence Program with our Waterloo office. She is passionate about helping women and those impacted by domestic violence. Julie supports the program by signing up for on-call shifts for medical advocacy and responding to hospital calls to support survivors of domestic violence. She also assists with weekly support groups, offering transportation and assistance facilitating the group. Since June 1, 2021, Julie has volunteered 70 hours for Waypoint.

What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? Waypoint

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 2 years

Why does this volunteer deserve to be recognized with a 50 Faces of Volunteers spotlight?

Julie has been a dedicated volunteer for the past two years and is a strong advocate for women and those impacted by domestic violence. She has made a difference in many people’s lives and truly embodies Waypoint’s mission of inspiring people to move forward.

Photo of woman with dark hair and glasses wearing a yellow sweater.
Julie Kliegl

Tell us about a great volunteer! We would love to recognize them as one of our “50 Faces of Volunteers.” Volunteer Iowa will feature nominees as they are received. Contact Volunteer Iowa at info@volunteeriowa.org with “50 Faces” in the subject line for more information.

50 Faces of Volunteers – Brad Jacobson

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Nominated by Susie Hines, Cedar Falls Tiger Booster Club, Cedar Falls

Tell us a little about the volunteer (brief bio – student/profession, location in Iowa, etc.):

Brad Jacobson serves as the Vice President and chair of the Membership committee for the Cedar Falls Tigers Booster Club. He has been an active member of the Boosters for close to 10 years with his youngest child graduating in 2022. Brad is a local, respected State Farm representative, active in professional industry organizations, serving his faith community and a caring son, father, husband and friend.

What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? Cedar Falls Tiger Booster Club

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 10 years

Why does this volunteer deserve to be recognized with a 50 Faces of Volunteers spotlight?

Brad is engaging and knowledgeable member of the community (also a State Farm Representative) which enables him to make connections, help grow the Boosters, impacts fundraising, and so much more. His professional perspective on business activities and his #TigerPride spirit are a shining light for the Boosters, the District and the community.

Tell us about a great volunteer! We would love to recognize them as one of our “50 Faces of Volunteers.” Volunteer Iowa will feature nominees as they are received. Contact Volunteer Iowa at icvs@iowaeda.com with “50 Faces” in the subject line for more information.

50 Faces of Volunteers – Bryan and Courtney Gaskill

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Nominated by Stacie Leinen, Animal Lifeline of Iowa, Carlisle

 

Tell us a little about the volunteer (brief bio – student/profession, location in Iowa, etc.):

Bryan & Courtney have been volunteering for Animal Lifeline of Iowa (ALI) for several years. Each month they come into the shelter for a dog care shift; cleaning, medicating, & loving the special needs dogs in our care. In addition to the dog care shifts they volunteer their time for, they also volunteer their time & home to foster a cat or two each year. This helps us determine how the cat does in a household setting vs the shelter setting so our adoption counselors can provide adequate information to potential adopters. It’s not just animal care they assist with, they each have volunteered their time at various ALI fundraisers. Bryan & Courtney both submit their volunteer hours to the employer for grant funds to be paid to Animal Lifeline of Iowa. On average, Brian & Courtney each volunteer approximately 500 hours to Animal Lifeline of Iowa per year. They set a wonderful example for other volunteers by showing how each volunteer opportunity has a positive impact on our mission.

What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? Animal Lifeline of Iowa

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? Bryan -10 years, Courtney – 5 years

Why does this volunteer deserve to be recognized with a 50 Faces of Volunteers spotlight?

Bryan & Courtney deserve to be recognized due to their long-term commitment to the organization, willingness to help in a variety of ways & dedication to helping special needs dogs & cats find loving forever homes.

Tell us about a great volunteer! We would love to recognize them as one of our “50 Faces of Volunteers.” Volunteer Iowa will feature nominees as they are received. Contact Volunteer Iowa at icvs@iowaeda.com with “50 Faces” in the subject line for more information.

Youth Volunteer Spotlight: Making an Impact at State and Local Levels

Soomin Koh, State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council (SIYAC) Service Chair

As part of Volunteer Iowa’s effort to incorporate and uplift youth voice in Iowa, we are working with a group of stakeholders to improve and develop youth engagement in volunteering and after school programs. Youth are valuable assets to volunteer efforts across Iowa and play an important role in projects that create brighter futures for Iowans of all ages. Soomin Koh, currently serving as the service chair for the State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council (SIYAC), is a part of Volunteer Iowa’s work on youth engagement. In celebration of national volunteer week, Volunteer Iowa wants to highlight all the good work Soomin puts in to make Iowa a better space for all. In addition to her work with SIYAC, Soomin is currently involved in co-chairing a subcommittee dedicated to increasing youth voice in statewide programs and gathering data on barriers to youth volunteerism in Iowa. In her local community, Soomin volunteers with the Iowa City Animal Shelter and tutors younger students via Zoom.

We checked in with Soomin to get her perspective on volunteering and the value of volunteering to a health community.

What value does volunteerism bring to your community?

“Volunteerism brings the community together, as people work together to make positive change through service. My favorite part about volunteering is that I can bring a bit more light and love into my community with anything I do.”

Why do you personally volunteer?

“I volunteer because I want to give back just as much as I receive from the other members of my community, which is a lot. It makes me happy that what I do, no matter how small, can make someone else’s day brighter.”

What introduced you to volunteering?

“Starting with curbside lemonade stands and bake sales to fundraise for the charities I cared about, volunteering was a value that I believe grew with me from a young age. My favorite volunteer opportunity I had was spending the summer translating in Spanish for medical missionaries and local Guatemalans in rural hospitals and teaching kids at local after school programs. It was really meaningful personally because I was able to take my love for languages and use it to serve others.”

We are grateful for all Soomin’s work to strengthen her local and statewide community and look forward to seeing her leadership in the years to come. In times as tumultuous as the past year, it is reassuring to know that Iowa has a generation of strong, empathetic, and effective leaders ready and eager to act.

50 Faces of Volunteers – Laura L. Bentley

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Nominated by Laura Bentley, Women of Today, New Hampton

Bentley, Laura

Tell us a little about the volunteer (brief bio – student/profession, location in Iowa, etc.):

Laura has been an active volunteer in her community for over 5 years.  She belongs to 4 non profit organizations all areas of service. She puts in several hours a week serving on boards, educating women to become leaders, is part of a group whom raises money for scholarships and domestic violence awareness.  She is teaching young children science, history and how to have fun in their own environment by bring a girl and cub scouts leader. Laura volunteers at her local church as a first face contact and is humbled by each experience given to her.

What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? Women of Today, Girl Scouts of America,  Cub Scouts of America

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 5 plus years

Why does this volunteer deserve to be recognized with a 50 Faces of Volunteers spotlight?

Laura dedicated her self to serving others as part of her giving back movement in 2015. She not only dedicated herself to several non profits she builds other leaders up around her so they are empowered to serve as well.

Tell us about a great volunteer! We would love to recognize them as one of our “50 Faces of Volunteers.” Volunteer Iowa will feature nominees as they are received. Contact Volunteer Iowa at icvs@iowaeda.com with “50 Faces” in the subject line for more information.

Immigrants and refugees take the lead with RISE AmeriCorps

By Henny Ohr, Executive Director, EMBARC

For decades, Iowans have welcomed refugees and immigrants to their state with open arms, offering services and support as they adjust to their new lives.

Although this strategy helped many new Iowans thrive, it also functioned primarily without the input of the refugees and immigrants themselves.

RISE AmeriCorps has a different way of doing things —one that centers on the participation, perspectives, and leadership of community members.

By training refugees and immigrants as AmeriCorps members, RISE helps people utilize their cultural knowledge to support and empower their own communities more effectively than any outsider could.

Using this inclusion-focused model, RISE has become the most diverse AmeriCorps program in the state of Iowa, with 75% of members recruited from refugee and immigrant communities. Collectively, they speak 32 different languages.

Working in Teams

Launched by EMBARC in 2015, RISE (Rebuild, Integrate, Serve, Empower) trains emerging leaders in refugee and immigrant communities to connect with, support, and empower fellow refugees. The goal is to increase economic self-sufficiency, job readiness, and community engagement.

During the 2019-2020 term, 99 RISE members, 85% of whom were at least bilingual, served at 20 host nonprofits and workforce agencies in 10 cities and towns across the state.

The members work in two-person teams to leverage their diverse experiences, perspectives, and strengths, to educate each other on different cultural norms and practices, and to support one another through new and potentially stressful situations.

Together, the teams connect and support fellow refugees and immigrants with education, jobs, and services to increase economic opportunity.

A Voice for in the Process

To create a thriving economy, workforce, and community, RISE members:

  • Remove barriers to accessing basic services for employment.
  • Break the poverty cycle by focusing on providing supports that lead to economic self-sufficiency.
  • Provide culturally and linguistically appropriate support.
  • Enable refugees to become contributing and engaged members of society.
  • Provide basic education to help refugees learn how to navigate modern life.
  • Provide leadership opportunities to refugees and other individuals by providing opportunities for service and volunteering.

This work has never been more important than it was over the past year. As the only statewide program positioned to support refugee essential workers with critical services and basic needs, RISE AmeriCorps pivoted from job training to disaster response when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Leveraging their cultural knowledge and language skills, RISE members provided information and navigation to thousands—helping them file for unemployment, get COVID-19 tests, obtain personal protective equipment, access food, and more.

When a devastating derecho hit Cedar Rapids in August 2020, RISE members partnered with local organizations to provide essentials like food, water, shelter, and PPE. More importantly, they also served as the voice of the refugee and immigrant communities  —meeting with city, county, and state officials to make sure the affected families were part of the planning and decision-making process.

A Model for All

Over the past five years, RISE AmeriCorps has proven that an inclusive, diversity-centered model for programs serving refugees and immigrants is not just successful, but transformative.

The newcomer communities benefit significantly from representation in the program, as the services and supports offered are more culturally and linguistically relevant to them. But the RISE AmeriCorps members benefit, too, as they receive training and professional experience that prepares them for new opportunities and future careers in social services, business, management, and law, among other fields.

The result is a more vibrant more equitable future for the state of Iowa.

50 Faces of Volunteers – Delaware County Pay It Forward

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Nominated by Lori Kartman, West Delaware Volunteer Coordinator, Manchester

Tell us a little about the volunteer (brief bio – student/profession, location in Iowa, etc.):

Delaware County Pay It Forward is an organization that was started in an effort to bring the community together to help one another during the Covid-19 pandemic. During the spring school shut down, volunteers helped deliver school lunches to families and arrange meals for families in need. Money was raised for families who needed a little extra help. When the derecho hit our neighboring communities, volunteers gathered needed supplies to deliver to the Cedar Rapids area. Most recently, several moms with school-age kids decided to put other families’ needs at the top of their priority list. Volunteers planned, shopped, wrapped, and managed fundraising in order to assist more than 100 families, and 260 kids receive requested toys, as well as needed clothing items, and gift cards for food. Each child also got a special bag with donated toothbrush/toothpaste and a fun gift card for our local movie theatre. They have also arranged 60 holiday bags to be delivered to local seniors. The Delaware County Pay It Forward organization has brought everyone together in Delaware County for the sole purpose of helping people end 2020 with hope and joy after a really rough year.

What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? Delaware County

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 9 months

Why does this volunteer deserve to be recognized with a 50 Faces of Volunteers spotlight?

The Delaware County Pay It Forward group has brought our community together in many ways over the course of the past several months. This organization and group of volunteers set out to help lift each other up and spread hope and joy during a time of uncertainty.

Delaware County Pay It Forward

Tell us about a great volunteer! We would love to recognize them as one of our “50 Faces of Volunteers.” Volunteer Iowa will feature nominees as they are received. Contact Volunteer Iowa at icvs@iowaeda.com with “50 Faces” in the subject line for more information.

Volunteer Iowa’s Work in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – submitted by Anderson Sainci, Volunteer Iowa commissioner

My name is Anderson Sainci and I am originally from Florida. I currently live in Dubuque Iowa. I moved to Iowa in 2006 to be a student athlete at the University of Dubuque (UD). After graduating with my undergraduate degree from UD in 2010, I … Continue reading Volunteer Iowa’s Work in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – submitted by Anderson Sainci, Volunteer Iowa commissioner