Youth Volunteer Spotlight: Points of Light Inspiration Honor Roll

Matisse Arnone

Volunteer Iowa would like to congratulate Matisse Arnone for being chosen as a Points of Light 2022 Inspiration Honoree. The Inspiration Honor Roll celebrates acts of service, kindness and civic engagement by outstanding individuals who create change in communities around the world.

Matisse is a high school senior from Iowa City and in addition to the numerous volunteer work he does within his local community, he also serves on Volunteer Iowa’s Youth Service Committee. In this role, Matisse draws on his own experiences as a youth volunteer to provide insight on ways to increase youth volunteering in Iowa.

Matisse became involved with Volunteer Iowa after participating in a focus group on youth service. During this session, he provided valuable perspectives and ideas for Volunteer Iowa’s work. His passion bled through, and Volunteer Iowa was thrilled when Matisse expressed interest in continuing to be apart of this statewide conversation by joining the Youth Service Committee. Despite having only just begun his role with the committee, Matisse volunteered to lead a national conversation on barriers to youth service during the Youth Service Institute, along with other youth from across the country.

Outside of Volunteer Iowa, Matisse serves on the Iowa Youth Congress through the Department of Human Rights. He is also passionate about the environment and policymaking. This is reflected in his volunteer experience with political campaigns and the local nonprofits. Matisse continues to explore new ways to give back to his community, both local and statewide.

Congratulations again to Matisse on this honor and thank you for your service!

Read more about this honor and Matisse’s story.

Join our Youth Service Committee!

50 Faces of Volunteers – Kailey Blunk

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Nominated by Brittany Appleton, Waypoint Services, Cedar Rapids

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

Kailey is a student at Coe College studying Communications and Public Relations with a minor in Gender Studies and Creative Writing. She decided to intern at Waypoint because she wanted to support an organization that gives back to the community. “Waypoint seemed like the perfect match for me. All the services Waypoint and KidsPoint offer provides so much to the Cedar Rapids community, and I am proud to say that I have the honor to intern here.”

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

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 3 months

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

Kailey interned with Waypoint’s Resource Development & Marketing team over the summer and volunteered over 130 hours! During her internship, she created social media and website content, requested donations for upcoming events, and supported with various other tasks in the office. She made a huge impact in helping us spread the word about Waypoint’s programs and the work we do in 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 info@volunteeriowa.org with “50 Faces” in the subject line for more information.

Kailey Blunk

50 Faces of Volunteers – Amanda Johnson

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Nominated by Vicki Simon, Forever Wild, Sergeant Bluff

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

Rescuing & Rehabbing Iowa’s injured or orphaned animals. It is a round the clock 24/7 on call duty.

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

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?

She has dedicated her life to conservation of Iowa’s Animals. Below is a photo of her rescuing a peregrine falcon from an Iowa farm.

Amanda Johnson with a peregrine falcon

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.

Youth Volunteer Spotlight: Presidential Service Award Recipient

Madison Craig with her Presidential Service Award

Volunteer Iowa was thrilled to award our first gold Presidential Service Award in the highest rank to Madison Craig, a high school senior from Solon, Iowa.

Madison served 400+ hours across several organizations within her community and as a representative of the state of Iowa. Whether through skilled volunteering via video exhibits or hands-on service in creating care bags to donate, Madison’s commitment to helping others shines through in everything she does.

Madison’s longest running service role is through 4-H for the past nine years. She’s enjoyed participating in multiple aspects of 4-H: static project areas, livestock, leadership, communication, and citizenship activities. Two notable service projects stand out from her time in 4-H. One project she initiated was a community service project to sew blankets and prepare meals for children and their families at the Ronald McDonald House. Another service project involved collecting over 5,000 travel-sized hygiene products for 450 care bags and notes of encouragement for children in the Iowa Foster Care System. “I am grateful that my role as a State 4-H Council member benefited so many children,” Madison says about these projects.

In addition to her volunteer work with 4-H, she attended the 2021 National 4-H Congress in Atlanta, Georgia as an Iowa ambassador. While there, she participated in personal development workshops and community service projects. Madison described the experience as “very meaningful to travel to another part of the United States to volunteer and make a difference to so many.”

She’s led service projects back home, including a historical preservation project called “Bridging the Generations through Technology.” This project created exhibit videos to preserve the knowledge of life during the Industrial Revolution at Midwest Old Threshers in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. She organized over 200 volunteer hours that were contributed by herself and others. She says about her work on this project, “I hope to inspire other volunteers to participate and continue to videotape additional exhibits in the future.”

Additionally, she’s participated in the Salvation Army Bell Ringing for the past five years, an experience she is “happy to be a part of a program serving more than 25 million people across America each year,” and especially enjoys raising money for the year-round programs in her community.

During the school year, Madison’s service does not stop. She serves as a Solon High School Peer Leader. As a leader, she initiated the 2020 and 2021 High School Food Drive. Local Solon citizens donated additional items and businesses donated $400 to the local pantry. This led to a successful food drive of 1,297 items, almost 1,000 pounds of food!  The experience inspired her, and she says, “it was very heartwarming to see the generosity of our community.” She also serves in a mentoring role as a Peer Leader to underclassmen as she helps them have a positive high school experience.

She has enjoyed being a high school cheerleader for basketball, football, and wrestling. She’s continued her mentoring as the Johnson County Miss United States Agriculture. In this role, she’s helped educate youth and promote the agriculture industry. She’s volunteered and visited over a dozen elementary classrooms to expose youth to Iowa agriculture.

Volunteer Iowa is pleased to have Madison join our Youth Service Committee, assisting us in increasing youth volunteering across the state. If you are interested in volunteering for this committee, apply here: http://volunteeriowa.galaxydigital.com/need/detail/?need_id=684144.

Great work Madison, and thank you for everything you do for your community and Iowa!

Learn more about the Presidential Service Award at https://presidentialserviceawards.gov/.

50 Faces of Volunteers – Libby Larson

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Nominated by Brittany Appleton, Waypoint Services, Cedar Rapids

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

Libby began volunteering to support Waypoint’s Housing Services team. This involved coming into the office to support staff and working with clients to connect them with various community resources. When the pandemic hit and many volunteer opportunities were placed on-hold, Libby continued to support Waypoint’s Housing Services by cleaning and sanitizing the Madge Phillips Center Shelter to keep residents safe and healthy. When Waypoint began to bring back volunteer opportunities, Libby started supporting Waypoint’s Domestic Violence Program, being on-call to respond to hospital calls when an individual arrives at the emergency room due to domestic violence.

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

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 1 year and 6 months

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

During our current fiscal year, Libby has volunteered 60 hours. Since she started volunteering with us, she has volunteered over 250 hours!

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 – Maira Dar

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Nominated by Amna Khawaja, Bettendorf

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

She started the hygiene project when she was 11 years old for the local pantry. She’s been doing that for the last 5 years. Dropped thousands of products.

What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? Bettendorf Food Pantry

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

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

She was a little girl when she started that project, she feels for other and wanted to do something.

Maira dar

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.

Service Learning Spotlight: Drake Student Shares Her Story

Kiley Kahler standing in front of supply shelf

Volunteer Iowa values the efforts of students and classrooms engaging in service-learning across the state. One great example of this important work comes from Drake University, located in Des Moines.  Kiley Kahler, a Public Relations major, and Leadership minor, recently completed a service-learning project addressing basic needs insecurity on the Drake campus as part of her capstone course.  

We met with Kiley to get her perspective on the service-learning experience and the value service brought to her education. 

Tell us about your service-learning project. 

“For Drake Cares, we aim to build an inclusive supportive environment within the Drake community which brings awareness and reduces the stigma around basic needs resources. Basically, our goal was scaffolded into three things. One was to spread awareness that basic needs resources are on campus here at Drake and where people can go to get those. That was more of a communication campaign. The second part was some targeted communication towards reducing the stigma of the campaign. This is where we hope to work with other leadership classes in the future to continue this work. The last part of it was Help Your Shelf. Help Your Shelf already existed at the John D Bright college… but the network was expanded from one classroom to two locations on campus. It is a take what you need leave what you can of situation. This (the shelf) is more supply driven, containing school supplies, hygiene items, non-perishable items, etc.” 

How did your project tie in with what you were learning in the classroom? 

“The capstone every year is posed with some problem or some campaign that needs to be solved. This year it was basic needs insecurity that was specifically targeted to higher education at Drake. We did a lot of research on the infancy stage of our campaign on what basic need insecurity looks like on the higher education level and then taking that research and applying it to Drake and saying what does Drake need. We were looking at some Drake climate surveys from the past and looking at published data and scholarly articles on basic need insecurity. Through that, we crafted what we thought Drake students needed. A lot of what we were doing was putting what we learned in past leadership classes in terms of theory and curriculum into practice.” 

What role did your professors play in the service-learning project? 

“At the beginning our professors were hands on in terms of saying this is basic needs insecurity, this is the definition of it, here is some of the research. Our professors stepped back once we got out of the vision stage of things… They helped narrow stuff down, what is feasible what is not, and helped narrow our focus. By execution they were fully out of it but they helped suggest things and make sure what we were producing was A level work. I think that accountability piece was essential to the project.” 

How did this experience benefit you personally and professionally? 

“Basically, for me, it (service-learning) is a way for students to get real-life experience towards the theory and curriculum you are learning in the classroom. For me, it has been beneficial to grow personally as a leader in my values– knowing what I believe what I do not believe, what I like what I dislike– and then also growing professionally in my communication skills, in my interpersonal skills with my team members, growing in organizations. When you are working with real businesses, you do not want to let them down. It gives you those organization skills to make sure you are being responsible and accountable as a student. And now in interviews and resumes I can say I have done this. It is basically an unpaid internship within your curriculum, so my portfolio is amazing because I have been able to build my skills. Without these opportunities for community learning in my classroom, I do not think I would have been as prepared for my nonprofit internship that I had or as prepared to enter the workforce in a year.”  

To learn more about service-learning and launch your own project, or share your own service-learning story, contact info@volunteeriowa.org. To hear more about community engaged learning happening at Drake University, contact renee.sedlacek@drake.edu.

50 Faces of Volunteers – Mercy Gift Shop Volunteers

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Nominated by Jenna Maxson, Mercy Iowa City, Iowa City

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

The Mercy Iowa City Gift Shop (located on level 2 of Mercy Hospital Iowa City by the main entrance off Market St.) volunteers volunteer over 40 hours each week to raise funds that support the Mercy Guild’s mission in providing equipment that support overall patient care and customer service. Despite challenges COVID-19 has brought into the retail world over the last 2+ years, the Gift Shop Volunteers continue to provide quality service, a willingness to cover extra shifts outside their normal schedule when needed and go above-and-beyond to ensure customer satisfaction. These volunteers are also a staple in ensuring policy enforcement to best ensure the safety of our Mercy colleagues, patients and visitors by wearing a mask covering nose and face, social distancing as able and sanitizing surfaces frequently. The dedication and care they display in support of Mercy as a whole is outstanding and much appreciated across the board. 

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

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 60 years

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

See above.

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.

Mercy Iowa City Volunteer

50 Faces of Volunteers – Jarrett Vitiritto

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Nominated by Beth Vitiritto, Saydel CSD, Des Moines

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

During the past four years Jarrett Vitiritto has provided service to his school and community in many different ways because he believes that helping others is the first step in making the world a better place. When he graduated from Saydel High School, he was the only senior boy that completed the Silver Cord Program. He volunteered over 165 hours during high school and because of his service, he was awarded the Daily Point of Light #6975. He also received the American Citizenship Award from the American Bar Association. Jarrett’s volunteering has made the world a better place and it has made him a better person. Jarrett has volunteered with the Saydel Drama Department by handing out programs at the play. He helped make appreciation gifts for the Saydel CSD School Board and teachers who have retired. He worked at the Cornell Elementary School PTO Carnival setting up games, passing out prizes and cleaning up. He has worked on the chain gang during football and worked in concession stands. He has volunteered with Eagles Nest Summer Camp to help with the kids on field trips. He has also volunteered for the Saydel Activities Department by cleaning trophy cases, organizing physicals, sorting uniforms, cleaning the football shed, cross referencing event schedules and preparing for home games. Jarrett helped the Saydel District Office do mailings and set up for registration and he has volunteered for the Saydel Technology Department with computer inventory, screen cleaning and programming. He has also volunteered with the 80/35 Youth Basketball League by running the scoreboard and doing stat sheets. He has volunteered for the Saydel Bond Referendum Advisory Committee by preparing postcards for bulk mailings to promote the school bond referendum. Jarrett volunteered with the Saydel After Prom Committee’s fundraising. He helped with the After Prom Can Drive where he sorted cans and went door to door to collect them. He served at the Pizza Ranch Community Night where he bussed tables to get tips for After Prom, and he volunteered at Saydel Family Laser Tag where he coordinated laser tag teams. He also assisted with the Father Daughter Dance where he decorated, sold tickets, handed out candy, served food and cleaned up after the event. Outside of school, Jarrett has volunteered for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Central Iowa Out of the Darkness Walk handing out promotional items that raise awareness for suicide prevention. He has worked as a registration volunteer for the DMACC STEM Festival and South Central STEM Hub checking in presenters, handing out shirts and gift bags and cleaning up after the event. Jarrett volunteered at his church to help with Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan’s Purse where they filled shoeboxes full of gifts and sent them to needy families around the world. He has volunteered at the Animal Rescue League cleaning the food bowls for the animals in the shelter. He also led a towel drive for the animals at the ARL and collected towels and blankets so they could provide bedding for the animals. Jarrett did a service project for On With Life in Ankeny. He completed holiday coloring sheets halfway and donated them to On With Life so the patients with brain injuries and neurological conditions could finish them. He also led a service project in partnership with HyVee and Effie’s to provide treats for the nurses at On With Life during the pandemic. Jarrett has volunteered for JOPPA, the Food Bank of Central Iowa, the Sparkle Run and the Children’s Cancer Connection. In March 2020, Jarrett completed a community service project that meant a lot to him. He made gift bags for the mothers of premature babies in the NICU at Mercy Hospital. He chose to do this project because he was born premature. He spent a month in the NICU fighting every day to stay alive. As a teenager, he wanted to give back. Jarrett came up with this idea because when he was born his grandpa made a cross for his parents to hang in his room. Jarrett spent time in his grandpa’s woodworking shop making crosses for newborns in the NICU. In the gift bags he put together he included a cross, baby blanket, stuffed animals, stocking caps, coffee cups, hygiene items and snacks. The mothers benefited from this project, because after hearing Jarrett’s story, it gave them hope. Jarrett recently received a grant from WE Schools and Hershey’s to do a Heartwarming Project for his community. He is planning to do a service project for the Ankeny Police Department with his grant.  

What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? Saydel High School Silver Cord and Saydel High School NHS

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 4 years

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

Community service is important to Jarrett because it allows him to be an active member of his community and have a positive impact on society. He will continue to do this no matter what career he enters after he gets his degree in business administration. Volunteering enables Jarrett to acquire life skills and knowledge and it provides service to those who need it. Volunteering gives him a sense of purpose and it has been a great way for him to get to know the people in his school and community. An important thing that he has learned through his service work is that living is determined not so much by what life brings to him but what he brings to life.

Jarrett Vitiritto with his grandfather Steve

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.

Celebrating AmeriCorps Service with Brooklynn Herrera

Brooklynn Herrera during her service with Bur Oak Land Trust

Why did you decide to serve with AmeriCorps or manage an AmeriCorps program?

I decided to serve with AmeriCorps because I want to make a difference within the community I call home. I have always envisioned myself in a position or program that values the idea of “the greater good,” and carries that idea to fulfillment.

How has your AmeriCorps program positively impacted the community where you serve(d)?

The program I serve under works to conserve our natural landscapes. Through the conservation of native ecosystems, the community is able to utilize those areas for recreation, education, and overall appreciation to the natural world.

Tell us about a challenging time during your service and what you learned from that experience.

Within my service, there have been days where tasks have been both physically and mentally exhausting, such as removing invasive species from some of the properties the program I am in manages. However, I remember the pay off of protecting those lands is so important, that I am able to push through those tasks as I know how necessary it is for the overall longevity of natural resources.

How has your AmeriCorps experience changed you for the better?

AmeriCorps has introduced me to an extraordinary group of people who share the same values and ethics and encourage myself and the overall morale of the group to remain motivated and focused during every day of service. Additionally, my experience has helped gain a variety of skills, such as leadership and flexibility.

Tell us a favorite memory from your service term.

One of my favorite memories so far has been traveling to Effigy Mounds National Monument as an AmeriCorps team to learn about the natural and culture values of lands in Iowa that we do not typically get to manage.

What has been the biggest personal impact of your AmeriCorps experience?

Through my AmeriCorps experience, I have made personal growth in confidence, safely pushing myself, and allowing myself to not always get things right the first time around, but to learn from those mistakes and press on.

What advice would you give someone interested in joining AmeriCorps?

The advice I would give to some interested in joining AmeriCorps is to not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone as you are the only person setting up those zones. The people around you will be so encouraging and supportive, you will forget those zones were there in the first place.

What does AmeriCorps mean to you?

To me, AmeriCorps means giving back to your community with the expected pay off of being proud of yourself and your team. Every day has a built in “pat on the back.”

How will you/have you used your AmeriCorps experience in your life going forward? When moving forward in my life, I will use my AmeriCorps experience as not one experience but an entire set of tools. Whether that be how to handle conflict resolution, keeping myself and others motivated, or being adaptable in numerous situations.