Month: June 2016

AmeriCorps Members of the Month 2016


This month, Sallie Myers, Alli Zuel, and Katie Kestel are being honored as the Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps Members of the Month for June 2016.

Sallie, Alli, and Katie are AmeriCorps VISTA members serving in the Des Moines area with The Outreach Program as a part of the Outreach Hunger-Free Iowa Initiative (HFII). The Outreach Program is a Union, Iowa based nonprofit that organizes food packaging events to combat hunger around the world. They have packaged more than 360 million meals in order to support the mission of providing food, safe water, medical care, and education to those in need.

Together, Sallie, Alli, and Katie have worked on food insecurity issues throughout the state to eliminate hunger in all of Iowa’s 99 counties and improve the lives of Iowan’s effected by food insecurity. They planned and conducted Hunger Dialogues in targeted counties to discuss community needs and implement projects in areas that have high rates of food insecurity. Because of their work, HFII has developed relationships with key stakeholders in Dallas, Des Moines, Henry, Madison, Mahaska, Marion, Clarke, Warren, Dubuque, Boone, Guthrie, Sac, and Buena Vista counties and packaged a total of 44,400 meals with the help of volunteers.

All three Outreach VISTA’s are sure to have bright futures in the public health and anti-hunger fields, and Volunteer Iowa is excited to recognize the work they have been able to accomplish during their year of service in the state. To recognize their service, Sallie, Alli, and Katie will each receive a certificate signed by Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds honoring their dedication and efforts towards bettering the State of Iowa.


Help us tell the story of AmeriCorps in Iowa! You can nominate someone for AmeriCorps Member of the Month by filling out this short survey: Please share the link and help us recognize the AmeriCorps members who are getting things done for Iowa!

An AmeriCorps Member in Iowa

IMG_0026.JPGToday’s post is a guest post from Volunteer Iowa VISTA service member Rob O’Donnell, who is finishing up his service this week. Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication Rob! 

“You’re leaving Boston? Where are you moving?”

“Des Moines, Iowa.”

 Pause. “Why?”

 “I joined AmeriCorps VISTA, so I’ll be working out there”

“Oh, I gotcha. You were assigned to Des Moines.”

“No, I chose it.”

Pause. “Why?”

I expected this reaction from East Coast people. What I did not anticipate were the Iowans who had the same response. Luckily, I discovered that I could chalk that up to the classic Midwest humility. In Des Moines, I found a city that was perfect for me – life as a VISTA in Iowa has treated me well, and I’ll be sad to see it go.

As a VISTA service member, I had agreed to volunteer my time for one year in exchange for a modest stipend at the poverty level in order to better understand the experiences of people in the community who I would be serving. I had chosen Des Moines solely based on Bill Bryson’s memoir of living here in the 1950’s, and I was hoping that this wouldn’t turn out to be cause to review my decision-making process.

While here, I made all of the necessary stops alone and with visiting family. Raygun became a necessary stop for visitors who had indeed believed that I had moved to Ohio, or at least the Potato State. I spent a day on a farm and got to live my life a quarter mile at a time on a tractor. My sisters and I had 12 different foods on a stick at the State Fair (not including the Pork Chop on a Stick, aka the greatest lie Iowa ever told). Caucusing sounded as fun to me as listening to strangers disagree for an extended period of time, but I still got to experience the chaos that Iowa becomes when candidates pretend not to notice that their Pork Chop on a Stick is actually just a pork chop wrapped in a napkin. I got to see a downtown festival almost every summer weekend as well as 80/35. I got to explain to every visitor that you can indeed see out from inside the Central Library and fail to explain why one side of the sculpture park is lighthearted and the other side is a nightmare-scape. And I got to do this while serving my new community as a VISTA.

During my service, I was able to help my organization build a new website, create a successful fundraiser, and build the capacity of my organization so that it will be able to help kids for years to come. Although, I’m moving on from Des Moines, I’m excited to have been able to experience it as a guest for the year that I was here.


For more information about AmeriCorps service in Iowa, please visit for more information. Help us spread the word about how AmeriCorps members are creating opportunities in Iowa by sharing the link and encouraging others to get involved!


Cedar Rapids Volunteer Wins Award for Service to Others


Andy Hepker is a recent winner of United Way of East Central Iowa’s Outstanding Adult Volunteer Award and this week’s “50 Faces of Volunteerism” honoree.

Andy has been volunteering with Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for 8 years. As a volunteer, Andy has participated in many events over the years including Day of Caring, Meals on Wheels, Missions of Hope, coaching t-ball and baseball, and acting as Chair for Cargill Contributions Committee. He has also helps with Junior Achievement Bowling, Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowling and the HACAP Backpack Program. According to Sue Driscoll, “Andy is a great example to his co-workers and the community as a whole.  He is enthusiastic about volunteering and passes this energy on to help many in the community while also inspiring others to volunteer along side of him.”

Thank you for all of your service, Andy!



What’s your 50? Learn more about the Governor’s Call to Service, and to find volunteer opportunities statewide. 

Can you nominate someone to be one of our 50 Faces of Volunteers? Fill out this quick spotlight form and help us recognize outstanding volunteers in Iowa.


Youth Volunteer Helps Bilingual Families


jacqueline_luna_photo.jpgVolunteer Iowa is honoring Jacqueline Luna, a volunteer with the Young Parents Network in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as one of this week’s “50 Faces of Volunteerism”.

Luna has been volunteering for 6  years and used her Spanish skills to read to children at YPN’s Lunch and Literacy event in Spanish for the entirety of the seven week program at the Ladd Library. The Young Parents Network provides much needed support and services to young families in the Cedar Rapids area for parents of children aged 0 to 5 and for parents aged 13 to 27. Information is available on pregnancy, child development and growth, literacy and nutrition.

According to Sue Driscoll, “She is a great asset to the organization and bridges the gap for bilingual families. She started helping at events to aid families that were Spanish-speaking only.” Luna is proof that there are opportunities for everyone to volunteer, no matter what their age is!

Thank you for your service, Luna!


What’s your 50? Learn more about the Governor’s Call to Service, and to find volunteer opportunities statewide. 

Can you nominate someone to be one of our 50 Faces of Volunteers? Fill out this quick spotlight form and help us recognize outstanding volunteers in Iowa.