50 Faces of Volunteers – Sandra Madsen

Nominated by Payton Whiteaker with Iowa Legal Aid

Tell us a little about the volunteer:

Sandra Madsen traveled the world before she made a 16-year-long commitment at the HELP Regional Office of Iowa Legal Aid. “We tell our life stories in a linear fashion, but many times we go in many different directions before we reach certain points in life,” she said while recalling details that led her to the law office.

It began in October 1999 with a cruise. The voyage stopped at unique landmarks on each of the seven continents—Easter Island, Morocco, Gibraltar, the Greek Islands. Buenos Aires is where the group celebrated New Year’s Eve. Of course the world didn’t end when time ushered in Y2K, so Madsen journeyed further south before she circled back around to Greece in March 2000 and eventually returned to Storm Lake, Iowa.

Once home, Madsen decided it was time to structure her time differently. Students at Buena Vista University broadened their knowledge of communications thanks to Madsen who began teaching at the university shortly after the Vietnam War started. The retiree sought a new home that was in close proximity to Iowa City, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, all places where close relatives live. Davenport met this need. Then, Madsen searched for an opportunity to practice with the law degree she earned while a professor. A phone book helped identify the Davenport regional office: “It’s easy for people to go about their daily lives and not recognize needs in the community. Iowa Legal Aid reminds us people are in need.”


What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? Iowa Legal Aid

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 16 years

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

On Tuesdays and Thursdays for the past 16 years, Madsen progresses divorce cases and name change requests. Although the volunteer attorney often wishes she could assist clients further, satisfaction comes after thinking about advantages a divorce or name change creates.

She believes that ending a broken marriage often alleviates abuse, gives clients more control of their lives, and provides children with a positive home environment. The attorney frequently handles name changes for people who are at or near retirement age and cannot receive social security because a name discrepancy exists. The difference must be resolved before benefits can start. Madsen remembers all sorts of details about clients. Above all their gratitude is most prominent: “I’ve never had an unpleasant client or one who wasn’t thankful. It is rewarding to be involved in an organization that contributes something to the community.”

Tell us about a great volunteer! We would love to recognize them as one of our “50 Faces of Volunteers.” Volunteer Iowa selects one nomination to feature every other Wednesday. 

Nominating is easy! You’ll submit a short paragraph or two about the volunteer(s) and their experience. The who/what/where/when (or for how long) and, most importantly, the why of their volunteer cause. We have provided some questions to prompt responses. It’s also strong requested that you submit a photo with your nomination. This is a great opportunity to help showcase a dedicated volunteer or volunteer group in your community! 

Ready to submit a spotlight? Access the online form here

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