As an active community volunteer for over 45 years, Dev Kiedaisch has had plenty of time to allocate her service to varying sectors of her local community—including education, literacy, and civil rights.
After being inspired by a Des Moines workshop in 2011 about promoting volunteerism, she began a volunteer center in her home community of Keokuk.
Her other projects are almost too many to name.
One of her most permanent projects, however, is Konnection, an extra-curricular program that connects student volunteers to organizations throughout the Keokuk area. A retired teacher of middle school, high school, and some college, Kiedaisch recognizes the ways in which students can benefit from getting involved with their local community.
“The kids were excited about it, and the community was thrilled about it. It also lets adults know that teenagers aren’t all that bad,” Kiedaisch laughed.
Kiedaisch also proposed a literacy pilot project to the local schools, which didn’t receive immediate cooperation from the administration. Volunteers were to undergo orientation then read to an assigned student for one hour, two times a week.
After one year of proved success, however, the administrative attitudes changed.
“It’s a win-win-win-win,” Kiedaisch said. “The students gain and the school gains, the teachers are glad for the one on one with students, and it’s so good for the volunteers. And the community gains because we have much better readers.”
But education isn’t the extent of her passion. She’s also committed to women’s issues.
“When my daughter was born—and this was when they were trying to get an equal rights amendment passed in Iowa—I got a call from someone, they needed a chair,” Kiedaisch said. “I said, ‘Oh, I just had a new baby.’ And she said, ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ I said a girl, and she said, ‘Can you think of a better reason to do it?’”
Then, after the events of Ferguson, Missouri, she used her position as chair of Keokuk’s Humans Rights Commission to start dialogue between the members of her community.
“I just started calling around the community, saying, do we need to have a conversation?” Kiedaisch said. “All the white people said, ‘Is there a problem?’ All the black people said, ‘Yes, we need to talk.’”
Those meetings turned into a group called the Keokuk Association for Rights and Equality, and they frequently meet to watch films, have discussions, and plan events to honor the accomplishments of the black community.
“I just think it’s so important for black and white people to sit down and talk to each other,” Kiedaisch said. “I just think that’s the best way we can start to do away with discrimination and racial bias.”
Though she’s retired, Kiedaisch certainly isn’t stagnant. She’s still active in countless sects of the Keokuk community, promoting volunteerism and its benefits to all she encounters.
“Most people are really willing to volunteer,” Kiedaisch said. “They don’t know where they’re needed or if they can do it. I’m surprised at how many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I could be a literacy volunteer,’ and I say, ‘Did you ever read to your kids when they were growing up?’ A lot of people need a little encouragement, but most people want to help and participate in their community.”
When she’s not tirelessly donating her time to local causes and organizations, she travels with her husband, reads for one of her three book clubs, spends time outdoors, or visits her children and grandchildren.
Kiedaisch is a Rotary member, as well, and their motto of “Service Above Self” pretty perfectly aligns with how Kiedaisch lives her life.
“We kind of have to pave our way on the planet,” Kiedaisch said. “When you can be of help, you have to do it. It makes me feel better. I’m a much better person for getting out and meeting people and helping where I can.”
Dev Kiedaisch was honored for her magnitude of services and efforts at Volunteer Iowa’s Iowa Hall of Fame Awards on Tuesday, April 17 at the State Capitol Building. A long-time mentor for youth, Kiedaisch’s work still continues to make significant impacts on the community of Keokuk and all that extends from it.