Category: Uncategorized

Retiree Volunteers to Support Food Justice Initatives

Ozzie OhlOzzie Ohl is a retired marketing consultant from Mason City, Iowa who is using his free time to give back to his community. This week, Volunteer Iowa is excited to honor all of the work he’s done for the Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank as our “What’s Your 50?” Volunteer.

This month, Ozzie will have accrued over 1,000 hours with Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank since he began volunteering with them in 2011. During this time, Ozzie has been able to raise over $317,000 for the food bank to relocate to a new, more convenient building, as well as purchase a new van. Because of this, the food bank is able to serve more families and now serves about 1,800 individuals a month. He also devotes his time as a public relations volunteer who spreads the important work that Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank does for the community, enabling them to gain more resources, volunteers and clients.

In addition to all his work with the food bank, Ozzie has helped raise funds for a new dog park, a sledding hill in southern Mason City, helped orchestrate efforts to install playground equipment in West Park, and was a vital part of the effort to make Mason City into a Blue Zones Community. Ozzie enjoys getting things done for his community and relishes the opportunity to work with others who share his passion for service. Ozzie is a perfect example of what it means to be a true advocate for his community, and for the state of Iowa.

Thank you for your service, Ozzie!

What’s your 50? Learn more about the Governor’s Call to Service, and to find volunteer whatsyour50-BUG-final-high-resopportunities 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.


AmeriCorps Member of the Month January 2016

Monica De Melo Dreasher has been selected as the Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps Member of the Month for January 2016!

Monica is a two-term AmeriCorps VISTA member, currently serving as the Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps VISTA Leader until August 2016.

Monica completed her first, full-time service position in 2014 with the Cedar Rapids Public Library where she focused on K-12 education initiatives. Her service included research into alternative education methods, integration of technology in outreach, and innovations in library programming, which was instrumental in the design of the library’s Summer Dare program and Summer Meals Outreach program.

Her work took “library programming and resources outside of the library walls” said Jessica Link, Volunteer Coordinator at the Cedar Rapid Public Library. “She kept the team aware of different levels of accessibility and championed new strategies to reach different populations.”

As the Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps VISTA Leader, Monica serves as a peer mentor to all AmeriCorps VISTA members in the project. In addition to answering questions and providing support, she assists with arranging training, networking, and professional development opportunities for the VISTA team. “Our project would not be possible without the energy, ideas, and hard work Monica provides” said Michelle Raymer, Volunteer Iowa Program Officer.

Thank you for your service, Monica!

Dreasher, Monica - VISTA.jpg with logo

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!

-Volunteer Iowa Year in Review-

2015 was a Mix of Classics and Firsts!

  1. Classic: Let’s start with January 2015! It was National Mentoring Month and the Iowa Mentoring Partnership honored 5 amazing mentors in our Excellence in Mentoring Awards Ceremony:
    • Keith Bress of Spencer -Tiger Mentoring Program,
    • Tom Cameron of Des Moines – Community Youth Concepts Mentoring Advantage Program
    • Carol Groen of Sac City – Sac County Mentoring
    • Sloane Morrow of Storm Lake – Storm Lake TeamMates
    •  Chris Storms of Muscatine – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Muscatine County.
  2. First! In order to encourage employers to promote volunteering among their employees, a stellar Employee Volunteer Advisory Committee developed the Give Back Iowa Challenge. Companies across the state were challenged to have the highest average number of volunteer hours per employee over six weeks. In its inaugural year, the Challenge had 50 participating employers whose employees volunteered 41,702 hours. The winning companies in three size categories (Worldly Goods, Ames; West Music Company, Coralville; and Central College, Pella) each received a visit from the Governor or LT. Governor, further recognizing their achievements and incentivizing their continued support of volunteerism. Save the date for 2016! The Give Back Iowa Challenge will be from April 1- May 31, 2016.
  1. Classic: Like the Oscars for volunteers, we hosted our annual Volunteer Hall of Fame ceremony in April during National Volunteer Week and inducted 4 new honorees:
    • Ida Johnson, Davenport – Individual Category (one person providing outstanding volunteer service to benefit others)
    • D. “Ike” Leighty, Waterloo – also in the Individual Category
    • Children & Family Urban Movement (CFUM), Des Moines – Organization/Nonprofit Category (not-for-profit organization providing voluntary service to others)
    • Sisters of Mercy, Cedar Rapids – Group Category (several unrelated individuals volunteering together as a unit)
  1. First!: Hosted the first CNCS AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team training event in Iowa, we had over 15 AmeriCorps programs represented from over 15 states and over 40 attendees.
  2. Classic: Iowa Nonprofit Summit in November with more than 340 attendees and 2 amazing keynote speakers: Vicki Clark and David Dye, along with a great slate of volunteer presenters who conducted nearly 50 workshops!
  1. (This one’s a mix) Classic/First! Awarded 21 AmeriCorps State grants for the 2015-2016 program year, including one of the first Operation AmeriCorps grants in Bloomfield, IA.
  2. (This is a mix too) Classic/First! We were said to say goodbye to Rachel Bruns but happy to welcome Tiffany Jacob as our new Communications and Engagement Program Officer.
  1. Classic: The Volunteer Iowa portal continues to be a busy spot as the statewide system for volunteers and organizations to connect. By using this system, potential volunteers can look for volunteer opportunities, events, or their favorite agencies. In 2015, we had over 2,000 opportunities!
  1. First!: Facilitated and participated in our first Seeing Impact Project Evaluation Process with 6 AmeriCorps programs and us as a commission…and now we are published with a book of our findings!
  1. Classic: Through the What’s Your 50 Campaign we highlighted a volunteer each week who answered the Governor’s call to service and volunteered 50+ hours in 2015.


Happy New Year all! We’re looking forward to more classics and firsts in 2016!

5 Reasons Volunteering Should be your New Year’s Resolution


Happy New Year! (3)

  1. Health is always at the top of resolution lists. Consider this: Research shows that volunteering leads to greater life satisfaction, increased self-confidence, provides a sense of purpose, and lower rates of depression (Harlow and Cantor, 1996; Lum and Lightfoot, 2005). Read more about the mental and physical benefits of volunteering.
  1. Graduating soon? Looking for a new job? Volunteers have a 27 percent higher likelihood of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers. Volunteers living in rural areas have a 55 percent higher likelihood of finding employment. Read more about volunteering as a pathway to employment.
  1. Looking to build a new skill, or explore a passion? There are over 2,000 volunteer opportunities on the Volunteer Iowa portal that are searchable by several categories. Are you interested in art, education, health, legal services, sports, technology, or board service? You’ll be giving and gaining as you branch into something new in 2016.
  2. Perhaps you love contributing to effectiveness and efficiency? According to the TCC group, organizations with 10 to 50 volunteers are, statistically, equally as “effective” on all measures of organizational effectiveness (capacity) as their counterparts without volunteers, yet their average (median) annual budgets are almost half. Your time volunteering can help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of charitable and governmental services in Iowa. Read more about Service Enterprises, organizations that fundamentally leverage volunteers and their skills across all levels of their organizations to successfully deliver their social mission.
  3. Don’t have time to even make a resolution? Well, volunteering time actually makes you feel like you have more time. Wharton professor Cassie Mogilner wrote in the Harvard Business Review that her research found “those who volunteer their time feel like they have more of it… The results show that giving your time to others can make you feel more ‘time affluent’ and less time-constrained than wasting your time, spending it on yourself, or even getting a windfall of free time.” Read more about feeling more time affluent.

Now that you have a few reasons to volunteer in 2016, you may be asking, why 50 hours? Through the Volunteer Iowa “What’s Your 50?” campaign, we encourage Iowans to participate in volunteer and service activities at least 50 hours per year because research has shown that an annual contribution of 50 hours tends to be a tipping point for maximizing impact; both to the individual who volunteers and the recipient of their service.

Whether you want to explore a passion, get a new job, or improve your health in 2016, resolve to share your talents and experience a volunteer! You’ll be glad you did.

Happy New Year!

AmeriCorps Member of the Month

Aidan Zingler has been selected as the Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps Member of the Month for November 2015.

Aidan recently finished his first term of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Iowa Public Television, where he developed a volunteer program for IPTV Educational Services and was instrumental in drafting volunteer policies and procedures, recruitment and evaluation. He also developed the Math Adventures curriculum for 1st and 2nd grade students, which partners older students with younger students in order to help students improve their math skills through educational games and activities.

Aidan currently works for Nationwide Insurance.

Thank you for your service, Aidan!

Nomination forms for the Iowa AmeriCorps Member of the Month recognition can be requested by e-mailing