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.

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For more information about AmeriCorps service in Iowa, please visit http://bit.ly/1UQzViL 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!

 

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Cedar Rapids Volunteer Wins Award for Service to Others

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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!

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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!

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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.

 

AmeriCorps Member of the Month May 2016

VolunteerIowaPicBrad James is being honored by Volunteer Iowa as the AmeriCorps Member of the Month for May 2016.

Brad is a Green Iowa AmeriCorps member serving in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Green Iowa AmeriCorps team provides residential energy efficiency services, environmental education, and outreach to Iowans. They also provide weatherization services to low-income, disabled, elderly, and Veteran families in order to lower the cost of their monthly utility bills. Brad initially served as an Audit Coordinator where he was able to assist over 100 households with audit and weatherization services, providing consultation and education to residents. In his current position as an Outreach Coordinator, he is responsible for planning first time homeowner weatherization workshops, and he was also able to engage 85 volunteers for “Make a Difference Day” to assist with an Adopt-a-Highway clean up event.

According to Ashley Craft, the Program Director with Green Iowa, “Brad is an incredible example of someone who embraces the notion of being an engaged community member. He not only promotes service within the community by his work through Green Iowa AmeriCorps but regularly volunteers his time outside of work to raise awareness about needs facing our world with climate change and the environment.”

During his service, Brad personally took the initiative to raise the money necessary to make costly repairs to an elderly woman’s house which would have been outside the skills and abilities of Green Iowa to complete on their own. With the help of local community organizations and businesses, he was able to secure almost all of the funds necessary to complete the repairs. Brad also volunteers to help with events like Project AWARE and other local environmentally based projects.

To recognize his service, Brad will receive a certificate signed by Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds honoring his dedication and efforts towards bettering the State of Iowa.

Thank you for your service, Brad!americorps_iowa_4in

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:http://ow.ly/X1uRp. Please share the link and help us recognize the AmeriCorps members who are getting things done for Iowa!

Volunteering Isn’t Just for Individuals

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Volunteer Iowa is excited to honor Webspec Design, an Urbandale based team of web designers, software and web developers, project managers and digital marketing experts who have been working together as a team to support local nonprofits and charities in their area.

Although the staff at Webspec Design all enjoy volunteering for different organizations and causes on their own, they are also excited about volunteering as a company and participating in dsmHack’s annual “hackathon” for the second year in a row. DsmHack is a nonprofit that helps bring together designers, developers and innovators to help solve community needs with technology solutions over a 48-hour period. According to Alex Karei,

“At Webspec, we have an amazing team of highly talented and knowledgeable people who are excited to jump at the chance to bridge the need that dsmHack has identified between technology skills and local nonprofits. Being able to make a huge difference in the lives of local nonprofits in just 48 hours is nothing short of amazing (and fun)! Team members were able to make relationships with their neighbors and grow both as individuals and as a team while utilizing their skills to help improve the community. Webspec values bringing on individuals who are passionate about what they do every day, and that shows in both their 8-5 jobs and how they choose to spend their time otherwise. As a company and as individuals, we’re excited to continue to donate time to dsmHack for years to come.”

To learn more about the Give Back Iowa Challenge and other ways employer’s can promote the value of service and volunteering within their organizations, click here.

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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.

 

 

Senior Corps Volunteers Support Iowa Communities

rsvpeiwiVolunteer Iowa is excited to celebrate Senior Corps Week May 16 -20 by highlighting the amazing work Senior Corps volunteers are doing throughout Iowa. This week, we’re recognizing RSVP of Eastern Iowa & Western Illinois as our “50 Faces of Volunteers” spotlight. RSVP finds, develops and supports volunteer opportunities for people age 55+ throughout the Quad City region and in Knox and Warren counties

rsvpRSVP of Eastern Iowa & Western Illinois has 221 volunteers living in Iowa who have each recorded over 50 hours of service this year. Volunteers helped in food pantries, as tutors, as mentors, in hospitals, in disaster services, for the blood banks and participated in all kinds of community events. Together, these volunteers were able to provide over 47,319 hours of service! RSVP of Eastern Iowa & Western Illinois is doing a tremendous job recruiting and placing volunteers with organizations and agencies in need. They focus on matching needs with interests and are dedicated to making sure that their volunteers are recognized and valued. RSVP volunteers demonstrate a clear commitment to service and are supported by active, talented, and passionate coordinators at RSVP of Eastern Iowa & Western Illinois. Thank you for setting an excellent example, and thank you all for your service!

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.

 

 

Getting Involved and Making a Difference

ko3For this week’s “50 Faces of Volunteers” feature, Volunteer Iowa is excited to highlight the great work of Katie Orlando, the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Iowa!

Katie moved to Iowa from New Hampshire after she accepted her current position as Executive Director. In order to get involved and meet new people in her community, she became a Big Sister with BBBS of Northwest Iowa, a member of the Waterloo Kiwanis Club, and a member of the Cedar Falls Lions Club. She took on leadership roles as a Board Member for Waterloo Kiwanis, Cedar Valley Jaycees, the Iowa Mentoring Partnership, and the Waterloo Historic Preservation Commission. On top of all of that, she still has quality time to spend with her Little, Kiana.

Since arriving in Waterloo, Katie has served over 1,137 hours in all of her roles. But she doesn’t stop there, she regularly gets others involved and volunteering. In March 2016, she registered BBBS of Northwest Iowa in the Give Back Iowa Challenge, an eight-week competition to engage Iowans in employer supported volunteering. To date, Katie and her employees have logged over 175 hours! Katie’s commitment to service and volunteerism is incredible. She is a true champion for organizations that improve the lives of Iowans.

Thank you for your service, Katie! whatsyour50-BUG-final-high-res

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.