At the LIVE UNITED celebration on April 24, 2019, United Way of Central Iowa announced progress toward the community’s Goals for 2020 in Education, Income, and Health with the release of its 2019 Community Impact Report. The event also honored Athene with the Spirit of Central Iowa award, along with several organizations and individuals for their efforts to improve central Iowa over the past year.

The community Goals for 2020 were set in 2008 to drive work to increase high school graduation to 95%, financial stability to 75%, and community well-being to a score of 64.5.

This year, United Way’s report shows the following achievements toward those goals:

  • 93.7 percent of central Iowa students graduated from high school within five years in 2017, up .1 percent from 2016 and up more than 10 percentage points over a decade.
  • 67 percent of central Iowans were financially self-sufficient in 2017, up nearly 2 percentage points in two years, meaning 25,000 more central Iowans are thriving.
  • The community’s score for health remained steady at 62.6 after decreasing the previous year, with health factors improving in three out of five measures.

“Our community’s collaborative efforts are working to create the large-scale change needed to meet our Goals for 2020,” said Elisabeth Buck, president of United Way of Central Iowa. “With everyone’s generosity and commitment to these goals, we are improving the lives of thousands of central Iowans represented by these numbers and giving more people in our community the building blocks for a quality life.”

The 2019 Community Impact Report highlights how United Way, with many partners, is leading efforts to reach its goals. The report represents work in Dallas, Polk, and Warren Counties. It can be viewed at

Highlights in the 2019 report:

  • Education: United Way’s READ TO SUCCEED initiative, focused on helping students read at grade level by third grade, led to 1,057 children reading with mentors last school year. In addition, more than 40,000 youth participated in United Way-funded school or out-of-school programs, a key to improving academic success.
  • Income: United Way’s Central Iowa HealthWorks is helping 500 individuals receive training for health care jobs; nearly 70 percent served represent minority populations. In addition, 614 adults who entered United Ways’ Bridges to Success program to earn their high school equivalency diplomas had a 45 percent increase in wages within 18 months.
  • Health: Central Iowa lags behind the nation in consuming produce and exercising at recommended levels, but this year’s data shows that 56.5 percent of central Iowans exercise at recommended levels, up nearly 7 percentage points in three years, and 54.5 percent of central Iowans eat produce at recommended levels, up 4 percentage points from two years ago. United Way’s 5-2-1-0 initiative has encouraged 173,000 children to practice healthy habits.
  • Essential Needs: United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline handled more than 5,000 calls, seven times its normal call volume, after the extreme rain event in Greater Des Moines last July. Over the entire year, 2-1-1 answered the call for help 28,383 times, with most needs being housing, food, and income assistance.

“Every day, thousands of central Iowans face incredible barriers to success,” said Tom Mahoney, chair of United Way of Central Iowa’s Board of Directors and Chairman & CEO of ITA Group. “United Way is leading the fight against those barriers, so individuals have the fighting chance they deserve. It takes all of us playing our part to create these kinds of successes that benefit everyone.”

At the LIVE UNITED celebration, the following organizations and individuals were honored for their achievements in giving, advocating, and volunteering for the community:

Spirit of Central Iowa Award – Athene

Honored for its commitment to raising $1 million through its United Way campaign and for supporting the community throughout the year.

Individuals recognized:
  • Trail-Blazer Award: Kelsey Arganbright for engaging young professionals and Farm Bureau Financial Services in giving to United Way
  • Hand-Raiser Award: Barb Sharp for providing transportation to cancer patients
  • Impact-Maker Award: Debra Harrison for advocating for those who are homeless
Organizations recognized include:
  • Game-Changer Award for giving: Delta Dental of Iowa, Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, and John Deere
  • Impact-Maker Award for advocacy: Eat Greater Des Moines, American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company, Kum & Go
  • Hand-Raiser Award for volunteering: KPMG, John Deere

Topics: Education, Financial Stability, Health, Volunteer, Essential Needs, Thriving Workforce

Elisabeth Buck

Written by Elisabeth Buck

Elisabeth Buck is the former President of United Way of Central Iowa.