Young Leaders + Volunteering = Success

United Way of Central Iowa, along with some of our community partners, are excited to offer students these volunteer opportunities. Upon signing up and receiving a parent or guardian signature, their volunteering journey will begin by first attending either a virtual or in-person orientation event. Students will then get connected with selected community partners and virtually log their service hours – all hours must be verifiable and supported with the signature of a supervisor. Students will have from December 1 – August 30 to complete a total of 15 hours. 

Upon completion, students will receive a United Way of Central Iowa Recognition Award in Community Service and will be recognized on United Way of Central Iowa's social media. 

Please sign up for volunteer opportunities by using the form below. If any questions come up regarding the program, please contact Cheryl Werner, United Way of Central Iowa Community Impact Coordinator, at We're looking forward to connecting with these young leaders in our community.


Volunteer Opportunity Descriptions


Bidwell Riverside

Opportunity Description:

Families Forward Bidwell Pantry:

Volunteers will help pantry guests get groceries, stock grocery shelves, and organize clothing and household donations. Bidwell is the highest-serving pantry in Iowa, serving up to 6,200 individuals each month. With the soaring costs of food and basic necessities, more people than ever before are depending on the food pantries in our community. Volunteers allow us to help more people and ensure everyone that needs our help can get through the pantry. Volunteers can work independently or in pairs.

  • Location: Bidwell Pantry, 1203 Hartford Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50315
  • Days of the week: Monday through Friday, and the third Saturday of each month
  • Time: 9:00am – 5:00pm
  • Other times may be scheduled on evenings and weekends for groups of at least 4 individuals

Families Forward New Directions Shelter Children's Activities:

Volunteers are needed to host children’s activities at our shelter. New Directions Shelter welcomes 8 families at a time and is one of only three emergency shelters for families with children in Polk County. Children’s activities help provide entertainment for the children staying at the shelter.

Volunteers will plan the event and provide all supplies needed. This can be as easy as playing board games or reading books, or you can bring supplies to make crafts, frost cookies, et cetera. Events should plan for 10-25 children to attend. Up to 10 volunteers may come to help with the event.

  • Location: New Directions Shelter, 3001 Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA 50312
  • Days of the week: Suggested times for a children's event are:
    • Weeknights between 5 and 7 p.m.
    • Saturday mornings between 10 and 11:30 a.m.
    • Sunday evenings between 4 and 7 p.m.
    • No School Days in the morning between 10 and 11:30 a.m. 

About the org:

Families Forward (previously Bidwell Riverside Center and Hawthorn Hill), has four main programs: Bidwell Pantry, Child Development Center, New Directions Shelter (emergency housing), and The Home Connection (long term housing). For over 100 years, our mission has been to provide compassionate, life-changing assistance to families and their path to self-sufficiency.


Big Brothers Big Sisters of Iowa

Opportunity Description:

It's a fact, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa's one-to-one youth mentoring has a real and positive impact on children and their futures by defending their potential. Children enrolled in our programs show consistent improvements in self-confidence, academic performance, and relationships with peers and family members. No experience is necessary, you just have to want to have fun and make a positive lasting impact on the life of a child.

A mentor (Big) is matched with a child (Little) and visits the child at their school for 30-60 minutes once a week throughout the school year.  Mentors offer one-to-one support and guidance with academics, building confidence and helping Littles reach their full potential.  Each week, Littles and their individual Big Brother or Big Sister will work on developing a strong relationship, academics, and playing educational games, all while having fun!  Additionally, all matches are professionally-support by trained BBBSCI staff who are available to help every step of the way.

Currently, there are over 90 children waiting to be matched with a mentor. Become a Defender of Potential and change a child's life!



Opportunity description:

  • Red Barrel Program - hand out flyers at grocery store partners in the metro, support the Red Barrel Committee with promotional products, and ensuring quality assurance throughout the program. Evening, weekend, weekday availability
  • Office Volunteer - Office hours for volunteers are between 9am-4pm. Office volunteers can work at our receptions desk directing individuals to locations, answering the phone, and helping with general office tasks. Highly need an intake office volunteer to do over the phone intake through our data system.
  • Mobile Pantry/ Food Pantry - Very specific times and dates for both programs. Students would work one on one with our pantry visitors to help guide them through our services.
  • Other - We have one off events through the year, internship opportunities, social media opportunities, nutritional interests, etc. We can be very diverse with students to find common interests and our needs.


IMPACT Community Action Partnership

Opportunity description:
Families in poverty experience real struggles to access essential needs, like water and heating assistance, housing and rental assistance and food assistance. IMPACT Community Action Partnership helps to reduce the barriers and burdens these families experience. In FY23, IMPACT assisted over 10,019 families with a 3-day food supply each month. We would like you to be part of IMPACT's health program to help families in Polk County receive food through our food pantry in the Drake Neighborhood. If you are interested in helping stock food items, counting and weighing donations, maintaining food organization and safety, taking charge of environmental control, and packing items for delivery or pick up. Each day while families are shopping in the food pantry, they may need guidance or help to bag their items and carry to their vehicle. We would love to have you join us for a one-time or ongoing volunteer experience.

About the org:
Mission Statement: Reducing the barriers and burdens that families in poverty experience by increasing access to essential needs.

Community action programs exist nationwide to provide critical support programs and guidance for people in need. Our important services are located in five central Iowa counties (Boone, Jasper, Marion, Polk and Warren) and include:

  • Home energy and weatherization assistance
  • Food support
  • Disaster relief
  • And more..

Time: Monday–Friday, 8:30am–4:00pm: Capacity: 1-2 volunteers


Summer Meal Meet-Ups Sites (June – August)

Opportunity description:
Summer Meal Meet-Ups, a program offering free meals to kids throughout the summer, invites anyone ages 18 and under to one of the many meal sites in Iowa to receive free and nutritious meals. 

More than 40,000 students in central Iowa qualify for free or reduced-price meals, but approximately 3,000 children take advantage of free meals during the summer. With the COVID-19 pandemic, its anticipated that this number has grown. Central Iowa Shelter & Services is a meal site host for 10+ locations in the Des Moines Metro. 

Volunteers will pass out lunches, take meal counts, and engage with the children attending. Enrichment activities and educational opportunities will be available as an engagement tool. Minimum age of volunteers is 16 years old and must have own transportation to meal sites in the community. Food safety training will be provided.

A weekly commitment is desired, but not required. Please reach out with interest and we can discuss scheduling.

  • Location: Various sites in the Des Moines Metro
  • Days of the week: Monday – Friday shifts, weekly commitment desired
  • Time: 10 a.m. – Noon
  • Dates: Early June – Mid August

Lunch Prep:

Help Central Iowa Shelter & Services make lunches for Summer Meal Meet-Ups, a program offering free meals to kids throughout the summer! More than 40,000 students in central Iowa qualify for free or reduced-price meals, but approximately 3,000 children take advantage of free meals during the summer. With the COVID-19 pandemic, its anticipated that this number has grown. Central Iowa Shelter & Services is a meal site host for 10+ locations in the Des Moines Metro. 

Volunteers will prep lunches in the CISS kitchen that will then be used at the 10+ meal sites CISS sponsors. Food safety training and direction will be provided on site. No minimum shift commitment required. Volunteers under the age of 18 need to be accompanied by an adult.

  • Location: Central Iowa Shelter & Services
  • Days of the week: Sunday – Thursday shifts
  • Time: 1 – 3 p.m.
  • Dates: Early June – Mid August


Youth Justice Initiative

Opportunity description:
If you’re interested in and enjoy working with youth ages 8-18 with their academics. Join us at Youth Justice Initiative Study Table! It’s a safe place in our community where youth can get help with their homework, eat a hot meal, and foster new relationships. You can help support academic growth and get involved with youth from diverse backgrounds while reading, doing math or playing games.  

Come support our youth with their various homework topics, serve food, and offer encouragement!


    • Up to 4 students can participate 
    • Must attend one training – trainings are offered on the first and third Tuesdays of the month from 6 – 6:30 p.m. 
    • Two hours at WDM Christian Church on Tuesday nights from 6 – 8 p.m.
    • 6 week commitment. Regular attendance builds strong relationships. 
    • Engage with the youth, offer to assist with homework and encourage their interests. 

Volunteer Form