OpportUNITY unites central Iowa to fight poverty together.

We are driven by the belief that:

  1. Poverty and barriers to financial stability prevent central Iowans from thriving in our community.
  2. We can, through our collective action, eliminate these barriers and reduce poverty.
  3. Change cannot happen without ALL OF US. We need you to advocate, educate, participate, and communicate.

Since OpportUNITY began in 2014, every plan, action, success, and challenge has been collaborative. 

Small changes lead to long-term transformation. It starts with dedicated work groups focused on tackling specific barriers to poverty—and all of us doing our part!

On June 12, 2018, OpportUNITY released an updated plan to reduce poverty in central Iowa—with eight work groups reporting on their first-phase successes and their second-phase goals.

Download the Updated Plan

Opportunity Plan 6.7.18_Page_01

Download the Updated Plan

Want to get involved?

If you're interested in helping with the OpportUNITY Plan's work in central Iowa, please fill out the form and click Submit.

Hear from four individuals who have been impacted by OpportUNITY work.


The Child Care Cliff Effect

The Child Care Cliff Effect is a major barrier to families striving for self-sufficiency. This issue adversely impacts families by limiting access to quality childcare.

“While Central Iowa is experiencing incredible energy and growth as a community, over 34% of Central Iowans are not financially self-sufficient,” says Seth Johnson, OpportUNITY Program Director.

“The Child Care Cliff Effect is one of those poverty traps that we can remove as a barrier to prosperity.”

Download our Cliff Effect infographic to learn more.

Download the Infographic


opportunity-crowd1.jpgThe Plan in Action:

Read the reports from each of the OpportUNITY work groups



ALICE_cover.jpgLearn about ALICE
Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed

Once upon a time is the opening line of so many of our favorite childhood books. But there is a real story told every day in Iowa that is not a fairy tale. It is the story of ALICE. She is working (often at more than one job), has income above the Federal Poverty Level, and yet still cannot make ends meet each month.

ALICE is an acronym to represent all those in our community who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. She is not an individual, but a conceptual blending of all those in our community who bring home a paycheck that doesn’t stretch to cover a household’s needs.

If we look around, we can see ALICE everywhere we go. She is the heroine that holds the fabric of our communities together. She’s in convenience stores, coffee shops and restaurants, the person taking care of our youngest children and our oldest citizens. ALICE is glad to have a job, proud of her work and happy to contribute to the community. She is also always afraid of the wolf at the door – the next car repair, doctor visit or unexpected bill.

The ALICE Report, a joint project of the United Ways in Iowa, tells the real story of those in our communities who are below the ALICE Threshold. Businesses, public officials and community members are well aware that people are struggling in our state. However, they often don’t understand the depths of the struggle, the real fears of these families and the consequences for all of us when we don’t listen to their tale. The ALICE report is a first step in further opening the conversation with a common language to create a new ending for ALICE’s story. Click below to download a PDF of the Executive Summary or the Full Report.

ALICE Executive Summary   ALICE Full Report



Our Community is Committed to Reducing Poverty in Central Iowa
Thank you to the following central Iowa organizations and businesses for endorsing the OpportUNITY plan for poverty reduction. 

Commit to the OpportUNITY Plan

  • 4 R Kids ECI
  • 2 The Top
  • AARP
  • African American Leadership Forum
  • Age-Friendly Greater DM
  • Al Exito
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
  • Altoona Campus
  • American Friends Service Committee
  • AMOS
  • Art Force Iowa
  • Athene USA
  • Anawim Housing
  • Back 2 School Iowa
  • Bank of the West
  • Bankers Trust
  • Beacon of Life
  • Beckley Automotive Services
  • Bhutanese Community in Iowa
  • Bidwell Riverside
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa
  • Blank Children’s Hospital
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa
  • BriWen Industries
  • Bridges to Success
  • Broadlawns Medical Center
  • Brooks Lodden, P.C.
  • Business Volunteer Council
  • Bureau of Refugee Services
  • Candeo
  • Capitol Park Early Learning Center
  • CareMore Clinic
  • Catholic Charities
  • Central College
  • Central Iowa ACEs 360
  • Central Iowa Shelter & Services
  • Central Iowa Works
  • Central Iowa Workforce Investment Board
  • Centralized Intake – Primary Health Care
  • Charles Gabus Ford
  • Child & Family Policy Center
  • Children and Family Urban Movement
  • Children and Families of Iowa
  • ChildServe
  • Chrysalis Foundation
  • Church World Service
  • City of Des Moines
  • CommonBond Communities
  • Community Foundation of Greater
    Des Moines
  • Community Housing Initiatives
  • Community Youth Concepts
  • Corinthian Baptist Church
  • Courage League Sports
  • Creative Visions
  • CROSS Ministries
  • DART
  • Dallas County Public Health Nursing Services
  • Des Moines Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta
  • Des Moines Area Hunger Hike
  • Des Moines Area MPO
  • U.S. Department of Housing & Urban
    Development - Des Moines
  • Des Moines Health Center, Inc.
  • Des Moines Municipal Housing Agency
  • Des Moines Public Schools
  • Des Moines University
  • Directors Council
  • Disability Rights Iowa
  • Drake University
  • Drake University Adult Literacy Center
  • Drake University Headstart
  • Dress For Success Des Moines
  • Dorothy’s House
  • EDGE
  • Elim Christian Fellowship of Des Moines
  • El Comunicador
  • Easterseals
  • Early Grade Reading Advisory Council
  • Eat Greater Des Moines
  • Employee & Family Resources
  • Evelyn K. Davis Center for
    Working Families
  • Evelyn Davis Early Learning Academy
  • Every Child Matters in Iowa
  • Everybody Wins! Iowa
  • FamilyWize
  • FBL Financial Group, Inc.
  • Fidelity & Guaranty Life
  • Financial Capability Network
  • Food Bank of Iowa
  • Gateway to College
  • Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa
  • Goodwill Industries
  • Grandview University
  • Greater Des Moines Partnership
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • HCI Care Services / VNS of Iowa
  • Healthy Homes Des Moines
  • Heartland Area Education Agency
  • Helping Hands Pantry
  • HIRTA Public Transit
  • Hawthorn Hill
  • Hispanic Educational Resources
  • Home, Inc.
  • House of Mercy
  • Hunger-Free Polk County
  • IMPACT Community Action Partnership
  • ICC-Solidarity Microfinance
  • I Have A Dream Foundation
  • ISU Extension and Outreach Polk Co.
  • ISU Extension and Outreach-
    Community and Economic Development
  • Iowa Afterschool Alliance
  • Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children
  • Iowa Bystander
  • Iowa Central Community College
  • Iowa Citizens for Community
  • Iowa College Student Aid Commission
  • Iowa Community Action Association
  • Iowa Credit Union Foundation
  • Iowa Department of Corrections
  • Iowa Department of Human Rights
  • Iowa Department of Human Services
  • Iowa Center for Economic Success
  • Iowa Homeless Youth Centers
  • Iowa International Center
  • Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates
  • Iowa Justice for our Neighbors
  • Iowa Legal Aid
  • Iowa Sports Foundation
  • Iowa State Education Association (ISEA)
  • Iowa Workforce Development
  • Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Service
  • Isiserettes Drum Corp
  • Job Honor
  • Joppa
  • Jewish Family Services
  • John Grubb YMCA
  • John Deere Foundation
  • Karen Association of Iowa
  • Kia of Des Moines
  • Kirkwood Community College
  • KPMG
  • Latino Forum
  • Link Associates
  • Links Incorporated (Des Moines Chapter)
  • Lutheran Church of Hope
  • Lutheran Services of Iowa
  • ManUp Iowa
  • Meals from the Heartland
  • Mercy College of Health Sciences
  • Mercy Des Moines
  • Meredith Corporation
  • Mid Iowa Health Foundation
  • Mid-Iowa Council, Boy Scouts of America
  • Moms Rising Iowa
  • NAACP Des Moines Branch
  • Nationwide
  • New Opportunities Inc.
  • Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC)
  • Oakridge Neighborhood Services
  • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.
  • Opportunity Iowa
  • Orchard Place
  • Paramount Lodging Advisors
  • P4C, Professionals for Charity
  • PCHTF- Healthy Homes East Bank
  • Perry Child Development Center
  • Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.
  • Plymouth Church Board of Christian Social Action
  • Prevent Child Abuse Iowa
  • Prelude Iowa
  • Polk County Continuum of Care
  • Polk County Early Childhood Iowa
  • Polk County Family and Youth Services
  • Polk County Health Dept.
  • Polk County Housing Trust Fund
  • Primary Health Care Inc.
  • Principal
  • Project Iowa
  • Rebuilding Together
  • Refugee Planning Alliance
  • Responsible Education and Development (READ)
  • Sankofa Urban Farms
  • Save the Children Action Network (SCAN)
  • Simpson College
  • Skills 2 Compete Coalition
  • South Central Iowa Federation Labor
  • State Public Policy Group
  • School Administrators of Iowa
  • Tomorrow Plan
  • Toyota of Des Moines
  • Transformations Group
  • Trinity United Methodist Church
  • United Way of Central Iowa
  • Unity HealthCare
  • Urban Dreams
  • Urbandale Schools
  • U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Des Moines Field Office
  • Viva East Bank!
  • VITA
  • Voices to be Heard
  • WeLift
  • Wells Fargo Bank
  • Wesley Life
  • West Des Moines Human Services
  • West Des Moines Community School District
  • Wilkie House
  • YESS
  • YMCA of Greater Des Moines
  • Young Women’s Resource Center
  • Youth Build
  • Youth Justice Initiative of West Des Moines
  • Youth Policy Institute of Iowa
  • Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.

OpportUNITY Leadership Roundtable

  • Glennda Bivens, Iowa State University
  • Mary Bontrager, Greater Des Moines
  • Barb Bremner, Polk County Early
    Childhood Iowa
  • Robert Brownell, Polk County
  • Elisabeth Buck, United Way of Central Iowa
  • Eric Burmeister, Polk County Housing Trust Fund
  • Teree Caldwell-Johnson, Oakridge Neighborhood Services
  • Marvin DeJear, Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families
  • Angie Dethlefs-Trettin, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
  • Dennis Groenenboom, Iowa Legal Aid
  • Tom Narak, School Administrators of Iowa
  • Vinh Nguyen, Des Moines Public Schools
  • Mark Phillips, Polk County Continuum of Care Board
  • Elizabeth Presutti, DART
  • Sarai Schnucker Rice, DMARC
  • Carly Ross, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
  • Rob Denson, DMACC
  • Kris Schechinger, Nationwide Insurance
  • Phyllis Staplin, Community
  • Kanisha Tillman, Community - Lived Experience
  • Connie Welcher, Iowa Home Care/Lived Experience (Consulting)
United Way of Central Iowa Staff
  • Dr. Helene Fein
  • Jody Kanne
  • Seth Johnson
  • Corinne Lambert
  • Natalie Lynch
  • Renee Miller


"The OpportUNITY plan is the product of incredible collaboration from hundreds of people in central Iowa. Together, we will have a significant impact on poverty in our community."


Seth Johnson
OpportUNITY Program Director

seth.johnson@UNITEDWAYDM.org   (515) 246-6554