Nov 8, 2021 12:06:43 PM

Paying It Forward

Starting at 211 as an Information and Resource Referral Specialist in March 2020, Ameka Wilson had no idea what was in store for the upcoming year. As with any new job, she was excited and a little anxious. With a wealth of community and customer experience– and knowing what 211 offered our community from first-hand experience – she was more than ready for the flood of COVID-19 related contacts that were to come.

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Apr 26, 2021 7:15:00 AM

The Girl Who Kept Walking

More than three years after escaping a secretly arranged child marriage in Sudan, 21-year-old Aisha Nyala is on the road to becoming a doctor.


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Apr 26, 2021 7:00:00 AM

Fighting Hunger One Box at a Time

Access to fresh, affordable, healthy foods is a key indicator of Health & Well-Being (one of the Five Elements of a Thriving Community.) According to Feeding America, people who live in rural areas often face hunger at higher rates than people who live in urban areas. Living in a rural community comes with unique challenges, including lack of transportation when the nearest grocery store is at a greater distance than one mile and the nearest food pantry or food bank is potentially hours away. In rural areas, job opportunities are more concentrated in low-wage industries and see higher rates of unemployment and underemployment. In urban areas, the food deserts exist in areas with higher populations of families with low-income.

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Apr 26, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A House to Call Their Paradise Home

Mon and his family moved into their house in December of 2020. Not an apartment. Not a townhouse. A house – a piece of property they could now call their own.

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Feb 12, 2021 9:53:54 AM

Celebrating Joyann Benoit

United Way of Central Iowa and its United55+ program has had the pleasure of working with Joyann Benoit, a life-long Des Moines resident, for more than 20 years. She retired from volunteering at the start of this year.

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Aug 20, 2020 11:46:17 AM

A Mom with a Plan

In July 2019, Alexis Lee enrolled her two daughters, Avianna and Aubrey, at Bidwell Riverside Child Development Center. As any mother would be, Alexis was anxious sending her girls to a new place but was hopeful Bidwell would be a childcare center they could call “home” during their younger years.

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Jul 24, 2020 3:46:00 PM

American at HeART

Myat, a Karen refugee, continues to embrace his culture while growing and evolving as an American through the power of art and education.

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Jul 21, 2020 4:32:47 PM

Working Hard to Transform a Dream into Reality

Shana took on her life goal of becoming an Registered Nurse after getting a push from the people who believed in her and support from Central Iowa Health Works.

“You have to be darn-near psychotic to take on nursing school. It takes so much of your time. They can only teach you so much. There is so much outside of the classroom you need to know to be a safe nurse,” said Shana Plambeck, recent graduate of Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) Nursing Program.

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Jul 6, 2020 2:26:41 PM

'Flying Right' after Serving Time

When Jeff Faidley joined the CIRCA construction cohort at Fort Des Moines Correctional Facility, he may have been one of the oldest members, but also one of the most determined. “I made up my mind one day: I was going to fly right,” Jeff said. “I have too much to live for to go back to jail.”

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Jul 1, 2020 2:44:32 PM

A Hero Asks for Help: A Single Father Fights for a Better Life

Casey Wright, a slender man in his late thirties, would likely give you a slight chuckle with a side smile of embarrassment if you were to call him a hero to his face. To say it was a laugh would be too overdone for Casey. He’s quiet. Unassuming. Not your typical description of a hero. But to his two kids Kinnick (8) and Kyndall (7), he’s just that. Especially with what they’ve gone through as a family.

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Jan 27, 2020 8:00:08 AM

Chase and Jose: A Book Buddy friendship that led to positive change

Chase and his twin brother were three years old when they entered the Shared Visions program at Perry Child Development Center. Chase is outgoing and eager to take charge – often answering for his twin. With that, he sometimes struggles to comply with standard classroom rules and expectations.

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Oct 15, 2019 3:34:11 PM

Finding words for a growing family

I share my story to support continued funding for Tracey’s work with my family and other families, and to show that there’s no right path to raising a family. It’s okay that our family looks different.

Four years ago, the Iowa Department of Human Services contacted me. My niece had run into trouble, and her four children needed a permanent home. My husband describes the moment in this way:

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Aug 15, 2019 2:48:22 PM

On the path she chose

At 5 a.m., Monae Woods’ alarm clock goes off. She sits up in bed, reaches to the wall behind her without looking, and pulls off a sticky note with a handwritten quote. The quote might say, “get it done,” and that sets the tone for her day. The 18-year-old meditates, prays, takes a cold shower, and listens to motivational speakers while cleaning her room. Then she gets ready for work at Principal as an intern working on communications projects.

This life is far different than what she experienced last December, living in her car without heat, huddled in blankets, trying to find a job that would pay her bills while she finished high school. 

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Jul 19, 2019 4:06:13 PM

Winning in health

On her birthday one year ago, Imani was excited, because she got to miss school for her annual check-up, with the promise of a birthday meal at IHOP afterward. But this year, the fourth grader received some news from her doctor: She was at risk for developing diabetes.

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May 21, 2019 1:08:05 PM

Ready for kindergarten

Yanira is an amazing example of what can happen when a four-year-old has the opportunity to work one-on-one with a reading mentor over a school year. 

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May 1, 2019 2:38:12 PM

Pain & Circumstance: A Graduation Story

Missy Montero has missed a lot of school. Not just days, not just weeks, or even months. Added up over time, she has missed years of school.

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Apr 23, 2019 1:14:40 PM

Growing a healthy community

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Mar 27, 2019 12:44:09 PM

The Top-Notch Nurse We Almost Didn't Get

When Rhonnie finished class in the afternoon, she would get into her car, just like other nursing students at Mercy College. But she wouldn’t head home to study. Instead, she would cruise the city, looking for a parking space to spend the night, while silently mouthing that day’s lessons to herself.

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Feb 15, 2019 1:09:08 PM

Falling off the Cliff

Kelly Dejoode was panicking. She had just received a letter saying she would no longer receive Child Care Assistance from the state. She was going to drop off the so-called “Child Care Cliff."

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Dec 12, 2018 3:29:00 PM

The Girl Who Walked Through a War

Aisha faced a shattering decision: acquire a husband three times her age (and with three wives already) or forfeit her family and her country. Those were the options her father presented her with in the remote Nuba Mountains of Sudan—one of the most isolated and war-torn regions in the world. She was a 16-year-old from Des Moines. Either choice meant losing her future, her life.

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