Iowa Campus Compact Welcomes Newest VISTA Partners

June 10, 2019

Iowa Campus Compact welcomes the newest partners in our mission to strengthen community-campus relationships as part of our Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA Program.

“Our VISTA program is a critical way we support community organizations as higher education partners,” said Executive Director Emily Shields. “We look forward to working with these sites to build their capacity.”

AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is a national service program through the Corporation for National & Community Service. AmeriCorps VISTA members bring passion and perseverance where the need is greatest: to organizations that help eradicate poverty. AmeriCorps VISTA members serve as a catalyst for change, living and working alongside community members to meet our nation’s most pressing challenges and advance local solutions.

The Campus Compact VISTA Program strives to eliminate poverty by supporting campus-community partnerships that place full-time support at community-based organizations and higher education institutions. VISTA members serve at 28 host sites across Iowa and Minnesota, focusing on advancing equity for low-income communities through capacity building in the areas of economic opportunity, education, and healthy futures.

Meet our partners that have projects starting in June 2019:


Cedar Rapids Public Library

The Cedar Rapids Public Library VISTA project will serve low-income youth through the Summer Dare Everywhere program and other literacy initiatives. The VISTA member will create and strengthen partnerships with summer childcare organizations that serve youth living in poverty, coordinate a pilot program to connect with schools serving youth in poverty, train volunteers on program delivery, and develop new toolkits to support literacy goals to combat the summer learning slide. The VISTA member will build capacity by evaluating the efficacy of all aspects of the library’s literacy programs, including Summer Dare, the different programs’ capacities for continued growth, and opportunities for reaching more low-income youth. Through this work, the VISTA member will increase the library’s ability to offer programming and services to youth experiencing poverty, and help remove the systematic barriers preventing these youth from accessing the library.


Central College

The Central College VISTA project will serve community members in surrounding communities (Oskaloosa, Ottumwa, Newton, and Des Moines) which are some of the poorest cities in Iowa. The VISTA will develop interventions in collaboration with Central College’s community partners that deliver poverty-relief programs.  Specifically, the VISTA will implement two types of interventions:  1) organize informational, interactive group visits from youth living in poverty, and 2) coordinate sustained service-learning mentor matches that pair college students with students from areas of concentrated poverty. The VISTA will build capacity by strengthening partnerships with community organizations, developing recruitment strategies, and creating resources that document instructions for youth activities.


It+Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation – Imagine Grinnell

In partnership with the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, the Imagine Grinnell VISTA project will serve low-income families in the greater Grinnell community. Many studies show that the links between nutrition, mental health, and poverty, finding that children in food-insufficient households have significantly slower general health and negative mental health-related symptoms compared to those in food-sufficient households. The VISTA member will expand partnerships among Grinnell nonprofits, create opportunities for larger grant funding, and increase communication and information access for the community, specifically around access to food.  The VISTA will set the groundwork for a more streamlined and collaborative system: creating databases, contact lists, and other tools, and forming working groups and ad-hoc committees for projects will make it easier to sustain these connections and anti-poverty work.


United Way of East Central Iowa

The United Way of East Central Iowa’s Reading into Success program focuses on supporting children who face opportunity gaps, often the result of low socio-economic status.  The VISTA will serve Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) students in the four Cedar Rapids school districts, of which almost 40% of students are FRL eligible. The VISTA will create a toolkit for Take 10!  summer reading program, recruit volunteers and match them with schools, and continue growth of VIP, a volunteer reading program in local elementary schools.  The VISTA will build capacity by establishing strong processes for volunteer recruitment and management, which will allow our organization to continue overseeing these programs and manage our volunteer base in the community.


Willis Dady Homeless Services

As of this year, Willis Dady Homelss Services will have three VISTA members serving with their organization on three unique projects.

The Willis Dady Cost of Homelessness VISTA project will serve individuals experiencing homelessness or who are near homeless in Linn County. The VISTA member will implement the Cost of Homelessness study and work with a team of service providers to assess key cost data, long-term trends, individual local case studies, and best practices related to more effective and efficient homeless interventions. The VISTA will build capacity by compiling the necessary research and train staff to present the data to the public so that they can better understand the needs of the community and become more engaged in solving the problem of homelessness locally. This foundational work will allow Willis Dady to address the larger issues of individuals experiencing homelessness or near homelessness in the community.

The Willis Dady Storyteller VISTA project will serve individuals experiencing homelessness in Linn County with the goal of further developing the organization’s connection to the larger community through sharing stories. The VISTA will identify people who are willing to publicly share their story of living through the experience of homelessness or near homelessness focused on our initiatives: homeless prevention, employment, shelter with case management, permanent supportive housing, street outreach/overflow shelter, and veteran transitional housing. Through this work, the VISTA will create new opportunities for Willis Dady to educate the public, apply for funding, build programs, and advocate for affordable housing.

The Willis Dady VISTA Volunteer Coordinator project will expand their permanent supportive housing program, helping people who have repeatedly experienced homelessness to live in a safe, stable, permanent residence. The VISTA will run a volunteer program to serve people who are experiencing homelessness or are near homeless in Linn County. The VISTA will supervise and expand the various recurring volunteer positions (e.g. receptionists, overnight volunteers, donation distribution, and facility maintenance volunteers) and will identify and fill any new volunteer needs across the organization. As a result of this VISTA project, Willis Dady expects to serve over 700 people experiencing homelessness each year, with the goal of helping at least 60% of clients move directly from the shelter into housing.