MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. The Corporation for National and Community service has been charged to lead this effort for the last quarter century. This day of service helps to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, address social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”
With the support of Penn Central Mall, United Way of Mahaska County helped to organize a day of service in 2020. The initial goal was to have 20 volunteers, but in a short time, over 100 people came out to participate. Among those volunteering, was a large contingent of students from William Penn University. George Daily Auditorium, Agency on Aging, Ecumenical Cupboard, the Summer Lunch Program, and Mahaska County Habitat for Humanity were among the groups that benefited from the day of service.
Dr. King recognized the power of service. He famously said, “Everyone can be great because everybody can serve.” Observing the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday through service is a way to begin each year with a commitment to making your community a better place. Your service honors Dr. King’s life and teachings and helps meet community challenges. Service also brings people together of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. The MLK Day of Service encourages all types of service, particularly projects that have a lasting impact and connect participants to ongoing service. The most successful projects connect to the life and teaching of Dr. King, meet a pressing community need, and include time to reflect on his teachings.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a national IRS sponsored program that helps you receive your maximum federal and state tax refunds. If your household income is less that $54,000, you may qualify for VITA’s services.
The average tax preparation fee is $176. Those who can’t afford this fee either do their own taxes (often missing important tax credits) or do not file their taxes at all. Through VITA, IRS-certified volunteers complete and file your tax return for free!
Take-Along, a United Way of Mahaska County initiative, started in 2015 as means of addressing the issue of child hunger in the community. The program is a collaborative effort between United Way, local schools, and community volunteers. Volunteers help assemble meals for students at Oskaloosa Elementary, Oskaloosa Middle School, and Eddyville Elementary. Once meals are put together, school staff help distribute them to students who have been identified as food insecure. Take-Along meals ensure that these children have consistent access to nutritious food during the weekends when they need it most.
Food insecurity is particular devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long term consequences. Did you know an estimated 1,040 children experience food insecurity in Mahaska County, Iowa. Good nutrition is the foundation for health and wellness. For children, it’s especially important as it affects their health, academic success, and future workplace productivity. Children experiencing food insecurity are at a higher risk for health problems and behavioral challenges that make success in school difficult.
More than half of Mahaska County kids qualify for free and reduced lunch every year. That means that due to their family’s income, these students are getting subsidized lunches and sometimes breakfasts to ensure that they’re not hungry at school.
But what about when they’re not at school during summer break?
The truth is there are children in our community dealing with food insecurity – at times, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. But a growing group in Mahaska County wants to help. The Oskaloosa Community School District, United Way and several individual volunteers are coming together to meet this need in our community. Together we will host Oskaloosa Summer Lunch, where kids can get a free lunch as well as fun and educational activities.
Due to COVID-19, the 2021 Summer Lunch Program locations are running as Grab-N-Go locations only. Everyone is welcome to drive thru any of our locations to pick up meals for the week. Each child will receive seven breakfasts and seven lunches. Unlike previous years, the child does not need to be present, so individuals are able to pick up meals for neighbors who were unable to do so. We don’t want any child to go hungry this summer!
912 N C St, Oskaloosa | 12:00 – 12:30
202 S 2nd St, Eddyville | 1:45 – 2:15
1801 Orchard Ave, Oskaloosa | 11:30 – 12:30
1704 N 3rd St, Oskaloosa | 11:30 – 12:00
301 S Market St, Oskaloosa | 11:15 – 11:45
1229 C Ave E, Oskaloosa | 12:00 – 12:30
1204 Center St, University Park | 11:45 – 12:15
508 South 7th St, Oskaloosa | 12:00 – 12:30
The Back to School Fair started with a few dedicated organizations and has grown into a community wide committee. This change helps ensure that the Fair is an inclusive place for students to get ready for school. United Way of Mahaska County partners with several local businesses and organizations to launch the Back to School Fair every year. Traditionally, the event is held at Penn Central Mall and includes community vendors and haircuts. 2020 marks our 12th year of this program, and the coordinators are confident that this year will be another that fully represents the Mahaska County community’s commitment to their children and schools. Since 2010, the Back to School Fair has provided over 3,000 backpacks full of school supplies to children in need in Mahaska County. Our goal is to provide students with the supplies necessary to be successful in their upcoming school year.
The Day of Caring is an annual event which brings volunteers from across the community together for one day of collective, meaningful impact. Volunteers spend time landscaping, painting, building, and doing repairs throughout the community and you can join us in the work of LIVING UNITED. The Day of Caring is an opportunity to use your time and talents to support United Way and our community. It provides an opportunity to see first-hand the work United Way and our partners are doing to improve education, income and health in Mahaska County.
More than 40 people from businesses all across Mahaska County braved the rainy weather to volunteer at several local projects Friday to take part in the United Way’s Day of Caring. The annual event brings in volunteers to help charities and non-profits wherever they need it. Mahaska County United Way Director Michella Friesen coordinates all the volunteer work teams at each of the sites.
“COVID-19 concerns originally had us trying to arrange primarily outdoor sites, because it’s much easier to do social distancing,” said Friesen, “but now, because of the rainy weather, several of those projects will be postponed for another day instead, even though we still have a good number of volunteers available to help at various sites today.”
Volunteers who participated in Friday’s work included Cargill-Eddyville, Hairitage Salon, MidAmerican Energy Company, MHP Foundation, Mahaska Chamber & Development Group, Imagine the Possibilities, Rotary Club of Oskaloosa and Edward Jones.
The need for warm winter clothing is a serious one, especially in Iowa. The average winter temperature in Iowa for 2018/19 was 26.5 degrees F. The Winter Coat drive is a great opportunity for community members to clean out their closets and make an impact during the season of giving. Items collected during the drive are given to people in need at no charge. Accepted donations include winter coats, snow boots, snow pants, winter hats, gloves/ mittens, scarves, and other winter outerwear. Whenever possible, please launder items prior to donation.
Check back at a later time for details.