Extension News

Community Leadership Projects Aim to Reduce Poverty

Middle School


AMES, Iowa -- An Iowa State University Farm Progress Show display will demonstrate how citizens reduce poverty in rural communities. Five Iowa communities will showcase their projects that build leaders, reduce poverty, and better the community as part of the Horizons Community Leadership to Reduce Poverty program.

The ultimate goal of the program is to reduce poverty in rural communities.  Horizons Project Director Ruth Freeman says the program strives to get citizens working together, to start addressing the causes and consequences of poverty, to help families cope with limited resources and bring them into the community.

“The process occurs over an 18 month period where community members look at poverty, causes of poverty, and things they can do in their community to improve the lives of all residents,” said Freeman. Horizons II resulted in 750 new leaders within the communities.

Twenty Iowa communities completed Horizons II on June 30 of this year. Planning is underway for Horizons III projects with hopes to recruit and implement programs in 15 communities.

The five communities on display at the FPS are examples of exciting and successful Horizons projects, said Freeman.

In Greenfield, Iowa, a Horizons project called Food for All began when Nodaway Valley Middle School students joined local citizens and collected more than 1,000 food items in May 2007 and May 2008. The food was used to create summer food sacks for 23 families, with food items not used donated to the local food panty.

The Food for All project has designed some creative ways to encourage donations of either food or cash for local food pantries. The 4-H Youth Council and other groups work to raise money and collect and donate food, meat gift certificates, and ethanol certificates for the food pantries.

Groups and individuals in Greenfield have reshaped gift giving by asking for food donations in lieu of gifts. A church youth group went Trick-or-Treating for food items to donate to the food pantry. A bride requested well-wishers to bring shower gifts of only recipes and donations of food items for the food pantries.

Another example of a Horizons project is Welcome, We Help Inc., established by citizens in Corydon to connect people to services they need. A free tax preparation service for low-income individuals called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance is one of those services. For the 2007 tax year, the service prepared 115 tax returns resulting in thousands of dollars of federal and state refunds.

Citizens in Woodbine started a youth mentoring program, which matches youth with adult mentors. With support from the Woodbine school district, a coordinator has been hired and more youth want to sign up for the program.

The Elma early childhood center, opened in June 2008, is another example of a Horizons project where citizens of Elma worked to fill a need for quality childcare. In August the center will move to a new facility that can accommodate 30 children.

In Waukon, citizens recognized the need for adequate housing for low-income families and began investigating how to set up a Habitat for Humanity program.

“All the Horizons communities report a success of the program has been the opportunity for people to get to know one another, become involved, and set a series of good things happening in the community,” said Freeman.

The Horizons program works in communities with a population of 500 – 5,000 and at least a 10 percent poverty rate. Funding for the program is through the Northwest Area Foundation and Iowa State University Extension.

Visitors to the ISU exhibit at the show near Boone Aug. 26-28 can find out more about the success of these projects and the Horizons program.


Contacts :

Ruth Freeman, Horizons Project Director, (515) 386-2138, rofreema@iastate.edu

Jennifer Scharpe, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-1039, jscharpe@iastate.edu

Del Marks, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-9807, delmarks@iastate.edu

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