top of page





Here’s a great way to enjoy live music in a tropical surrounding: Head to the Botanical Garden for an afternoon of rockin’ blues music on Sunday afternoons through March 26.

Air B and B—Bob Pace and Brendan McKnight—kick off this year’s Botanical Blues sessions on Sunday, Jan 8 with 1 pm and 3 pm concerts.

Each Sunday features another popular Central Iowa Blues group. One of our favorites—Major Blues and the Mugshots, above—will play Jan. 15. The season wraps up with Bob Dorr and Jeff Petersen (original Blue Band members) on March 26. Guests can wander under the Botanical Garden dome between sets.

Free admission for Botanical Garden members; adults $10. More details.



In 41 states, nonprofit Community Land Trusts (CLTs) create “affordable forever” home networks that advocate for low- and moderate-income families to overcome ownership barriers. Iowa is one of the nine states without one. But that may be about to change.

In mid-November, the City of Des Moines underwrote two days of workshops to introduce the CLT concept to the metro area. The workshops, orchestrated by A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS), drew 120 registered participants, from nonprofit groups, nine metro cities (including 11 Des Moines staff members and three City Council members), and two Polk County supervisors.

CLTs provide permanently affordable housing for people who otherwise would not be able to purchase homes, and also can play a significant role in neighborhood stabilization and revitalization.

Homes are owner-occupied; the CLT owns the property beneath and surrounding the home. The price of a CLT house is based on the median income in the area—not on the market. A subsidy makes up the difference between the affordable and actual price; the subsidy amount stays with the CLT. Families purchase the homes at a discount. Each time the house is resold, it goes to another income-qualified family.

Tim Urban, a developer and former City Council member-at-large, attended one of the sessions, and sees tremendous opportunity for Des Moines. “CLTs provide a unique opportunity for landowners of dormant property to donate the property to a CLT at fair market value with the benefit of tax savings,” he says, adding:

“The CLT, as a nonprofit, leases the land for 99 years to be developed for deed-restricted affordable housing that offers the housing owner a fair rate of appreciation while maintaining the home as affordable for many years—a win/win concept. I am exploring this as soon as a CLT can be set up in Des Moines.”

City staff, led by Chris Johansen, director of Neighborhood Services, and Pa Goldbeck, strategic performance manager, are taking a deeper dive into CLT research and discussion among City staff.

Photo: Marlen Kemmet


Freezing temperatures have convinced beloved bald eagles that they can check out of the Des Moines and Raccoon river corridors anytime, but they can never leave. So they’re back! And they’re quite a sight to see in the winter months.

On one of my morning runs last week, a huge eagle perched in a tree just south of the Embassy Suites and directly above me. It’s a memorable occasion to be so close to America’s national bird, which was on the endangered species list just a few decades ago.

According to Joel Van Roekel, naturalist for Des Moines Parks and Recreation, the best locations to view the eagles are downstream from the Scott Avenue Bridge, where the open water in the winter months provides good fishing for these birds of prey. Other popular places to view eagles soaring above or resting include the First Street Bridge, between Principal Park and Mullet’s; the East Sixth Bridge; and the Southeast 14th Street Bridge. During a frigid cold spell, it’s common to count 20 or more eagles in the trees just east of Mullet’s.

Joel reports the eagles are most active in the morning.

Parks and Recreation staff has scheduled a Bald Eagle Day for Saturday, Feb. 11, from 10 a.m. till noon. Joel will be on the East Sixth Bridge with binoculars and spotting scopes. Free—no registration. Just show up!



When you’re wearing a parka, earmuffs, scarf, and gloves, you may find yourself wishing for the summer swimming season! Des Moines Parks and Recreation is already planning for it.

Since it takes a small army of seasonal employees to fully staff two swimming pools, three family aquatic centers, four splash pools, five wading pools, and five park-based summer camps, the Parks & Rec staff got an early start on recruiting for 2023, with 300 positions (15 different job descriptions) posted on Dec. 16. Several positions offer premium pay and bonuses. In addition, the City plans to reimburse new hires for lifeguard certification programs.

“As a reminder,” Director Ben Page added, “we hire not only students but adults and retirees too.”

Planting trees on the Carl Voss Trail in May


City Forester Shane McQuillan reports that Trees Forever, the City’s partner in restoring the City’s tree canopy, planted 1,772 trees on City property in 2022; that more than doubled their contracted obligation of 843.

Trees Forever planted 356 trees through the support of other funding sources (Parks/Nonprofit, 129; Invest DSM, 150; and Carl Voss Trail, 77). In addition, Growing Futures, the Trees Forever summer job corps, waters new trees for two years, providing a healthy start for the nursery stock.

The Public Works Forestry Division planted another 30 street trees via an Iowa Department of Natural Resources grant with Urban Ambassadors. That bumps the total to 1,802 new trees on City property. (There is no accounting of trees planted on private property in Des Moines.)

The 2020 Urban Forestry Master Plan calls for 3,800 trees to be planted annually in Des Moines. But, unfortunately, we have a ways to go in annual budget asks meet that recommendation.




In recent months, City staff has a handful of plans for new or renovated buildings that include gender-neutral or all-gender restrooms. The west end of the former Crescent Chevrolet building (soon to be offices and a restaurant) has two such restrooms. The space on the main floor has a common area with five sinks and eight adjoining private toilet compartments.

According to Cody Christensen, the City’s permit and development administrator, “Gender-neutral restrooms are becoming more common in building design. Single-user gender-neutral restrooms have been seen for a long time, but we are starting to see layouts with multi-user gender-neutral facilities.

“The Iowa Plumbing Code language makes such designs code compliant, and we expect to see more of them.”



Heather Tamminga, the City’s neighborhood outreach coordinator, reports that several of Des Moines’ 49 neighborhood associations plan to transition to bimonthly or quarterly meetings in the new year. By her count, 20 plan to meet monthly, six groups are to meet bimonthly, and 17 plan to meet quarterly. In addition, five associations are working to re-establish a date pattern.

When Heather started her job in November 2021, only 20 associations were incorporated; that has grown to 39. Several associations are seeking incorporation. Thirteen neighborhood associations have earned nonprofit 501c3 status; two more have applied.

The City has awarded 26 associations $1,000 Capacity Building Grants upon their completion of incorporation, gaining a federal tax EIN number, and establishing a bank account with two signers. Other associations are working through the process.

Heather also reported that 231 households participated in the 2022 Block Challenge Grant program, designed to improve the physical appearance of Des Moines’ neighborhoods and build neighborhood identity. There were 19 teams around the City; 11 were in low- or moderate-income neighborhoods. Total investment was $1,645,569; the City provided $439,186, and homeowners added the rest. Landscaping and painting were the top two project categories.

Enthused one homeowner: “I really appreciate this program and what it has done for me, my neighbors, and the neighborhood! Clearly, it has brought us closer together. Thanks again!”

New LED screen for Summer Free Flicks. In 2023, Parks and Recreation plans to roll out a new LED video screen and trailer for its “Free Flicks” in neighborhood parks. Advanced LED technology makes it possible to view the 17 x 10-feet video screen during daylight, lighting up new opportunities for community engagement. Previously, neighborhoods couldn’t show movies until after dusk. Funding from The Friends of Des Moines Parks, Prairie Meadows, and City coffers made the $150,000 purchase possible.

Westwood’s Food Drive. Neighbors contributed $2,141 to a late-December virtual food drive to benefit the Food Bank of Iowa.



What did we read this past year? According to lists compiled by Des Moines Public Library Director Sue Woody and her staff, the most requested frequently requested title was It Ends With Us, Colleen Hoover’s general fiction tome. Second was Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, also fiction. The most requested nonfiction title was Jeannette McCurdy’s Im Glad My Mom Died. In the teen fiction category, Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boiulley topped the field.



This month, artists will begin moving into 47 new studios on the second floor of Mainframe Studios, the brightly colored former CenturyLink data center at 900 Keosauqua Way. With the completion of the second-floor buildout, Mainframe Director Siobhan Spain reports that all 180 studios have been leased. The five floors of studios, with more than 100,000 square feet (about two football fields) is billed as the nation’s largest nonprofit creative workspace.

Another 30 artists are on the waiting list.

Ten Mainframe studios are home to local nonprofits, including the Des Moines Arts Festival, Civic Music Association, KFMG 98.9 FM, ArtForce Iowa, and Des Moines Music Coalition.

Next month, 20 Mainframe artists plan to move to larger studios. For example, Ben Millett, a quilting artist with a fourth-floor studio, is moving to a larger space on the second floor. Ben wrapped up a showing of Lokean Variants, seven quilts based on two traditional patterns, at The Slow Down Coffee Co. in Highland Park. Two examples of Ben’s work are shown above.

Spain reports that Mainframe has reached its financially self-sustaining business plan.



At the City Council’s Dec. 12 meeting, the panel approved a $7.7 million contract for Phase 3 of the Hamilton Drain Storm Water Improvements. For about 175 Highland Park homeowners in all or part of the FEMA flood zone area, this new storm sewer is a huge and long-awaited investment.

Completion should improve the drainage to affected homes, several which were built atop a wooden culvert, built in the 1930s out of treated wood planks that provided precious little flood protection. “Residents will now have confidence their basements will not back up with sewage,” Ward 2 Council member Linda Westergaard says. “This project is excellent for the neighborhood and the area’s stability.”

This also should help relieve area homeowners’ insurance costs, says Patrick Beane, the City’s clean water program administrator: Beginning in 2026, most homeowners will no longer need to pay flood insurance.

Completion should enable storm sewer flows to be managed by multiple detention basins; several have already completed. The basins are designed to treat stormwater and provide additional green space.

Flows “will travel through backyards and existing alleyways where possible to avoid months of street closures and access issues required with an on-street alignment,” the City’s website describes. “The alignment of storm sewers through backyards will also minimize disruptions to utility services throughout construction."

Phase 3 is scheduled to begin this spring, with completion anticipated by fall 2024. Phase 4 is scheduled to be bid at that time, with completion projected in 2025.


A 44th Street home was one of the Invest DSM single-family rehabs completed in 2022.



Amber Lynch, Invest DSM executive director, reports a banner year for the young nonprofit primarily funded by the City of Des Moines and Polk County Supervisors.

“We are blown away by the demand for our programs and the interest among residents and property owners in investing where they live”, said Executive Director Amber Lynch. “It is very gratifying to see neighbors connecting with each other and making repairs and upgrades to Des Moines’ older homes and business districts.

“While it’s still early, these numbers indicate that we’re on the right track to achieve what the City of Des Moines and Polk County Supervisors chartered us to do: Strengthen neighborhoods in Des Moines so that they remain vibrant, healthy, thriving places for years to come.”

2022 Highlights

  • Preliminary numbers indicate that in 2022, Invest DSM dollars helped complete 272 projects, representing nearly $14 million of total investment into the four neighborhoods they serve.

    • Of that $14 million, Invest DSM contributed just over $3.15 million, leveraging another $10.8 million of private investment.

    • 95% of the projects completed were with existing homeowners.

  • Signature commercial projects that included funding from Invest DSM: the newly re-opened Varsity Cinema in the Drake neighborhood and the historic renovation of the Euclid Bank Building in Oak Park / Highland Park.

  • Invest DSM also bought, rehabbed, and re-sold five homes to new buyers. Facilitated the redevelopment of three lots with new construction homes, all of which are now sold to new buyers.

Cumulative Investment (2020-2022)

  • Since 2020, Invest DSM grants have supported the completion of over 780 projects improving homes and commercial buildings.

  • Projects represent a total investment of more than $22 million in the four Special Investment Districts.

    • Of that $22 million, Invest DSM contributed $5.8 million, leveraging over $16.7 million of private investment.

    • 96% of all projects completed to date have been with existing homeowners.


134 views0 comments

Updated: Jan 6, 2023


It’ll be looking a lot like Christmas soon, when City facilities will begin displaying 500 poinsettias. For years, the flowers have been nurturing in the City’s aging greenhouse, at 2501 Murray Street. But Colt Stephens, the City’s horticulture technician, above, is eagerly awaiting the completion in fall 2023 of a new energy-efficient greenhouse. It’ll be located near the City’s $12.4 million animal shelter—also under construction—on Harriet Street east of Southeast 14th Street. The city greenhouse annually grows over 230,000 flowers and plants for public spaces such as rights-of-ways, street corners, parkways, and land owned by nonprofit groups and the school district. The city’s parks department oversees greenhouse operations. The new greenhouse will include 14,256 square feet of production space and 3,456 square feet for offices, volunteer space, storage, and restrooms. GTG Construction of Johnston, a firm that has built several commercial greenhouses, was awarded the $4.4 million contract. The existing greenhouse, designed as an economic structure, has limped along well past its lifetime. For example, the roof, made of two layers of plastic sheet, requires frequent recoating and replacement. The new greenhouse design has a glass roof and will use natural ventilation, as well as shade curtains for light and thermal control. Colt expects that the roof will allow quieter, less-oppressive conditions for the army of volunteers who descend on the greenhouse. “When the temperature inside gets over 85 degrees,” Colts says about the current facility, “we have to send the volunteers home. The new facility will be a much nicer growing environment, too.” Volunteers play an integral role in operations since the greenhouse has just two full-time employees and one part-time employee. In pre-COVID years, about 500 volunteers donated more than 2,000 hours annually that included growing:

  • 1,250 plants for the Environmental Education Program

  • 5,850 native plants for parks, neighborhood groups, and recreation programs

  • 10,000 plants for cemetery operations

  • 40,600 plants for the Neighborhood Flower Program

  • 47,755 plants for Fleur Drive and Water Works Park and

  • 48,000 plants for Parks & Recreation complexes, community recreations centers, and downtown planter program

Jim Hoff, the City’s facilities manager, expects the new all-electric greenhouse to meet LEED Gold certification. In addition, when the adjacent solar field is up and running (out of bid now; estimated early 2024 completion), the new facility will be the City’s first net-zero building. The 200-kilowatt solar array is expected to produce enough energy to meet 100 percent of the greenhouse’s energy demand. After completion, the production area could be expanded as funding allows by replacing existing fixed benches with new rolling benches. Those will increase the indoor production area over the current area.


This fall, 15 volunteers contributed 101 hours to save the City of Des Moines $43,000. How? By assembling a new playground for Evergreen Park at 2000 Evergreen Avenue. Lee Wheelock, Des Moines Parks and Recreation park planner, reports that as a general rule, installing standard playground equipment runs around 30% of the equipment cost. Because of the volunteer-supplied value, the City ordered a larger playground structure and stayed within budget.

More volunteers are needed in 2023! To learn how, email

Evergreen was the only City park playground added in 2022. But 2023 has the makings of a banner year. The highlight is the renovation of Union Park’s historic Rocket Slide and safety surfacing upgrades. Daniel Calvert, the City’s planning and development administrator, reports these playgrounds, spraygrounds, basketball courts, and futsal courts also should be completed in 2023:

  • Brook Run Park: ADA equipment and safety surfacing upgrades

  • Burke Park: new sprayground, plus playground upgrades and new safety surfaces

  • Chesterfield and MacRae parks: completion of playgrounds and spraygrounds

  • Chesterfield and Stone parks: Futsal Kick It Forward Mini-Pitch Systems and lighting

  • Evelyn K. Davis Park: two new basketball courts and lighting

  • Evergreen and Tower parks: lighting systems for Futsal Kick It Forward Mini-Pitch Systems (installed in 2022)

  • Frisbee, McHenry, and Sheridan parks: new playgrounds

Also, the City has striped all 52 municipal tennis courts for pickleball. The first dedicated pickleball courts, in Stone Park, are tentatively scheduled for opening in early 2025.


Sheena Rose, above left, designer of seven DART bus shelters in the Sixth Avenue Corridor, was in Des Moines this fall to celebrate the completed shelters plus a ginormous palette: a DART bus wrap commissioned by the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation. Standing beside Sheena is her mother, Elaine Rose of Barbados.

Learn more about Sheena and her Des Moines projects. MEREDITH TRAIL REOPENING NOW SCHEDULED FOR DECEMBER 5

The reopening of the Meredith Trail along the Raccoon River (Ninth Street to Third Street) has been closed on both sides of the river for most of 2022 to raise protective levees. It is now scheduled to reopen on December 5.


Renee Hardman, far right, Broadlawns Medical Center vice president of human resources, hugs Jacquita Suykes following October 27 graduation ceremonies for the Training and Education for Adults seeking a Career in Healthcare (TEACH) program. Jacquita, who landed a job in the Broadlawns emergency room, was named the class Natural Leader. She intends to complete additional classes to qualify as a registered nurse.

Throughout its six years, the Broadlawns program has graduated 50 cohorts who completed the eight-week certified nursing assistant (CNA) program and earned six DMACC credits Learn more about complete basic and advanced certified nursing assistant (CNA) programs.

Chris Kuhl, Des Moines engineering department, and Dale Hadsall, Jasper Construction Services general superintendent, try out the new tables and benches outside Zanzibar’s Coffee at 28th and Ingersoll. PHOTO: Lauren Kollauf


A year ago, local restaurateur Tony Lemmo rang me up to suggest that the Ingersoll Avenue reconstruction create ample usable space for a couple of chairs and benches outside his favorite coffee shop, Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure. So, with a green light from Zanzibar’s owner, Julie McGuire, a plan was set in motion to juggle the space outside her coffee shop at 2723 Ingersoll. Chris Kuhl, the City engineer in charge of the Ingersoll project, and Jeff Wiggins, the City’s transportation planner, confirmed that the timing was good and changes could be made. Yes, space for two tables with benches. Check.

With the City’s okay, others were looped in, including Lauren Kollauf, The Avenues of Ingersoll and Grand executive director; Scott Almeida of Kirkham Michael, Ingersoll design project manager; Confluence landscaping subcontractor Jim Host; and Dale Hadsall, Jasper Construction Services general superintendent. Two tables and four benches were ordered in May. Julie and her staff provided temporary tables and chairs until the concrete fixtures were installed in late October.

Lauren hinted at more outdoor seating on the Ingersoll corridor in the upcoming reconstruction phases.


Twelve Des Moines Fire Department recruits were sworn

Braulio Flores and his wife, Kaylee, pose for photos at the graduation ceremony.

in Friday afternoon, the first graduating class of certified firefighter paramedics who began careers in other departments. Jacob Dicks, foreground, who joined the force from Kansas City, Kansas, was among those sworn in. In the background are Joseph Michell from Urbandale and Jack Magnussen from the Ankeny force. The newly minted Des Moines firefighters previously served in surrounding communities, Fort Dodge, Cedar Rapids, and departments in Kansas and Kentucky.

A typical class lasts 12 to 18 months; this 99th graduating class completed training in just 81 days.

Training never stops! The next graduation will be in January 2023. And there’s a new class of 25 already selected to start training in January.


This summer, the Des Moines Public Library hit it out of the park with its 2022 All Summer Long program, open to kids from newborn to 18 years. Each child received a free book of their choice for registering. Ashley Molzen, the library’s community engagement supervisor, reports that Library staff hosted 327 free educational programs for kids and 52 teen programs around the City. Also:

  • 686 new library cards were distributed

  • 831 hours of teen service were volunteered to support youth programming

  • 8,085 new books were distributed to build personal home libraries

  • 10,393 youths attended summer programs and

  • 14,424 hours of reading logged by participants

Graphic novels and teen fiction books were very popular. “Kids loved any of our ‘I survived... titles, Ashley says. One popular title: I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 by Lauren Tarshis. Teens also loved Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia.

“All of our libraries and their surrounding communities showed up in a huge way to earn prizes by reading and attending our programs all summer,” Ashley says. “The Forest Avenue Library signed up four times as many kids in 2022 as they did in 2018 by going out into the community, and that is certainly worth noting!”

To assist new visitors, the library recently translated its Simple Steps to Success handout for early literacy into 11 languages. Here are the details.

Based on this summer’s successes, the Des Moines City Council enthusiastically voted to award Library staff $1 million in ARPA funding to expand early literacy programs.


It’s pretty well known that Europeans take their coffee seriously. And it’s not just about the java—the European coffee culture is rapidly moving away from the single-use containers that we Americans toss in the trash without a thought. According to one study, the average coffee drinker throws away 200 cups annually. Or another way: 600 billion coffee containers are dumped in the trash annually. That’s a mountain of trash!

And that garbage is expensive. Daniel Bosman, the owner of Daisy Chain Coffee in the East Village, reports the cost of a case (1,000 count) of 16-ounce cups has jumped from $80 to $147, and lids from $50 to $96. That’s about 25 cents tossed in the trash with each cup—not including disposal costs. Yikes!

So far, only a handful of Des Moines-area coffee shops promote reusable containers or provide a discount for customers toting a container. Horizon Line is one exception. In August 2019, Horizon Line switched to reusable glass jars or mugs for all coffee sales.

A British company, Circular & Co. makes the 12 oz insulated travel mug, above, from six disposal paper cups—about 40 percent of the total content.

Council member Joe Gatto, his daughter, Maria Taylor; and granddaughters Gianna, left, and Gemma, were on hand for lighting of the tree north of the Brenton Skating Plaza.


The 21st annual East Village Holiday Promenade kicked off November 18 with carolers, tree lighting, a Santa visit, and the official opening of the Brenton Skating Plaza.

This year’s events stretch over five Friday evenings—all with open shops and free on-street parking from 5 to 9 pm. The December 16 promenade wraps up with a MidAmerican Energy winter fireworks spectacular.



Beggar’s Afternoon: Capitol Park Neighborhood hosted a Sunday afternoon celebration on October 30 in Burke Park with a Dia de Los Muertos flavor. Carver Elementary fifth grader

Josslyn Avon, left, was traditionally costumed by her mother, Nicole Avon. The activities drew about 150 neighbors. . . . Beggar’s Night street closures: Union Park Neighborhood closed Thompson Avenue east of East 14th for Beggar’s Night crowds. In the Westwood neighborhood, 51st Street was closed south of Grand for the ghosts, goblins, parents, and grandparents. Street closure expenses were less than $100. . . . Sunday afternoon meeting: In a departure from evening meetings, the Waveland Park Neighborhood Association held its annual meeting on Sunday afternoon, October 23, at the Waveland Golf Course, allowing families to bring kids. Waveland Golf pizza and a live band—Abbie & and The Sawyers—helped draw a crowd. . . . Neighborhoods merge: This month, three neighborhoods—Magnolia Park, South Park, and Fort Des Moines—merged into the South Central DSM Neighborhood Association.


I wish I had a dollar for every friend on edge about attending family gatherings this year—events that may most assuredly devolve into heated discussions around that nasty “P”word, as in politics.

Charlotte Lamb, my mother-in-law, once related that she knew it was time to gather up the family from the Lamb reunion in Grinnell when the brothers, uncles, and cousins raised their voices and got into it. Again.

Yep. Back in the day, it was all about Ford vs. Chevy.

Oh, wouldn’t we all wish for a throw-back argument over cars? Or even red vs. green tractors? Anything but that P word.

Enjoy holiday gatherings—as best you can.

Fresh eyes: Thanks to copyeditor Ira Lacher for his keen skills.

224 views1 comment


Vision Zero is a national program with local impact and a universal aim: to eliminate deaths and serious injuries to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. More than 40 U.S. cities have embraced Vision Zero planning, and so has Des Moines. Our city’s overarching goal for Vision Zero is: “Des Moines' residents, regardless of how they get around, want transportation that is usable and safe for everyone.”

Four open houses are scheduled later this month as part of the City’s Vision Zero planning. Each is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Just stop by when it fits your schedule—and you don’t have to stay for the full three hours. Here are the dates and locations:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Pioneer Columbus Community Center, Irving E. Stone Park, 2100 Southeast Fifth Street

  • Wednesday, Sept. 21 at the East Side Library, 2559 Hubbell Avenue

  • Thursday, Sept. 22 at the South Side Library, 1111 Porter Avenue

  • Thursday, Sept 29 at the Franklin Library, 5000 Franklin Avenue


On the first day of school a few weeks ago, 12 Afghan youths walked into the Hoover High School principal’s office to enroll. They spoke a remote tribal language that didn’t register with any of the district’s translators. So began Qynne Kelly’s first full year as Hoover’s principal.

Qynne, a seven-year Des Moines Public Schools veteran, is proud to hold the reins of the most diverse high school in Iowa. “Diversity is our strength,” Qynne boasts.

If you had any doubt about diversity within Hoover, after noting the bold, colorful flags of 40 nations lining the hallways, consider that its 1,000 students speak 44 home and/or family languages or tribal dialects, including Burmese, Chin, Dinka, Karen, Karenni, Nuer, Swahili, and Vietnamese.

In recent weeks, Qynne has bounced around the Hoover attendance area, meeting residents from the six or so surrounding neighborhood associations, including her own Chautauqua Park Neighborhood. “I’m meeting people who haven’t been in schools since the 1970s or 1980s,” Qynne says.

That’s because, she notes, “A lot has changed at our schools. We are shifting the narrative to what a school is today.” Qynne strives for Hoover to become a resource for the entire community. The school’s new vision statement reads: “We are an inclusive school shaping a thriving northwest side.”

This is a far cry from your grandpa’s school. Consider the Huskie Zone in one room, where students can:

• grab grocery items at a Food Bank of Iowa pantry

• browse through a clothing closet (students and family attire)

• schedule an on-site Primary Health Care (PCH) medical appointment

• receive on-site dental care at the Smiles Squad on Wednesdays. Referrals for additional

dental care, up to a root canal, takes place at the Kurtz Building on SW Porter

• pick up personal hygiene items

Qynne stresses that these and other services remove barricades to learning. “Teaching and learning is a high expectation at Hoover,” Qynne says. “But we’re here to be partners.”

And to listen. At the Hoover Hub in another room, students can drop in “for whatever you need.” Suggestions welcome! One example: Raise the Bar, a women’s weightlifting program, emerged as a new Hoover club.

Qynne believes transportation remains one of the biggest hurdles for the Hoover students and families. This one is hard to fix. “Kids can ride the DART bus for 75 cents, but it’s free after 4:30—an hour after classes dismiss. It’s amazing how a 75-cent difference is important to some families.”


In 2001, granite plaques representing each of Iowa’s 99 counties were installed along Locust Street sidewalks in the East Village. Over the decades, some of those plaques broke, cracked or heaved. So the City’s Engineering Department staff are working on detailed plans to make sidewalk improvements in 2023.

But when inventorying the counties, staff discovered that three—Cedar, Greene, and Washington—had disappeared. Relax; there’s no hidden consolidation agenda at work. It’s just that those plaques become collateral damage to a flurry of East Village developments. Yes, the missing counties will be replaced as City staff reduce tripping hazards in this busy corridor leading to the Iowa State Capitol. Other scheduled improvements include removing fencing around tree boxes, often damaged by snow-removal equipment, and a streetscape lighting upgrade.


Could there have been a better message for the September 5 Labor Day Parade than the “Work Hard & Be Nice to People” message on Tony Garner’s T-shirt? Tony and his daughters Joplin, left, and Paisley were among hundreds lining East Grand Avenue to scoop up candy tossed by union members.

Greg Gregorio, a LiuNA Local #177 member, and his wife, Elizabeth, left, toss candy while riding on the back of a flatbed trailer.


The new Crisis Advocacy Response Effort (CARE) team has been busy responding to local mental health issues since responding to its first 911 calls on July 5. In August alone, the team logged 499 trips with a mental health component.

The team has had several success stories, including those described by Kari Osborn, one of two registered nurses on the team, which also consists of three crisis advocates with mental health experience.

“The CARE team and DMPD were dispatched to a call resulting from a domestic situation,” Kari told me. “One of the clients did not feel safe and was in an abusive situation. Phil Sullivan from our team transported the client to a safe shelter for the evening. Kaitlyn Humpal [also CARE team] and I initiated resources for the clients to help them move forward.

“The CARE team spent a good amount of time with the client, figuring out the logistics of their situation,” Kari reported. “That freed up officers, after they dealt with the domestic situation, to help the community in other ways.”

Kari also recalled when the team went out to a client who had called the police, stating they had no food in the house. After contacting Easter Seals and the Iowa Department of Human Services, Kaitlyn went to a food pantry to set up the client with food for a few days until other resources could kick in. “By the time Kirk Storm [also CARE team] and I left the residence, Easter Seals was already at the apartment, getting things set up for them,” Kari reports.

“From my own perspective, the CARE team is so versatile and takes the time needed for people struggling with mental health issues,” she continues. “Once we are out at a scene, we focus on that situation and help figure out a solution.”

The team is funded by Des Moines, Polk County, and Broadlawns Medical Center. Dawn Marie Hooker at Broadlawns is the CARE supervisor. Sgt. Lorna Garcia is the Mobile Crisis Response Team and CARE liaison, and leads the DMPD mental health response teams.

A call to the CARE Crisis Advocate, stationed with DMPD dispatchers, doesn’t have to involve police officers. This has saved a lot of time for officers and or Mobile Crisis team from responding when nothing has happened that merits an in-person response. “This way,” Sgt. Garcia says, “a caller can vent and be heard by the CARE member in dispatch when the need for anything more is not required.”

CARE does more than respond to calls with mental health aspects; for example, Sgt. Garcia reported that the team routinely handles calls for welfare checks (shorthand for checking on the well-being of a resident). “DMPD dispatch receives numerous requests for welfare checks every day,” she adds. “CARE has gone out on many of these welfare checks instead of dispatching two police officers, which is a better use of resources.”


Racheal Duang holds a housewarming basket given to her family as part of a Sept. 10 Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity home dedication. It was a big day for Rachel and her daughters Nyaguich, 6; Apiew, 12; and Mer, 14.

I first met Racheal Duang in February 2020 while I was part of a Central Presbyterian Church Habitat for Humanity volunteer crew. Racheal was painting in the same house, logging time for her 200 hours of Habitat sweat equity, part of Habitat’s homeowner's program.

Since then, I learned that Racheal, a native of South Sudan, works full-time as a paralegal for Iowa Movement for Justice. Racheal’s certification from the U.S. Department of Justice Recognition and Accreditation allows her to provide legal immigration services through a recognized nonprofit.

Racheal is a valued resource in our community, where she combines her legal training with fluency in English, Spanish, and Arabic. She also translates for four east African languages: Nuer, Dinka, Anyuak, and Shilluk.

By year’s end, Habitat expects to move 30 families into their first homes (new and renovated).

Alan Graham, right, founder and CEO, fields questions from Polk County supervisor Matt McCoy, Joppa board member Curt Carlson, Joppa founders Jacki and Joe Stevens, and City Council member Linda Westergaard.


A delegation from Des Moines spent a busy day in Austin, Texas, last week touring the Community First! Village in that state capital. Community First! provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women transitioning from chronic homelessness. Joppa organized the tour as a potential pilot project for a similar Des Moines area village.

The initiative started with one gently used RV in 2004, and the first permanent community housing opened in 2015. There are now 325 former homeless in the 51-acre community, which plans to grow to 500 homes. Across the road, the nonprofit organization has acquired an additional 127 acres for future expansion. A typical neighbor is 56 years old and was homeless for 8.9 years. In 2021, community members earned $1.2 million in dignified income, including auto care, gardening, culinary, jewelry workshop, artwork sales, and a community bed and breakfast.

Seventy-five percent of the village operates on philanthropic income; the remainder from rent. There are no city or county subsidies. A micro-home (200 square feet; no restroom) rents for around $275/month. Rent for a slightly larger home (fully plumbed) averages $375/month. The village has an 88% retention rate.


The Union Park Neighborhood Association went all-in for music Sunday afternoon with its first Porchfest, a walking music festival. Organizers booked 17 bands to play on 16 front porches surrounding Union Park. Bluesman Heath Alan charmed the crowd with covers and original tunes on a Cherokee Avenue porch. Yep, you missed something fabulous. Next year.


At the YMCA Supportive Housing Campus, residents are treated to two annual celebrations: birthdays and anniversaries as a resident.

Because this 11-year-old building at 2 Southwest Ninth Street is considered permanent supportive housing, residency anniversaries are a common event. Among the 140 units, some residents have lived in Y housing for 30 years, including years at the former Riverfront YMCA men’s housing.

But the average stay now is 18 to 24 months, according to Katie Kamienski, executive director of housing, who adds that the waiting list for single-occupancy rooms, which rent for $540 per month, has 120 names. “There aren’t many YMCAs that have a facility like this,” Katie says. “The rooms can be whatever people want it to be.”

Eight former residents are in a “graduate” program, where they try living in apartments scattered around the metro area. They can return to the Ninth Street program for wraparound services—everything from laundry to the food pantry to counseling—for up to three years.

Side note: Decades ago, when I was a summer photo intern at The Des Moines Register, I rented a room at the Riverfront YMCA Men’s Housing for my first two weeks in the capital city.


Developers of the Sixth Avenue Flats report that all 42 units were leased within 60 days of taking the first applications. The new development just north of University Avenue prioritizes young adults aging out of the state’s foster care program. DMACC provides scholarships for former foster care youths so they can continue their education at the nearby Urban Campus or Southridge Campus. Expect news soon from Youth and Shelter Services (YSS) regarding a financial partner for its first-floor offices.


Dorie Hammer, Allan Cookson, David Graves, and Nate Manning relax beneath a canopy of oak trees in Des Moines Water Works Park on another fabulous, casual fall evening. The pop-up German-style Biergarten is to operate through October on Thursdays through Sundays. The biergarten is just east of the Lauridsen Stage and a short walk from the Ruan Connector to Gray’s Lake Park.

160 views0 comments
bottom of page