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The Answer is in the Room: Addressing Hunger and Homelessness in Iowa


As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, many consider what they’re thankful for. It’s a time people donate their attention and resources to others. In the spirit of thankfulness and giving, the week prior to Thanksgiving has become known as National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

The William Penn University Leaders Speak series is bringing a voice to hunger and homelessness in Iowa. Melissa O’Neil, CEO of Central Iowa Shelter and Services (CISS), will present on Thursday, November 15, at 6:00 p.m. in the Musco Technology Center (MTC) on the Oskaloosa campus.

CISS is the largest emergency homeless shelter in Iowa and has already served almost 1,800 people this year. O’Neil has served as CEO since 2016 and is passionate about helping people obtain the support mechanisms and gain the education they need to be independent. Homelessness is one of the largest pressing issues in our communities. O’Neil doesn’t want to fix homelessness for one night, she wants to solve homelessness forever.

Debbie Howe of Love In the Name of Christ, and a volunteer for the Mahaska County Homelessness Coalition, heard O’Neil speak during a homeless forum last March and said her message was powerful.

“It’s such a complex problem. There aren’t any simple answers,” Howe said.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we invite those in attendance to donate grocery, convenience store, or Wal-Mart gift cards in small denomination amounts of $5 or $10. The cards will be given to the Mahaska County Homelessness Coalition to help local residents in need with items like gas, food, or personal hygiene products. Join us as we learn what the answer in the room is.

The Leaders Speak Series is an annual initiative that reaches out to the community with diverse leadership-based themes. The 2018–19 series is supported by MidWestOne Bank and has expanded on the theme “Voices,” which aims at bringing in speakers to give voice to societal issues and concerns. The event is free and open to the public. It is also streamed online at:

For more information, contact:

Miranda Keeler
Communications/Event Coordinator

(641) 673-1078 |

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