Meet three individuals who are committed to sustainable change to make Eastern Iowa a more equitable place for all.
As we prepare for Time for Art: A Celebration of Volunteers, we want to highlight the finalists for our 2021 Volunteer Awards. These individuals and groups have gone above and beyond to serve their communities over the last year. Be sure to register for Time for Art to see which finalists will be announced as winners!
The Social Impact Volunteer Award honors an individual or group who, through innovative volunteer efforts, strive to address social equity and create sustainable community change. Thanks to your votes, the following individuals were selected as finalists in this category:
Name: Dr. Connie Miller
Organization: His Hands Free Clinic
Dr. Connie Miller is a volunteer dentist and has been working with His Hands Free Clinic since 2018. Between her and her dental assistant, they have provided over 60 appointments to those who need dental services in the area. The need for dental care in the community is tremendous; the average wait time for under-resourced individuals to see a dentist is six months. Dr. Miller improves that number with every patient she sees.
It has been reported over 29,000 of people in Linn County are without health insurance. Typically, employee insurance plans do not include dental insurance, so this number is much larger and extremely difficult to estimate. Dental care not only improves health, but also improves a patient’s self esteem, employability, and literally changes the lives of those who receive it. Without Dr. Miller’s work in the clinic, many individuals would not be able to receive the care they need to live happier, healthier lives.
Dr. Miller served 10 hours within the 2020 calendar year.
Name: Juan Ignacio Llanos
Organization: YPN, LULAC, WANA
Juan is involved in multiple nonprofit and community organizations in Cedar Rapids and pushes to create better inclusion and integration of Latino and African immigrants and refugees. He runs and maintains both WANA and LULAC’s social media pages, which share information to the community in multiple languages. Juan worked to increase visibility and understanding of the 2020 Census for these communities, provided updates on the pandemic, and outlined events and resources after the derecho. While working with WANA, Juan has taken steps to get to know the Westdale neighborhood and to identify what areas need to be addressed. He is focused on working for improved lighting to tackle security concerns, obtaining more pronounced signs to encourage the use of public transportation, identifying areas with trash collection problems, and looking at ways to improve renters’ understanding of their rights.
Juan is aware of the difficulties that many Latino and African immigrants and refugees face as they encounter a different culture, language, and organization in the United States. Some groups may be forgotten or marginalized, and this is the cornerstone of what pushes much of his work in the community to create better living conditions.
Juan served 200 hours within the 2020 calendar year.
Name: Linda Merritt
Organization: Catherine McAuley Center
Since she started volunteering with the Catherine McAuley Center six years ago, Linda has helped 113 individuals improve their English skills to connect with their community and pursue economic opportunities. A global pandemic hasn’t stopped Linda from helping refugee and immigrant adults improve their language skills, as she’s currently tutoring six students online each week. Linda goes above and beyond the call of duty, and even took a student out to eat so he could get comfortable ordering and practicing his language skills.
Linda’s role as a tutor has increased the amount of people in the community who can now get jobs, better families through community involvement, and help them feel more comfortable in their new country. Her impact is long-lasting, as each of the 113 individuals she’s tutored are now able to be understood at work, while running errands, and who can become productive citizens and community members.