by Tim Heller
Posted on 11/14/2013
Recently Iowa Central Community College, the Domestic/Sexual Abuse Outreach Center (DSAOC), and North Central Iowa Correctional facility collaborated on a project that will allow DSAOC to expand its capacity from 20 beds to 40 beds. Tim Heller (Iowa Central TAACCCT Grant Project Manager) explained that it was really just incidental that this project came about. Originally a meeting with DSAOC had been scheduled to inform them of the grant at the college which would allow their clients an opportunity to earn a certificate in welding or industrial maintenance which could lead to better paying jobs in the manufacturing industry.
During the course of the meeting with DSAOC, Brenda McBride (DSAOC Program Development Director) mentioned that they had metal beds donated to them from Iowa State University, but that they had no rails or ladders to the upper bunks. Brenda pointed out that some of these women have small children that come with them and need to stay at our facility, so having bunk beds without rails or ladders made them unsafe to use. It was then that the discussion began of having students from one of the ongoing welding certificate programs at North Central Correctional Facility do the work of fabricating rails and ladders for the beds to make them usable. Donating the labor to complete the beds would make it possible for DSAOC to serve an additional 20 clients. Brenda points out that this expansion project was critical to meet the agency’s growing need without stressing their recently tightened budget.
Matt McCormack (Iowa Central Welding Instructor) explained that the process took some time because the course schedule had to be adapted to include the project. Additionally, making sure the correct material was ordered and finding time to work on the shop’s machines was important. The inmates really liked the opportunity to help with this project. Teaching a class on welding and bending metal for jobs is one thing, but having the students actually use these skills on a real project that will help the community gave students extra incentive to learn this semester.
Mr. Heller pointed out that one of the inmates had stated that he felt “good that he was able to help”. Although there are those that will judge inmates for doing some time in prison, the truth is some are serious about making a real change when they get out. I think this project helps demonstrate that to some extent. Tim Heller concludes, “I think there are several winners with this project. DSAOC will expand its services, inmates in the welding class were able to use skills taught and help give back to the community, and Iowa Central continues to offer educational opportunities and provide services in a variety of ways to the community and surrounding areas. Mr. Heller points out that GAP Tuition assistance makes several of these classes free for those that qualify. Those interested in classes for welding or industrial maintenance, please contact Tim Heller at (515) 574-1972 or Lindsay Murray (TAACCCT Grant Case Manager) at (515) 574-1973.