The Spirit of Community and Service

News outlets across Iowa are reporting on examples of humanitarianism and service during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) health emergency. These news stories are documenting the actions that businesses and individuals are providing in this time of crisis.  And while this type of reporting is wonderful, it’s not able to include the countless unseen acts of kindness as Iowans help each other through the COVID-19 emergency. The numerous acts of service occurring across our state reflect on Iowa’s own heritage, especially that of the “Great Humanitarian” Herbert Hoover.


In 1927, the nation experienced a terrible natural disaster when the mighty Mississippi River flooded. Over one million people were impacted by the great flood. In response to the flood and to organize humanitarian relief, President Calvin Coolidge turned to the Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover to lead the relief efforts. Hoover was ready for the challenge. He was known as the “Napoleon of Mercy,” the “Master of Emergencies,” and the “Great Humanitarian.” This reputation was earned by his service during and after the Great War (World War I) when Hoover worked to save millions from starvation across Europe.


Hoover believed in American exceptionalism and he argued that Americans were unique with their sense of individualism, self-reliance, and service, combined with a spiritual foundation. It was this spirit that Hoover called upon to provide relief to those suffering as a result of the flood. Reflecting afterwards on the outpouring of private relief, Hoover remarked, “I suppose I could have called in the whole of the army, but what was the use? All I had to do was to call in Main Street itself.”


“No other Main Street in the world could have done what the American Main Street did in the Mississippi flood, and Europe may jeer as it likes at our mass production and our mass organization and our mass education. The safety of the United States is its multitudinous mass leadership,” recalled Hoover.


Today, Iowa’s “main street” is responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Some of the examples include:


  • Prairie Meadows Casino Racetrack & Hotel donated 2,775 pounds of food to Des Moines Area Religious Council.
  • The Iowa Wild along with its partner Mercedes-Benz of Des Moines is helping the Food Bank of Iowa and creating a community relief campaign.
  • Loffredo Fresh Foods has donated food to the community.
  • Local craft breweries, who represent a rising industry in Iowa, have also been serving their communities. Several breweries are producing hand sanitizer in light of the shortage.
  • Iowans have started a grassroots movement in response to the shortage of medical masks. Masks for the Frontlines Iowa is a group of 250 Iowans making masks for medical personnel. At this time, they have made over 1,500 masks.
  • The Waukee fire department is helping children celebrate their birthdays by organizing a small parade of fire trucks to drive by the homes of children to greet them on their birthday.


As schools across Iowa are closed, numerous individuals are serving to ensure that students do not go hungry during this time. The Belmond-Klemme Community School District and the local FFA chapter is partnering with True Value and a non-profit group Trees Forever to help children start gardens while at home and these individual garden kits will later be used for community gardens. The Des Moines Register reported on a story on an individual who transformed his “little library,” a place where people can take and exchange books for free, with goods that are in short supply.


As a result of schools being closed; KCCI news reports that “bear hunts” have started across Iowa.


"In Des Moines’ Beaverdale neighborhood, stuffed teddy bears are hanging out on porches and perched in windows ready for kids to spot them from the sidewalk. But it’s not just there. We’ve seen bears in windows from Altoona to Ankeny and Ames and from Knoxville..."


In Newell, Iowa, residents organized a parade of vehicles to drive outside the Good Samaritan Society care facility to wave and greet the residents who, as a result of COVID-19, are shut-in and cannot have visitors. Numerous other stories exist of people visiting parents or grandparents sitting outside windows, visiting with those who are in senior living centers or other care facilities.


Numerous other acts of service and kindness by individuals and businesses go unreported and even unnoticed. Main street is responding to the COVID-19 emergency. Iowa is filled with many “great humanitarians” who put service above self.


The COVID-19 has also reminded us not to take for granted the numerous clerks, drivers, and other workers who continue serving in restaurants with carry-out or the delivery of meals, stocking the shelves of grocery stores and gas stations, and ensuring that we have the essential products delivered. This also includes the numerous Iowans who are serving the frontlines of COVID-19 in the medical professions and those emergency service personnel who everyday are keeping Iowa safe.


Iowa is demonstrating that service and community are still important values.


Click below to view a list of articles displaying recent acts of generousity.