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Students volunteer at the Catherine McAuley Center

By Michelle Lindsey
On November 20, 2016

Leann Oelrich, Education Coordinator and Kelsey Steines,
Development and Communications Manager, 
go over some new information at the Catherine McAuley Center.
Photo by: Michelle Lindsey

Catherine McAuley believed that “education was the ultimate answer to the struggles of those in poverty.” McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy founded the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) in an effort to transform lives through education, engagement and empowerment. The center, located in Cedar Rapids, makes it their mission to provide education for adults and transitional housing for women.

Looking at the CMC website, the guiding values listed are: Empowerment, learning, mercy, community and commitment. These values are representative not only of the foundation and the center but also of the employees and the volunteers who are a part of the organization.

Dr. Lenore Maybaum, assistant English professor at Kirkwood Community College, recognized the value of CMC and found a way to relate volunteering at the center around writing for public engagement.

Over the course of the Fall semester, Maybaum’s College Writing classes have been able to experience tutoring in many different areas at the center and become more involved in their writing throughout the volunteer process. Codie Smith, pre-med major, said, “Her class is a vital step in my future and career.”

KCC students are volunteering in areas that include conversation and computer skills, developing reading and writing skills, as well as in citizenship and lesson planning. Students in the class are able to continue volunteering after the Fall semester is over and Kirkwood students who are not in the writing class are also welcome to inquire about volunteer work at the center.

Kristin Ossenkop, volunteer coordinator at the McAuley Center, said, “Our largest need for volunteers at this time is for tutors in our Adult Basic Education Program.”

The center also offers one time volunteer opportunities, as well as group projects. Ossenkop also said, “If a student has a special talent or skill they would like to share with us we can look for ways to utilize that, as well.”

Heather Blazek and Taylor Turner, Kirkwood Community College students, 
work in a conversation group with one of the CMC students. 
Photo by: Michelle Lindsey

For students who would like to donate in ways other than their time, CMC has many outlets for that to happen. Students or clubs can organize food drives to donate to their food pantry and donations of food, supplies and monetary value can be taken directly to the center between the hours of 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Amazon also provides a ‘wish list’ that students can purchase from and have the items delivered directly to the center. Under Amazon Lists, searching for Catherine McAuley Center will bring up a list of needed items.

Students can contact Kristin Ossenkop for more information on volunteering at the center. Ossenkop can be reached at (319) 363-4993 or To register for a Volunteer/Tutor Orientation, students should go to the website: and fill out the volunteer form.

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