ITK: Two women giving helping hands to Des Moines refugees

We Are Iowa Originals

DES MOINES – Lending a helping hand is one thing. But when you work all year long to provide crucial necessities to hundreds of people in the metro who really don’t have another option, well that makes Alison Hoeman and Emily Brick, Iowans to know. 

How could anyone ever hope to control about 400 refugees who live in the metro, descending on thousands of items that they need, all at the same time.

“We have refugees show up from Africa in January and they have shorts and t-shirts. They don’t have anything for winter. We did this the last time in December, and that was a perfect time for everyone to come get their hats and gloves and their winter coats,” says Hoeman. 

Iowa’s been a welcoming place for refugees of ethnic and religious persecution ever since Governor Robert Ray made it a priority back in the 1970’s. Now, Alison Hoeman and Emily Brick carry on the mission to help those new, and usually need, in our community.

“We have a lot of refugees in Des Moines Public Schools. And I just saw the need. There are services available to them, but they can’t necessarily get to them. And there are other services they just don’t know about. And so we just needed to make the resources easier for them to access,” says Hoeman. 

“I think it’s a lot stronger than anyone really thinks. There are so many people in our community, in our schools that are desperately in need and they don’t know where to go,” says Brick. 

Fate seems to have brought Alison and Emily together. They were both running similar events until one day, when Alison held an event in a church space rented out by Emily.

“We were each doing it separately for a long time. And then when we came together to do it,  like this is our passion. Helping other people. It just fills us with joy to see the looks on their faces when they find something they wanted for so long or they needed. And hey, it’s theirs at no cost,” says Brick. 

The “free stuff store” as they call it, is a total community effort. They say Des Moines Public Schools teachers help so much with donations of items and with time organizing it all. Now, with their combined giving event, it’s all pulled together just the way they dreamed.

“So after we both figured out we were doing the same thing we were like wait we can do this together and it’ll be much easier and much better and much bigger,” says Hoeman. 

It gets bigger each time. Alison and Emily say hundreds of refugees who need clothes and household items to help them in school and get jobs show up each time they do this.

If you’d like to donate or get involved, check out their Facebook page, Des Moines Refugee Support.

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