Champions of the Poor
For over 35 years Mid-Iowa Community Action, Inc. (MICA) has waged the war on poverty. Our mission: Helping People. Changing Lives. Building Communities.
In all our endeavors, we are guided by five core values: family, helping others, partnership, achieving results and innovation. Our purpose in our work with families is to break the patterns of family pain and to create interventions that empower families, communities and organizations to achieve better outcomes for families.
MICA’s human services keep pace with the evolving needs of the families and communities we serve. Our services range from emergency food boxes, to HIV and AIDS support, to nutrition information and child development.
The majority of MICA’s services are provided to citizens in five core counties in central Iowa: Hardin, Marshall, Poweshiek, Story and Tama. Limited services are provided in 14 other counties: Benton, Boone, Calhoun, Greene, Hamilton, Humboldt, Jasper, Kossuth, Mahaska, Marion, Pocahontas, Warren, Webster and Wright.
Quality Services for Families
MICA’s services for families fall into four broad categories: Child Development, Health, Family Development, and Housing.
MICA believes every child deserves the chance to succeed. Our child development programs target those elements crucial to a child’s success:
- parental involvement
- health and nutrition
- cognitive development
- social skills
- quality child care
- extracurricular activities
MICA weaves all these elements together in its child development approach. Our early childhood programs—Head Start and Early Head Start—utilize age-appropriate learning techniques; conduct health screenings and nutrition education activities; involve parents in the classroom and in program planning; and work with families on building problem-solving and goal-setting skills. Our early childhood staff also work to increase the availability of quality, affordable child care.
MICA broadens elementary and middle school children’s opportunities through after-school activities. Offering children and youth a creative, safe and fun alternative, our activities support students’ academic studies and give them new experiences. Community projects are also emphasized in the program.
The quality of a family’s nutrition and health care has a far-reaching impact on its members’ development and success. Unfortunately, income, not need, determines the quality of food families eat and the level of health care they receive.
For over 30 years, MICA has worked to helped low-income Iowans put healthy food on their tables and get the quality health care they need. Through direct services to families and collaboration with state officials and health care professionals, we have woven an intricate health safety net for Iowa’s low-income families. Our health programs provide:
- food assistance
- prenatal health care
- post-partum care
- health screenings
- basic dental care
- information on health insurance options
- assistance in locating a medical home
- HIV and AIDS support service
- education on nutrition, breastfeeding, and other health topics
In 1986 MICA pioneered a new method of working with families: Family Development, a long-term, one-on-one model which pairs families with Family Development Specialists. Through regular home visits—sessions held with families in the privacy of their own homes—Specialists and families address the barriers affecting a family’s success. Together, they complete assessment tools and develop goals around areas critical to a family’s overall well-being, such as employment, substance abuse, education, physical health, and mental health.
Family Development is a powerful model. It empowers families to take control of their lives, to be responsible for their successes and their failures. Family Development equips families with the skills they need for a successful future: strong problem-solving and goal-setting skills; an understanding of the dynamics at play in their lives; and a vision for the future. It also teaches them that they have an intrinsic value as human beings, and that they, too, deserve the opportunity to bring to life the potential buried within them.
In the mid-1970s, MICA began an innovative program called weatherization. Built on the foundation that families’ utility costs will decrease if their homes are more energy efficient, weatherization utilized home improvements to increase the energy efficiency of a home. The program was successful, and low-income families saw their energy bills decrease.
In 1989 MICA’s Weatherization Technicians adopted a new diagnostic test which used blower doors to affect the pressure within a home. The procedure more accurately pinpointed the rate and source of energy loss in a home, giving technicians better information about which weatherization strategies to employ. By 1992, the innovative techonology MICA helped pioneer was incorporated into weatherization programs throughout Iowa.
Today, MICA offers a variety of housing services:
- heating assistance
- homelessness prevention
- housing for elderly and disabled Iowans
- new small-frame construction
- home energy ratings
National Leaders in Community Action
With over 35 years of tested experience, MICA is a leader in community action. Since 1999, our expert staff have provided training and technical assistance to community action agencies nationwide through the Peer to Peer Crisis Intervention program (funded by the Office of Community Services). Our interventions have helped organizations overcome agency and program deficiencies, allowing them to retain their funding and maintain services to the low-income families they serve.
MICA also offers contract services to nonprofits nationwide. Founded on years of experience and success in the nonprofit world, MICA’s services cover a broad spectrum of technical and management services, including:
- Interim Management
- On-Line Accounting & Financial Oversight
- Job Classification Review
- Head Start PRISM Previews
- Computer Networking
Teaching Tomorrow’s Community Action Leaders
In 2002, MICA launched the National Community Action Management Academy. Funded by the Office of Community Services, the Academy is a training center specifically for leaders of community action agencies. Its focus is to build the capacity of community action management teams so that they may better lead their agencies in the national effort to eliminate poverty in America.
Academy staff know firsthand the challenges of managing multiple funding streams and maintaining program compliance in the world of community action today. They bring this expertise to Academy participants through dynamic coursework in four modules:
- Being of Service
- Rules, Regs and Roles of Community Action
- Managing the Money
- Charting the Course
Through this pioneering school, MICA is building teams that build communities and developing management skills for the 21st Century.
A Private, Nonprofit Community Action Agency
Mid-Iowa Community Action, Inc. (MICA) is an Iowa corporation. It is classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501/c/(3) not-for-profit organization. MICA is also a “community action agency” as defined in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, as amended.
MICA is governed by a twelve-member board of directors consisting of one-third low-income persons, one-third local elected officials, and one-third private sector organization representatives. MICA is funded by local, state and federal sources.
Executive Director – Magi York
Magi York is MICA’s dynamic Executive Director. During her more than 25 years of service to MICA, she has held a variety of positions: Fiscal Officer, Business Manager, Contracts Manager, Director of Operations, and Associate Director. In 1998, Ms. York was awarded the Iowa Community Action Association’s Robert Tyson Award for exemplary service. She served as the Association’s president from 1999 to 2002. In 1993, Ms. York was designated a Certified Community Action Professional; she was re-certified in 1997. As the Lead Consultant of MICA’s Peer to Peer Crisis Intervention program, Ms. York has, to date, trained the staff and leaders of more than thirty community action agencies nationwide. At the heart of all her work is her unshakable belief in community action and in the right of all Americans, regardless of income, to have the opportunity to realize their potential.
Managing Executive Director – Arlene McAtee
Arlene McAtee is MICA’s Managing Executive Director. With more than 25 years of service to MICA and the families we serve, she is the visionary and creator of MICA’s pioneering Family Development model. Ms. McAtee has conducted numerous trainings nationwide on Family Development and family systems theory. In 2003, she was elected the Iowa Community Action Association’s liaison to the Iowa Head Start Association. Ms. McAtee believes community action agencies are in a unique position to reach out to the low-income members of their community and provide the three essentials her interviews with low-income families identified: respect, healing and opportunity. She advocates for strong organizations capable of helping people, changing lives, and building communities.