New Episodes of FarmHER and RanchHER Now Airing on RFD-TV!

A Christmas Giving Spirit All Year Round

Food insecurity is an important issue that our friends at Nationwide recognize with us. Together, we have brought on a  special guest to our new Everybody Eats podcast, who works to help others in her community with food insecurity and more. Meet Melissa O’Neil, Chief Executive Officer at Central Iowa Shelter & Services.

But first, what is Central Iowa Shelter & Services? CISS is much more than a homeless shelter.

In addition to being a 24/7/365 emergency shelter for women and men experiencing homelessness, they also offer a 4-acre agrihood and a state-of-the-art greenhouse that features a hydro-cycle aquaponics system!

Melissa’s background in helping others started at a young age. She was raised with a Christmas-giving spirit and used it all year round. At first, her dream was to become a college basketball coach. But after reflecting on why, she realized it was because she liked finding the diamond in the rough players who changed their lives through basketball, an education, and the potential she saw in them.

Quickly, she learned of many other opportunities to help others like CISS. Melissa has now been with the shelter for eight years. She believes she came into a perfect scenario of an already-established building that started in 2012 with 46,000 square feet.

Now, the shelter is 52,000 square feet and has a growing number of programs. Including 150 beds and 81 apartments to help those in need, like veterans and recovering addicts, get back on their feet. The shelter accounts for 16 counties in Iowa.

At the shelter, they focus on all aspects of health. From mental health to physical and social health, their job is to give their clients confidence. Melissa challenges others to realize their clients are our neighbors and friends. People who need a quick handout to regain their life.

On average, clients in the shelter move back to stable housing within 14 days after using the help of CISS. After that, they flourish.

As far as the food goes, Melissa turned to other shelters across the country for ideas on how to help those suffering from food insecurity. When she first started with CISS, the shelter featured a small farm in their backyard that raised approximately 10,000 pounds of food in one summer for their kitchens and 20+ food sites. What could she do with even more land and aquaculture?

They decided to expand to a 3,600 square feet greenhouse, that is now a marquee in the 4-acre agrihood located at the shelter. CISS is on the cusp of having a food-secure community between their excellent programs, agrihood, hydro-cycle aquaponics system, and leaders like Melissa.

Melissa’s message is simple and is one that truly resonates with us this holiday season: Be kind to one another. Love one another. And help others whenever you can.

From there, your community can do anything! Regardless, we can all get better no matter what walk of life you come from. CISS changes its community by growing food and growing people.

Listen in to our podcast for more details of Lexi’s conversation with Melissa. Volunteer in your own community today!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *