2024 Volunteer Hall of Fame and Inductees with Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa HHS Director Kelly Garcia

A group of individuals standing on a staircase

Nominations are closed for the 2024 Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame Awards.​​

Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame logo

The Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame is the most prestigious state-level honor volunteers can receive; the people selected have freely given their precious time and talent in countless ways to benefit others and have forever changed their community, the state, the nation, or the world. Inductees are recognized during a special ceremony held in the State Capitol Building and their names are engraved on the Volunteer Hall of Fame plaque on permanent display in the State Historical Museum. Since the award’s inception in 1989, over 175 Iowans have been honored.

Nominations may be submitted by anyone familiar with the nominee's volunteer commitment and impact. Nominees must live or operate in Iowa: individuals, national service members, families, groups, organizations, nonprofits, businesses, or corporations may be nominated.

If you have any questions, please email info@volunteeriowa.org or call 800.308.5987. 

For information on the Excellence in Mentoring Awards, visit the Iowa MENTOR website.

View all Volunteer Hall of Fame Members

The 2024 Volunteer Hall of Fame Inductees:

Robert (Bob) Allbee, Muscatine

Headshot of Bob Allbee

Robert (Bob) Allbee has been a standout volunteer since his retirement in 2015, serving mainly at the local food pantry and the local homeless shelter. In 2023, Bob stepped into a much larger role, serving as volunteer interim executive director of the Muscatine Center for Social Action (MCSA) while the organization conducted a search for a permanent director. The MCSA runs the homeless shelter, a homeless prevention program, a dental clinic, a domestic violence shelter, as well as providing mental health and addiction supports.

Bob’s willingness to step into this role kept operations afloat and was vital to the community. Running a multi-million dollar non-profit, requiring over 40 hours per week of volunteer work, did not go unnoticed. MCSA runs one of only 28 domestic violence shelters in the state. The community relies on this necessary service to serve and protect survivors. The DV shelter is just one component of what MCSA does and Bob's willingness to work tirelessly to keep operations afloat while the board searched for a new director was vital to keeping the community moving forward. He helped with the day-to-day operations of the homeless shelter, neighborhood revitalization, food pantry, homeless prevention programs, Project Rise Above, dental and eye clinics, and transitional housing. Bob volunteered countless hours in a high stakes and high stress role for the benefit of the community, in an effort to solve the need of housing the homeless, helping those with substance use and mental health disorders, feeding the hungry and so much more.

Bob is a master at making connections. He provided hands on service in the food pantry for six years and built meaningful connections with local businesses and community leaders in seeking financial support for MCSA, and with those who may be isolated from the community due to homelessness, mental health disorders, or substance use disorders. Bob takes the times to really get to know the people he meets and makes each and every one of them feel important. Bob's connections go well beyond the agency he volunteered with, as he is a well-known community advocate, volunteer, and leader.

Bob served as the sole volunteer food pantry coordinator for a number of years and then helped MCSA secure grant funding to hire a full-time food pantry coordinator. This allowed for expansion to grocery delivery to the homebound, implementation of a food rescue program, and ultimately serving more clients.

Bob volunteered a minimum of 40 hours per week in 2023. His level of involvement was significant in keeping MCSA going. Prior to 2023, he was volunteering at the food pantry every day, and was the only person keeping it going for a period of time. His willingness to volunteer as executive director is a unique approach to handling a vacancy at a multi-million-dollar non-profit organization. This is a huge undertaking, and it was difficult for the board to find the right person to take on the role for pay. Bob did it for free.

What sets Bob apart is not only his extensive experience and leadership within the MCSA but also his exceptional contributions to the broader community. Bob played a pivotal role in the establishment of a stabilizing short-term certificate development program through the Muscatine Community College, catering specifically to the homeless and near-homeless in Muscatine County. This initiative showcases his innovative approach to addressing community challenges and his commitment to creating sustainable solutions.

From a letter of support, Bob has “demonstrated an unwavering commitment to community service and a remarkable depth of leadership. His versatility and willingness to take on diverse responsibilities underscore his passion for creating positive change.”

Celeste M. Lawson, Des Moines

Celeste Lawson headshot

Celeste M. Lawson has spent the last 30 years uplifting voices and awareness in her community. Her service has given the Iowa Juneteenth Observance its place in our state’s history and future, and her advocacy has grown statewide awareness and action for metastatic breast cancer.

Juneteenth, considered by many our country's second Independence Day, was not widely known or celebrated in Iowa for much of its history, presenting a need to educate Iowans about the significance of the date that the final enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation was ordered on June 19, 1865, in Texas.

In 1990, Celeste’s father, Gary Lawson, founded the Iowa Juneteenth Observance (IJO) with the mission "to educate Iowans on the history of Juneteenth and to preserve Juneteenth history for future generations” and "to present activities via platforms that promote freedom, liberty and responsible citizenship." Mr. Lawson believed, and often stated, that "Juneteenth is not African American or Black history, it is American history."

Inspired by her father, Celeste became a dedicated volunteer with the IJO from 1990-2015, moving from Education Consultant to Vice Chair of Education Programs. Celeste led the activities of various committee chairpersons overseeing IJO education programs such as the Iowa Juneteenth Education Forum, the Mary McLeod Bethune Award and the Miss Iowa Juneteenth Pageant. She also helped lead the development and operation of the IJO Training Institute, providing grassroots leadership training to IJO volunteers and the staff and volunteers of other nonprofit community organizations in Des Moines. She aided with the testing, evaluation, and certification of participants who met the training requirements.

While based in Des Moines, Celeste worked through the IJO to make statewide impacts as well.  She played a key role bringing together various cities’ Juneteenth celebrations around the state, leading to the establishment of the Iowa Council of Juneteenth Organizations (ICJO).

She worked in an advisory capacity on the placement of the history book “Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom,” with the Iowa State Library, public libraries in all 99 counties, and every middle and junior high school library in Iowa.

Celeste established an annual IJO Essay Contest, designed to empower Iowa youth with skills for engaging in scholarship, cultural diversity, and community relations. High school students around the state were invited to submit an essay addressing the year’s theme, with the winners honored at the IJO's annual Community Builders Appreciation Banquet.

Celeste also played a major role establishing an annual IJO museum exhibit at the State Historical Museum of Iowa, deeding IJO artifacts to the museum for placement in their collection. Celeste worked to increase access and awareness of the "Juneteenth in Iowa" museum exhibit with schools, and other community-based organizations across Iowa to encourage field trips and engagement with the free exhibit.

As a direct result of the work of the IJO and Celeste, Governor Tom Vilsack signed a bill into law on April 11, 2002, designating the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Iowa. On this day, Iowa became the seventh state to make Juneteenth an official state holiday.

Celeste’s volunteer efforts increased after her mother died from metastatic breast cancer (MBC) in 2019. Celeste realized the need for greater public awareness and action concerning this disease and has been motivated to continue educating Iowans about the least familiar, but most advanced and highly terminal stage of breast cancer.

Celeste’s efforts resulted in Governor Kim Reynolds issuing the first Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day proclamation on October 13th, 2020. From Celeste’s continued advocacy, the Iowa House of Representatives committed to annually recognizing Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day in Iowa on October 13. This state recognition establishes a channel through which the urgency for increasing funding for MBC research is shared in hopes of finding a cure.

Celeste increased public awareness of MBC by reaching out to businesses, nonprofit organizations, and landmarks across Iowa to light up on October 13th, for the purpose of increasing awareness of this disease in their communities.

Additionally, Celeste has conducted and published several interviews with prominent national and state experts on breast cancer, diving into topics such as support groups, diversity, equity, and inclusion, national initiatives in health equity and breast cancer and other state efforts in breast cancer awareness.

Vicki Leonard, Dubuque

Vicki Leonard (center) with Santa and Mrs. Claus

Vicki Leonard has been a force for positivity and changing the lives of others for over 25 years.

Vicki connected with the Hills & Dales Residential Center through her role as an emergency dispatch officer in Dubuque County. Hills & Dales Residential Center in Dubuque County supports the most vulnerable in the community, including children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Each year, Vicki orchestrates the “911 Christmas” event where first responders, police officers, firefighters, and other personnel all provide Christmas gifts for each of the 59 children and adults at Hills & Dales with disabilities. Starting over 25 years ago with gifts to a few residents, it is estimated Vicki has facilitated nearly 5,000 Christmas gifts to Hills & Dales residents, and over $150,000 in additional financial support.

The 911 Christmas event is not just about providing gifts; it is also a community event where first responders and Santa himself arrive at the Hills & Dales Residential Center with all the fanfare required the Sunday before Christmas. If it weren’t for Vicki’s efforts, many residents may be left without anything on Christmas morning.

Vicki’s efforts include creating various fundraising events to raise money to support unanticipated needs for residents throughout the year and facilitating the purchase of gifts for each resident. In the past, various fundraisers have included a Law Enforcement Thanksgiving dinner and the Tri-State’s Largest Chili Cookoff. All of these events require significant amounts of time and additional volunteer power that would not happen without Vicki’s guidance and facilitation.

Hills & Dales is an organization that could easily be isolated from the larger community, though individuals like Vicki ensure this does not happen. The relationship she has built between Hills & Dales and the first responder community is incredibly special. Hills & Dales frequently calls on the 911 community to support individuals with their medical needs, and many police officers, firefighters, and other personnel have told us that the 911 Christmas event is their favorite and most meaningful event all year.

Vicki served the Dubuque community as a 911 dispatcher for 37 years, and upon her retirement in 2012 an anonymous benefactor was so moved by her support for the community and Hills & Dales that they gave $25,000 in her honor to Hills & Dales. In her retirement remarks, she referenced that each person calling into the 911 center was the most important person calling in at that time. Vicki has approached Hills & Dales and so much of her community service with this same mindset. From residents and clients to her own family, church community, and geographic area, Vicki always treats everyone as if they are the most important and inspires so many others to do the same.

Vicki stays in communication with Hills & Dales staff throughout the year – not just during the Christmas season. Beyond the 911 Christmas, Vicki has helped facilitate Hills & Dales benefit events such as the Tri-State's Largest Chili Cookoff, which draws thousands of people to downtown Dubuque in early October each year. She is on the Board of Directors for the Irish Hooley event, a Dubuque tradition each summer hosted by the Men's and Ladies' Ancient Order of Hibernians. This event also gives back to the community by raising funds for Research for the Kids, a local organization that gives back to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

In the words of her nominators, “When Vicki is involved in a project or an organization, she is all in! She is completely committed to supporting children and adults who need our community’s support and is an expert in rallying people around a cause.”

Daniel L. Lopez, Des Moines

Daniel Lopez in small moving truck

Daniel (Dan) L. Lopez’s decades-long journey from New York City to Los Angeles eventually led to him settling in Des Moines and reflects a wide range of volunteer experiences and an acute understanding of community needs. For 15 years, Dan has been a full-time volunteer, leading Daniel L. Lopez Ministries, developing partnerships, coordinating logistics and volunteers. His strategic and community-centered mindset is evident in his efforts to assist and uplift other organizations in efforts to effectively tackle community challenges. At 73 years old, Dan dedicates 35–40 hours per week to ministry work, showcasing his hands-on approach and commitment to community service. His “career after retirement” has been to help people. Through extensive volunteer efforts, Dan has left an indelible mark on countless lives, embodying the spirit of giving with every action he takes.

At the forefront of Dan's volunteer endeavors is his role in donation coordination. For years, he has been the driving force behind collecting and distributing essential items to those in need. From clothes to household goods, furniture to toys, Dan's partnerships with various organizations have enabled him to address a wide spectrum of community needs, ensuring no one is left behind.

One of Dan's most notable projects was the Hotel Clean Out Project in 2022, where he mobilized volunteers to clean out and repurpose furnishings from a local hotel, benefitting both the local community and individuals in Liberia, West Africa. This initiative exemplifies Dan's global perspective on humanitarian efforts and his ability to leverage local resources for international impact.

His commitment to seasonal assistance is also evident through initiatives such as turkey donations and toy distribution, which have brought joy and relief to hundreds of families during the holiday seasons. Moreover, Dan's involvement in establishing food pantries in schools underscores his dedication to tackling food insecurity among students, laying the foundation for a brighter future for the youth.

Dan's collaborative spirit extends beyond local organizations to corporate partnerships, as seen in his work with Dotdash Meredith and Iowa State University. These alliances have enabled him to repurpose donated items and facilitate significant contributions, bridging the gap between corporate resources and community needs.

Testimonials from individuals and organizations paint a vivid picture of Dan's impact on the community. From law enforcement agencies to housing organizations, from churches to schools, Dan's name resounds as a beacon of hope and generosity. His ability to forge connections with diverse groups demonstrates his innate ability to unite people in pursuit of a common goal—making the world a better place for all.

Beyond material donations, Dan's efforts have also extended to providing emotional support and assistance to marginalized groups, including women in recovery, immigrant families, and underserved youth. His holistic approach to community service encompasses not only meeting immediate needs but also empowering individuals to thrive in the long term.

In times of crisis, Dan has proven himself to be a steadfast pillar of support. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he coordinated food rescue efforts, ensuring surplus food reached those most vulnerable, even when faced with adversity.

Des Moines Police Department Chaplain Al Perez shares that Daniel has “received donations from corporations, local business, churches, hospitals, and other community entities to just give away to the least of these. His name and work are known in the public school arena in the Des Moines metro. His benevolence is known in churches and ministries that serve immigrant and refugee families. He has partnered to get resources to law enforcement both in Des Moines and the State of Iowa. Housing organizations know of his work. Women’s shelters, government agencies know his name, yet he continues to function best quietly and inconspicuously without praise.”

Dan Lopez's lifelong dedication to volunteering reflects the transformative power of individuals working together to address community needs. Through strategic initiatives, impactful partnerships, and unwavering commitment, Dan continues to make a lasting difference in the lives of individuals and communities, embodying the principles of love, compassion, and service.

Refugee and Immigrant Association, Iowa City

A group of nine adults posed, facing forward

In 2013, a group of refugees who had lived in Eastern Iowa for nearly a decade came together and combined what had been individual efforts serving as "pathfinders" for newly arrived African refugees and immigrants to create the Refugee and Immigrant Association (RIA) in Linn and Johnson Counties. They are dedicated to strengthening and supporting these individuals and families to help them achieve and maintain economic self-sufficiency, family stability, and community integration.

Refugees and immigrants face numerous obstacles, including limited access to affordable housing, living-wage employment, complex school systems, legal issues, transportation needs, a stark contrast between cultural norms and laws in Africa and the United States, and gaps in civic and citizenship education. Language barriers further exacerbate the challenge for parents to support their children’s education and communicating with school faculty and staff. RIA leaders understand the unique challenges of refugees because they themselves are refugees who have navigated the complexities that exist when moving to a new country.

By having the same lived experiences as those they serve, RIA recognizes the power of peer-to-peer support in assisting refugees and immigrants to adjust to their new surroundings. RIA male volunteers meet with men one on one and in various group settings to share how to thrive as spouses, parents, employees, and neighbors in an unfamiliar culture. Similarly, female volunteers have initiated a Women’s Empowerment Group to guide newcomers in enhancing their lives through employment, driving, skill building, and engagement with their children’s education.

Support for youth is also a cornerstone of RIA’s mission. Initiatives include a music ensemble that allows refugee and immigrant youth to celebrate and share their cultural songs and languages throughout the community. Moreover, RIA has established an academic improvement program, offering after-school tutoring at their Iowa City and Cedar Rapids facilities to increase educational outcomes. After hearing that parents struggled to get their children to and from school, RIA raised money through grants and business donations to purchase two 15-passenger vans to transport children safely to and from school. A team of six volunteers drive the vans, totaling 266 hours of volunteer time each month. The average attendance of refugee and immigrant children in the program from 55% to 93% after transportation issues were resolved.

RIA volunteers are pillars of practical support. They take community members grocery shopping to help them choose American foods that are easy to cook, learn their preferences in the type of church they would be most comfortable attending and go with them to introduce them to other refugees and immigrants. They assist with opening bank accounts, offer driving lessons, and help find housing and moving to ensure that families settle comfortably into their new homes. If a parent seeks advice for a child facing cultural assimilation challenges, RIA volunteers provide compassionate guidance. To date, volunteers have served over 30,000 hours of time to support RIA’s work.

“I have witnessed RIA’s hard work in organizing our community, bringing unity and oneness among refugees and immigrants of different backgrounds and cultures,” shared one member of the Refugee and Immigrant Association. “Events that RIA organizes bring our community together.”

RIA avoids service duplication by partnering with others serving the same population through staff relationships, networking events, and membership on various committees. Leaders are actively involved in regional alliances and community leadership forums across North Liberty, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City. Helping refugees is their life’s work. Several volunteers are on-call 24/7. They are integrated within the community; refugees serving refugees. They understand their needs, listen to their challenges, and help them navigate their new lives to ensure successful outcomes.

SALUD - Multicultural Health Coalition of Storm Lake, Storm Lake

A group of eight adults behind a table, facing forward

Perhaps Iowa’s most diverse community, Storm Lake’s population of 13,000 includes speakers of an estimated over 30 native languages. In response to a need to reach, include, and unite people of all backgrounds, a small coalition of women with a passion to serve formed in the community in 2010. The name SALUD was chosen because it means “health” in Spanish; it also serves as an acronym: Serving, Advocating, Learning, Understanding and Diversity.

Entirely volunteer-run, SALUD is open to all and envisions a Storm Lake community that values diverse leadership and cultural humility. SALUD is in its 13th year and is constantly evolving and adding new efforts. It has made its community more inclusive, understanding and welcoming. Outside of monthly coalition meetings, volunteers are active and invested on a daily basis to identify and meet community needs as they arise. The amount of time volunteered is staggering. SALUD is a “boots on the ground” type effort, with members boxing and delivering food, or whatever other tasks are needed.

Since 2010, SALUD has spearheaded numerous activities to address health and diversity, including on-site health screenings and vaccinations for underserved populations; a Hunger Dialogues group to address food insecurity in the community and assist food distributions; a Parade of Nations event on July 4; and speakers, films and classes to share personal and cultural perspectives. It has established My Place, a former funeral home repurposed for community gatherings and brainstorming.

SALUD is also committed to growing service and civic engagement outside its organization, hosting local candidate forums and civic engagement events; providing interpreter training workshops for volunteers and professionals to translate for others in need; hosting legal and consulate services for refugees and migrant workers, and establishing a Service Navigators program that guides those in need to all the available resources and services in the community.

SALUD works closely with several partners to increase access to health and cultural services. They partner with the county Public Health Department to provide access to immunizations and immunization education to immigrant families that otherwise might not access these important health services or might not be able to afford them. The services are offered in welcoming settings with access to translation and encouragement from recognized leaders from within each cultural community. In another example, SALUD partners with a local church, outside volunteers, a charitable agency and the Food Bank of Iowa to offer Food With Friends, a monthly food delivery to those in need and homebound or unable to access other food sources. It also works with a local master gardener to provide fresh produce and the Kiwanis for additional food distribution.

SALUD has forged connections with countless local groups, including the City of Storm Lake, the Police Department, health providers, Upper Des Moines Opportunity, Iowa Food Bank, civic clubs, community events, churches, a youth ministry, college programs, and the local high school iJAG. The list goes on – SALUD is totally invested in and networked with the entire community.

Through committed volunteers and partnership, SALUD has had a massive impact on its community. Because of its efforts, the Storm Lake community is healthier, better educated, and more connected to resources around them. Trained volunteer translators ensure citizens are able to communicate to have their needs addressed in health care and other settings. People from various backgrounds are empowered to become active in their community. Many who are struggling with food insecurity have been fed.

SALUD is the go-to powerhouse for social needs in the community, and a reliable, trusted source of information and resources to people of all ethnic backgrounds. Most importantly, the entire community has been brought closer together through the work of SALUD. There is more understanding and inclusion of people from different backgrounds and points of view than there could ever have been without such a unique and powerful volunteer effort.

Photos from the 2024 Volunteer Iowa Awards ceremony can be viewed on our Flickr page. Special thanks to DJ Christensen and Ana Kirkpatrick for serving as photographers for the event.