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Spark Stories: Celebrating the "Spark" that Ignites Passion

Spark Stories

A new monthly series at the Central Library is giving you some insight on local organizations and community groups. Librarian Elizabeth Hoover de Galvez is heading up the Spark Stories program, which begins next Wednesday, January 15, at 12:15 PM. The first program features Jacki and Joe Stevens, co-founders of Joppa. Elizabeth answers some questions about Spark Stories below, and then Jacki gives us a brief introduction to Joppa. We hope to see you with your lunch next Wednesday at the Central Library.

Hoover de Galvez
Elizabeth Hoover de Galvez

Q: What is Spark Stories?

Elizabeth: Spark Stories is a lunch-hour speaker series featuring a variety of speakers throughout the year, from committed volunteers to founders of organizations, business leaders to philanthropists, city employees to elected representatives. Each speaker will share their “spark story," or the specific experience that sparked them to create change in the community. In addition, we’ll hear details about the work they are doing and what keeps them motivated to stay involved.     

Q: What was the “spark” to start Spark Stories?

Elizabeth: In my own life I have experienced a growing realization of the importance of community, and each individual’s capacity to affect, positively or negatively, the nature of their community. This series will provide leaders with a platform to inspire others to engage with the community. The name for this series was inspired by a friend and former colleague, John Chaimov, who included spark stories as part of a seminar he taught at Coe College. 

Q: We’re starting with Joppa – who else is on the schedule as of now?

Elizabeth: Yes, Jacki & Joe Stevens, founders of Joppa, will kick-off the series on January 15. After that, the spring line-up includes Sam Gabriel, founder and executive director of the Genesis Youth Foundation, on February 19; Dawn Oropeza, executive director of Al Exito, on March 11; and Joshua Barr, Director of the Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission, on April 15.

Q: Who should come to Spark Stories, and why?

Elizabeth: If you want to learn how Des Moines leaders combine their careers with community engagement, or if you’re looking for uplifting stories and meaningful ways to give back, then this series is for you. It is a chance to devote a tiny amount of time each month to learn more about the challenges that people are facing here in Des Moines, to connect with others and with local organizations, and to feel empowered to get involved. 

Q: What other details should people know?

Elizabeth: We are encouraging people to bring their own lunch. We’re building 15 minutes of unstructured networking or commute time into the beginning and end of the hour, so people can pick up lunch on their way in and still get back to work in under an hour. For those who are hesitant about braving the cold in January, the entrance to Central Library is just steps away from the skywalk exit on 10th Street between Locust and Grand. We’ll also provide hot drinks and light refreshments for our inaugural event in January.


Q: What is Joppa?

Jacki: Our mission is to create communities of unconditional love, support and hope for the homeless as we work together to prevent and ultimately end homelessness.

Rather than relying on government funding or creating redundant services, Joppa collaborates with other agencies, helps people access resources, and develops unique programs that fill gaps and meet unmet needs in outreach, housing and education.

Q: How many people does Joppa serve?

Jacki: We serve approx 200 people a week that live in tents, under bridges and in their vehicles as well as the people we have gotten off the streets and into housing.

Q: What are Joppa’s biggest needs?

Jacki: Currently, we are in the midst of the harsh winter season. Our biggest needs are funding to provide heat and heaters to those living outside.  This program currently costs around $30,000 and runs from December to April. We can also use winter tents, tarps and winter sleeping bags, sturdy winter boots and wool sox/

Published on January 07, 2020
Last Modified April 01, 2020