3/15/2021 Women’s History Month and the Center

Women’s History Month and the Center

James E. Hayes, D. Min., M. Div., Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society and has been observed annually in the month of March in the United States since 1987. The United Nations has sponsored International Women’s Day on March 8 since 1975. When adopting its resolution on the observance of International Women’s Day, the United Nations General Assembly cited the following reasons: “To recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.”

If it is a celebration of women’s contributions to culture, history and society in general, it provides us a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the particular contributions women have made at the Center. In recent meetings, I’ve invited people to narrate how women have made a difference in our work and mission. It’s been inspiring. I won’t list all the names at this point, because I’m sure I’d leave some out. Believe me, the list is long and the stories are moving. The Center would literally not exist were it not for these change agents.

For this blog I want to focus not on individual names, but on a project directed to the needs of women and the administration of a collaboration that has been led almost exclusively by women. It involves our partnership with:


Latinas Unidas Por Un Nuevo Amanecer

(Latinas United for a New Dawn)

L.U.N.A. Iowa was created in 1999 by a group of survivors who noticed the lack of resources available to the LatinX community in Iowa. Since then L.U.N.A. Iowa has evolved into a state-wide organization with offices in Des Moines and Marshalltown, helping our survivors build a future free of violence. Their mission is to empower, educate, and advocate for survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse in our community. They do this in the hopes that we can build a future free of violence. Domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking is a serious problem in our community that impacts everyone. We must work together in order to educate and protect our families.

We have partnered with L.U.N.A. to provide counseling services, often in Spanish, to the women and families who have suffered through the trauma of domestic violence. I have heard some of the cases during our consultation time and found myself overwhelmed by the stories as they feel so tragic. And yet, our counselors, especially Alicia Krpan who was instrumental in getting this partnership started, help the clients to find their way back to hope by having the courage to engage in the healing process.

Our partnership with L.U.N.A. includes sharing the financial burden of providing counseling services regardless of people’s ability to pay. L.U.N.A. receives grants for the services and we have connected with them as a subgrantee. Each time the grant funds run out, we cover the costs through our Client Assistance Fund. Those funds are made possible mostly because of the generosity of our donors. Thank you!

Melissa Cano-Zelaya, the Executive Director of L.U.N.A., is an incredible and committed leader in the community. Her leadership in this partnership has made a big difference in the lives of so many who are in desperate need of healing. I asked her if she could offer me a quote for this blog, knowing I was highlighting our partnership:

The current global pandemic has really emphasized the crucial need for mental health services, especially for the most vulnerable populations.  We are very excited to partner once again with DMPCC to offer quality therapeutic services to our clients who are dealing with so much trauma and instability during this unprecedented time.

Most of the stories involved in this project are known only to those involved in the healing process behind closed doors in confidential settings. Though the rest of us may never know the details, I can assure you that contributions made to the Center are making a big difference in this effort. It is a wonderful example of women working together to combine resources and talents in order to confront an issue that overwhelms everyone at first glance. The ability of all the women involved to lean into the healing process is literally saving lives.

And this is only one story of how women have made a difference in the 49 years and counting of the Center’s history. There are many more.

I am grateful for these stories not only in the month of March, but every day. Thanks to all of you for your courage and support. You’re saving lives.

To read more of Jim’s blogs, click HERE