Lutheran Services in Iowa (Faith-Based)


Mission: LSI is one of Iowa’s largest nonprofit human services agencies.  We proudly serve people of all ages, abilities, religions, sexes, gender identities, national origins, ethnicities, races, and sexual orientations. LSI’s wide range of Community Programs support youth and families throughout the state. While our programs provide different services, they all share the same goal: meeting the specific needs of Iowa communities on a local level. LSI’s Immigrant and Refugee Community Services welcome Iowa’s newest neighbors by providing education, family services, and economic development programs to help them get started on their path to citizenship. Every Iowan should be free to live life with confidence and independence. Through LSI’s Services for People with Disabilities, we empower Iowans with disabilities to thrive and have a voice in their communities.

Location: Statewide, opportunities closest to Grinnell are Des Moines and Ames (56 miles from Grinnell College)

Needs: Volunteers primarily support our Immigrant and Refugee Community Services program, specifically our resettlement, education, and Global Greens services. We also have AmeriCorps and internship opportunities.  For current needs and to apply, please visit or (for non-Immigrant and Refugee Community Services opportunities).

At LSI, volunteers are essential to strengthening and growing our community impact. We are committed to connecting volunteers with meaningful opportunities to engage in their community and apply their unique skillsets and passions to support Iowa’s children and families. From empowering Iowa youth to welcoming former refugees, we offer plenty of opportunities to engage, impact, and grow with your community.  We are also in need of volunteers to aid in welcoming new arrivals to Iowa.  Much of our work with newly resettled individuals and families is led by LSI staff; however, we need the support of volunteers to organize donations, sort items and set up apartments, cook, clean, and partner with our newly arrived friends.  It takes a community to welcome new arrivals to Iowa. We are stronger together!

  • Our Education Department offers English classes geared towards the many students who are pre-literate but speak many languages.  These classes prepare students for local English classes that start at a higher level. Classes are 2 hours long and run with the DSM public school calendar. To assist with these we request a commitment of 1 class per week for 1 session (which is about half a semester).
  • We also offer citizenship classes on a 10-wk cycle which are mostly virtual.  For the citizenship classes, we need assistance with mock interviews, to prepare the students for their citizenship interview, and it is ideal for the mock interviewer to be someone they are unfamiliar with, to best simulate the actual experience.  The questions can be intense and allow for good connection – this is one of the few one-time service opportunities that allows contact with refugees.
  • We also offer citizenship classes for elders, 60+ that combine classroom and activity components, and are part Education/part Case Management, with education on citizenship and health care access (clients have case managers), and volunteers are needed for activities such as arts and crafts, wellness, games, or simply companionship.
  • Through Americorps Vista, LSI hosts a full-time position building internal capacity, to better serve our Family Wellness, Economic Development, Resettlement, and Education Teams.
  • The Resettlement department organizes upcoming needs on a 1-2 week basis, as this is a constantly fluid need, and could involve managing in-kind donations (basic essentials, personal items), setting up apartments and assisting with move-ins, helping with grocery runs.
  • LSI offers health/wellness internships in a joint program between Immigrants & Refugees and Mental Health, working in occupational and physical therapy, social work, mental health programs and therapy.
  • Global Greens has an Americorps Campus Compact position , 10 weeks in the summer, with applications accepted in March.  There are also volunteer needs with Global Greens on a seasonal basis.



  • One-time events: yes
  • Ongoing: yes
  • Groups possible? yes, please contact Meghan Smith. Some possibilities for group service:

For the Global Greens program, light maintenance of the area so that the farmers are able to focus on their plots. Wednesdays and Saturdays are best, but specific schedules can be accommodated.

For Citizenship classes, we have one time opportunities to assist with mock interviews. This is one of the few one-time positions that allow contact with refugees, in preparing them for their citizenship interview, volunteers are paired one-on-one with citizenship class students, so sometimes a group has adopted an entire class for interviews. The questions can be intense and make for good connections.

Groups have also hosted activities for our Elders program, which is part Education/part Case Management – for example, a public health group from Wartburg led a presentation on dental hygiene. The fun challenge with these presentations is they tend to need to be understandable without words, as English is not strong.


When is service needed:  Programs operate and have volunteer opportunities throughout the year, with the exception of Global Greens which is primarily active April through October.

Number of hours: 1 to 2 hours a week or whatever you have to offer: There is no long-term commitment for volunteering at LSI.

Modality: in-person only


Prerequisites: For positions where an LSI staff member is overseeing, we have a 1-page confidentiality form to sign.  All volunteers will be processed through an application system and those who will be involved in more direct client contact will undergo a background check, reference review, and privacy and safety orientation.

Background check required: Yes

Equipment/logistics needed: If you are hosting or leading a specific activity, please supply any related items needed.  Proper outdoor gear if you are working with Global Greens.


Training supplied: All positions will receive proper training for the tasks assigned.  For roles that involve direct client contact (for example, helping in a classroom), volunteers must complete an application, background checks, and a 90 minute orientation. The orientation includes information on what it means to be a refugee and what the process is, what the current situations are.  There is an overview of all the refugee programs as well as demographics and cultural background on the common countries that LSI works with.  Volunteers/interns working in Health Wellness (between Immigrants & Refugees and Mental Health) receive HIPAA training, as well as training on standard precautions.   For roles that don’t (for example, helping set up an apartment for a new arrival), a staff person or lead volunteer will be there to provide any necessary direction.


How to apply: Apply at or (for non-Immigrant and Refugee Community Services opportunities).  Also, visit our website to investigate your areas of interest and contact those divisions directly. When you fill out any application for LSI, be as thorough as possible, so we can tailor your service to you: share your goals, your area of study, your availability etc.

Contact: Meghan Smith, Volunteer Specialist, 515.274.4946,


Operation information: LSI services:  Behavioral Health Intervention Services, Community Programs, Early Childhood Services, Family Centered Services, Foster Care and Adoption, Immigrant and Refugee Community Services, Residential Treatment, Services for People with Disabilities, Therapy Services.  The Global Greens program is seasonal, farmers participating in it receive a plot of land and bring their produce to farmers market, where they sell and learn business skills and how to connect with customers; the farmers keep all money from their sales.

Address: Lutheran Services in Iowa Main Office 3124 Cottage Grove Ave Des Moines, IA 50311

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