Monday, October 4, 2021

Salina McCarty is the co-founder of Houses into Homes (H2H), a Coralville-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide beds, furniture, and other household goods to those experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, and other crises situations.  

In the Fall 2021 semester, McCarty worked with a strategic communication writing course led by Frank Durham to identify ways H2H could tell its story within the community while soliciting volunteers and attracting new sources of fundraising support.    

UI senior Zoey Jenkins was motivated to continue volunteering with H2H after spending the day as part of Durham's class and seeing critical service learning in action.  

"Professor Durham emphasized critical service learning at the beginning of the semester," Jenkins said. "I think that coming here and doing it for yourself is an excellent way to experience that."  

Critical service-learning emphasizes working with a community partner while being sensitive to power imbalances while encouraging students to look for ways to address the root of what is causing injustice in our community, rather than just the symptoms.  

Jenkins was happy that the community engaged coursework got her out of the classroom and into a nonprofit where she could see concepts come to life while making a difference.  

"Getting to see this side of things was something that I hadn't been exposed to for the four years I've been in school," Jenkins said.  

UI senior Molly Kane encouraged students to consider community engaged courses (CEC) and to research classes in advance while thinking about 'critical' aspect of service learning.  

"Come in with an open mind to understand and apply the concepts," Kane said. "I think that's a great way to do it." 

Several University of Iowa classes have worked with McCarty as part of the University's community engaged coursework program. In June 2021, H2H was one of three honorees awarded by the Johnson County Chapter of the United Nations Association for focusing on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.   

McCarty partnered with the Nonprofit Organizational Effectiveness II class, led by Deb Dunkhase, at the University to identify three sustainability goals that H2H could commit to as they work with the community.  

McCarty previously worked with leadership in the Communications Studies program to create research studies exploring the value of furniture in the home on mental health and wellbeing.  

"There's research that tells us that beds are important," McCarty said. "But there's nothing that really studies the impact of having living room furniture."  

McCarty was committed to working with University of Iowa students every semester and looked forward to an ongoing partnership to help those in need in Johnson County.