MUSCATINE – In March 1, 2001, the Diversity Service Center of Iowa opened its doors to immigrant families and seniors looking for assistance.
The center is now on Isett Avenue, and has continued helping immigrants with everything from getting documentation to helping them achieve a higher standard of living.
In two weeks, DSCI will celebrate its 20th anniversary and Rosa Mendoza, founder and executive Director, couldn’t be happier.
“I’m reminded of all the struggles that we’ve been through, and I’m reminded of our funders and donors who were willing and believed in our mission,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza has been involved in immigration issues since 1994, and is accredited by the US Department of Justice. She is the former coordinator of the Multi-Cultural Center at MCSA.
Her favorite part of her job is seeing the impact that DSCI has on people’s lives.
“It’s so beautiful to see,” she said, “When I receive a phone call from a client telling me that they just crossed the border and are going to be reunited with their family, it just means so much.”
Last year, DSCI accepted over 250 new immigration cases, with clients from 20 countries. Through their educational outreach program, DSCI helps families with financial stability through gaining documentation, as well as help spouses avoid deportation.
“We know that if a family becomes financially stable, then it will help the whole family in general,” Mendoza said. “It will also help their children’s future. I think it’s very hard for children especially when their parents are struggling, so just to see that we can have an impact through giving people peace of mind is amazing.”
Additionally, 130 existing cases were approved in 2020. Seventy senior citizens were assisted that year through their minority senior citizens program, around the average number the agency helps each year.
The agency provides case management, a meal site twice a month and other social services. It helps seniors receive retirement benefits and move out of their family’s home by applying for affordable housing in locations like Hershey Manor. “Being able to help individuals get their own place means a lot,” Mendoza said.
Along with assisting over 4,000 families with immigration issues, DSCI has also worked to help maintain employment retention of immigrants, spread education throughout the Muscatine community and organized events that celebrate new residents, and the city’s diversity.
Mendoza wants to continue to grow DSCI, which has three employees including herself. She hopes to eventually provide things like citizenship classes and ESL classes through a partnership with Muscatine Community College.
“I know that they’ve provided those services before, and I think it’s very important that we continue to encourage our immigrant community to learn the language and become more fluent,” Mendoza said, “If we are welcoming more immigrants and assisting them through the process, we can help them improve their status and become citizens, and providing ESL classes for them can help with that.”
Mendoza encourages residents to make a $20 donation to DSCI to help celebrate its anniversary and allow them to continue serving the community for another 20 years. Donations can be made at www.dscionline.org.