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Local Partnership Feeds Success

August 13, 2013

When the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa (BGCCI) agreed to partner with Drake’s Master of Communication Leadership (M.C.L.) capstone course, they didn’t know what to expect.

“Drake has always been a great partner for the Boys & Girls Clubs,” says Cailin Stockdale, director of communication and resource development at BGCCI. “We’ve had excellent student volunteers in the past, but this was the first time we partnered on a project of this magnitude—and it turned out to be really flawless.”

The students worked as consultants for BGCCI and were asked to develop a sustainable program that provides food to hungry kids and their families in Central Iowa. The class was to come up with a plan to expand the Feeding the Future initiative, which is currently under-resourced. Mandi McReynolds, director of service-learning and community engagement at Drake, and Kelly Bruhn, assistant professor of public relations, played key roles in developing the partnership between Drake and BGCCI.

“Part of the challenge in working at a nonprofit is that you have such great needs to fulfill, but you don’t always have the resources and staff to get things done,” says Bruhn, the course’s instructor. “The M.C.L. students were able to bring an array of skills and creativity to the project, which made it unique and successful.”

To simulate the speed of business, the course was completed in just five weeks.

“Given the limited timeframe, our cohort needed to come together quickly to analyze the situation, perform research, develop strategy, and ultimately package and present our work,” says Chris Verlengia, JO’06, a student in the course.

In their final presentation to BGCCI staff and board members, the students shared the research they gathered about the current Feeding the Future initiative, and they compared it with a new initiative they developed called Food 2 Family. Their report covered best practices for feasibly and logistically getting the program started, which aims to provide a hot meal for children and their families once a week at their Levitt Club location on University Ave. The students identified local restaurateurs, nonprofit organizations, and other community leaders that were willing to collaborate on the initiative. The recommendations far exceeded BGCCI’s expectations, moving one board member to tears!

“We are more than pleased with the outcome and what the students provided us—both research and insight,” says Stockdale. “Our team is very much on board and excited to move forward with outlining next steps.