Evelyn K. Davis Center: A Beacon for Hope

Since 2012, the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families has been helping the people of Des Moines reach for a brighter tomorrow by providing support and valuable information for anyone who is willing to take it. Within the last few years, they moved from their old location to a larger facility at 1171 Seventh St. in Des Moines, Iowa. 

The center provides a range of free services from small businesses counseling, partnering classes, graphic design courses, SAT preparation, youth job placement programs, to freshly tailored suits. The wide variety of programs and classes they provide makes the Evelyn K. Davis Center a pioneer in the nonprofit world.  

One popular program is Y-Excl, a paid 10-week program for youths aged 14 to 21. The goal of the program is to give these students job experience and workplace skills to help them not only earn money but acquire contacts and job opportunities in the future.  

Dr. Ahmed Agyeman

The center’s director Dr. Ahmed Agyeman said, “The program works with about 60 to 100 students every year. The first two weeks of the program see students receive training at the Evelyn K. Davis Center so they will be ready for the next eight weeks of on-the-job work.” Last year, the program worked with 22 different employers including Embark—an IT Company that specializes in working with K-12 aged youths, DMACC and a local food pantry.  

In order for this program to exist, it is supported by grants through the Governor’s office and a number of high-profile companies including Iowa Workplace Development, Future Ready Iowa, The United Way, and Principal Financial. These organizations allow the center to pay these students $13 an hour for their time and effort.  

Students working in an Evelyn K. Davis classroom.

A couple of years ago the program shifted from strictly a summer program to a year-round program. Y-Excl currently has 10-15 students that are employed virtually so they can work after school and on weekends during the school year.  Students can also receive stipends for attending leadership and development activities including job fairs, college visits, and other leadership programs.  

Provost Anne Howsare Boyens leads the “Urban Umbrella”–Urban Campus, Southridge, DMACC Capitol Center, and Evelyn K. Davis Center–in the heart of Des Moines. As of 2019, 25% of the population in the 50314 ZIP code are at or below the poverty line. With about 70% of the student body living within a 7-mile radius of the Urban Campus and the Evelyn K. Davis Center, these DMACC institutions are truly trying to serve their community. Howsare Boyens said, “We serve the people that are in our backyard and our front yard.”

Men on the Move career closet.

Another unique program that the center provides is Men on the Move. This program is centered around helping men in the community dress for success. It is a clothing closet that has an on-site tailor that helps men of all ages acquire a fitted suit at no cost to the client. Whether someone needs a suit for career advancement, interviews,  a funeral, or even prom. Men on the Move wants to provide everyone who needs a suit with one regardless of the reason. Agyeman said,  “The program is less about the actual suits and more about making people feel included and important.” It also helps get people in the door. People often come for the free clothes and end up taking money management classes or parenting programs. 

Open Monday through Friday and the second Saturday of each month, the Evelyn K. Davis Center is more than just an outreach center. Through the great team working at the center and all of its affiliated companies, the center has built a support system for the community. 

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