IRIS Celebrates its 20th Anniversary!

IRIS Celebrates its 20th Anniversary!


R-L: Anupama (India), Rubab (Pakistan), Aziza (Tanzania), Jaya (Indonesia), Rahaf (West Bank), Mariam (Egypt), Fares (Jordan), Afzaur (India); (front) Nathan (South Africa)

Over 100 of IRIS’ friends and family celebrated our 20th Anniversary at the Des Moines Science Center on November 23rd.

We had a fantastic evening celebrating IRIS’s accomplishments, recognizing host families, and raising funds for our scholarship programs.

The evening began with a cocktail hour, in which guests mingled and participated in a silent auction.  The room buzzed as guests bid at the silent auction which included everything from limo rides to soapstone bowls from Africa.


All silent auction proceeds went to fund the Alumni Seed Grant and Global Scholarship.  Both equip IRIS program alumni with the tools to start educational and organizational projects in their communities.

Guests enjoyed a meal catered by Gateway Market as the event’s main program, which featured a roster of speakers passionate about IRIS’s mission, began.

IRIS Executive Director Del Christensen started the evening thanking over 20 corporate and personal sponsors who had donated to IRIS.

Del passed the baton to State Senator Daryl Beall who detailed IRIS’s impact on the state of Iowa. Beall encouraged the audience to make a change. He said it only takes a willingness to become an IRIS volunteer to immediately influence the world.

Beall presented the Governor’s Proclamation to Christensen.  The proclamation stated that “IRIS has created a legacy of cross-cultural understanding and life long friendships between citizens of Iowa and the international community through their international exchange programs.”

Blog 5IRIS founder and president Robert Anderson shared stories about IRIS’s history and expressed his vision for the organization.   Anderson said he was inspired by JFK and the creation of the Peace Core when forming IRIS, but wanted to create a program where he could share Iowa with the rest of the world.

Anderson then presented the Donor Award to Paula and George Moore for their longtime financial support of IRIS, and the Volunteer Award to Faye Cooley-Healy and Michael Healy for their continual involvement as host families.

Christensen spent time recognizing YES host families, and introduced Rachel Kzungu, a former YES alum, as the last speaker.

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Kzungu touched on her experience as a YES student, and the invaluable impact it has had on her life. Kzungu is studying in America and will attend college on a full ride scholarship next year.  She wondered where she would have been without the opportunities she had through IRIS.   She spoke about her passion to return to Tanzania and improve it.

IRIS Operations Manager Kimberly Hope closed the ceremony by announcing the silent auctiondwinners.

The evening allowed us to reflect on our mission, celebrate our accomplishments, and rejuvenate and refresh for many years to come.

“It was really important to recognize all the volunteers who have helped make IRIS what it is today,”  Hope said.

We’re so thankful for how far we’ve come.  We’ve had 20 years of changing and touching lives, and we can’t wait for many more years of Blog 4connecting international communities to Iowa communities.

The evening could not have happened without IRIS Special Events intern Kelsey Stoffel.

“It has been a privilege to work with such a wonderful organization. A big thank you to all the attendees who donated or purchased silent auction packages in support of IRIS,” Stoffel affirmed.

The event raised more than what was expected.  We’re still $3,000 away from our goal.  If you would like to continue the celebration, please visit our online auction store. There are still some items up for sale.  Also, keep an eye out in the mail for our holiday card! If you aren’t on our mailing list, send us your email and we will connect you.  Donations can be made online at to IRIS at or mailed to: IRIS, Inc. 600 Fifth Street, Suite 301, Ames, IA  50010.

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