Southern Iowa Community Tries to Help Itself While Waiting for Politicians’ Assistance

LAMONI, Iowa  --  Sneezes, coughs, and aches can now find a remedy in one corner of a pharmacy building in Lamoni. Hy-Vee donated part of its facility so volunteers can operate a free health clinic.

"Some relief that they have somewhere to go," Brenna Easter said, while standing inside the clinic. Easter retired as a nurse practitioner at Graceland University in Lamoni. Now, she volunteers to treat patients every Monday afternoon at the clinic.

Easter said most of the patients are "stuck in between." They likely make too much money to be considered for Medicaid health insurance coverage but still struggle to come up with money for co-pays and other health-related bills. The free clinic can give them access to basic health care coverage. Easter refers more serious cases to the hospital.

"They do seem really happy where they can get some prescription, meds, some professional advice," Easter said.

Easter also happens to be a volunteer pastor at the Lamoni Community of Christ Church. Volunteers there put on a free community dinner once a month. Needy residents can get a meal there, and other families who are better off financially also show up as the event has become a social gathering where residents can converse, meet their neighbors, and come up with ideas to improve their town.

Lamoni is in Decatur County, which has become part of the majority of the state that shares a growing concern. Most of the state--79 of the 99 counties-- are shrinking in population this decade. Metropolitan areas like Des Moines are seeing the bulk of population growth in Iowa.

On Monday, Governor Kim Reynolds said a better-skilled workforce will help with the population decline that has become so widespread. "When we grow the economy, then our schools are healthy, our main streets, businesses are healthy," Reynolds said, "so it's all connected. The more we can get the opportunities in front of young people--no matter where they live--we're going to see those kinds of outcomes."

The governor also said expanding broadband access could also help smaller communities.

Watch Dave Price's special report on Iowa's poorest county and what is happening to help that community here.