Faith in Action

Led by our Faith in Action (FIA) Coordinating Team, our congregation selects two nonprofit organizations each to receive financial support with proceeds from our Sunday service collection. Half of the weekly contributions support our own church social justice activities, and the remaining half is divided between our two FIA partners. Recipients are nominated by church members and chosen at our annual church meeting on the first Sunday after Memorial Day. We have proudly worked with more than 20 community partners.

Faith in Action Coordinating Team

Contact: Susan Huber

Each spring, the FIA Coordinating Team solicits applications from congregation members for outside organizations to become one of our two annual Faith in Action partners. One of the criteria for selecting these organizations is that there will be opportunities for church members to be involved in community service and volunteer work.

Our Current Partner Organizations


Freestore’s mission is to help families start over. Freestore supports children and families who have escaped domestic violence situations and those suffering from some other form of trauma including natural disaster and criminal assault.

If you would like to donate to the Freestore, click here.

Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund

Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund’s (ITMAF) mission is to ensure that every Trans, Nonbinary, and Gender Diverse Iowan should have access to gender-affirming care.  ITMAF provides small grants to Iowans seeking gender-affirming care throughout the state.

If you would like to donate to the Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund, click here.

Our 2022-23 Partner Organizations

Hawthorn Hill

Hawthorn Hill‘s mission is to establish and operate housing programs for homeless families with children that help them obtain permanent housing and to provide services to help families achieve economic self-sufficiency. Hawthorn Hill runs a short-term shelter and also a long-term housing program in single family and duplex homes in Des Moines. Caseworkers meet families where they are, working with them to secure transportation, daycare and education as well as housing. They are grateful to be selected to our Faith in Action partner for 2022-23 and look forward to working in partnership with us during the coming year


Let’s Talk

Let’s Talk has been volunteering in Des Moines Middle schools since January 2014 to help students resolve conflicts in a peaceful and restorative way where each student has a chance to talk about what happened from their point of view, how it has impacted them, and what they will do going forward to make things work better.  They help create a culture of respect and inclusion and work to decrease the disproportionate number of students of color suspended and referred to the juvenile justice system.

Nominate An Organization

  • You and your contact at the organization need to read the FIA Partnership Responsibilities.
  • If you and your contact person think this might be a good fit, you’ll need to work together to complete the nomination form below and submit it to the FIA team by April 30, 2024, for the 2024-2025 partnership year.

Faith In Action Partner Nomination Form

Thank you for nominating an organization to a First Unitarian Faith in Action partner! If you have any questions as you go through the survey, please email

"*" indicates required fields

Your Name*
If someone else will serve as project champion, please indicate who from the church will be the Project Champion by listing their name and contact information below (including their phone and email).

Compassion & Choices

Other Social Justice Involvement

Compassion & Choices is a 501(c)(3) organization striving to expand options and empower individuals to chart their own end-of-life journey. C&C works nationwide in communities, state legislatures, Congress, courts and medical settings to educate and empower the public and to advocate for improved medical practice that puts patients and their values, treatment plans and quality of life first. We advocate for expanded options, including medical-aid-in-dying, and against efforts to restrict access to them. Check out Compassion & Choices Facebook page.

Our Central Iowa Action Team meets the first Thursday each month at 1:00 p.m. CT. Contact church members Steve and Karen Herwig at for current meeting information.

Green Sanctuary

Green Sanctuary Designation

Since 2015, our church has been accredited as a Green Sanctuary by the Unitarian Universalist Association. The designation recognizes the work we’ve done in support of the UU Seventh Principle: “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”

Our Green Sanctuary Team is focused on engaging church members with both environmental justice and related social justice issues, such as energy efficiency, recycling, composting, etc., for our building and grounds. The team also promotes outside activities that our members can get involved with to improve the greater Des Moines community.

Contact: Ron Heideman, Chair |

Housing & Hunger

Family Promise

Help us feed, entertain, transport, and house 3 families on-site in our church as they work their way back into their own homes for one week every season.  A variety of positions are available, including providing meals, evening host, overnight host, van driver, setup, takedown, and laundry. First-time hosts and drivers must complete a background check process.

Watch for volunteer signup links 3-4 weeks before each hosting week in the Intercom, on this site, and on Facebook.  To get on the Family Promise email list, contact coordinator Elaine Imlau at

Unable to volunteer but would like to help? Financial contributions can be made to Family Promise of Greater Des Moines here.

Future Hosting Dates:

  • September 24 – October 8 (2 weeks in a row)
  • January 28 – February 10 (2 weeks in a row)
  • May 5 – 18 (2 weeks in a row)
Contact: Elaine Imlau, Chair |

Family Promise of Greater Des Moines (FPGD) assists families experiencing homelessness through a network of 14 area faith-based host congregations that provide clean, safe overnight shelter and nutritious meals for a period of one week every season.  The host congregations provide each family with a private room for sleeping as well as dinner and food for breakfast and for packing a lunch. Each time our church hosts, about 100 volunteer job slots are filled to assist with meals, kitchen clean up, driving, and serving as evening and overnight hosts.

Online sign-up links are available about one month before each hosting week. Watch for announcements on our homepage and in the weekly Intercom.

FEDS (Feed Every Deserving Soul)

This social justice task force concerned with hunger and hunger issues (commonly identified as the FEDS: feed every deserving soul/stomach) attempts to identify, pursue and facilitate projects for church members interested in helping to alleviate hunger in central Iowa. Activities since the FEDS inception in 2008 have included preparing and serving dinner monthly at the Central Iowa Homeless Shelter, quarterly at Children and Family Urban Movement (CFUM), and collecting for the DMARC Food Pantry.

Contact: Bruce Martin, Chair | 

Immigration Justice

Our church has been deeply involved in immigration and sanctuary issues in Central Iowa. We’ve been called to this work by our personal values, by our shared congregational values, and by our denomination’s Seven UU principles.

We are a founding member of the Des Moines Cluster of the Iowa Sanctuary Movement formed under the umbrella of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). We are one of several area churches that have agreed to provide financial and other assistance to immigrants in Central Iowa who are facing hardships because of immigration policies.

In 2017, our members voted to declare our building a Sanctuary Church for people facing the threat of immediate deportation. While the need for sanctuary space has decreased in the Des Moines area and we haven’t been asked to take someone in, the need for asylum seeker support has increased. Rising to the challenge, the Immigration Justice team supports a person seeking asylum through the Congregational Sponsorship model created by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

Here are just some of the ways members of our congregation have been involved in immigration justice:

  • Hosted get-acquainted potluck dinners for our members with members of Latino and allied churches
  • Held public screenings of immigration-oriented films for community education
  • Organized speakers and panel discussions introducing our congregation to immigration issues
  • Participated in city-wide marches, rallies, and public displays, and opened our building and grounds when needed to provide community support
  • Provided financial and/or volunteer support to local organizations, including Al Exito, Central Iowa Immigration Support Fund, SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice), JFON (Justice for Our Neighbors), AFSC, Latino Heritage Festival, Iowa Sanctuary Movement, DACA renewal fund, Knock and Drop, the Drake Legal Clinic for Immigration Law, and Raices del Sur
  • Joined in letter-writing campaigns to elected officials regarding various immigration injustices
  • Provided transportation and served as companions for immigrants’ for court dates, ICE check-ins, and administrative proceedings
  • Hosted and supported Mexican family reunifications conducted in Des Moines by Raices del Sur (Raices del Sur on Facebook)
  • Raised funds for the commissary accounts of people detained by ICE in the Hardin County (IA) jail

Our Immigration Justice Team addresses issues as they arise, including guaranteeing financial and other support to the asylum-seekers we sponsor.  If you’d like to join our efforts, contact our Immigration Justice team leader.

Contact: Morgan Dredge, Chair |

Legislative Action

Iowa UUWitness Advocacy Network (IUUWAN)

The Iowa Unitarian Universalist Witness Advocacy Network (IUUWAN) is Iowa’s state action network, working to build relationships and engage Unitarian Universalists across Iowa.  We work to experience and integrate our affirmations of the” inherent worth and dignity of every person” and the “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part,” two pillars of our Seven Principles. Representatives meet via Zoom at 6:00 p.m. on the third Sunday of each month.

Individual UUs can participate by paying a yearly $5 membership.  We also request that congregations pay a yearly membership of $1 per member. Other donations and contributions are always appreciated.

Connect with us at or follow us on Facebook. 

Contact: Linda Lemons or Terry Lowman |


LGBTQ+ Justice

Welcoming Congregation

Since 1992, First Unitarian Church has been a Welcoming Congregation, a volunteer program to take intentional steps to become more welcoming and inclusive of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. After nearly two years of work we were one of the earliest churches in the Unitarian Universalist Association to earn this designation.

Our congregation identifies Five Practices of Welcome which guide our work. Welcoming Congregations should implement each of these practices annually.

  • Becoming a Welcoming Congregation, or working to renew your designation
  • Holding Welcoming Worship Services that include honoring a milestone or rite of passage for an LGBTQ+ member of the congregation
  • Participating in Welcoming Days of Observance, which commemorate and elevate landmark days and seasons in LGBTQ+ communities (Pride Season, Transgender Day of Visibility, World AIDS Day, etc.), through worship services, public events, or other gatherings organized by the congregation
  • Supporting Welcoming Faith Formation programming that highlights LGBTQ+ issues and topics for all ages
  • Engaging in a Welcoming Project by providing monetary support to a local LGBTQ+ organization

If you want to learn more about our work as a Welcoming Congregation, or want to talk about implementing a practice, please contact us.


Transgender Action (TAG)/LGBTQ+ Group

The TAG/LGBTQ+ Group is working to increase awareness of transgender lives and issues within the church community, as well as provide a safe haven and resources for transgender people in need. Through education and speaking events, the group educates the congregation on what gender identity is, how it is separate from sexual orientation, and ways they can provide support and encouragement to the transgender people within our community.

This group meets virtually as well as in-person at the church in room 107.

Contact: Doug Aupperle, Franco Berardi, Sarah Chang |