Mercy College of Health Sciences is the recipient of the 2018 Caritas Institutional Award from Catholic Charities for volunteer service provided by their students. Caritas is Latin for “charity.” Each year, Catholic Charities gives the Caritas Award to one organization whose volunteers and supporters demonstrate compassion to those in need, serve with humility, and display love for all people.

Caritas Award 2018

Mercy College students volunteer more than 5,500 hours in the Des Moines community each year, largely in partnership with Catholic Charities and the organizations and individuals they serve.

“The students at Mercy College come ready to work and are willing to work one on one with our clients or work to help keep our food pantry and emergency family shelter clean. They always arrive ready to volunteer, want to learn more about the agency, how we help those in the community, and most importantly are happy to be there,” said Beth Gibbins, communications and events director at Catholic Charities.

Developing servant leaders is a cornerstone of a Mercy College education. Each student is required to complete a Servant Leadership course prior to graduation. Throughout the course, students are required to contribute a minimum of 15 hours of service.  Mercy College maintains partnerships with more than 30 organizations focused on caring for the most underserved members of the central Iowa community.

Dr. Joe Moravec, Mercy College professor of Religious Studies and Philosophy, has been instrumental in developing and teaching the Servant Leadership course. He states, “Mercy College is the only college in Iowa that has servant leadership as one of its Institutional Outcomes for every student who graduates. This is a key distinction of a Mercy College education.”

In 2017, Mercy College students were honored by the Iowa Campus Compact for their partnership with St. Vincent de Paul, an agency in the River Bend neighborhood. Seeing the lack of childcare options for underserved working families, Mercy College students created a Child Watch Center out of an unused storage area in order to provide childcare for parents continuing their education during evening hours. In addition to equipping the Child Watch Center, students have volunteered at the Center, and even designed and painted several wall murals over a two-year period.

Dr. Joan McCleish, Mercy College professor of Nursing, received a Caritas Individual Award for her service at Catholic Charities’ Family Outreach Center located in the northern part of Des Moines. Dr. McCleish is a 1980 graduate of Mercy School of Nursing and has served in faculty and administrative roles since 1990.

About Mercy College of Health Sciences
Mercy College of Health Sciences is the only private Catholic college in central Iowa and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Located in downtown Des Moines, Mercy College prepares graduates for service and leadership in the healthcare community with a wide-range of bachelor, associate, and certificate programs. Mercy College’s liberal arts and sciences education develops compassionate caregivers and leaders. Visit or call (515) 643-3180 to learn more.