MEET MAGGIE CRABB, PRESIDENT OF SWERVE OUTREACH
Maggie Crabb lives in Altoona, on the road she grew up on, with her husband Chad, children Campbell and Jack, dog Buster, and her cat, Mabel.
She currently serves as President of Swerve Outreach, a non-profit (which she co-founded) that provides support to Eastern Polk County’s underserved youth through access to healthy meals, educational programming, and basic life necessities.
In the summer of 2021 alone, Kids Cafe (a branch of the non-profit) provided 2,299 free meals for students facing food insecurity.
Saying that Maggie is making an impact would be an understatement.
But how is this impact possible? What’s motivated Maggie all this time? And why Altoona? According to Maggie, the answer is one and the same—community.
MAGGIE FELL IN LOVE ALTOONA’S SENSE OF COMMUNITY
Altoona’s small-town charm is why Maggie loved growing up here, and it’s why she returned years later.
She summed it up perfectly when she said, “I love that I can go to the grocery store and end up seeing 5 people that I know. “
Maggie’s family moved to Altoona when she was in 7th grade. She lived here until she left for college, before eventually settling in West Des Moines with her husband for a while.
After about 8 years in West Des Moines, she returned home to Altoona so she could raise her kids in our welcoming, close-knit community.
WHEN FAMILIES WERE HURTING, MAGGIE KNEW SHE HAD TO ACT
As her kids were going through school at Clay Elementary, Maggie wanted to get more involved in the community. So, she started volunteering and eventually joined the parent-teacher association (PTA).
Through the PTA, she discovered different hardships facing students within the Southeast Polk Community School District.
YOUTH FOOD INSECURITY IN THE AREA
Maggie learned that there was a large student population receiving free or reduced-cost breakfasts and lunches during the school year, who weren’t getting that food security in the summer. Hundreds of kids were at risk of going hungry when school wasn’t in session.
Maggie described the situation through tears, “Hunger doesn’t take a vacation. And in a community like ours, hunger is very hidden.”
So, Maggie and then-PTA President, Kerrin Carlson (formerly Martinson), got to work to address the issue.
Maggie and Kerrin found out about a program in Mitchellville—ran by a school principal there—that was aiming to solve summer food insecurity through community outreach. Families, businesses, churches, and other volunteers would make lunches for the kids, then spend some time doing literacy activities.
They knew Altoona’s supportive community would be perfect for something like this.
So, they started looking around for resources, began asking businesses if they’d be interested, and did everything they could to get the idea off the ground.
Their immeasurable amount of time, energy, and hard work paid off. In 2014, Kids Cafe was brought to life.
The program began with daily lunches for 4 weeks, with every session lasting an hour.
Even in its first year, Kids Cafe made a huge impact. They served 1,067 reimbursable meals and had an average daily attendance of 60 students.
But lunch wasn’t the only thing being provided. The kids would spend half of each hour-long session engaging in educational activities, a huge priority that Maggie and Kerrin both shared.
RAPID GROWTH, LARGE IMPACT IN THE FOLLOWING YEARS
Swerve Outreach was officially founded as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2016 (previously housed by Caring Hands Outreach).
From there, the program grew immensely.
Maggie guided Swerve Outreach’s growth as it advanced its educational programming, added bus routes, and started developing new services like Tools 4 Schools and Kids Cafe Cares—sister programs that provide school supplies, groceries, and other basic necessities for underserved youth.
The program’s busiest summer so far was in 2020, during the height of economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. That year, Kids Cafe served 4,119 reimbursable meals.
Maggie said she was glad to see her program make such an impact but was heartbroken to see such an increase in food insecurity.
She acknowledged how hard it was for these families to come forward and ask for assistance but said she’s so proud of them for doing so. “If we’re all on the same page, then we’re helping each other out and making sure that these families and these students have what they need”, said Maggie.
SWERVE OUTREACH TODAY
Today, Swerve Outreach consists of Kids Cafe, Tools 4 Schools, and Kids Cafe Cares. Thanks to Maggie’s passionate leadership, their capabilities and combined impact have grown incredibly.
Kids Cafe serves roughly 100-200 students each year. They each get to enjoy great activities like yoga classes, science experiments, arts and crafts, free books to take home, robotics programs, and so much more.
Tools 4 Schools fills between 300-500 backpacks annually, with each student receiving personalized supplies to supplement their unique needs.
And Kids Cafe Cares helps provide Eastern Polk County youth with basic needs essentials like clothing, winter gear, shoes, health supplies, eye exams glasses, and more.
POWERED BY ALTOONA’S CARING COMMUNITY
Maggie’s impact through Swerve Outreach began with her passion for service. She simply wanted to make her community happier and safer.
Altoona echoed this sentiment, giving her organization the momentum to grow. After all, the “take care of your neighbor” mentality is what our community is so well known for—it’s what Maggie’s been so fond of all these years.
“Where else are you going to get 70 volunteers daily to show up and run a kid’s program? It’s just phenomenal,” she said.
Maggie had tears in her eyes as she described Altoona’s giving spirit, highlighting ways people have gone above and beyond.
She said, “Every time I’ve asked, ‘does anybody have a bed for a kid?’ Or coats, or whatever—there’s just this overwhelming response.”
“Even in some of the roughest of times we’ve seen in the past few years, people have stepped up. And it’s not just volunteers. Our businesses and our community are just fantastic,” said Maggie.
Maggie even sent us a “thank you speech” of sorts after we spoke with her, to shout out some of the people who have helped her most.
I’m not sure how you will word my thank-yous, but I have a long list and
I would not be able to sleep tonight if I didn’t add the following people: Kerrin
Carlson, Nolan Neuroth, Brett McAllister, Melissa Horton, Larry O’Connor, Joe
Nelson, Nathan Anenson, Laurel Swanson, Dean O’Connor, Jeannie and late
Skip Conkling, Dina Parker, Kristie Kolsrud, Ashely Gumm, Lori Slings, Sara
Kurovski, Julie Stewart, Jennifer Suhr, Rhonda Porter, Beth Van Ryswyk,
Mattia Wells, Bruce Mason, everyone at SEP Schools, the wonderful
congregation at Lutheran Church of the Cross, Josh and Michelle Hanson, Brad
and Amanda Douglas, David and Jennifer Shilling, Polk County Supervisors Tom
Hockensmith and Steve Van Ooort, Lisa Moody-Tunks, Nichole Hansen, my
grandmother and long-time community champion, Sharon Townsend (a.k.a.
Grammy, she passes out the plates at Kids Cafe), my mother who supports
everything I do—Suzanne Cantrell (she does a gardening program for our
students), my brother, Henry Hill who always lends a hand, my husband Chad,
who is the greatest man I have ever known, and my children, Campbell and
Jackson and of course all of our Kids Cafe volunteers and partners over the
years. All of these people, and so many more, have been essential to the
success of our program throughout the past 9 years and I will forever be
grateful to them for their encouragement, support, time, talent, and for what
they have taught me.
No need to word these thank-yous any differently, Maggie—your everyday actions say it all.
If you’d like to learn more about Swerve Outreach or get involved, be sure to follow them on Facebook! You’ll get lots of helpful information about ways to donate, volunteer, and support youth in the area.
You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask about getting involved as well!