Our mission at Helping Services is helping to support healthier, safer families and communities. It is our priority to come along side families and work with communities to address their concerns and to encourage their solutions for establishing health and safety.

Who We Are in a Nutshell

Since 1973, Helping Services for Youth & Families (formerly Helping Services for Northeast Iowa) has been providing children, teens, and adults with the skills and knowledge to bring about positive change in their own lives and in their communities. Staff and volunteers work to end domestic violence and child abuse; build healthy families, friendships, and relationships; and empower people to stop the future misuse and illegal use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

Our teams—Domestic Abuse Advocacy, Family Education and Support, Substance Abuse Prevention, and Youth Mentoring—provide presentations, research-based programs, trainings, and advocacy to families, businesses, and communities.

Agency History

  • At each stage of the agency’s development, we have been inspired, guided, and nudged by impassioned, mission-motivated people. This has resulted in a community-based organization operating on the energy and vision of individuals and groups within the neighborhoods we serve.

    David Runyon, former Executive Director (1988-2015)



1973 Incorporation of Helping Services-01

  • Helping Services, as it is known today, incorporates as the Decorah Information Center, three years after Decorah area activists began responding to local drug and alcohol abuse and suicide concerns.

    Programs include: the Trouble Line, the Hobbit Hole, a teen drop in center, and the Summer Institute at Luther College

  • 1978

    Name Change

    1978 Name Change

  • Name changes to Helping Services for Northeast Iowa.
  • Services for Abused Women program is established.
  • (Name changes over the years have helped clarify the services provided. They include "Services for Abused Women and Their Children," "Domestic and Sexual Abuse Resource Center," and currently "Domestic Abuse Resource Center.")


    First Shelter

  • First shelter for battered women is opened in Winneshiek County

    (Additional shelters will eventually be opened. All will be closed a few years later due to funding, security, and feasibility concerns.)

  • 1982

    Welcome Delaware and Dubuque

  • Iowa Department of Public Health invites the agency to provide substance abuse prevention services in Dubuque and Delaware Counties.

    (The current service area for Prevention Services includes Allamakee, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Howard, and Winneshiek Counties).

  • 1984

    Split in Two

  • To stabilize funding, the agency is split into two main programs: Educational Services and Services for Abused Women.

    (Today these programs are known as Prevention Services and Domestic Abuse Resource Center, two of the four main program areas carrying out the mission.)

  • 1985

    Runyon Joins the Team

  • Dave Runyon is hired by Director of Educational Services, Julia Malia, to provide prevention services. He works out of his car. Administrative office space includes two small rooms in a house owned by Luther College that housed the Upward Bound Program.

    (One of Dave’s programs included a puppet program for elementary students. Because his hands were too large to fit into the puppets, Dave set them on his lap as he taught second graders the skills to resist alcohol and other drugs.)

  • 1986

    Hello, Operator?

  • A phone system is installed.

  • Program Director for Education Services, Julia Malia, resigns after seven years.

  • The first non-state grant is secured from the McElroy Trust to fund Drugs, Alcohol, and Athletics, providing programming in eight Northeast Iowa high schools.

  • 1987

    Programming Expands


  • Programming is expanded by charging fees to schools. These fees are paid by a new federal funding source: Drug Free Schools and Communities.

  • The first agency copier and the first electric typewriter are purchased.

    (An early secretary for the agency was so speedy on this typewriter that it took a lot of convincing two years later to get her to use a newly purchased computer.)

  • 1988

    New Executive Director


  • The Board reorganizes the agency structure again for financial stability, appointing David Runyon as executive director.

  • A local group interested in child care asks Helping Services to write a grant for Information and Referral Services. The grant is received, and a new program is established.

  • 1989


  • The agency is relocated to downtown Decorah, and all programs are brought under one roof. (Previously, staff worked out of rented spaces or their homes.)

  • The first new computer is purchased.

  • 1990

    Fundraising Please

  • Event fundraisers are developed to expand donations to domestic abuse services: Christmas Tree Tour of Homes in Cresco; Style Show, Luncheon, and Raffle in Decorah; and the Nordic Fest Moo-Mobile

    (These events will later be replaced with bowl-a-thons, 5Ks, Holiday Lights, and community-driven fundraisers.)

  • 1994

    Special Grant→Staff Burnout

  • Floods throughout Iowa in 1993 result in a special grant for prevention programming. Without adding staff, new services are established and 22 youth community projects are completed. The staff get close to burnout.

  • The facility at 805 East Main is purchased. Staff take on redecorating projects for the house.

  • New logo is developed.

    New Logo
  • 1995

    We've Got Strategy

    Staff at Backbone State Park
    Summer 95, Staff at Backbone State Park

  • Board approves and commits to first agency strategic plan called Vision 2000.

  • 1997

    Brand New Program: Youth Mentoring

  • The first Youth Mentoring program, Building Bridges through Mentoring, begins. This formings from an expressed need stated at an inter-agency meeting of professionals working with children and families.

  • 1999

    Budget Grows

  • An expansion in programming results in the largest increase in budget and staff in agency history. Two new programs, Teen Pregnancy Prevention and Juvenile Delinquency Prevention, are added in the northern counties.

    (Teenage Pregnancy Prevention is no longer an agency program, and Juvenile Delinquency is now Alcohol Diversion.)

  • 2002

    We're in the Valley

  • Helping Services receives three $100,000 grants to support substance abuse prevention work in the Valley Community School District and Dubuque.

  • Some areas of prevention programming move away from school-based work towards community organizing strategies.

  • 2003

    DA/SART Gets Its Start

  • Fayette County is funded by Iowa’s Attorney General’s Office to start the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Response Team (DA/SART). This team often includes victim advocates, law enforcement, attorneys, and the medical field to coordinate communication and response to victims of violence.

  • Domestic violence client load is high, reflecting world unrest at the time.

  • 2005

    Event Firsts

    Holiday Lights Logo

  • The first Holiday Lights Magical Nights display is hosted.

  • Youth Mentoring holds its first Bowl-A-thon.

  • 90% of the agency’s programming is dependent upon grant funding. (The budget now is made up of 82% grant funding.)

  • 2006

    Family Support Added

  • Family Support, the final umbrella program, is added to the agency’s list of services.

  • At this time, 24 staff work out of six regional offices: Clermont, Decorah, Dubuque, Guttenberg, Postville, and Oelwein.

  • 2007

    Abuse Survivors Better Served

  • Funding allows us to provide child abuse prevention in Howard County. (This expands the program beyond Winneshiek County. Allamakee and Clayton are added in future years.)

  • The first units of transitional housing for survivors of domestic abuse open in Fayette and Clayton Counties with the support of local churches.

  • 2010

    New Funds

  • Substance Abuse Prevention receives a grant that allows staff to focus on training beverage servers and to contract law enforcement to conduct alcohol compliance checks.

  • A Rape Education Prevention project is funded. Through this two-year project, school staff are trained on the link between domestic violence and substance abuse.

  • Resource Center receives federal “stimulus” funding, expanding victim services and transitional housing.

  • 2011

    Reaching More High-Risk Youth

  • Youth Mentoring grows significantly due to two large grants, allowing staff to work more with high risk youth and to enhance current services.

  • The Resource Center continued its expanded work with a new six-month focus on Court Advocacy.

  • 2013

    State Reorganizes

    Iowa Department of Justice reorganizes victim services statewide, eliminating many programs. Helping Services is awarded a contract to serve domestic violence victims. Sexual assault clients are now referred to partner agencies.

  • Transitional housing, child advocacy, and youth mentoring have grants that are winding down, leaving a big hole in funding for programs and staff.

  • 2014

    It's a Big Year

  • HAWC Partnership for Children transfers their Family Education Program and staff to operate under Helping Services’ mission.

  • Holiday Lights celebrates the 10th year, which breaks records in attendance and giving.

  • The Resource Center and team builds Iowa’s first online domestic violence awareness training.

  • 2015

    Carson, the New ED

  • David Runyon retires after serving 29 years at the agency. Carson Eggland takes over leading the mission.

  • The Resource Center receives a second federally funded transitional housing contract to support victims of domestic violence.

  • 20??

    Mission Accomplished

    Mission Complete

  • Safe, healthy relationships and responsible, legal substance use are upheld standards in every household in every community. Domestic violence, child abuse, and substance abuse are but concerns of the past.

  • Translate »