Madam Speaker, I rise today to ask the House of Representatives to join me in recognizing Kellie Markey, the founder and executive director of Dorothy’s House in Des Moines, as our Iowan of the Week.
Raised and educated in Iowa, Kellie moved back to Des Moines in 2011 and began volunteering in order to reconnect with her community. She started working with teen girls at Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS) and began to learn more about not only the nature of abuse against kids in our area, but also the extreme challenges these individuals face as they age out of care systems and try to find success in the world without proper resources.
Inspired by the hope and optimism of these young people who had endured so much hardship, Kellie became a foster parent for girls who had suffered abuse and sexual assault. The experience opened her eyes further to the challenges average people face in helping survivors stay safe and flourish. She also realized how little the crimes of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation are discussed in our communities, despite how present they are – and that there wasn’t a place at the time that could house survivors and help them with their healing journey. That is when Kellie decided to found Dorothy’s House.
Dorothy’s House was established to create a safe place in Iowa for survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation to get back on their feet and find resources, support, and the space they needed to take those next steps. They provide both residential and nonresidential programming, which for many includes substance abuse or mental health treatment.
The mission of Dorothy’s House is to support the individual. Because of this, they make sure to look at someone’s profile and identify specifically how they can assist. Common personal goals and needs include physical health care, mental wellbeing, medication support, legal support, job skills, and so on. After identifying what specifically works for the individual’s plan, Dorothy’s House then surrounds that individual with resources to address and overcome deficiencies.
Awareness is a major challenge when it comes to combating trafficking. It may be hard for people to believe, but the crime of trafficking is prevalent in Iowa. One of the main goals for Kellie and her team is to help people understand that this crime is happening, whether they are aware of it or not. It is underreported, yet it still happens right here in our towns and neighborhoods. By raising awareness of the issue and working with other advocates and law enforcement, Dorothy’s House hopes to make it so difficult to transact that traffickers avoid Iowa altogether.
Kellie has made it clear she was not trying to reinvent the wheel on resources when it came to Dorothy’s House. We are fortunate that Polk County and Iowa have many organizations and groups that help participants remember their goals and help them to be independent and happy. Since it was founded, however, Dorothy’s House has provided a remarkable opportunity for survivors to heal and for the community to stand up against abuse. Kellie’s organization has already helped many, and I have no doubt her good work will continue to make a meaningful impact on everyone Dorothy’s House serves.
When Iowans identify a problem, they don’t walk away from it; they take action and make a difference. Kellie felt called upon to work with struggling teens, to foster youth in need of a stable environment, and to found a unique organization dedicated to helping individuals who have endured unimaginable suffering. That sense of hope and optimism in the face of challenge runs deep in Iowans, and Kellie is no exception. She and the volunteers of Dorothy’s House confront pain and challenges every day, yet they still manage to see silver linings and focus on the good – just like those they serve. I want to thank Kellie Markey and her amazing team at Dorothy’s House for their compassion, complete dedication, and hard work in central Iowa, and it is my pleasure to recognize them as Iowan of the Week.