Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor Tammy Ross and The East Union ASPIRE “More” Learning Center in Afton, Iowa for the tenacity and persistence they show daily to serve the people of their community. Tammy, ASPIRE More, and the town of Afton are the blueprints for what being an Iowan is all about, and what it means to support your neighbors.
ASPIRE More was opened in 2012 after they received a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant to assist with their original funding. Every morning and afternoon ASPIRE offers their services to students in transitional kindergarten through the 5th grade. It’s on an income-based tuition, and they also work with DHS childcare assistance. During this time, they offer homework assistance, general enrichment activities, and activities that help with social and emotional learning.
Tammy’s original goal was to help the parents of their community by offering before and after school support to k-5 students, but Tammy and the volunteers of ASPIRE More have adjusted their services over the years based on the needs of their community. Now, not only does ASPIRE offer before and after school care, they also provide food and clothing to their community via their food pantry and thrift store.
Recently, Union County SCICF awarded the East Union ASPIRE "More" Food Pantry $5,000 towards a crisis grant during this crisis. The East Union ASPIRE "More" Food Pantry was able to serve hundreds of people in the school district in the last seven months of 2020. With the crisis grant and the generosity of local individuals and organizations, they are able to meet the needs of the people of Afton as they all continue to work together through this pandemic.
Tammy insists that the only way they have been able to reach and help so many people in Afton is because of the support of the school district and the community. When they first started the store, there was some doubt of it being able to make a dent in the way it helped people in their small town. Through the hard work of Tammy and the volunteers, as well as the support and love from the people of their community, however, they built it up into something that genuinely reaches and helps people. 4Hgroups, churches, and other local organizations have all helped out through their time and donations, allowing everyone to take part in some way to give back however they can.
ASPIRE considers the work they do very rewarding, and the community of Afton is incredibly grateful for the way their neighbors have all pulled together whenever there is a crisis or a need, and the way their fellow Iowans seem to always give more than they have. I am proud to recognize Tammy Ross and The East Union ASPIRE “More” Learning Center as my Iowan of the week.