Thursday, July 28, 2016

Stephanie Aguilar enjoys addressing the social aspects of health care

by Derrick Vander Waal

SIOUX CENTER, IOWA – Stephanie Aguilar’s interest in health care was kindled by the biology aspect of how the body works and breaks down.

But her interest spread during college from a focus on the medical aspect to an understanding of how social problems can be the root cause of many illnesses.
Stephanie Aguilar has assumed her position as a family
planning coordinator and outreach specialist for Promise
Community Health Center in Sioux Center. She enjoys
exploring the social aspects of health care to better
care for patients who come into the health center.

“It was much more interesting understanding where a person comes from – from their family and their culture – and studying the factors that lead to poverty, which is the No. 1 cause of health problems everywhere,” she said. “I just felt that I gained a lot more by understanding where this person comes from and then being able to treat them as a whole and not just focus on their illness. Stepping out and seeing the whole picture of why that person came here can make it a lot easier to treat that person.”

Stephanie – who graduated from Northwestern College in Orange City in May with a bachelor’s degree in translation and interpretation, with a focus on biology – will put that holistic approach for health care to daily use in her new role as a full-time family planning coordinator and outreach specialist at Promise Community Health Center in Sioux Center.

While volunteering as an interpreter from time to time at Promise during college, she gained an appreciation for how Promise addresses the social causes of health problems and is culturally sensitive in all aspects of its care for people.

“I like seeing the realness of this job,” Stephanie said, noting that she addresses many needs in the lives of patients in her outreach role, ranging from helping them enroll in Medicaid and other programs to getting them connected to the right health-care provider. “I’ve always wanted to provide a service that a person needs help with. It’s meaningful because I get to meet the person for a little bit and be a part of a little snapshot of their lives. I like working with families.”

Stephanie was born in Macon, GA, and grew up much of her life in Athens, TN. When she was a sophomore in high school, her family moved to Cherokee, where she graduated from Washington High School in 2011. She then enrolled at Northwestern College to receive a Christian higher education.

She volunteered for a couple of years during college as an interpreter for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) clinics and on an on-call status at the Sioux County Jail in Orange City – in addition to helping out at Promise.

“That will always stick out in my mind,” she said about her help at the jail. “When people are in those situations, there is a lot of shame and embarrassment, so I learned how to navigate those sensitive situations with compassion. They were really vulnerable, so once you see that, you’re more prepared to deal with future adversities.”

Stephanie thinks her education and experience in interpretation and translation will make her a good fit for her position at Promise, which cares for many Spanish-speaking people.

“Back when I was younger, I didn’t see a lot of people who understood my family in these types of positions,” she said. “I really like the cultural aspect of health care. It adds a variety of challenges. It’s humbling to see immigrants come in. I’m not tending to just one type of population. I like diversity.”

Promise Community Health Center, which is based in Sioux Center, is the only Federally Qualified Health Center in the far northwest corner of Iowa. Promise provides medical, prenatal, dental, vision and behavioral health services. To learn more, visit and watch this video. To read more Promise news visit,

In her free time, Stephanie Aguilar enjoys socializing and having a cup of coffee. She also likes opportunities to get to know new people.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Family Crisis Centers will place victim advocate at Promise CHC

by Derrick Vander Waal

SIOUX CENTER, IOWA – Not all crime victims will give Family Crisis Centers a call or walk up to its doors to receive the help that they need.

So the Sioux Center-based agency is taking its victim advocate services to where people from vulnerable populations may already feel comfortable going for care.
Family Crisis Centers and Promise Community Health
Center personnel discuss logistical details about their

new partnership. FCC will place a victim advocate at
Promise, starting Aug. 1, in an effort to expand its
reach to vulnerable people in northwest Iowa.

Pictured are (from left) FCC executive director
Shari Kastein, Promise executive director Nancy
Dykstra, Promise chief financial officer Amy
Kleinhesselink, FCC project director Alison
Hofmeyer and FCC victim advocate Kelsey. 

Family Crisis Centers and Promise Community Health Center of Sioux Center have forged a partnership to place a full-time victim advocate in the health center – which has successfully reached out to and served many people from underserved populations in northwest Iowa since it opened in 2008.

The project was made possible through a $235,000 federal grant awarded by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) fund.

“We just felt there were referrals out there that weren’t reaching FCC because of safety, the fear of the unknown or some other reason,” said Shari Kastein, executive director of Family Crisis Centers. “We talked about how we could bridge that gap so we could better serve our vulnerable populations in the area. The key thing is to meet them where they’re at.”

Nancy Dykstra, executive director of Promise, thinks the project aligns well with the mission and vision of the health center.

“It was a natural marriage between the two organizations because of what we are, who we serve and how we serve people,” Dykstra said. “We want to reach vulnerable populations and get them the support that they need at a vulnerable point in their life. We’re taking what we do and what we stand for and mixing them to come together on this project.”

Kastein said the project stems from an attorney general’s office challenge that asked crime victim organizations to come up with new and innovative solutions to reach unserved and underserved populations. That prompted Kastein to reach out to Dykstra late last year to discuss a partnership and write the joint grant application.

“They told us that other victim service/medical center grant applications were filed in the state, but none of them were funded. Ours was the most comprehensive program, so we are really a pilot now for the state,” Kastein said. “We appreciate Promise’s willingness to pilot this program because the state of Iowa has its eyes on Sioux Center once again for this.”

Here’s how the arrangement will work: Family Crisis Centers will provide the funding via the grant for the personnel and supplies for the program. Promise will provide the office space for the victim advocate and will refer people to her for services. Key questions will be developed for Promise staff to ask patients as a means to identify referrals.

The victim advocate, who is trained as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking people, will assume her role at Promise on Monday, Aug. 1.

“This was her dream job to help people within that language barrier,” Kastein said. “She will serve all victims of crime. They can be current victims. They can be adult survivors. They can be child survivors. It’s endless whom she will serve. She wants to be able to find a pathway for help and healing for them.”

After the template is developed and refined at Promise, Kastein said Family Crisis Centers will expand the project to Storm Lake and Carroll during the first year of the grant program. The program then might be eligible for two additional years of funding.

Promise Community Health Center of Sioux Center is the only Federally Qualified Health Center in the far northwest corner of Iowa. Promise provides medical, prenatal, dental, vision and behavioral health services. To learn more, visit and watch this video. To read more Promise news, visit

Family Crisis Centers, which is based in Sioux Center, provides services to children and adults victimized by domestic violence and human trafficking in 17 Iowa counties and operates the statewide Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline 24 hours per day. To learn more, visit