Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–Always interested in helping immigrants acclimate to life in Muscatine County, Rosa Mendoza originally worked for Muscatine Center for Social Action’s Multicultural Center. A well-received program, it eventually grew too large for its space, and organizers considered it best for it to separate into its own organization. 21 years ago on March 1, Mendoza opened the Diversity Service Center of Iowa and has continued to serve as its executive director ever since. Located at 1514 Isett Avenue, The Diversity Service Center’s four staff members now offer a wealth of services for both immigrants and senior citizens.

Because immigration comes with many challenges, the Diversity Service Center aims to support people through every step of the process. Their staff has received accreditation from the United States Department of Justice to assist members of the public with immigration and to represent them before immigration offices. Currently, the Diversity Service Center can help people file family petitions, gain temporary protected status, acquire or renew visas and work authorizations, complete the naturalization process, adjust their refugee or asylee status, and gain deferred action for childhood arrivals.

The Diversity Service Center helps immigrants from all over the world navigate the immigration process. In 2021 alone, they provided services to people from 21 different countries.

While the Diversity Service Center can represent people before immigration offices, they may not do so in immigration court. However, they can refer clients to local attorney Summer Allchin for legal assistance.

Diversity Service Center of Iowa’s Staff: Rosa Mendoza (Executive Director), Alicia Rodriguez (Senior Program Coordinator), Irma Leenerts (DOJ Accredited Representative), and Kaylee Hendrix (COVID Outreach Coordinator).

Along with helping immigrants, the Diversity Service Center also offers a minority senior citizens program designed to help older people find and obtain all the benefits available to them. From completing affordable housing applications at the Clark House, the Muscatine Tower Apartments, or Hershey Manor to obtaining social security benefits and supplemental health insurance to completing paperwork for disabled parking permits, the Diversity Service Center can take care of many of the administrative tasks older adults may find difficult. The Diversity Service Center can also make calls and complete forms on people’s behalf if they do not speak English or if they feel people do not understand them because they have accents.

Since COVID-19 vaccines came to Muscatine, the Diversity Service Center has worked with United Way to provide interpretive services for patients who speak Spanish. When United Way holds a clinic, Diversity Service Center of Iowa COVID Outreach Coordinator Kaylee Hendrix attends to help ensure that people who speak Spanish get any assistance they may need.

Over the past year, the Diversity Service Center helped 259 people, something Mendoza takes great pride in. Since the Diversity Service Center first opened, Mendoza has most valued, “providing the services, being able to make a difference in their lives, (and) seeing the outcomes,” she and her staff have helped clients achieve.

As part of their work, the Diversity Service Center helps immigrants get permission to work and find jobs. To help facilitate this service, they recently rejoined the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Because of what we do, I felt it was very important we become members of the Chamber,” Mendoza said.

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