North Iowa Community Action Organization programs.

Outreach and emergency services from the North Iowa Community Action Organization help meet the needs of the less fortunate and low income. The non-profit NICAO is involved in providing everything from housing to food and medical care. Along with these programs a case manager will often work with the client to direct them to long term self-sufficiency, job training, and other support.

Hundreds of families across their service territory turn to the North Iowa Community Action Organization for help. The non-profit provides assistance and referrals in the counties of Winnebago, Butler, Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Franklin, Kossuth, Hancock, Mitchell, and Worth Iowa. The agency is there to help low-income and working poor families survive after exhausted unemployment benefits, lost jobs, lack of employment opportunities, and not enough or frozen Social Security benefits.

Referrals and information is available from the outreach program. The agency works closely with non-profits, charities, and the United Way of North Central Iowa. Together these groups coordinate emergency financial assistance for needs such as utility bills and shelter. Funds may be offered for paying rent, utility and security deposits, scholarships, and GEDs. The Outreach Centers will also try to address other needs depending on the availability of funds.

Housing needs may be addressed as part of the emergency financial assistance program. This can be available to qualified households to assist with paying their mortgage, rent, heating or utility bills. Usually an eviction notice is required. Occasional funds may also help with paying security deposits. Repayment may be required in some cases, so the aid can serve as a short term loan.

The LIHEAP program, or Low Income Home Energy Assistance, provides financial assistance and grants with paying for winter heating costs. The NICAO can pay a portion of the household's primary heating bill. While not as common, LIHEAP may also assist by paying for emergency furnace replacement or repairs in life-threatening situations. This is only offered for eligible households.

Eligibility for any type of financial assistance from LIHEAP is based on several factors including household income, children, disabled, elderly, housing type, and heat type. A one-time payment will be made to your utility or heating company.




Other energy assistance from NICAO can include additional help with natural gas and electric bills and deliverable fuel purchases, a free Air Conditioner for medically needy or the elderly, and also assistance with the purchase and replacement of a furnace or heating unit that is life-threatening for a homeowner.

The Weatherization Program will assist low income households in Iowa. Improvements will reduce their home's fuel consumption and help them save money on the cost of energy to heat their home's for eligible recipients. All work on your residence is completed for free to the participating household. The North Iowa Community Action, among other things, can pay for extra Attic and Wall Insulation, Furnace and Water Heater Efficiency and Safety, Air Infiltration and House Tightness Qualities, and address Electrical Consumption by Refrigerators, Lighting Fixtures, and Freezers. Dial 1-800-873-1899.

Free income Tax Preparation Services are also offered from North Iowa Community Action Organization Family Resource Centers. These were created as the result of a partnership between the North Iowa Tax Coalition and NICAO. It is for low to moderate income households in counties such as Kossuth, Winnebago, and Gordo. 641-423-7766.

Families Making Connections is for children and their parents in the area. It is only offered in Floyd, Mitchell, and Chickasaw county. The goal of FMC is to implement alternatives to restrictive levels of care for children and families. It offers Academic Preparation and Skill Development, Child Safety, Permanency, Offender Rehabilitation and Child and Family Well-Being. Telephone number is 641-228-5713.

Community Partners is a form of case management offered between Mercy Medical Center and North Iowa Community Action Organization. Advice and support will help residents and participants overcome a crisis. A family development specialist that is part of Community Partners individualizes the program for each family to meet their needs.

FaDSS, or Family Development and Self-Sufficiency, will improve the lives of families or individuals at risk of long-term welfare dependency. So this will be federal programs such as TANF or social security SSDI. It also supports those facing family instability by creating opportunities for self-sufficiency.

The community action agency runs this using a grant from the Iowa Department of Human Rights. FaDSS is a voluntary case management program for participants of the Family Investment Program (FIP) and who are working with PROMISE JOBS. Participants are referred from DHS, PROMISE JOBS, Self Referral, and other social service agencies or non-profit community partners.





Support will help families move toward individual growth, job retention and economic stability, it builds upon the strengths of each family, and provides support and staff  advocate for families when working with other organizations. It is offered in Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Butler, Franklin, Hancock, Kossuth, Worth, Mitchell, or Winnebago County.

Each participant will be assigned with a dedicated a Family Development Specialist who is Certified by the University of Iowa and their National Family Resource Center For Family Centered Practice. Receive help with Family Goal Setting, Budgeting, Evaluation of Family Strengths through Assessments, and also Accessing Community Resources.

A number of other core services, family support and goal setting is administered as part of FaDSS and also North Iowa Community Action Organization. Get referrals and linkage to community supports and advocacy. So get information on non-profits, such as the Salvation Army in Cerro Gordo County. Learn how to stay off welfare, get help in finding a job, access treatment for mental health and medical care, achieve educational goals, and gain other support.

Low cost (or maybe free) medical services are available from the NICAO Family Health Center. Some of what is coordinated is below.

  • Family Planning will offer advice and confidential support on reproductive health care. These medical services are provided by trained nurses that specialize in family planning health care. Some of the care is for those that lack insurance or meet low income guidelines.
  • The Child Health and Maternal program promotes healthy families, children, and communities, by promoting early prenatal visits. This free or low cost health care will continue during pregnancy as well as throughout childhood.
  • I-Smile is free care in Iowa and is available to support to families with children who need dental care. A coordinator from NICAO will ensure that the family gets the attention they need. They can schedule dental appointments, arrange transportation, and even provide reminders for the dental appointments.
  • Hawk-I is an government program that will give low cost health insurance coverage for uninsured children of working families. No family pays more than $40 a month for their bills.

The Clinic is located at 100 1st Street NW - Suite 200, Mason City, Iowa 50401. Call (641) 423-5044.

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federal government nutritional program for pregnant women, babies, children under the age of 5, breastfeeding women, and low income qualified women who have had a baby in the last 6 months. The WIC program helps families by providing nutrition education, formula, healthy foods, and referrals to other government sponsored health care centers in northern Iowa.

North Iowa Community Action Organization process applications for Head Start. This is for children under the age of 5 who come from families that meet income guidelines. Children from these households that attend Head Start participate in a variety of activities. The government may provide them with free health screenings, snacks, healthy meals and of course educational opportunities.

It will help them grow mentally, socially, emotionally and physically. Assistance is also for disabled children and NICAO will require that parents take an active role in the program too. At the conclusion of the Head Start program, your child will leave the program excited about learning, more prepared for kindergarten, and ready to succeed. There are classes rooms in the counties of Butler, Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Kossuth, Mitchell, Winnebago and Worth.




As part of Head Start, NICAO also offers parents assistance. This can include social services, information on employment, and help in receiving a high school general equivalency diploma (GED) or other job training.

GED/Adult Basic Education also includes help in paying for any school or education costs. The non-profit will offer funding to support parents obtaining their ABE or GED. Funding from the community action agency provides for testing fees, mileage, books, and child care.

The primary North Iowa Community Action Organization offices and outreach centers are below.

  • North Iowa Community Action Weatherization Program, 2817 4th Street SE, Mason City IA 50401, call  641-423-7766 or dial the toll free number of 1-800-873-1899.
  • Bambi Urich, Outreach and Family Development, 1190 Briarstone Drive, Mason City, Iowa 50401, call (641) 423-7766 or (800) 873-1899
  • Butler County Outreach, 219 N. Mather, Clarksville, Iowa 50619. Dial (800) 873-1899
  • Cerro Gordo, 1190 Briarstone Dr, Mason City, Iowa 50401, call (641) 423-7766
  • Franklin County Outreach Center, 123 1st Ave SW, Hampton, Iowa 50441, main number is (641) 456-3431
  • Floyd County center is at 603 Beck St, Charles City, IA 50616, telephone (641) 228-2893
  • Hancock County NICAO Outreach Center, call (800) 873-1899
  • Kossuth County, 117 East Call St, Algona, Iowa 50511, dial (515) 295-2531
  • Mitchell County Outreach families should call (800) 873-1899
  • Winnebago County Outreach Office, 135 School St, Forest City, IA 50436, call (641) 585-5863
  • Worth County, 209 N Broadway P.O. Box 176, Manly, Iowa 50456, main number is (641) 454-3220


By Jon McNamara

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