Category Archives: Uncategorized

Charlotte Celebrates 15 Years of Service at COC

Charlotte stepped outside of her comfort zone and did a courageous thing. She applied for a job.
Applying for a new job may not seem like a big deal, but it is something to be celebrated for all of us at COC. You see, Charlotte had only worked in COC’s Sheltered employment program since she moved to Marion County. She had never held a job in the community. With encouragement from staff and family, she applied for a job that interested her that became open at COC, the Kitchen assistant. Charlotte competitively interviewed alongside many other people, and COC offered her the position. That was 15 years ago.

Today, Charlotte still holds the same position and is still loving her job. She says, “It’s fun working in the kitchen at COC. I really like my co-workers, and I get to see my friends.”
Congratulations, Charlotte! We are so happy that you stepped outside of your comfort zone and applied for that job. You are a joy to work with every day. Thank you for your years of service to COC

Russ Houghton Celebrates his Retirement

Russ Houghton of Indianola retired for the second time in his lifetime on New Year’s Eve.  Houghton’s first retirement was from Cement Tech in Indianola. On his last day at Cement Tech, Christian Opportunity Center (COC) offered Houghton a Living Sills Advisor position.  A Living Skills Advisor is responsible for the supervision and providing interactive training for people with disabilities in group home settings.  After 12 years working in different locations at COC, Russ has decided to retire for the final time, as stated in his resignation letter.

Houghton has worked most of his career in COC’s Indianola Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) residential programs and worked as a substitute in other COC programs.  Christie Avant, Houghton’s supervisor, said, “Besides being a dedicated staff working overnights, then moving to early mornings, Russ has blessed People Supported and staff with conducting Bible studies. Russ always has a positive attitude and calming demeanor.”

During Houghton’s time at COC, he recalled many fond memories of the People Supported and staff at COC and often boasts that he could write a book with all his memories. After re-entering the workforce after his retirement, he was very pleased with his experience at COC.  Houghton mentioned COC’s interview process and the many perks that the COC’s Staff Enhancement Fund offers COC employees.

Houghton and his wife have six children, three of whom have also worked at COC.

Avant continued, “He will be greatly missed by the People Supported and all of his co-workers!” Everyone at COC wishes Russ a happy retirement and thanks to Russ for his many years of service to COC.   

COC Celebrates 2020 Staff Milestones

COC Virtual Christmas Tree Parade

Christmas is a time of year when many people reflect on traditions, memories, and the connections to those around us. The decorating of a Christmas tree is often the center of those things for many, including the individuals that Christian Opportunity Center (COC) supports. Whether they are celebrating the Christmas season with the friends they share a house with or the friends they see at Life Skills, they find joy in the tradition of decorating their Christmas trees each year.

COC offers residential services to approximately 150 individuals with disabilities in Pella, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, Indianola, and Des Moines. Most individuals in COC’s residential programs live in either an Intermediate Care Facility for persons with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID) or a Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) home. People with disabilities living in an ICF/ID generally need considerable supervision and support with activities of daily living. An HCBS home provides teaching and support to help people with disabilities develop independent living skills while living in shared homes. COC also offers a day program called Life Skills in Pella, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, and Indianola, which many of the individuals living in HCBS homes attend. Life Skills staff support individuals in learning about and being involved in their communities while also working on developing social and other skills.

COC’s staff work to help the individuals who participate in our services to feel connected to their homes and their community. The people we support find so much joy in decorating their homes for Christmas, and they wish to share their finished Christmas tree with their families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. However, distance and the busyness of the holiday season can create obstacles.

So, to help overcome the obstacles of distance and busy schedules, this year COC is announcing its first ever Virtual Parade of Christmas Trees. The participating COC homes and Life Skills programs have photographed their Christmas Trees and posted them on the COC website. COC invites the community to view and vote for their favorite Christmas trees at The tree which receives the most votes will win a pizza party for New Year’s Eve.

“We feel this is a fun way to connect the people we support to their family, friends, and the community during the holidays. We see the pride they take in their homes and their Christmas decorations, and we want to help them share that with those around them,” said Amy Zuck, COC’s Public Information Director.

COC Celebrates 50th Anniversary with the Communities it Serves

Christian Opportunity Center (COC) is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding in 1969. COC began with the parents of five children with disabilities, who aspired for more opportunities for their children. In 1969, opportunities for individuals with disabilities were limited, and many parents were forced to make hard choices when it came to the future of their children with disabilities. The opportunities these parents sought for their children were for them to receive a quality education, to live close to home, and to continue to grow in their Christian faith. These parents came together, and with overwhelming support from community members, local businesses, and churches, COC began its ministry in September of 1969.

As the landscape of the services that COC offered changed according to the needs of the disability community, COC began to change its focus to meet the needs of both children with disabilities who were graduating from high school and adults with disabilities in the community. The need for vocational and residential services and continued focus on religious services has shaped COC into what it is today. The following years brought the expansion of supports and services to Oskaloosa, Indianola, Des Moines, and Knoxville. From the early days of the organization, the goal of COC has emphasized supporting individuals with disabilities to live the life they choose to live. Today COC maintains that vision by offering supports and services to over 260 individuals with disabilities, and employs over 300 staff in our service areas. To honor its 50th year, COC is working on developing a comprehensive history book of the organization, which will be available in September. 

COC also launched a new scholarship this year in celebration of this special anniversary. To complement the Sarah Braun scholarship already in place for a high school senior going into human services, this new scholarship was given to a local student who was part of their high school’s special education program. This year’s Sarah Braun “Proving What’s Possible” Scholarship was awarded to Knoxville High School Senior, April Olson. Olson plans to attend the University of Iowa’s REACH (Realizing Education and Career Hopes) program, which is a certified transition program for students ages 18-25 years old with intellectual, cognitive and learning disabilities.   

To pay tribute to the communities COC has served and the support they have given over the past 50 years, and to celebrate COC’s achievements and commemorate this special milestone, COC plans to sponsor several local community events throughout this summer.  COC invites the community to celebrate with COC all they have achieved together over the last half-century and to look forward to the opportunities that lay ahead with several exciting events:

July 4th Knoxville July 4th Celebration (COC will sponsor the Bike Parade)

July 12th Friday Night Live at Memorial Park in Indianola

July 15th Oskaloosa Movie Night at the Southern Iowa Fair Grounds

July 18th Thursday Night on the Square in Pella

We encourage those in the community to come out and support these events and celebrate COC’s 50th Anniversary. 

Our mission is to Integrate Christian values in empowering individuals with disabilities to realize their full potential.