Flinn Hot Plate/Magnetic Stirrer

2019 IAF Annual School Supply Fund Drive!

Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.” – Carl Sagan

Once again, it is time for our ANNUAL SCHOOL SUPPLY FUND DRIVE. IAF has conducted an annual school supply fund drive for many years. Two years ago, one of our members altered the focus of our drives by offering a generous $500 donation with the contingency that the money be allocated specifically for science. The idea was so consistent with much of what IAF stands for that we decided to follow his strategy. Our last two drives have been focused entirely on school supply needs for the science teacher or science student. As we did with all prior drives, we searched for a school with a significant need. Our search led us to southern Iowa.

As every political candidate learns, Iowa has 99 counties, ranging from the richest; Dallas County (Think Adel, Waukee) with a median annual income of $73,847, to the poorest, Decatur County (Decatur City, Leon, Lamoni) with a median income of $36,326. (Polk County comes in at number 5). Lamoni is a quiet little town of 2,267 citizens (2017), most of whom are part of the southern Iowa agricultural community. It is home to Graceland College, where Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner was a student in 1972 when he won an Olympic Gold Medal in the 1.500 meter event of the decathlon. Lamoni High School , where 55% of the student body falls into the category of “economically disadvantaged”, is a school with a significant need.

We visited with the Chair of the science department about the status of the school’s programs and available funding. For a student body of approximately 190 kids, the science department has an annual budget of $200 for classroom supplies. Teachers expressed frustration, one explaining that of the 36 teachers, “I cannot think of one who does not take some money from their own pocket at the beginning of the year.” Many of the lab supplies are extremely outdated; some are simply non-existent.

When we asked the science teachers what they would do with a donation of, perhaps “several hundred dollars”, their first response was “the first thing we would do would be to replace our old Ceramic Warming Plates.” Warming plates are one of the foundational science lab tools, described as “vital devices for the science lab”; used to warm and maintain the temperature of various laboratory specimens. Of particular importance is their capacity to heat uniformly, maintain temperature, and function without exposed flame. Warming Plates come with a single or double burner, some include a magnetic stirrer. Good quality plates are designed to assure student safety, and to last for several years. They are utilized to teach multiple disciplines: earth science, environmental science, biology, chemistry, soil science, geology, farming, and for soil testing in the Ag department. One teacher explained; “students are so much more engaged when they can work in the lab.” The warming plates currently in use are worn, somewhat rusted, and appear to be decades old. To provide new warmers for all of the disciplines taught to the 190-200 students would require SIX units.

One of the best products is the “; utilizing state-of-the-art ceramics with safe heating features. Stirrers can be adjusted from 200 to 2,500 rpm. Each 7” X 7” plate costs $545, though purchase of multiple units results in a discount. With is in mind, our goal for our 2019 fund drive:

To donate at least one, and if possible SIX Flinn Warming Plates with Magnetic Stirrer to Lamoni High School/Middle School. Our donation will be chronicled in the local Lamoni newspaper, and hopefully in the Des Moines Register and in Cityview. Each warmer will include a small brass plate with the inscription “Donated to Lamoni HS by IAF (Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers) – fall semester 2019.” Between 190 and 200 students and their science teachers, all living in the poorest county in Iowa, will receive immediate benefit from our 2019 school supply fund drive. If we raise $550 one warmer will be donated – $1,000 will provide 2 warmers – with possible matching funds; THREE Thousand dollars will update the entire science department.

Please donate what you can.

Bill & Joyce Shackelford

IAF 2019 School Supply Fund Drive

With both high school and middle school students, approximately 150 students would receive immediate benefit of our donation.

2019 IAF Annual School Supply Fund Drive

$1,290 of $3,000 raised
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Donation Total: $10


IAF’s Fifth Annual School Supply Drive!

The 2016 School Supply Drive was the best yet! Thank you so very much to everyone who donated their money, time and effort! $2356 in donations, including a full 1K match from the IAF and proceeds from our volunteers working concessions at Wells Fargo Arena during the period of the Drive. Boxes of school supplies were delivered on Friday, Aug 19 to Hiatt Middle School and to elementary schools, Edmunds, Jackson, Moulton and Smouse. Additionally, ten backpacks stuffed with school supplies were delivered to Hawthorn Hill homeless families shelter. We still have another “special delivery” to make as we also received an additional $500 from an anonymous donor through the United Coalition of Reason for STEM specific items. Stay tuned!


‘Non-belief’ doesn’t make atheists devil worshipers

From the Des Moines Register August 7, 2016

gary_touched_upI found Daniel Finney’s July 31 column interesting [Emails show Democrats disrespect for atheists], as I’m uncertain why there is this fear or hatred toward atheists. Atheism is really one plain and simple thing — a lack of belief in any god.

Not hatred of a god or religious person, just a non-belief. I don’t hate a person who has cancer without hating cancer. I don’t hate a child who believes in Santa Claus or unicorns. I simply do not share their belief. I have no agenda. I do not worship the devil or anything else. I believe in science, but do not worship it.

The national goal of the American Atheist Association is twofold — separation of church and state and to offer support to those who are like-minded and know they are not alone in a country where the majority have a religion. I do not deny we’re in a minority, but elimination of atheism worldwide would be accomplished easily — just prove there is a god.

Proving a negative is impossible. You can’t prove there is no Easter bunny or tooth fairy, so I can’t prove there is no god. The burden of proof is on those who tell me I should worship their god. Prove it exists and I’ll be happy to worship it. Any god. Poof! Atheism gone forever.

— Gary DeSomber, West Des Moines


IAF Appears on Local News Story

Screenshot 2016-05-17 at 12.39.27IAF PR Officer Jason Paul Benell appeared on WHO 13 to give the atheist perspective on the declining numbers of believers in the United States, particularly in Iowa, and particularly in the Catholic Church. Jason pointed out that groups like Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers are key in providing a safe place for people to question their faith and find camaraderie without the need for superstition. We also touched on the reasons people were leaving the Church: they weren’t finding the values in sync with their own, the constant need for money and support from its members, the scandals and general problems within the church, and simply not finding the stories true or relevant anymore.  Hopefully IAF being a part of the story will lead to more exposure for more Iowans to come out of the closet (and the pew) and embracing rationalism, freethinking, and science over old superstitious institutions like the church!




Spring 2016 Highway Cleanup

After a hiatus due to construction, the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers were excited to get back to work on their section of highway and do their part to improve their community.  The weather was perfect on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for the volunteers to make their newly upgraded section of I-80/35 look great again after many seasons of construction and renovation. IAF is glad to be a part of the volunteer Adopt a Highway program in central Iowa with annual clean ups to reinforce their commitment to community both within and without the group. Every year IAF volunteers can be seen taking care of the section of I-35/80 between Grand Avenue and Mills Civic Parkway on the Southwestern corner of the Metro, cleaning up everything from abandoned pop cans to even massive truck tires. This year was no different with great weather, a fun atmosphere, and a dedication to the cleanliness and engagement of the community with several drivers honking their appreciation and support of IAF! We hope to see you at our next highway clean up as well as at any of our many community and volunteer events!


Announcing the Jerry Carpenter Memorial Scholarship

Jerry CarpenterIowa Atheists and Freethinkers(IAF) is proud to announce the Jerry Carpenter Memorial Scholarship! Iowa has a long history of social activism among its student body and IAF encourages this tradition of student engagement on behalf of atheism and secular ideals. In order to better facilitate atheist activism by students in Iowa, IAF has announced the Jerry Carpenter Memorial Scholarship for those students that focus on atheism, secular values, and the separation of church and state in their educational careers. IAF believes that when atheism, along with separation of church and state, are discussed openly and freely, this results in more religious liberty-not less.  By empowering young Iowans to speak out and provide a culture of open dialogue about seemingly difficult religious issues we open the door to a better understanding of what it means to be an atheist in Iowa and what this means for all Iowans in a public setting. This scholarship is designed to incentivize young Iowans to be open and forward with their atheism and to learn more about what the separation of church and state means for the non religious as well as the religious.

Those Iowa students that wish to ensure a more religiously free and open society are encouraged to participate in the Scholarship with a submission on the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers website (www.iowaatheists.org)  where additional application information can be found.


Jason Benell

Press Officer

Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers



For more information: http://www.iowaatheists.org/jerry-carpenter-memorial-scholarship



Helping troubled LGBTQ youth


IAF wants to assist at-risk teens in the LGBTQ community and elsewhere with information about how, when, and why to Come Out. The book “Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other and Why”, by Greta Christina, provides guidelines and advice applicable to secular people or those in the LGBTQ at-risk group – especially pre-adults. This book is a wonderful tool written by an author that is intimately familiar with both of these topics. Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers would like to provide this book for free to anyone that would like access to additional resources or assistance in Coming Out.Recently a young transgendered woman in Ohio, Leelah Alcorn, took her own life. In her final notes Leelah cited her parents’ refusal to accept her for who she was, the isolation that they had made her feel, and her parents continued pressure through religious means to change her identity. This is an absolute tragedy, and a tragedy that can be avoided by providing outreach and community for those that feel isolated and alone. Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers is dedicated to providing a safe and open community for those that feel unwelcome or isolated from their family and friends because of their (lack of) religious beliefs or LGBTQ status.
By contributing to the link below, your donation will allow IAF to purchase a case or more of this book along with other IAF resources. This book will be available on hand for free for at-risk individuals.

IAF appreciates your contribution and support in ending the kinds of isolation and alienation where Leelah Alcorn or anyone like her feels the need to take their own life.