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QUAD-CITIZEN AWARD: Jenny Halupnik is helping kids, one at a time
QUAD-CITIZEN AWARD: JENNY HALUPNIK

QUAD-CITIZEN AWARD: Jenny Halupnik is helping kids, one at a time

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It was about 11 years ago when Jenny Halupnik felt a calling to help kids and her kids’ school at the same time. The Cedar Falls native hadn’t been in Bettendorf long, but that did not stop her.

“It was at a time when God was telling me to commit to kids and support the school at the same time,” Halupnik said.

She started with a Bible study that met before or after school. Included were service projects such as helping around the school, making packages for foster kids and children experiencing homelessness and other community projects.

Her first meeting with Kids for Christ, as it was first called, had about 35 students.

She hasn’t really stopped since. Halupnik is this month's Quad-Citizen Award honoree. The award is a partnership between the Quad-City Times and IHMVCU to honor outstanding Quad-City area residents who go above and beyond for their community.

The mother of three still volunteers for what's now called Quest for Christ, and includes about 500 kindergarten to Grade 8 students in 13 schools in the Bettendorf and Davenport school districts. She's also joined the One Eighty program that helped create food pantries in Davenport schools and offers programs that include basketball and baseball leagues for kids from Davenport's west side, who otherwise wouldn't have them. She's led the Prevent program, and had a hand in creating Opportunity for All, funding things like summer camp, gymnastics or band that students might not otherwise be able to afford.

When Halupnik sees a problem for kids, she ultimately tries to find a solution.

These days she tutors two days a week for One Eighty, where she still serves on the board, volunteers at Quest for Christ and helps out with the school parent-teacher organization while also going to school full-time to earn her master's in communications.

“No task is too big or too small for her,” said her friend and colleague, Michele Beck. “She does so much. And she does it all with humility.”

Halupnik is dedicated to kids.

“I see kids as a unique gift from God,” she said. “I love their joy, their gentle spirit, their creativity.”

Plus, children are the future. It’s a future she’s been working on for more than a decade.

“It hasn’t always been easy,” she says of bringing the message of Christ inside a public school. “There’s been some tightropes to walk along the way.”

The program meets before or after school, and is voluntary, similar to a Scouting group meeting inside a school building.

“We are not by any stretch trying to instill our faith values on anyone else who’s not interested in that," she said. "But we are inviting people to come and be a part and learn if they want to. You would be surprised how many people are really open to having that as a part of their daily life and really want that their kids to be able to experience that.”

Their tasks extend beyond the religious. 

“Within One Eighty we would provide food pantries to meet physical needs of kids and their families,” and provide beds for kids who were sleeping on the floor at home, and provide services like lice treatment for kids struggling with that,” Halupnik said. “We feel like Jesus came in and met people’s physical needs and their spiritual needs, and that’s what we were trying to do.

“Whether they agreed with us on the faith, we are still happy to serve them and be a partner with the Davenport schools and making sure kids have what they need.”

She believes she’s making a difference, especially in a society where reading and scholastic achievement levels too often can be reflected by economic levels.

“We want to fix these problems,” she said. “We are meeting the needs of these kids.”

While tutoring one student on the West Side, she sees a positive value.

“This is the geography we are serving,” Halupnik said. “These are the schools we are partnering with. And our goal is to make a difference in this small part of the world.

“We feel like if we can do that, we will have succeeded. And there will be other groups that come along and say, 'How are you doing that? We want to do that over here.'”

Groups are already doing that, she said.

“We feel like there’s enough people in the world that see the vision and can come alongside and do that small thing in this small part of the world.

“That’s how you really change a community.”

You tackle challenges by affecting the child in front of you, she said. “You say, I am going to make a difference in this kid's life.”

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