Sara Lemke

Meet Sara

Take us back to you as a kid.

I grew up in Des Moines with a majority of my time spent playing soccer, rollerblading at Skate West (even sometimes with Barney!), and playing trampoline games with my sisters. I was very shy and quiet until I went to my first week of camp. My dad heavily encouraged me to go with my younger sister because he didn’t want her to be alone, luckily, he threw me into the world where I thrived. At camp, I blossomed into the outgoing, bubbly, fun loving person I am today! 

What's keeping you busy?

I work as the Event Coordinator for HCI Care Services, Visiting Nursing Services of Iowa and Amanda the Panda. I feel lucky that I get to work with people from all different backgrounds, raise awareness and funds that will go right back into programs that serve Iowa families. Besides work, I do a lot of volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association: Greater Iowa Chapter. So far this summer we have planned a 90’s Benefit Concert at Wooley’s, a Senior Homecoming Dance, and are getting ready for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday, September 16th. Another project that my sister, Janelle, and I started is our community choir, ‘Melodies.’ It is a dementia inclusive choir for those living with dementia and their caregivers. I am passionate about this project and enjoy the time I get to spend with community members who have a passion and love for music. Outside of work and volunteering, I busy myself daydreaming of where I will travel next and playing with my two pups. 

Walk us through the Art of Compassion. How did it get its start and what do you expect to see from the project? 

The Art of Compassion is a new annual signature event to help support programs provided by HCI Care Services, Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, and Amanda the Panda. Our goal is to showcase the compassionate care we provide to our 60,000 clients across the state and start the conversation: how can you live your best life? Through helping others or achieving your goals we wanted to incorporate the community in the conversation. Every year we will have a different public art component with a theme that revolves around compassion. This year our theme is “Before I Die, I want to…” which is an interactive public chalkboard wall that was started by artist Candy Chang in New Orleans. We unveiled the wall just over three weeks ago and the public feedback has been inspiring. We hope this project grows every year and gets the public excited to see what we do next. This is all leading up to our Art of Compassion Celebration on Thursday, October 12th at the Capital Square Atrium at 6:00 p.m. Interested in going? Check out -  we hope to see you there! 

"One problem I have been focused on solving is living in the present."

What have been the challenges? Who and what has helped?

I think our biggest challenges for Art of Compassion is that it is the first year we have done this event, so with everything we are learning as we go. Luckily we have a stellar team of volunteers who serve on our committee as well as overwhelming support for the event from our community sponsors! A huge thank you and shout out to everyone who has helped to support our mission- without you this event wouldn’t be possible!  

Talk to us about one problem you’ve been focused on solving and why.

One problem I have been focused on solving is living in the present. I think I get so caught up in the future and what that will look like but forget to appreciate the experiences I have every day. I think by being aware of the present you allow yourself to not get stressed with what is to come and are able to focus on how beautiful life is. 

"Know that failure only makes you better."

Someone is starting a project for the first time, what would you want to say to them?

Be humble, kind, and listen to feedback with an open mind. Try not to get too discouraged when things don’t pan out the way you thought they would and know that failure only makes you better. 

Why Des Moines?

I have always told my friends that I am low key DSM tour guide because I love this city so dang much. Des Moines has everything a big city has to offer with a small town feel. It’s down to earth, no bogus attitude is why I love it. 

Des Moines is growing. What’s one new thing that caught your eye?

Recently I’ve been amazed by the amount of younger people moving to Des Moines. I think Des Moines has a vibrant culture and many opportunities for young professionals to come and make a difference. I met a guy in his early 20s from New York who was scoping out Des Moines to possibly move here. He called us the prairie version of Austin, Texas and was impressed with our arts, culture, and friendly atmosphere. 

If you could grant the Des Moines one wish what would it be and why?

Accessible and free healthcare to all its citizens- because it is a human right.  

"It’s down to earth, no bogus attitude is why I love it. "

Convince someone new to DSM your favorite place to go on your day off.

WELCOME TO DES MOINES! Literally the best place on earth. You should head to the East Village to enjoy the local shops and fun vibes. First, stop at Gong Fu Tea and get the most delicious Chai Tea you have ever had (you can get it hot or iced, both are amazing options) then walk/shop your afternoon away. Finish your night off at the Iowa Taproom where you can enjoy a beer hall-style setting with 120 taps featuring all Iowa craft brews. 

The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why?

The most underrated thing in DSM is the people. I have never been a city surrounded by so many compassionate, caring, and vibrant community members. 

What are you most proud of and why?

I most proud of how many personal and professional connections I have made to help me become the person I am today. Without the influence and help of some special individuals, I would not have the self-confidence and perseverance to continue to do better and make a meaningful impact in the community.  

"I believe that if you care about an issue you need to speak up to make change happen."

In three months what do you hope to accomplish?

In three months I hope to be reflecting on the Art of Compassion and how it impacted the community and our organization. I hope that the money we raise will help to change families lives for the better. 

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about?

I am passionate about advocacy and education. I believe that if you care about an issue you need to speak up to make change happen. Sitting by idly and pouting about the world is going to do nothing. Speaking up, getting involved, and promoting love for your neighbor is what’s going to keep this world going in a positive direction. 

Photo credit: Janelle Ketcher

Derek Jensen