Supergrandma: An Advocate for a Better World

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Victor Allen

Lori Allen, Supergrandma, stands with her daughter, Molly, who she has advocated for throughout much of her life.

Lori Allen is not an ordinary woman. Her whole parental life, she has been an advocate. First, she was informal: She advocated for the needs of her children, specifically her daughter with Down syndrome. Then, she became a pro: advocating for the needs of those who struggle with emotional and financial crises, most recently as the director of the nonprofit Good Neighbor, which reaches out and provides support for those in monetary need. But above all that, she is an advocate for those closest to her and won’t stop until she sees good conditions for the future. I recently had the privilege of interviewing her with the goal of telling people about her and just how much of a superhero she really is. Our interview (below) has been edited for reader clarity:

Tell me a little bit about yourself. 

I’m a younger baby boomer, that has pretty much lived in the same region my whole life, the Midwest. By describing myself between my relationships with parenting and being a grandparent, and my line of work, I think for my whole life, I’ve been interested in creativity… and connections… and strategies. I’ve had big questions my whole life about how the world works and how religion works and how nature works, and the questions have always been the biggest thing to me. They help me with creativity in art and writing and the rest of my life.

Tell me a little bit about your profession. 

I would say, for the last decade, I’ve worked professionally as an advocate, first at ACCESS Crisis Management, then at Good Neighbor. Prior to that, I was informally an advocate, mostly advocating for Molly, my daughter with down syndrome, and her services and needs, and in about 2010, I had the opportunity to make advocacy my profession. It ranges from advocacy for people who have experienced trauma or are having trouble with the systems that are set up to support themselves.

Why did you decide to go into that field of work?

Well, before that, I worked over 20 years as a provider of religious education, and that kind of set the foundation for the professional advocacy work. When I first got out of high school, I worked as a medical assistant and a nurse, but I was never very fond of that work. I was more interested in peoples’ social and spiritual situations rather than caring about their physical health.

What is one change you’d like to see in our community?

I would like to see living wages being offered for all employment. In our community, 20% of our population lives below the poverty level, and I think it puts people in personal or social struggles, and if they work at lower-paying jobs, they can’t meet their needs already, and it’s kind of disheartening to see this contribute to mental health issues. I think that it would alleviate the need for social programs and charitable organizations that can’t fund all of their needs. I’m very excited for the Ames plan to help the ecology of Ames, because I’m very concerned about the environment. I’m very concerned about my grandchildren, and the environment for their future.

How do you feel that you make a difference based on your line of work?

I think I directly impact people who don’t have enough financial resources to meet their basic needs. And personally, I feel that at Good Neighbor, which is just me and a few volunteers, we do a good job at trying to prevent homelessness.

What about in your day-to-day life? 

I think I’m pretty aware of the carbon footprint I leave, I try to make that as small as possible. And I feel that my civic interest in politics and the fact that I vote in every election and educate myself about all the candidates are something I do. I also think that my participation in civic and social events helps to create community. I really try to be a kind person, I show empathy to people. I’m our HOA president, and I think I do that so that our little enclave can be good citizens.