Barnabas Uplift

Offering certified nursing assistant training to help lift Iowans out of poverty.


Marsha Ruby and Vilma Barrios 3


To eliminate poverty by encouraging individuals, families and communities to move toward self-sufficiency.


Certified Nursing Assistant Training

Barnabas Uplift works with area community colleges and sponsoring churches to offer the 80-hour instruction and clinical course to prepare students for the CNA certification exam and a career as nursing assistants.

In cooperation with Northeast Iowa Community College, the training currently takes place at St. Paul Lutheran, Postville, where NICC instructors provide the training sessions in a dedicated classroom and practice lab, as well as at the practice lab at NICC. Clinical training takes place at a local nursing home.

St. Paul, Postvile, CNA Training Lab

CNA Training Lab at St. Paul, Postville

The CNA training program is offered free for qualified individuals who have an income that is no more than 200 percent above the poverty line. So far, 30 individuals have graduated from the Barnabas Uplift program at Postville.

BU Aug 2015 cr

2015 Waterloo CNA Class

2014 Postville CNA Class cropped

2014 Postville CNA Class

Partnerships bring health care training to Postville

from the February 2013 Star newsletter of the Northeastern Iowa Synod


Vilma Barrios at the CNA lab at st. Paul, Postville

Vilma Barrios in the CNA lab at St. Paul, Postville

Twenty-one-year-old Vilma Barrios of Postville has a goal to be a physical therapist one day. Barrios moved with her family seven years ago from Guatemala to Postville where she completed high school and takes evening classes for English as a second language. With encouragement from her instructor and an opportunity provided through the Barnabas Uplift network, Barrios has taken her first educational step toward a health care career.


Read More
“I want to do more with education, and my teacher said to try this and it will help you get ahead for an education,” Barrios says of the certified nurse aide (CNA) training she completed in December at St. Paul Lutheran, Postville. The 75-hour course is offered free through Barnabas Uplift for qualified individuals whose income is 200 percent of the poverty level or below.


St. Paul offers the training in cooperation with Northeast Iowa Community College, which provides an instructor and oversees the curriculum. Two Barnabas Uplift classes graduated from the Postville site in 2009, two in 2010, and one in 2012. St. Paul stepped up its support of the program in 2010 through monthly special offering envelopes, and when a statewide federal allocation ended in 2011, the congregation approved $4000 in its annual budget to ensure that future Barnabas Uplift CNA classes can be offered in Postville.


In the past year, St. Paul hired a program coordinator and dedicated space for a classroom and clinical training lab in the church’s educational wing where students can practice their skills. The lab includes three beds and bedding donated from three area care facilities, and a wheelchair, commode and shower chair supplied by American Home Patient of Decorah.


Other community partners supporting the project are the Northeastern Iowa Synod, Catholic Charities of Dubuque, the Good Samaritan Society of Postville, and Iowa Workforce Development. St. Paul Pastor Steve Brackett says he would like to see more partners get involved with the Barnabas Uplift network as interest in the training grows.


“We already have more than 20 requests for information about the course we plan to offer in March,” Brackett says. “It is our hope that within one year we will have additional churches and organizations to help fund the Barnabas Uplift program. If we are able to expand our support, then we hope to be able to offer other training programs in addition to CNA training.”


Barrios says she is grateful to the people who helped fund her training. “I look forward to a career in health services and appreciate the opportunity to participate in the Barnabas Uplift program.”


Earned Income Tax Credit Assistance Program

Free tax preparation assistance helps low-income Iowans complete tax returns so they can receive the refunds they are entitled to. Congregations participate by providing a location where tax documents can be photocopied, tax payers can log in, and volunteers can assist with filing.

Congregations interested in being a host site for this program should contact the Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson. 





“I was the first person in my immediate family to graduate from high school. I completed my CNA training and am continuing classes to become an LPN. I’m working a steady job and doing well in my courses!”

— Alexandria


Barnabas Uplift Partners

Northeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA 
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque



Barnabas Uplift Testimony to U.S. Senate Subcommittee Hearing

Read the testimony about Barnabas Uplift which Pastor Mark Anderson, assistant to the Bishop, presented at the “Preserving America’s Economic Security” field hearing led by Senator Tom Harkin on Feb. 5, 2011. The hearing discussed the ways federal funding has helped give Iowans the education and skills they need to find jobs.
Download Testimony



Economic Stability Resources

ISED Ventures — an Iowa asset development organization with the mission of creating opportunities for low and moderate income Iowans to build their assets and achieve financial stability. — a nonprofit coalition dedicated to promoting healthy families and safe communities by preventing substance abuse in Iowa.



Contact Information

To apply for a Barnabas Uplift class or to learn more about Barnabas Uplift programs, contact:

Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson, ELCA Director for Evangelical Mission
Northeastern Iowa Synod
201 20th St. Sw
P.O. Box 804
Waverly, IA 50677-0804

Send an Email.