Who We Are

Our Mission

To create an environment that empowers women in crisis

to achieve positive long-term change.

A Residence of Hope and Healing

Founded in 1980, Beacon of Life serves adult women in Central Iowa who are experiencing homelessness due to domestic violence, incarceration, or substance use by providing a trauma-informed residential facility and evidence-based programming and support.

Throughout a 6–24 month stay at the Beacon (and for 12 months beyond their successful stay), clients work with our Case Manager to heal and build self-sufficiency. In-house programming includes mental health counseling, addiction counseling, and healthy relationships classes. The Case Manager connects clients with community partners, such as the Evelyn Kay Davis Center for financial literacy and Project Iowa for career development. Our remodeled, ADA accessible building in Sherman Hill houses 34 women and staff offices.

Senior Staff

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Melissa Vine, MA, LMHC

Executive Director


The Executive Director is responsible for the overall strategic plan and operations of the Beacon, including staff, programs, expansion, fundraising, development, and execution of its mission.

Melissa Vine, MA, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor with 13 years of experience in business ownership, is also a professional speaker and domestic violence survivor. She received a bachelor’s in Communication Studies in 2002, graduated summa cum laude with a master’s in Professional Counseling in 2016, and is a JD Candidate with a full-tuition scholarship at Drake Law School as an Iowa State Supreme Court Justice Scholar.  Melissa was in the 2021 class of the Des Moines Business Record's Forty Under 40, 2018 recipient of One to Watch, and the 2014 recipient of Service Business of the Year by the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce.  She has spoken for the Business Record's Fearless launch, Iowa Board of Regents Campus Safety and Security Summit, Arts Midwest, Iowa Healthcare Financial Management Women's Conference, UnityPoint Clinic, the UNI Center for Violence Prevention, and the Iowa Small Business Summit, among others.  Melissa lives in Des Moines, Iowa with her four teenage boys and volunteers with the Downtown Chamber of Commerce, ACES Steering Committee, and Des Moines Public Schools. 


Jaclyn Duden

Case Manager


The Case Manager is responsible for providing comprehensive assessment, planning, implementation, and overall evaluation of each of our resident’s needs during their stay at the Beacon and for one year following their successful stay.

Jackie has worked in human services since 2009 and has always enjoyed helping people aim to reach their full potential. She has a well-rounded background with a Creative Writing/Asian Studies degree from Coe College, volunteer experience with Americorps in capacity building, teaching English as a second language, time living abroad and taking on leadership roles. Jackie has several pieces of writing published in multiple publications. In her leisure time she likes to read, write and learn new things, especially regarding innovative and improved approaches to helping clients at Beacon of Life.  


Amber Klingenberg

Office Manager


The Office Manager oversees the Beacon's daily operations and administrative tasks.

With a long history of nonprofit work, Amber joined the Beacon of Life in May 2020 as Office Manager, and we could not be more thankful for her heartfelt work! While ‘“office” is in her title, Amber can also be found empathizing with a client, cutting through a complicated staff conversation with insightful commentary, unloading a van full of donations, or snaking a clogged drain! Amber comes with plenty of experience, including an English Education degree from Grinnell College and a career in child abuse prevention and sexual assault victim advocacy. In her spare time, Amber runs her own handmade jewelry business, Blue Feather Creations, a skill she also shares with Beacon of Life clients and is also studying to become a nurse.

Board of Directors

Jill Niswander

Jill Niswander

Board President

VP of Human Resources, Emory Industrial Services

Member since 2016

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Katie Caggiano

Board Treasurer

Budget Analyst 3, Iowa Dep't of Public Health

Member since July 2020


Emily Berrier

Board Vice President

Assistant Vice President, Nationwide Insurance

Member since July 2019


Travis Simpson

Board Past President

Regional President, Northwest Bank

Member since October 2015

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Shannon Sobek

Board Secretary

Attorney; Wasker, Dorr, Wimmer & Marcouiller, P.C

Member since July 2018

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Kennesha Woods

Parole Officer, Dept of Corrections

Member since March 2021

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Sara Wille

Human Resources Director, Federal Home Loan Bank

Member since March 2021

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Whitney Judkins

Partner/Attorney, Timmer & Judkins, PLLC

Member since March 2021

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Katherine Harrington

Exec. Director, Iowa Community Action Association

Member since July 2020


Kim Babberl

Product Consulting Director, Mede Analytics

Member since July 2020

Frequently Asked Questions