Staff Spotlight: Luke Elzinga
Luke Elzinga joined DMARC in April of 2014. As Communications and Advocacy Manager, he writes and edits a variety of written material for print and web, designs print pieces and graphics, maintains dmarcunited.org, takes photos, produces videos, manages press outreach, leads DMARC’s advocacy efforts, and other communications and advocacy tasks.
Luke earned his BA in Advertising from Iowa State University. He previously served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at Montana Legal Services Association in Helena, Montana. Luke is a 2017 fellow of the New Leaders Council Des Moines Chapter. He is a board member of the Iowa Hunger Coalition, and has previously served on the boards of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) Des Moines and dsmHack. Luke is currently pursuing his Master of Public Policy through the University of Northern Iowa.
In his free time, Luke enjoys cooking, reading, movies and TV shows, board games, and spending time with his wife (Piper), daughter (June), two cats, and dog.
What drew you to DMARC originally, and how has it changed since then?
Truthfully, I didn’t know much about DMARC when I first applied for the open Communications Manager position in 2014, but I was very impressed by the mission of the organization and its emphasis on interfaith collaboration. DMARC has changed substantially in the past seven years I’ve been here. Among lots of other changes and innovations, the organization has put a greater emphasis on advocacy and equity, of which I am very appreciative. In my view, we can’t truly solve hunger and food insecurity without addressing the policies and systems that keep people living in poverty, and I’m fortunate to have been able to take on more advocacy responsibilities in addition to my communications work.
What do you like most about working at DMARC?
My favorite part about working at DMARC is educating people on the reality of hunger and food insecurity in our community. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about who experiences food insecurity and why, and seeing people re-examine their attitudes and beliefs on the issue is always gratifying. I also really enjoy the advocacy work I get to do and deepening my understanding of complex policies and the political process. I don’t do a ton of work in the interfaith realm, but always greatly enjoy being a part of the Interfaith Youth Leadership Camp we co-host with the Comparison Project at Drake University during the summer – I am always so impressed with the students.
What is your proudest moment at DMARC?
I have a few proudest moments at DMARC. This past August, we held our first Storytellers Roundtable on Hunger and Food Insecurity, a project I had been working on for around two years that had faced delays and challenges due to COVID-19. I am very excited to hold more of these in the future to learn from people living with food insecurity in our community and get them involved in our advocacy work and decision-making process at DMARC. I am also proud of successfully defending the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from multiple bad bills over the past few legislative sessions in Iowa.
What’s a fun fact about yourself that others might not be aware of?
I play Dungeons & Dragons. My main character is a level 11 Half-Elf Bard (chaotic neutral), who I’ve been playing for two years with a group of friends. Creating stories and environments as Dungeon Master (DM) is a lot of work, but so much fun. I’ve also played the roleplaying games Call of Cthulhu and World of Darkness and enjoy those, too.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I’m a decent cook, and a taco fiend. I once ate a taco in one bite, and on another occasion ate 24 tacos in the span of a couple hours. Granted, they were all relatively small tacos – La Tiara taco shells are the best.
Before working at DMARC, what’s the most interesting job you’ve ever had?
I worked at Pizza Ranch in high school, and that was probably the most entertaining and interesting job I’ve held. Lots of shenanigans and workplace pranks. I’ve also worked as a server at a sports bar, did communications work for the Department of Mechanical Engineering while I was a student at Iowa State University, and served as an Americorps VISTA member at a legal services agency in Montana.
Where is your favorite place in the world to be?
Probably Lake Michigan, but as long as I have Piper and June with me, I’m happy wherever.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I had a lot of different ideas of what I wanted to be when I grew up, but the two most common ones were probably surgeon and stand-up comedian/voice actor. A career assessment I took in high school suggested I should be a children’s musician, and to its credit, I do make up a lot of songs for my daughter.
If you could use one famous movie line to describe yourself, what would it be?
“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” – Network