Madge Jones Phillips, 38BA, is a human services activist, who has committed both her professional career and her personal life to helping those who are less fortunate in and around Cedar Rapids.
During her 18 years as director of the Linn County Health Center—now the Linn County Department of Human Resources Management—and later as an activist serving the same causes, Phillips created a legacy of hard-nosed volunteerism in eastern Iowa. A trailblazer whose can-do attitude in the field of human services has helped thousands of Iowans over the years, she has been particularly supportive of children and seniors.
In 1981, Phillips helped organize the Witwer Senior Center, filling a void in the lives of senior citizens in the Cedar Rapids area. Two years later, when she began to develop vision problems, Phillips knew there must be others with deteriorating eyesight, so she worked to establish low-vision service centers in three Cedar Rapids-area locations.
In 1986, Phillips spearheaded a drive to create a center for sexually abused children. The resulting St. Luke's Child Protection Center has served as a safe haven for more than 10,000 children at risk and has focused further attention on a serious societal problem. Then, in 1989, the Cedar Rapids YMCA opened the Madge Phillips Resource Center to serve as a daytime resource for homeless women and children when other nighttime emergency shelters are closed. In 1995, the Cedar Rapids Junior League raised $1,680,000 to build a state-of-the-art center to expand the Madge Phillips shelter into a 24-hour program.
Explaining both her motivations and her philosophy, Phillips told a Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter several years ago, "When I retired, I decided to get involved in the two populations that interested me the most—abused children and the elderly. To me, children and elderly are the most at-risk, fragile populations. They just touch me."
Phillips has chaired advisory boards for the Witwer Senior Center, the COMMIT anti-smoking project, the Four Oaks program committee, the St. Luke's Child Protection Center, and the YWCA Board of Trustees. She has served as a board member for the Heritage Area Agency on Aging, the Linn County Task Force, and Linn County Aging Services.
Phillips has been named National Volunteer of the Year by the American Hospital Association and a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International, and she also received the Alexis de Tocqueville volunteer award by United Way of America.
Phillips is a life member of the UI Alumni Association.