Impact for Women Summit celebrates Women's Fund of Southwest Iowa
The second-ever Impact for Women Summit was held Tuesday, Sept. 26, at the Mid-America Center.
After the first hybrid-style event in 2021, this year's summit saw attendance more than double, with more than 450 women (and a few men) in attendance.
The summit is an effort of the Women's Fund of Southwest Iowa, created by the Community Foundation for Western Iowa, to impact challenges facing area women in the fields of education, childcare, safety and well-being, and aging in place.
"This is an amazing opportunity for you to see the impact and be the change to lift up women in our community," said Donna Dostal, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Western Iowa.
Dostal shared her vision to "invest in women and make our community strong," calling on audience members to come together "as women in western Iowa" to make it a better place for future generations.
Four speakers shared their stories, each highlighting a different touchstone of what drives the Women's Fund.
Rebecca Bender, CEO and founder of the Rebecca Bender Initiative and Elevate Academy, spoke on health, safety and well-being.
As a woman who was trafficked, Bender shared her profound story, as well as tips for how to identify and target women who might need help.
"If you can close your eyes and picture the most vulnerable people in your community, traffickers can, too," she said.
She also encouraged people to discard judgment.
"It takes a whole community to learn the signs, to keep eyes out, to not only help with prevention efforts and intervention efforts, but it also takes our entire community to help the women that are escaping," Bender said.
Lakelyn Hogan Eichenberger, a gerontologist and caregiving advocate with Home Instead, spoke on aging in place. She highlighted population trends, caregiving and planning for aging.
A lot of people don't plan, often reacting to a crisis that has happened, she said. Instead, she encouraged attendees to talk to their loved ones, develop a plan, and recognize it may need to be adjusted based on circumstance.
She also talked about rural challenges for older Americans, 90% of whom want to stay in their homes as they age.
"Family caregivers are contributing so much to the state of Iowa," she said.
Tamara Brunow-Kowal -- founder and CEO of Brunow Contracting, TAMCO Properties and H2W Apparel -- spoke on education and STEM.
As a woman who seized opportunity when there was little of it for women in the construction field, she shared how encouraged she was by the way society and education has shifted, allowing children to explore interests and career paths.
She talked about the impact of mentorship, both in her own life and what a difference it can make for children, and shared the value of discipline, creativity, failure and goals.
Being teachable is more valuable than getting an A-plus in calculus, she said, and you can't rely on traditional methods to decide who is STEM-career bound.
To round out the event, Jackie Joyner-Kersee talked about access to childcare, one of the many offerings of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation.
A three-time Olympic gold medalist, Joyner-Kersee shared her personal journey to the Olympics, impacted by the loss of her mother, and how both inspired her to return to her home of East St. Louis and reopen the community center that had been such an instrumental piece of her childhood.
"All of us, the community, is each and every one of you," Joyner-Kersee said. "We talk about a culture, a culture is all of us, is the combination of us, because we all are trying to make a difference and trying to provide an opportunity to make sure someone's life is better than your own life."
The Women's Fund was established in 2018 and serves the following Iowa counties: Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie and Shelby.
"When you invest in women in our city, in your region, in your state, the whole community thrives," Dostal said. "For us to be just a little part of that, and for your generosity to make that possible, is a humbling opportunity and we're very grateful for that."
Since the fund’s creation, 29 grants totaling $280,160 have been awarded. The foundation has raise $1.5 million from 74 donors toward its $2 million sustainability goal for December 2024.
The Women's Fund ANNOUNCED the following grant AWARDS for 2023 during the impact for women summit:
CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs received $5,000 from the Community Foundation to support its forensic nurse examiner room buildout. This project aims to address the significant barriers faced by rural southwest Iowa communities in accessing forensic nursing services; the room will cater to a diverse range of patients who have experienced trauma, providing specialized medical examinations, evidence collection and compassionate care. Through this grant project, CHI Health Mercy aims to bridge the gaps in forensic nursing services, empowering survivors, enhancing access to justice, and fostering healing and recovery within the community.
Children’s Square U.S.A. received a grant for $10,000 to support its 2023 children's center project. Children’s Square plans to move to "The Creative Curriculum" in the coming months for preschool age children. The Creative Curriculum for Preschool is a comprehensive, research-based curriculum that features hands-on exploration as a way of learning.
East Mills Child Care Solutions received a grant for $20,000 to support the Lakin Foundation Child Development Center. The Lakin Foundation Child Development Center will address the childcare shortage and allow future growth in East Mills communities. The project will make a major economic impact in Malvern and the communities that the East Mills Community School district serves by filling an enormous childcare need in the area, which will help children, families and businesses, as well as assist in attracting new families and businesses to the area.
Habitat for Humanity of Council Bluffs received $10,000 to support its Owner Occupied Home Repair program. Habitat for Humanity of Council Bluffs is partnering with female homeowners to provide needed home repairs to create a safe home and allow them to age in place. These women are living at some of the lowest area median incomes and can barely afford to pay essential living expenses, let alone plan for repairs. This neglect often leads to bigger problems, which can compound household costs through higher utilities and quick fixes.
Iowa Legal Aid received $7,200 to support its Stabilizing the Lives of Women in Southwest Iowa project. Iowa Legal Aid provides critical legal assistance to low-income and vulnerable Iowans who have nowhere else to turn. Grant funds support their work to assist women living in southwest Iowa.
Jennie Edmundson Memorial Hospital Foundation received a grant for $5,000 to support its SANE/SART Community Education & Empowerment Initiative. The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and the Sexual Assault Response Team (SANE/SART) program support victims of sexual assault and educates the community at large. Through this project, Jennie Edmundson Hospital will provide “comfort care kits” that will be given to the individuals who undergo a forensic examination.
Omaha and Council Bluffs Bridges Out of Poverty received $8,400 to support the Southwest Iowa Poverty Alleviation Initiative. Omaha Bridges Out of Poverty uses the evidence-based “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ by World” curriculum to provide tools for individuals who are struggling financially to develop skills necessary to thrive and gain control over their circumstances. Through 10 weeks of Getting Ahead classes, cohorts of 12 to 14 financially under-resourced individuals from southwest Iowa will learn to identify factors in their lives that contribute to their financial situations.
Play Haven Child Care received $20,000 for the Play Haven Child Care Center located in Walnut, Iowa. This grant will support the new Play Haven Child Care Center that is being built within Peace Haven Senior Living in Walnut. This collaboration unites two very important age demographics within the community -- the young and the elderly. This intergenerational model provides for strong, positive role models for the children and joy to the elderly.
Southwest Iowa Families received a grant for $9,670 for Breastfeeding Classes in Fremont, Montgomery and Page counties. This program focuses on the importance of breastfeeding and the overall health benefits for mom and baby. Classes are provided by two certified lactation counselors in Clarinda, Red Oak, Sidney and Shenandoah. Classes cover importance of latching on, provider referrals to help identify lip and tongue ties, help with pumping and explain different types.
YMCA of Greater Omaha was awarded a $5,000 grant to support its Healthy Living Center program for Preventative Health & Social Connections for Women Aging in Place. As the only comprehensive wellness facility in the metro area specially designed for seniors, the YMCA Healthy Living Center offers classes to keep seniors socially engaged and exercise opportunities that are safe and adaptable for diverse abilities.