Impact for Women Summit celebrates Women's Fund of Southwest Iowa

Rachel George, The Daily Nonpareil | September 28, 2023

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.

impact for women summit - photo gallery


- American National Bank

- Availa Bank

- Black Hills Energy

- Cathy and Tony Tauke

- CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs

- Consortia Consulting, Inc.

- Unleash Council Bluffs

- Kate Cutler

- Judy and Ron Davis

- Glenwood State Bank

- HGM Associates

- Lucy and Craig Hough

- Iowa Western

- Jerry Banks Group

- Suzanne and Dr. Rudy Kotula

- Leadership Resources

- Malvern Bank

- Marne Elk Horn

- MidAmerican Energy

- Midstates Bank

- Midwest Ag Services, Inc.

- Noddle Companies

- PowerTech

- Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP

- U.S. Bank

The Women's Fund ANNOUNCED the following grant AWARDS for 2023 during the impact for women summit: