Women's Fund of Southwest Iowa
The Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce received a $5,000 grant to support their L.I.F.T. Mentoring Program, a joint endeavor between the Omaha chapter of the Human Resource Association of the Midlands and the Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce that is focused on supporting talented professional women looking to restart their careers after an extended absence from the workforce. Women have historically assumed many roles that have caused them to exit the workforce temporarily, such as giving birth, raising children, or caring for aging or ailing relatives. Additionally, COVID-19 has caused many mothers to return home to ensure the well-being of their families and to assume the duties of educators as schools closed when “stay at home” ordinances were issued.
The L.I.F.T. Mentor Program provides opportunities for participants to receive a one-on-one professional mentor, get reacquainted with the local professional network, strengthen professional skills, broaden their perspective, explore new career paths, and experience a direct and guided mentorship.
The Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce will serve 20 women per cohort, ages 18-61 and are returning to work in the metro area. Grant funding from the Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa will support the interviews through the SurveyMonkey platform, print materials (handbooks) and advertising costs related to the program, and refreshments for the professional development workshops.
“The Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce is so happy to continue our strong partnership and collaboration with the Community Foundation for Western Iowa,” said Drew Kamp, President & CEO of the Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce. “These funds will assist us greatly as we integrate the Leveraging Individual Female Talent Program into the community and assist females returning to the workforce. We thank the Community Foundation for Western Iowa for their support and look forward to continuing to provide workforce services to the entire Council Bluffs and Southwest Iowa community.”
The Council Bluffs Schools Foundation received a $20,000 grant to support the construction, equipment, furnishings and other construction-related costs of their new Early Learning Center that will serve nearly 200 at-risk students in full-day preschool and birth-to-3 childcare.
Located at 8th Street and Avenue G, an area of high need and centrally located within the district, the Early Learning Center will house fourteen classrooms serving children from birth to five years old. Eleven classrooms will be designated for preschool-aged children, helping to achieve a district goal of providing universal full-day preschool for four-year-old children and high-need 3-year-old children, and three classrooms will serve children ages birth-to-3, with the ability to expand to six birth-to-3 rooms.
In addition to meeting the educational needs of students enrolled in the Early Learning Center, comprehensive child development programming would provide parent and family engagement; health, safety, mental health, medical, dental, and nutritional services; and the option of before- and after-school care provided in partnership with the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation to support parents’ needs for childcare extended beyond the regular school day.
"We are so grateful for the Community Foundation for Western Iowa, and their support of the Early Learning Center through the Women's Fund of Southwest Iowa," said Chris LaFerla, Executive Director of the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation. "The Early Learning Center is going to transform the early childhood education landscape in Council Bluffs and improve the lives of children and families for generations to come. The Community Foundation plays a critical role in supporting so many important programs in western Iowa, and we are thrilled to receive this grant."
MICAH House received a $10,000 grant to support construction costs of their “Building Beyond Shelter” Child Care Center project. MICAH House intends to build a 12,000 square foot child development center on the Charles E. Lakin Campus next to their existing homeless shelter. This center will serve up to 70 children in a trauma-sensitive and service-rich environment. The majority of the children served would be those staying at or in transition from MICAH House. The goal of the child development center is to eliminate barriers to access, provide in-depth assessments, and immediately start wrap-around services for children experiencing homelessness. Staff will work with families to transition children to permanent care settings that meet the family's longer-term housing and employment goals.
Additionally, the capital campaign includes some light shelter renovations. The shelter is always nearly at capacity, and furniture and fixtures have been used daily since their installation in 2008. The focus of these improvements will be windows and window treatments, doors, closets, and beds.
“It takes a community to create positive change and support our most vulnerable,” said Ashley Flater, Associate Director of MICAH House. “With a grant given by the Community Foundation of Western Iowa in support of the Florence M. Lakin Child Development Center, change is happening. Families will be able to focus on recovering stability while their children learn, play, and grow in a safe environment. Projects like this can transform the quality of life for so many individuals and families in our community, and that is truly the heart of our mission and the mission of the Community Foundation for Western Iowa. MICAH House and the families and individuals we serve are beyond grateful for the Foundation’s ongoing support.”
The STARS Scholarship Program received a $10,000 grant to support operational needs and childcare scholarships for STARS Scholars. Funding will assist the STARS Program’s seminar series, training for the program director, and the individual needs of STARS Scholars. Additionally, funding will also assist with childcare scholarships for students who are seeking affordable childcare while studying and/or working and are not applicable for state assistance.
The STARS Program supports low-income parents and custodial grandparents in Pottawattamie County in pursuit of college degree attainment. STARS assists with removing barriers, providing a scholarship for both direct or indirect expenses such as tuition, fees, books, childcare, and living expenses. STARS also offers programming designed to assist with career planning, financial planning, professional skills, and self-sufficiency. According to the Association of Public land-grant Universities, a college Degree significantly improves one’s employment prospects and earnings potential and that Bachelor degree holders are half as likely to be unemployed as their peers who only have a high school degree.
Over the last 25 years the STARS program has served over 400 scholars in pursuit of a post-secondary degree.
"STARS empowers economically disadvantaged parents by providing the opportunity to complete a college degree, and by creating brighter futures for themselves and for their children,” said Mia Laustrup, STARS Program Director. “Through our program, the roadblocks to higher education are removed and the completion of a college degree becomes a reality. We are so thankful to the Community Foundation for Western Iowa for supporting our mission of providing low-income parents a post-secondary education.”
Applied Information Management (AIM) was awarded $13,750 to help recruit and support women in their Southwest Iowa Tech Training Initiative, a program designed to help participants learn the technical foundation needed to gain access to the metro-area’s fastest-growing H3 (high-demand, high-skill, and high-wage) technology careers. The Southwest Iowa Tech Training Initiative annually serves over 100 individuals residing in the following Iowa counties: Pottawattamie, Mills, Montgomery, and/or Harrison County.
“We are grateful to have the commitment and support of the Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa,” said Kandace Miller, president and CEO of AIM. “This funding will allow us to expand the reach of our Southwest Iowa Tech Training Initiative to area schools and do a women-focused recruiting campaign. Through the Southwest Iowa Tech Training Initiative, we will help address the need for more tech professionals in the Southwest Iowa region. By connecting interested parties to a comprehensive training program that aims to connect, develop and transition local talent to resources, mentors, and opportunities in technology, we will create new tech workers that will help the Southwest Iowa area thrive.”
FAMILY, Inc. was awarded $10,000 to support their Maternal Health Program, a program that provides nursing education and psychosocial support to pregnant women in Pottawattamie and Mills Counties who are on Medicaid through six weeks postpartum. The Maternal Health Program’s explicit goal is to make sure more babies can celebrate their first birthday (prevent infant mortality) and improve birth outcomes, and accomplished through family centered, community-based services.
By supporting the Maternal Health program through FAMILY, Inc., the Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa made potentially life-saving resources available to women at one of the most beautiful, and yet challenging, moments in their lives,” said Kimberly Kolakowski, executive director of FAMILY, Inc. “The personalized, in-home nursing and social work services provided through this funding will help women through their pregnancy and up to six weeks post-partum with the supports they need to keep themselves, and their child, healthy. We know well that a healthy and whole parent dramatically increases their child’s chances for success in the future. We are honored to partner with the Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa in making that happen!”
Neola Betterment Corporation received $10,000 to support First Street Cottages, an affordable and safe senior-friendly housing development in Neola, Iowa. Grant funding from PCCF will help subsidize the program cost of assisting senior citizens as they age-in-place with safe, senior-friendly housing and access to supportive services.
Project Pink’d was awarded $5,000 to support Healing Heart Survivor Kits. Developed for breast cancer survivors by Project Pink’d survivors, the Healing Hearts program provides kits to individuals who have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer, with hopes of making treatment a little easier. A first within the region, each of the chemotherapy, radiation and surgical kits contain everything needed to make survivors more comfortable, and the personal touch of a hand-written note from a Project Pink’d survivor is sure to brighten their day. From 2019-2020, Project Pink’d provided over 1,489 kits to hospitals throughout Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska. Breast cancer survivors are faced with many unknowns throughout their treatment journey. While each mode of medical treatment is different and uncharted territory for the patient, Project Pink’d, Inc. wants survivors who are going through the battle to know they are not alone.
“On behalf of the Project Pink’d board and volunteers, we are incredibly thankful for the PCCF Women’s Fund grant,” said Haley Armstrong, Project Pink’d Board member and volunteer. “This important funding will impact women throughout western Iowa in their breast cancer journey. Funds raised will provide much needed supplies for our treatment kits which are not otherwise covered by insurance. As a former healthcare worker I saw first-hand the impact these kits have with patients and the difference it makes in connecting survivors to women who are thriving! We are honored by PCCF’s generosity and look forward to making a lasting impact in the lives of many women and their families."
Mills County Public Health was awarded $13,500 for their Wits Workout Curriculum, a brain health program developed by the University of Illinois Extension. Drawing on brain health and aging research, the Wits Workout program focuses on brain exercises for all adults ages 50 and older. The interactive program provides increased socialization and promotes intellectual engagement, all of which complement current aging brain health research.
“I am looking forward to offering this program to Mills County residents,” Valerie Ramsey, RN, Public Health Nurse, said. “This last year has been very isolating for so many individuals and I think this class, which combines learning and socialization, is a great fit for our community.”
Senior Futures, Inc. received $5,000 to support the purchase of lawn and snow removal equipment to be used when providing services for low-income senior citizens in Harrison and Pottawattamie counties. The mission of Senior Futures, Inc. is to provide a multitude of services to the elderly and disadvantaged, including but not limited to: health services, home maintenance, repairs and chore services, transportation and escort services, and telephone reassurance services.
All Care Health Center received a grant award for $9,000 for the creation of a Women’s Health Passport -- an annual care plan -- as an investment in the health and education of female patients and low-income women throughout southwest Iowa. Studies show that women experiencing poverty are focused on survival, not preventative care, and their risk of health problems develop or worsen over time. All Care providers will create a Health Passport to include an annual well-visit, a list of screening opportunities, and other recommended measures based on a patient’s age, sex, current health status, pre-existing conditions, and family health history. The new program will be offered to guests of MICAH House, and other emergency housing services for women, including Catholic Charities, during its first implementation year.
“Pottawattamie County ranks in the lowest 10% of counties for overall health outcomes and health factors when combined, in our state. All Care wants to change that,” states Bill Wypyski, Executive Director of All Care Health Center. “Our All Care team is continually strategizing and developing methods to improve the community’s health, as a whole. In particular, women's health focuses change throughout a women's life. We are grateful for funding from the Women's Fund of Southwest Iowa that will help our providers to open conversations that outline and encourage an annual road map of individualized services for our female patients that lead to improvement of overall health outcomes. While we encourage our female patients to take better care of themselves, they will help to teach the next generation.”
“As primary care providers we continuously engage patients in conversations about the need for preventative services to help reduce the burden of disease later on,” said Teresa Dowling, All Care Co-Medical Director. “Getting these preventative services is not always on the top of a woman’s to-do list. Having this funding will provide us an opportunity to continue these conversations and hopefully engage them in a way that is meaningful and encouraging to make preventative services a priority.”
Building Blocks Childcare Academy (BBA) in Woodbine received a $5,000 grant to assist with staff training toward certification as Montessori educators. The funding will provide an opportunity for families in Harrison County to experience the benefits of the Montessori philosophy, without commuting to bigger cities for these resources. Montessori based care encourages emotional well-being which increases the overall health of a child. Children who engage in child-focused learning can take initiative in tasks regarding critical thinking and focus, thus encouraging a growth mindset and ability to learn in a school setting. BBA will provide quality care to infants from 6 weeks to 3 years old, until the child is eligible for the Woodbine Community School Preschool program. Additionally, BBA will empower women in lead teacher roles to have pride in their position and certification, thus encouraging the place-making entity of their career at Building Blocks.
“Building Blocks Academy is honored to have been chosen as one of the recipients for the Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa grant,” said Cassie Reisz, director of Building Blocks Academy. “This grant will assist teachers of Building Blocks Academy in completing a Montessori Diploma program to become certified Montessori teachers. For Woodbine and surrounding areas, this grant opens an opportunity for families to experience the benefits of the Montessori philosophy, without commuting to bigger cities for these resources! Having access to early childhood education centers with highly trained teachers will aid in a growth of skill sets needed for school readiness.”
CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs received a $10,000 grant award to offer Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE) Telehealth Services to rural hospitals and clinics in Pottawattamie, Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, and Shelby counties. Nationally, reports of domestic violence have risen sharply since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and rural southwest Iowa faces significant barriers to accessing FNE services due to locations of emergency rooms, fear of identification in small close-knit communities, transportation, or stigma. The CHI Health Mercy FNE program will expand to critical access hospitals/clinics in rural communities to better treat patients who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Funds will support the successful implementation of telehealth services by purchasing technology equipment, training of nurses, and providing community education, as telehealth services are not currently in place for the FNE program.
“With the support of the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation grant, CHI Health's Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE) Program will be able to expand its reach in Southwest Iowa by providing specialized forensic care and hopefully reduce the amount of trauma experienced by those affected by sexual assault,” said Jodi Hayes, FNE Supervisor for CHI Health. “The grant will allow us to collaborate with victim advocates and community partners to provide the necessary aftercare resources victims need. This funding and program expansion will also allow us to collaborate with law enforcement to increase prosecution of violent offenders.”
“We are grateful to be awarded this funding, as it allows us to expand our current program and reach more victims of abuse in Southwest Iowa,” said Denise McNitt, Vice President of Patient Care at CHI Health Mercy Hospital. “This grant and our partnership with the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation (PCCF) enables us to continue this mission of caring.”
West Pottawattamie Extension and Outreach received a $5,000 grant award for the Speak Up Be Safe! (SUBS) program in Pottawattamie County that provides safety rules and direct program education to more than 5,000 students annually. SUBS is an established curriculum for students that include: It’s My Body, I Have Choices, Tell Someone, Healthy Relationships, and Resist Strategies. Each grade level is two classroom sessions and provides materials for parents, with an opportunity to provide virtual programming in 2021. Grant funding from PCCF will help West Pottawattamie Extension and Outreach continue to reach preK-3rd grade youth, expand the program reach to 4th grade youth, and help increase safety awareness for all youth in preK-4th grade.
“With the inception of the first sexual abuse program in the early ‘80’s, West Pottawattamie Extension and Outreach has historically empowered children with the tools they need to identify situations that could harm or hurt them, how to get away and how to ask for help,” said Carol Waters, County Director of West Pottawattamie Extension and Outreach. “These tools are a steppingstone to strong, confident children who will stand up for themselves regardless of the situation they encounter. This grant from the PCCF Women’s Fund will allow us to continue to grow the program from a PreK – 3rd grade program into a PreK – 8th grade program and eventually expand into high school where healthy relationships are part of the focus.”
Centro Latino of Iowa was awarded $10,000 designated as scholarship support for low-to-medium income Latina women living in southwest Iowa to register for the Southwest Iowa Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship Program. Grant funding will be used to award 25 tuition scholarships for Latina women to attend the 20 hour program designed to help entrepreneurs effectively start a small business. Components will include vision and mission development, goal setting, accounting/bookkeeping and taxes, insurance, employment law, market analysis, marketing, reading financial statements, and financial projections. The mission of Centro Latino is to educate and empower Hispanic/Latino individuals and families towards thriving, self-sufficient, and healthy lives. Individuals throughout southwest Iowa in the counties of: Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie and Shelby will benefit from this grant.
”Centro Latino of Iowa is most grateful for receiving the PCCF Women's Fund of Southwest Iowa inaugural grant to support our Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship Program by financially supporting Latinas Entrepreneurs,” said Ramon Calzada, Centro Latino of Iowa executive director. “The projected goal is to increase the number of Latino-owned businesses, but most especially affordable home-based childcare businesses owned by Latino women.”
Essex Child Center, a child care facility in Essex, Iowa, has been awarded $8,640 to support preschool tuition assistance. There are families who choose to forego preschool for their children due to the added monthly expense, and studies show the importance and advantages of an early childhood education, such as: improved social skills, better performance in grade school, improved attention spans, and enthusiasm for lifelong learning. The grant will allow Essex Child Center to enroll an additional 16 children in the preschool program by providing tuition assistance to families. The mission of Essex Child Center is to provide a safe, nurturing, and healthy learning environment for children ages six weeks through 12 years of age. Their focus is to provide a stimulating early care and education experience, which promotes each child’s social/emotional, physical, and cognitive development. Individuals in Montgomery and Page counties will benefit from this grant.
“The Essex Child Center is truly grateful for the funding received from the Women’s Fund Grant, and it is hard to express in words what this means to us,” said Tonya Stoaks, director of the Essex Child Center. “This funding will allow us to provide a free preschool program to 16 three- year-olds for the 2020-2021 school year. In southwest Iowa it is very rare and also extremely important to be able to offer this program at no cost to parents, especially in the midst of a pandemic. To us, this means we will be serving the children in our community to the best of our ability with no financial strain to the families. We are so thankful for the support we have received from the PCCF Women’s Fund Grant, and cannot wait to implement our tuition-free preschool program!
Heartland Family Service has been awarded $10,000 to support childcare needs and family activities for the Iowa Family Works Program as individuals continue to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Iowa Family Works promotes long-lasting recovery for women and mothers to preserve and strengthen healthy development for the women, their children, and the family unit. The mission of Heartland Family Service is to strengthen individuals and families in our community through education, counseling, and support services. Individuals throughout southwest Iowa in the counties of: Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby will benefit from this grant.
“Funds from the Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa for the Heartland Family Service Iowa Family Works program support a life-changing program which provides residential treatment for mothers and family services,” said John Jeanetta, president and CEO of Heartland Family Service. “The funds enable us to provide childcare onsite to mitigate the risk of COVID exposure for the families and employees in our program. It will also allow us to purchase items for healthy family activities. Family time is an important aspect of the program that often includes community events, but with COVID we had to transition to onsite activities. Kickball, yard games, back yard picnics and chalk art are a few of the activities the families may enjoy during this time of quarantine isolation. We are so grateful for the support from the Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa!”
Kids Place, a child care facility in Glenwood, Iowa, has been awarded $10,000 to support classroom repairs and renovations. The project will renovate and repurpose existing space to accommodate the community’s need for child care and will ultimately increase enrollment for the facility. The mission of Kids Place is to provide a safe, comfortable, and nurturing environment for all children to learn, love, and grow, and to offer peace of mind to parents through equal, dependable, quality child care. Individuals in Mills County will benefit from this grant.
“This funding opportunity is greatly appreciated and will allow Kids Place to make renovations to our rooms,” said Heidi Lunn, director of Kids Place. “Our goal is to provide care to as many families as possible in our community and surrounding areas now and for many years to come. Our priority is to use our facility to its fullest potential, and give families a safe, nurturing, quality center for their children to grow and learn in.”