Skip to main content

Iowa West Foundation announces multi-million dollar round of grants & initiatives

July 6, 2021

Projects and programs will help multiple communities in southwest Iowa

The Iowa West Foundation Board of Directors recently awarded $3.7 million in grants and initiatives to 25+ area nonprofits and government entities. The impact will be felt throughout the region as the funding reaches the communities of Atlantic, Audubon, Clarinda, Council Bluffs, Elk Horn, Hancock, McClelland, Missouri Valley, Stanton, Treynor, Walnut, Woodbine, as well as the counties those communities reside within. The second funding cycle of 2021 includes grants to support entrepreneurs through economic development, vulnerable populations by way of healthy families’ grants, preschoolers to post-secondary students through education initiatives, and city and county residents via placemaking projects.

“The range of communities both rural and urban that will benefit from these grants and initiatives is what makes this announcement so meaningful,” said Brenda Mainwaring, President and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation. “The funds extend more than 100 miles throughout southwest Iowa and include programs and projects that support local residents’ efforts to make their communities safer, more prosperous, and even more appealing.”

Children’s Square has been a beacon of hope for abused and abandoned children for nearly 140 years. The emergency shelter provides a safe and caring environment for children during their most difficult days. Iowa West Foundation awarded $150,000 to the ongoing efforts.

“Our goal is to help them begin the healing process and teach skills building resilience so they can reach the potential we know they have,” said Debbie Orduna, President and CEO. “We’re grateful to the Foundation for supporting this essential service to keep vulnerable children in our community safe as we help their families.

For 25 years, the STARS Scholarship has provided support to those seeking to better their lives through higher education. Established by IWF and managed by the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation, the program designed for non-traditional students can be credited with furthering the careers of nearly 500 people. CBSF received $286,000 from IWF for 2021.

“I am thankful for the Iowa West Foundation’s commitment to helping the underserved population and communities break the cycle of poverty by building individual’s capacities and resilience,” said Mia Laustrup, Director of the program and past STARS Scholarship recipient.
“We are enriching the lives of parents, growing our workforce, and improving our community.”


The future Willow Lake Nature Center will be the “crown jewel” of the recreation area located northwest of Woodbine, according to the Director of the Harrison County Conservation Board, Scott Nelson. Construction is expected to start later this fall on the $3.9 million, 14,000 square foot facility for which the Iowa West Foundation awarded $200,000.

“We’ve been working out of a building that was built in 1979 as a pole shed, so it’s time. We’ve just outgrown our current space,” Nelson said. “The new Nature Center is going to be a hub for environmental education with a focus on water –our greatest resource. Thanks to the Foundation grant, people will be able to bring their families, school groups can take field trips, and everyone can come learn more about what’s in their backyard in western Iowa.”


SHIFT ATL purchased a two-story commercial building in 2019 to renovate the first story for a potential business and the upper story into a short-term rental, both major needs in the Atlantic community. A $35,000 grant from the Iowa West Foundation will aid in the completion of the capital project.

“We have fixed the structural issues, framed out the spaces, and are now working to add all of the finishing touches so that the space can be a fresh addition and asset to Atlantic,” said Jessie Shiels, President of SHIFT ATL. “We are very grateful for the partnerships, especially Iowa West Foundation, to make this project happen.”

Other notable funding included $1.5 million for the final installment of the $9 million commitment to revitalize West Broadway and $10,000 each to the rural volunteer fire departments of Hancock, Treynor and Walnut.

About the Iowa West Foundation

The Iowa West Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the Midwest. It has distributed more than $500 million to nonprofits and governmental agencies through southwest Iowa and eastern Nebraska since the inception of its grant program. Funding for the grants comes from investment earnings and the Iowa West Racing Association, which receives contractual fees from casino operators, Ameristar and Harrah’s.

2021 Cycle 2 Grants and Initiatives

Advance Southwest Iowa
Entrepreneurial development for Southwest Iowa

Audubon County Conservation Board
Playground equipment at Littlefield Recreation Area

Career EdVantage
Centro Latino of Iowa
General operating support

Children’s Square
Children’s emergency shelter

City of Council Bluffs
River’s Edge parking garage
West Broadway Phase V

City of McClelland
Maintenance building

Completely KIDS
Domestic violence shelter

Council Bluffs Schools Foundation
STARS Program 2021

Crossroads of Western Iowa, Inc.
Ending service gap years

Raise Me to Read
Greater Omaha Chamber Foundation
Kitchen Council

Hancock Volunteer Fire Department
Gear replacement

Harrison County
Willow Lake Nature Center

ISU Extension & Outreach–West Pottawattamie
Speak Up Be Safe Pottawattamie County

Museum of Danish America
Historic preservation at Bedstemor’s House

National Arbor Day Foundation
Emerald ash borer community tree recovery

Omaha Conservatory of Music
Council Bluffs String Sprouts

Pottawattamie County Housing Trust Fund Inc.
Affordable housing

Downtown building rehabilitation in Atlantic

Senior Futures, Inc.
Chore services

Targeted SHARE app for Southwest Iowa donors

Southwest Iowa Families, Inc.
Child and Family Center in Clarinda

Stanton Community Foundation
Stanton downtown revitalization

The Set Me Free Project
Expansion initiative

Treynor Volunteer Fire Department
Gear replacement

Walnut Volunteer Fire Department
Wild Land Fire Gear & Structure Fire Gear

Nicole Lindquist

Written by Nicole Lindquist, Director of Communications

Media Inquiries:

Nicole Lindquist
Director of Communications
w: 712-309-3004
c: 402-981-2289

OUR VISION is a community where families choose to live, and businesses choose to locate, because of its quality of life and standard of living.


Enter your email address to receive updates from the Iowa West Foundation directly in your inbox.