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Iowa West Foundation Awards $3.7 Million In Grants & Initiatives

March 26, 2024

Funding supports access to preschool, playgrounds, and financial freedom

(Council Bluffs, IA) – A recent report from the Iowa Department of Education found that Pottawattamie County ranked No. 1 in Iowa for kindergarteners’ early literacy skills, a significant increase over the past five years. Since 2008, Iowa West Foundation has invested more than $18 million in 4-year-old preschool programs in partnership with Green Hills Area Education Agency. The accessibility of high-quality preschool programming has clearly moved the needle in the right direction, according to IWF President and CEO, Brenda Mainwaring.

“The results speak volumes about what an investment in our youngest residents can do for a community,” she said. “When southwest Iowa kids are better prepared for kindergarten, it sets them up for academic success: they are more likely to graduate and reach their full potential. Pottawattamie County kids are setting the standard for our state. We are thrilled that our dollars are making a real difference in families’ lives.”

Chief Administrator of the Green Hills Area Education Agency, Dr. Jason Plourde, believes attending full-day preschool is undeniably beneficial for all students. The AEA received $1.3 million in funding from Iowa West in Cycle 1 of 2024.

“Our longitudinal studies and data have shown consistently that full day preschool is undeniably beneficial for all students, and even more so for our most vulnerable students,” Dr. Plourde said. “We at Green Hills AEA are grateful for this partnership with the IWF and our local schools, and proud of the work we are doing together.”

Supporting opportunities for all is a Foundation funding priority. By removing barriers and offering on-ramps to achievement, more residents can succeed within their community. Two such examples are a grant to Iowa Legal Aid for $75,000 to prevent evictions, benefiting both tenants as well as property owners and managers and a grant to Bridges Out of Poverty for $100,000 for the Southwest Iowa Poverty Alleviation Initiative.

“This grant from the Iowa West Foundation significantly impacts individuals and families facing poverty in Council Bluffs and Southwest Iowa by providing essential resources and support,” said Marcos Bell, CEO of Bridges Out of Poverty. “The grant enables a tangible increase in the number of graduates of the Bridges program, empowering them with the skills to break the cycle of poverty and strive towards stability and self-sufficiency. This investment is crucial for fostering resilience and economic mobility within the community, creating a ripple effect of positive change for generations to come.”

The rural communities of Denison and Glenwood also received funding to improve accessibility at local playgrounds. Glenwood’s Hiley Park project received $40,000 while Denison’s Washington Park received $55,000 to build all-inclusive playgrounds. These renovations will allow children of all abilities to better enjoy their community parks.

“The Iowa West grant for Hiley Park in Glenwood will have a transformative impact, particularly by addressing accessibility concerns, which ensures that all members of our community can fully enjoy the park’s amenities,” said Chad Lang, President of the Kiwanis Club leading the project. “The grant not only enhances inclusivity, but also demonstrates a commitment to equitable access to recreational spaces, making it a vital investment for our community’s wellbeing and cohesion.”

Partnerships with local casinos Ameristar, Harrah’s, and Horseshoe make it possible for the Foundation to continuously award outcome-focused grants in southwest Iowa communities. Fees from gaming and income from Foundation investments provide funding for programs and projects that benefit the residents of 14 counties in southwest Iowa.

The Iowa West Foundation has a two-step grants process, with Letters of Inquiry (LOI) accepted year-round. LOIs received by May 1 will be considered in the next cycle with final applications due by May 15th. All applicants will need to create a Giving Data account on the Iowa West Foundation website to access the LOI and application unless they have already done so. 

2024 Cycle 1 Grants and Initiatives

Avenue Scholars of Southwest Iowa
Rural Pottawattamie County expansion

Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands (Council Bluffs)
Operating funding

Bridges Out of Poverty
Southwest Iowa Poverty Alleviation Initiative

Catholic Charities
Flooring replacement in shelter bedrooms

Centro Latino
Operating funding

City of Council Bluffs
Multimodal Bridge Study

City of Denison
Washington Park All-Inclusive Playground

City of Glenwood
Hiley Park All-Inclusive Playground

Green Hills AEA
Preschool in Pottawattamie County

Hancock Fire Department

Heartland Family Service
Operating funding

Iowa Legal Aid
Legal services for people facing eviction

Lauritzen Gardens – Omaha Botanical Center
Summer Day Camp for southwest Iowa students

Lutheran Family Services
Operating funding in Council Bluffs

Macedonia Hamilton Development
Heart & Soul Community Coordinator

Mental Health & Disability Services Region
Coordinated hand-off pilot project

NeighborWorks Home Solutions
Hillside Estates Townhomes Phase II

Omaha By Design
Open Omaha

Omaha Children’s Museum
Field trips and outreach for southwest Iowa students

Pottawattamie Arts, Culture & Entertainment
Building Operations

Project Harmony
Training for southwest Iowa community and school-based mental health

Southwest Iowa Nature Trails
Rapp Park Connector Trail in Page County
Renovation/Addition to Wabash Trace Maintenance Building

Southwest Iowa Leadership Academy
4-day leadership camp for 100 Pottawattamie County students

United Way of the Midlands
Community Care Fund

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.


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