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Iowa West Foundation Awards $4.3 Million In Grants & Initiatives

November 15, 2023

Funding supports thriving rural communities in southwest Iowa

The Iowa West Foundation Board of Directors recently approved $4.3 million in grant and initiative funding toward creating vibrant southwest Iowa communities where residents love to live, employees can learn as they earn, and places to play are plentiful. The cities of Avoca, Carson, Carroll, Denison, Dunlap, Macedonia, Shelby, and Walnut, in addition to Council Bluffs, received support for programs and projects to strengthen the livability in this region.


“The amount of hometown pride and can-do attitude from community leaders in rural areas is incredibly inspiring,” said Brenda Mainwaring, President, and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation. “When these communities are strong and growing, it lifts up the entire region. That’s what we love to see.”

The community of Dunlap in Harrison County is a prime example. The Dunlap Betterment Group received an IWF grant for $109,587 toward a community visioning process that will result in improvements to Dunlap’s business district, the creation of safe opportunities to walk, gather and socialize around town, and ultimately increase the community’s ability to thrive.

“This grant will make a tremendous difference in our community,” said Jill Schaben, Executive Director of the Dunlap Community Development Corporation. “We seek to enhance the aesthetics of our business district as part of our bigger goal, which is to retain and attract residents and businesses.”


In the priority areas of workforce education and economic development, Advance Southwest Iowa received two grants for a total of $375,000 to continue their efforts to attract entrepreneurs, and the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce received $50,000 for workforce recruitment and retention. Retention was also the driving force behind Iowa Western Community College’s Learn as You Earn program, an on-the-job professional development opportunity for existing workers that helps train and retain existing employees by growing skills, opportunities, and wages. The IWCC Foundation received $90,000 to launch the program locally.

“The Learn as You Earn Program is designed to benefit both employees and companies in Pottawattamie County,” said Matt Mancuso, Executive Director of Business and Community Education at Iowa Western. “Participating companies will have an increased employee retention rate, and employees will have a quicker chance to increase their wages and gain industry recognized certifications.   A successful workforce model includes increasing the skills of an area’s workforce, while providing resources to companies; that is what the Learn as You Earn Program will do.”


The wellbeing of a smaller community often depends on its ability to keep unique amenities relevant.

In the community of Carson, located about 20 miles east of Council Bluffs, the City received $10,000 for a series of improvements to a local park, including a new playground and pickleball court while the Carson Business Club, which operates the Dreamland Theater, received $24,000 for equipment upgrades to the facility.

” These upgrades will increase the park’s capacity for multi-generational activities, attract families to our community, boost the park’s popularity, improve security in the area, and expand the park’s hours of operation, thereby enhancing our quality of life,” said Brianne Duede, City Clerk.

Added Susan Miller, President of the Carson Business Club.

“Everyone must have a memory of the first movie they saw in a theatre, sharing popcorn with a first date, the experience of taking a child to their first movie, or watching a classic on the big screen. The Dreamland Theatre has been creating these memories for over 100 years,” Miller said. “The Iowa West Foundation grant will allow us to replace the outdated equipment and with the help of our volunteers, we are able to keep admission and concession prices low allowing everyone the opportunity to create their own movie memory.”

Partnerships with local casinos Ameristar, Harrah’s, and Horseshoe make it possible for the Foundation to continuously award impactful grants in southwest Iowa communities. Fees from gaming and income from Foundation investments provide funding for operating, capital, and programmatic grants throughout 14 counties in southwest Iowa.

The Iowa West Foundation now accepts Letters of Inquiry (the first step in the grant application process) year-round. The deadline to submit an LOI for Cycle 1 of 2024 funding is Jan. 9th. Full applications are due Jan. 15th.  All grantees will need to create a new account to access the LOI and application.

2023 Cycle 3 Grants and Initiatives

Advance Southwest Iowa
CB Entrepreneurial Collaboration Center equipment
General operating funding

Anawim Housing
Supportive housing

Avoca Volunteer Fire Department
SCBA gear

Carson Business Club
Dreamland Theater upgrades

Catholic Charities
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Support Program

City of Carroll
Merchants Park Baseball Stadium renovations

City of Carson
City Park improvements

City of Council Bluffs
Council Bluffs Convention and Visitor’s Bureau event attraction funds

City of Council Bluffs
FIRST Avenue activation 2024

City of Denison
Crawford County Wellness Center

City of Macedonia
Main Street murals

City of Shelby
Street lights

City of Walnut
Water valve & hydrant replacement

Community Foundation for Western Iowa
Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa

Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce
Workforce recruitment & retention

DIBS (Delivering Infinite Bookshelves) for Kids
Providing ten K-3rd classrooms with sets of 200 books

Dunlap Betterment Group
Community visioning

Economic Empowerment Center
Loan program for low-income families

Food Bank for the Heartland
Building a Healthier Heartland Together with expanded and improved distribution facilities

Greater Omaha Chamber
Prosper Omaha 2.0 – strengthening collaboration in the greater metro area

Habitat for Humanity of Council Bluffs
Home-Owner Repair program

Iowa Western Community College Foundation
Learn as You Earn training program
Mid-America Gaming Expo

Merrymakers Association
Musical entertainment for seniors

Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless
Direct assistance for housing problem solving

New Visions Homeless Services
General operating funding

Omaha by Design
Affordable by Design Outreach in Council Bluffs

Omaha Performing Arts
Enrichment for 1,600 students in southwest Iowa

Project Harmony
Hope Champions Network training for 200 SWI educators

SAC & Aerospace Museum
Field trips for 1,700 students in southwest Iowa

The 712 Initiative
Renovation of 12 Scott Street

The 712 Initiative
General operating funding

Union Pacific Museum Association
Exhibit assessment for master plan

Walnut Volunteer Fire Department
Boots, helmets, & thermal imaging cameras

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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