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The Iowa West Foundation’s efforts in healthy families

December 15, 2019

To all of us at the Iowa West Foundation it is important for the community understand how the investments of the Foundation are instrumental in transforming our community.   We want you to examine our efforts and our impact on facts.

In the past two editorials I have discussed the $237 million dollars that has been invested by IWF in partnership with the City of Council Bluffs and the $101 million IWF has invested to improve and enhance the educational opportunities for our children as well as adult learners.

Today, we want to share information about the $74 Million dollars that has been invested in programs and services that place a priority on strengthening families, fostering essential life skills and addressing critical human and social service needs in our community while helping individuals reach their full potential. This is our Healthy Families Portfolio.

First, our ability to impact programs and services for children and families in Council Bluffs and southwest Iowa was dramatically impacted by one crucial decision the Board of Directors made in 2014. The Board re-focused our Healthy Families investments to southwest Iowa. This may seem like a small decision, however when I started in this position at the beginning of 2012, more than 50 grants a year were submitted to fund human services in pockets of poverty in Omaha.  Our decision was based on the recognition that there were many, many other foundations investing in human needs in Omaha and primarily Iowa West funding on our side of the river. That decision has dramatically impacted the organizations who are based here and serve our community.

Our Board also limited our investments on the Nebraska side of the river to “regional amenities.”  This reference speaks to the amenities in Omaha that will never be duplicated in Iowa and we all use and enjoy. These grants are represented by our investments in the Zoo, the Lauritzen Gardens, and the Durham Museum to name a few. It was a smart decision from my perspective, as we want to be a regional player, yet we also need to take care of our own.

Following this decision, we instituted two additional programs aimed at the human service delivery system in our communities. We made a commitment to funding and to helping these organizations improve their capacity to achieve quality results. We selected an initial group of human service organizations to be a part of a multi-year funding initiative.  We wanted the organizations to know that the funding was in place for a three-year period and invited them to participate in an organizational capacity building effort.  We brought in Board Source, a national expert on nonprofits and created a year-long effort to offer training to CEOs and their Boards around best practice in management, governance and fundraising in non-profits.  We are just finishing our second cohort of organizations enrolled in this program.  We want our long-term partner organizations to have the knowledge, skills, and organizational structure to produce a quality delivery system and create the needed impact for the community.

Some of our investments have included:

  • Youth development programs -nearly $6 million
  • The Lakin Campus -$7.9 million (This includes, Micah House, Red Cross and Heartland Family Service and the Boys and Girls Club
  • Early childhood development – $2.3 million
  • Emergency services disaster relief – $4.5 million
  • Substance abuse Programming – $2.8 million
  • Family support programs – $8 million
  • Homelessness, shelters and housing programs – $18 million
  • Firefighters (Rural fire department funding) $2.2 million
  • Domestic violence and child abuse prevention programming – $1.1 million
  • Senior services – $2.1 million

You can see the complete list here.

Healthy Families investments are about sustaining programs and services in our community that serve the most vulnerable children and families. These investments make a difference.

Mainwaring, Brenda

Written by Brenda Mainwaring, President & CEO

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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