COmmunity stories

NATIONAL COMMUNITY FOUNDATION WEEK - Nov. 2020

In honor of National Community Foundation Week and National Philanthropy Day, PCCF annually celebrates donors, nonprofit organizations, and other key stakeholders who make it possible for us to continue to amplify impact in Pottawattamie County and southwest Iowa. We are thrilled to feature these amazing individuals and organizations as we continue to create impact as your local community foundation.

Heidi Lunn, Kids Place

Pottawattamie County Community Foundation (PCCF) has identified several significant challenges facing women in our communities, and as a result of purposeful planning and strategic insight, created The Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa.

In its inaugural grant cycle in July 2020, PCCF awarded $48,640 in project funding to organizations whose programming and projects are focused on improving the quality of life and well-being of women and their families in southwest Iowa.

Kids Place, a childcare facility in Glenwood, was awarded $10,000 to support classroom repairs and renovations. The mission of Kids Place is to provide a safe, comfortable environment for all children to learn, love, and grow, and to offer peace of mind to parents through equal, dependable, quality childcare. Renovations to Kids Place will provide larger classrooms to increase the number of children served, while continuing to provide a quality and safe environment for students.

“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,” said Heidi Lunn, director of Kids Place. “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.”

The Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa was designed to improve the quality of life and well-being of women and their families. The field of interest fund at PCCF will support eight counties in southwest Iowa: Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby. The goal of the fund is to reach out and work closely with organizations to identify needs and design tangible solutions that deliver measurable impact. Four focus areas include: Education Initiatives for Women of All Ages; Accessible and Affordable Childcare; Women’s Health, Safety, and Well-being; and Aging in Place.

Kimberly Kolakowski, FAMILY, Inc.

Pottawattamie County Community Foundation created the “Make It Happen” workshop series as an innovative way to build philanthropic efforts throughout southwest Iowa and to help nonprofit organizations grow and better serve our community.

“Make It Happen” is a seven-month process focused on different aspects within a nonprofit organization including: annual fund, board member engagement, volunteers, donors, and professional strengths within the workplace. The workshop series launched in January 2020 with seven area nonprofits, including Family, Inc., an organization that provides public health and family support services to women, children, and families in Pottawattamie and Mills counties.

Kimberly Kolakowski, executive director of Family, Inc., was honored to be a member of the inaugural cohort and found the program to be incredibly effective. She appreciated how organizations could include their board members in the program, which allowed for collaborative learning and planning. Additionally, Kimberly found that the unique blend of nonprofit organizations and being able to share experiences through orchestrated conversations contributed to the success of the “Make It Happen” program.

Kolakowski indicated that information learned surrounding: the elements of philanthropy, case-statement building, donor engagement, designing fundraising pieces, and successful event planning were beneficial to the future of Family, Inc. She added, “The information is everything a novice organization, like Family, Inc., can use as we dip our toes into the fundraising water.”

“PCCF is an incredibly valuable asset to our community,” said Kolakowski. “Donna Dostal and her team are incredible connectors who each have their finger on the pulse of our community. They work hard to stay informed about what’s going on, where the needs are, and who might be able to fill them as they work to help nonprofits build sustainability. Donna knows from experience the hard work of a nonprofit and brings that understanding to all that she does.”

Dr. Behrouz and Christiane Rassekh

Love for humanity is at the root of philanthropy. On November 15, National Philanthropy Day recognizes the great contributions of philanthropy – and those people active in the philanthropic community – toward enrichment of our world. Pottawattamie County Community Foundation (PCCF) is pleased to feature Dr. Behrouz and Christiane Rassekh for their commitment to creating impact in our community.

Dr. Rassekh came to the community of Council Bluffs in 1972 and started his practice in neurosurgery. He and Mrs. Rassekh thoroughly enjoy our community, and chose to create a private educational foundation in 2011 to provide scholarships for students in our area to attend community college. Dr. Rassekh also worked with Dr. Vicki Murello, superintendent of the Council Bluffs Community School District, to bring the District’s vision of a Tradeworks Academy Program to reality. This unique educational program is designed to help students achieve both a diploma and trade-related certificate from the Tradeworks Academy upon completion of high school.

Dr. and Mrs. Rassekh feel honored to have great philanthropic partnerships with Council Bluffs Schools and with Dr. Dan Kinney and Iowa Western Community College that create educational opportunities in our community.

The Rassekhs also want to thank Donna Dostal and her team at PCCF for their contributions to our community and for helping them create a fund at the community foundation. They feel they are able to be supportive to community needs through their charitable fund at PCCF, and appreciate how the foundation is a conduit for others to create impact.

The Rassekhs generously, yet humbly, support projects that address the most urgent needs facing families and individuals in our community today. Dr. Rassekh recognizes how our community is very philanthropic and Christiane is grateful that they are able to provide support to initiatives that are important to their family.

On November 15, a day dedicated to philanthropy, we applaud and celebrate the Rassekhs for their true ‘love for humanity.’

Tom Emmett, The Historic General Dodge House

Agency funds at PCCF are a simple and efficient way to build an endowment that will help create sustainability for an organization, while providing dollars to meet agency needs.

The Historic General Dodge House, a fourteen-room, three-story Victorian mansion, was built in 1869, and stands on a high terrace overlooking the Missouri Valley. The beautiful mansion displays such architectural features as parquet floors, cherry, walnut and butternut woodwork, and a number of modern conveniences quite unusual for the period, such as central heating and hot and cold running water. Tom Emmett, the Executive Director of the Dodge House, created a fund in 2020 to support critical emergencies and capital construction that would be life-changing for the Dodge House.

Emmett has found that the Dodge House endowment with PCCF is attractive to donors because it is a long term declaration. The organization wants to have a way for donors to give to a fund that will mature and grow while creating a better opportunity to provide tax advantages for supporters. Donors amplify their impact with matching dollars for the Dodge House, courtesy of PCCF’s 10% charitable giving incentive program for endowed funds.

“It is a clear symbol that our institution has long-term plans, objectives and intentions,” said Emmett. “An endowment fund at PCCF is also attractive to potential donors because they can see their gift grow over the long term.”

Annie Esterling, Thriving Titans

The Southwest Iowa COVID-19 Response fund was established in March 2020 to support the many and varied ongoing local efforts of our nonprofit partners to address challenges brought forth by COVID-19, as well as focus philanthropic efforts to ensure resources are available to the nonprofit organizations serving our community.

The Response fund, a partnership between the Iowa West Foundation and Pottawattamie County Community Foundation, leverages Foundation funds with outside donations that are collectively channeled to provide everything from internet access for our school children to COVID-19 testing equipment for local healthcare organizations. To date, the Southwest Iowa COVID-19 Response Fund has granted $1,071,620 to 47 projects and initiatives.

Thriving Titans, one of the nonprofit recipients, was granted funding to provide weekend food bags to Lewis Central families facing food insecurities. Thriving Titans is a group of dedicated families and businesses with a common goal of ensuring all students in the Lewis Central school district have everything they need to thrive in all areas of life. The organization provides food, personal care items, clothing and other emergency needs for Lewis Central families.

The weekend food bags were distributed to students accessing the free breakfast and lunch program during the school closure and summer months. The Southwest Iowa COVID-19 Response funding allowed Thriving Titans to purchase and pack 3,926 bags for students, with an average of 400 bags handed out weekly.

“Our families were extremely grateful to be able to utilize the free breakfast and lunch services that LC provided, plus the weekend bags that Thriving Titans provided,” said Annie Esterling, Thriving Titans president and founder. “We are so thankful for Pottawattamie County Community Foundation’s generosity and the Southwest Iowa COVID-19 Response Fund for providing us the funds to serve our families on a larger scale.”

Donna Schoeppner

An essential group working towards innovative and effective solutions facing our community is the PCCF Board of Directors.

Donna Schoeppner’s involvement with PCCF started as a member of the grants committee where she witnessed the impactful work being done by nonprofit organizations throughout Pottawattamie County and she was inspired. Donna was excited for the opportunity to join the PCCF Board of Directors to further promote and support the Foundation’s mission to improve the lives of all residents in our southwest Iowa communities.

Donna, a Council Bluffs native and owner of Schoeppner Organizing Solutions, continues to make a difference in our community with projects and initiatives through the PCCF Board. An initiative that Donna has most recently found rewarding is the Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa. The Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa identifies issues not being addressed in our communities and where resources may be lacking, and grants program funding to eight counties throughout southwest Iowa.

Individuals can serve PCCF in a variety of capacities, such as committee members, focus groups, and board roles. Donna appreciates that individuals of any giving level can play an integral role at PCCF and to make a difference in our community. “We can all be philanthropists -- you can donate to existing funds that supports causes you care about most, or if you have the means to create your own fund, you can choose where those donations can go. It is a great vehicle to use to create a lasting impact for generations to come.”

April 2020 Issue - metroMAGAZINE

MORE THAN EVER Southwest Iowa is a wonderful place to live, work and play. The communities in the region offer ample opportunities and attractions such as innovative educational initiatives; a thriving philanthropic community; a robust economy with tremendous support for businesses; and an appealing quality of life for citizens of all ages. As Donna Dostal, a resident of the area and President/CEO of the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation puts it: “It’s the most amazing time to be living in Southwest Iowa.”

Amplifying Impact in our communities

"I became involved with PCCF while searching for funds to restore a vacant lot on our Main Street in Oakland. The Oakland Historical Society received two grants from PCCF that helped turn an eyesore into an appealing garden area where people walk to, sit awhile, or even picnic. Then, my husband and I established a fund with PCCF to help maintain the garden and each year the Historical Society receives a check that reflects 5% of our investment. As former teachers, we are not wealthy people, but because of PCCF we are able to give back to the community that has been so good to us.

The Riverside Links Scholarship Fund through PCCF is another important project that I believe in. A group of volunteers created this endowed scholarship fund that is awarded each year to a college student who has completed a two-year program and needs support to finish their education. To date, we have collected enough funds to aware a $1,000 scholarship annually. All the members of Riverside Links...believe that volunteerism and philanthropy is food for our small communities."

Gayle Strickland, PCCF Investor



Community Stories from Pottawattamie County

Stories from community members like you, making a difference in Pottawattamie County and beyond.