Congratulations to our 2021 Tribute to Women of Achievement honorees!
Art, Education, and/or Culture
Becky Schmooke, Owner, Becky’s Mindful Kitchen
Becky Schmooke is a local treasure turned virtual cooking instructor extraordinaire. She founded Becky's Mindful Kitchen (BMK) as a small business in Solon and has turned it into a successful cooking school with national reach through virtual classes. Each week, adults and kids attend her virtual cooking classes where they are uniquely empowered to create delicious pastries, snacks, and meals. Although recipes are provided, Becky encourages students to leverage their artistic license and attempt creative modifications. Her humorous and candid style makes all students - regardless of age or level of cooking experience - feel welcome. Becky is also working to become a public speaker focusing on personal mindfulness and mindful parenting, along with sharing her story of being a Type 1 diabetic and recovery from a severe eating disorder over 20 years ago. In the summer, Becky offers camps for kids of all ages and runs a bakery (with the best caramel de leche cinnamon rolls you could ever imagine). All proceeds from the BMK bakery funds scholarships to foster kids to attend summer camps and classes so they can learn how to prepare healthy meals, regardless of budget. She maintains a pay-it-forward kindness policy at BMK bakery. Not only does the bakery fund scholarships, but Becky also provides an extra treat with each order to pay-it-forward to someone else. She is not only a master in the kitchen, but also a master in the practice of simple kindness. Understanding the world was hurting during the pandemic, Becky spread holiday cheer with her kindness initiative in which she gave away over 2,000 free homemade holiday gifts (treats, soaps, bath salts, cocoa mix, etc.) and donated over 500 kits after the Derecho. She also expanded her free weekly virtual cooking classes for kids and adults so people near and far could learn culinary arts in the safety and comfort of their own homes. Humble about her accomplishments, she has managed to become the area's most popular cooking school with her cooking camps for kids. She inspires creativity, mindfulness, and problem solving skills, all while cultivating a love for cooking with healthy ingredients.
Tawnya Stone, Vice President – Enterprise Strategic Technology, GreatAmerica Financial Services Corporation
Tawnya Stone has over 15 years of experience in project management and operations and is a Certified Lease and Finance Professional. Tawnya has made great progress in building industry relationships and building a solid name for GreatAmerica and their technology abilities. She quickly became well versed in the top providers in the space, how dealers utilize the software, and how GreatAmerica can integrate with them for sharing of information through the parties and customers to gain efficiencies in daily transactions. Tawnya has done a fantastic job communicating GreatAmerica’s value added abilities and has become a more integral part of the vendor's processes. She takes the knowledge that she has gained and is very effective at selling her ideas to her peers, leadership, and vendors. She is able to explain complex IT- related ideas in a very understandable and passionate way. She has an amazing spirit and has a “can do” attitude that is worthy of recognition. Tawnya has also been recognized as an industry leader and was named a 2016 and 2018 ENX Magazine Difference Maker along with one of the Top 50 Women in the Equipment Finance Industry by Monitor Trade Publication in 2020. Tawnya has been an active participant in the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) since its inception. MPSA is a non-profit, volunteer-led association that helps further programs offered to print providers to manage all aspects of business printing, known as Managed Print programs. She currently holds the office of Secretary and is a former President and Vice President of the organization. She was the first female to hold the position of President of MPSA. Her passion for the industry and willingness to pitch in have garnered her respect within the industry and the community. Tawnya is a member of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association’s (ELFA) Operations & Technology Committee, past chair of the non-profit Computing Technology Industry Association’s (CompTIA) Managed Print Services Community, and was on the executive council of CompTIA’s Technology Lifecycle Services Community.
Brenda Meeker, Training & Development Specialist, Raining Rose, Inc.
As a devoted learner, Brenda Meeker walks the walk and talks the talk, inside and outside of her professional life. She embodies the word “innovation” in all the success she has seen in building and creating innovative solutions for Raining Rose. Brenda has taken her company role and made it a mandatory component of the company culture as growth and learning are now an expectation for team members. She has also worked to formalize other programming at Raining Rose to lead to further success for all. Brenda is growth-driven and has an immediate and meaningful impact on those she works with. She has a diverse set of skills and gifts that allows her to add value in a variety of areas. In some areas, Brenda is an up-and-comer, in many she is a trailblazer, and in some she is the one who gives out precious wisdom to support others. In all of these areas, she is a beacon of light that illuminates a path to success for others without ever putting that light on herself. Outside of her role at Raining Rose, Brenda serves as President of the Hawkeye Chapter of the Association of Talent Development (ATD).
Kendra Aarhus, Founder, You Conferences
Kendra is a true leader because she had a vision for what she wanted for women in this community, and she stayed the course, remaining consistent in the pursuit of her vision, no matter what obstacles came her way. Kendra started her own women's conference, You Conferences, in the Corridor that over the past few years has successfully drawn 100+ women entrepreneurs and leaders. Kendra has a large and loyal national following on social media and a podcast where she shares inspiration, motivation in life, and leadership through the lens of her business. Kendra has a way of bringing people together, and when she sees a problem she knows needs addressed, she rallies the troops to come together and get things done. She is super down-to-earth and approachable and is consistently giving others credit for the great things they accomplish together. She knows how to build and lead a community in an amazing way. She is bold, she is fun, and she has a bright spirit and generous heart. Most of all, she is real. What she has and continues to build with You Conferences is incredibly inspiring to witness and be a part of. She is bringing hope and connection to women when and where they need it most so they will be successful and have the confidence to continue on their own leadership journey. Kendra is a very active volunteer for SCORE, helping other entrepreneurs be successful. Also, she single-handedly led multiple efforts post-Derecho to get her community cleaned up and renovated an entire home for a family who lost theirs in the storm. Additionally, Kendra is an advocate for female business owners in the community and helps them in any way she can, including forming a business plan, learning social media marketing, hosting them on her podcast, sharing their stories and services on her own platforms, and more. Lastly, Kendra owns her own makeup and skincare business and has been nationally recognized by the brand she represents.
Theresa Blong, Senior Vice President of Credit Administration, Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust
With a long and successful career in banking, Theresa joined Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust (CRBT) five years ago as the Credit Department Manager. She quickly embraced her new role and CRBT, demonstrating a strong commitment to her team and the bank, leading to her recent promotion to Senior Vice President of Credit Administration. Theresa is a dynamic leader of her team, who benefits from her natural ability to empathize, encourage, and challenge personal and professional growth on a daily basis. A “go-to” for many things in the department, Theresa is approached daily by bank employees inside and outside of her team for information and advice, and she always makes the time to help when asked. Last year, Theresa played an integral role in serving CRBT clients through important COVID-19 and Derecho-related relief programs such as the SBA Paycheck Protection Program, where she worked tirelessly as a member of the leadership team to deliver critical help to hundreds of businesses in Cedar Rapids. In addition to her job duties, Theresa has applied her leadership skills to several important bank-wide initiatives, including the CRBT Mentor program and CRBT LEAD, programs designed to enrich their culture of diversity and nurture future generations of bank and community leaders. Outside of the bank, Theresa is actively involved in the industry and community. Currently, she serves as Treasurer for Shueyville United Methodist Church, is on the board and finance committee of The History Center, and is President of the Eastern Iowa Chapter of the Risk Management Association. She also volunteers for United Way, College Community School District, and Junior Achievement.
Tasha Brink, Senior Construction Accountant, Ahmann Companies
Tasha has been a part the Ahmann Companies family for eight years. She started as a junior accountant and has grown into a Senior Construction Accountant, taking on many additional responsibilities. Tasha has not only grown tremendously over the years in her role in accounting, but also as a leader in the company. She has always had the ability to bring the company together for team building, relationship building, and leading the group toward success. She is fun to be around, but continues to be hard working, always getting her work done staying involved in team events and sports outside the company. As a leader in the company, Tasha acts as a coach and mentor to others. She is forward-thinking and uses her analytical skills to provide input on company decisions. In 2018, Tasha was given the opportunity to mentor an intern and did such a great job that the intern became a full-time employee in late 2019. Tasha has assumed the role of the intern-turned-employee’s direct supervisor, continuing to positively influence her and help her grow. In 2020 when the COVID-19 health pandemic shut down the world, Tasha was able to motivate nearly 100% of Ahmann Companies employees to participate in the Corridor Corporate Games, benefiting the local children’s hospital, and she served as the company lead coordinator. She took on the role of Ahmann’s champion and motivator to keep employees engaged with each other and gave them something to be excited about.
Kerri Feldhaus, RN, Manager - Intensive Care Unit, UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids
Kerri has been in the health care field for more than 30 years, and over the last 18, has held multiple leadership roles in St. Luke’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). For the last seven years, she has served as ICU Nurse Manager, and she currently maintains her Critical Care Nursing Certification to assist with direct patient care.
As the world and community continues to fight a global pandemic, St. Luke’s ICU has been at the forefront of the pandemic. Kerri has been leading her team of health care experts throughout this uncertain time, dealing with high numbers of patients needing advanced intensive care. At the beginning of the pandemic, treating 24 COVID-19 patients was a high number, but UnityPoint saw a surge in November which brought the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients to over 90 at one time. Caring for this high number of complicated COVID-19 patients was extremely stressful, not to mention physically and mentally draining. Throughout this pandemic, Kerri has persevered and continues to lead with energy, strength, integrity, commitment, and above all, with the heart of a very caring nurse. During her tenure at St. Luke’s, Kerri has led her team through many new advances to enhance critical care. Under her leadership, St. Luke’s started an Impella (heart pump), Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy, and Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) programs. In addition, Kerri has also been instrumental with a Sepsis Campaign to improve care. Her leadership on sepsis has allowed UnityPoint to save a total of 359 lives in the past three years, decrease health care costs by $6.5 million, and reduce hospital stays by 5,906 days. Kerri is a tenured nurse manager and who mentors newer managers. She grows her frontline staff and coaches her supervisors so they can manage the department in her absence. She seeks out millennial leaders to mentor her on how to better lead this generational group. Kerri leads by example and will not ask her staff to do something she would not do herself, often assisting with direct patient care or meeting with a family who is distraught over the prognosis of a loved one. Kerri has excellent communication skills and remains calm in stressful situations, such as deescalating emotional situations within the ICU. After stressful events, she debriefs with her team, security, and leadership to learn and improve. Kerri is not one to celebrate her successes but focuses on the successes of her team. She is a true servant leader - working side-by-side, coaching her team, and being a role model. In 2020, Kerri was selected as an Iowa Great Iowa Nurse. She has also received the St. Luke’s Nelson Critical Care Award winner for High Quality, and was selected as a UnityPoint Health Living the Mission Award winner.
Kerri Goff, Property Manager, Watts Group. Kerri is the Watts Group Property Manager, overseeing 1,250 units and close to 3,000 tenants. She leads a team of 16 people to provide excellent customer service, helping Watts Group win first place in the 2021 Locals Love Us in property management. Kerri played a big role in challenging Watts Group to use technology more and in new ways. In the last two years, she spearheaded learning new systems and figuring out how to use them to increase efficiencies. This has led to improved tenant interaction, more ownership for her team, and quicker response rates. Kerri is respected by her manager, peers, and staff. She is always looking for ways to elevate people and processes. She maintains a positive attitude and influences others to be more positive. When it comes to her leadership style, she likes to put people in their strength areas, challenges people to push themselves further, and reminds people if they want to be respected, then they have to be respectful.
Samantha Hench, Associate Professor of Information Technology and Business, IT & Creative Careers Assessment Core Lead, Kirkwood Community College
For over 11 years, Samantha has served in a leadership role with Kirkwood as the Associate Professor of Information Technology. While her title and responsibilities may shift from time to time, there is no doubt that Samantha is a true leader with her students, her peers, and with other departments. Samantha has been handpicked to serve on selection committees for executive searches and peer groups, and is an Assessment Champion for Kirkwood. She was also awarded the John and Suanne Roueche Excellence in Teaching Award through the League of Innovation after being nominated by her Dean. Samantha goes above and beyond with her students and in the classroom. She was a co-facilitator for the Customer Service Professional Certificate and was a big part of merging this program with Continuing Education. She really excelled at helping these students try soft-skills by modeling the traits expected and by providing specific coaching to highlight a student’s strengths, as well as providing constructive coaching to help them improve. Her students have shared that she is different from other professors because she really cares about their success and getting to know them. Outside of Kirkwood, Samantha was the lead coach for the Lego League for three years, served on the executive board for Lead the Way project with Clear Creek Amana for six years helping students in high school find a track to engineering, and volunteered on Team Breast Friends Committee of Iowa City for four years. She is still actively volunteering wherever she can, even during COVID-19.
Jennifer Irons, Executive Assistant, Ahmann Companies
Jennifer is a leader at Ahmann Companies, not by title, but by her skills and abilities to positively influence others. As Executive Assistant, Jennifer has done so much to develop others’ leadership skills through her organizational skills, high attention to detail, ability to jump in and learn, and most importantly, being able to build solid relationships with all employees. She has built a reputation for having high integrity and confidentiality, an ability to make others feel cared for, and for having the knowledge about their business processes. Jennifer has a vast amount of knowledge in the business world and the industry. This year, she became well versed in all of the COVID-19 guidelines and stayed on top of all changes as they happened. She spearheaded the company communication about COVID-19 procedures and changes and supported much of the company’s Derecho communication as well.
Jennifer is a 5th degree black belt, and she enjoys teaching her girls, nieces, and nephew Tae Kwon
Do. Prior to the pandemic, volunteered to teach others Tae Kwon Do at Camp Courageous and with Girl Scouts. She loves being in the kitchen baking with her daughters. They believe making a mess means you're having fun! Currently, Jennifer is the co-president at Bowman Woods PTO.
Celeste Jaquis, Executive Director, House of Hope
Celeste Jaquis has accomplished so much in her long career in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. She is an incredible leader and holds herself to a high standard, always putting the needs of others before her own, staying positive, and putting in the extra work to do the right thing. A leader is also motivating and helping people to become the best versions of themselves. Celeste possesses all these qualities. Staff members under her guidance have transformed with her support and encouragement. Celeste is the type of leader that promotes her team above herself. She sees true potential in an individual, even when they do not see it themselves and spends time and energy pulling the best out of that person. She gives direction and correction in a graceful manner, encouraging and supporting others to meet their goals. She listens to her team, allowing them a voice at the table, and is always striving to make others feel heard. Celeste has done amazing things at the House of Hope. She carries herself with dignity and grace and is not afraid to get her hands dirty. She has carried the House of Hope staff through times of tremendous struggle and through great accomplishments. Her latest accomplishments include advocating, leading, and being a pioneer for House of Hope’s Carriage House based on the needs for more mental health services she’s seen in the community. She has used her voice, leadership, and skills to expand the therapy department. The Carriage House has been in development for years, but she has steadily helped it come to fruition. 2020 was a year that threw off everyone and everything. However, Celeste still managed to not only lead her organization, but help House of Hope and its employees thrive. Celeste led her team through a difficult year with grace and empowered them to pivot to find new ways to carry out their mission and support the people who needed them, even leading a capital campaign at the same time! In fact, 2020 was the best year financially for House of Hope in many years. Celeste has always been a champion for women and their success in life. She was an editor for Woman Today magazine, participates in Professional Women’s Network (PWN), supports the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Engagement Program, and is a member of Serve the City, a community-wide faith based group.
Michelle Lloyd, Vice President of Administration, Systems Unlimited, Inc.
Michelle has distinguished herself as a leader in the finance and organization operations for providers of disability services in Iowa. She has navigated the changeover to the Managed Care systems of funding, ensuring that agency cash flow remained consistently healthy while advocating for needed change from payers. She has played a key role in several initiatives over the past few years, including leading the successful integration of two finance departments due to a merger. The merge resulted in an increase of over 30% in agency revenues.
Michelle oversees a staff of 18 Finance, Representative Payees, HUD Managers, and Maintenance staff at Systems Unlimited. Her role includes responsibility for maintaining a budget of over $40 million annually. Michelle has developed a strong team of staff members who embrace their role in carrying out the mission of Systems Unlimited and remain focused on successful outcomes for the people served. She pushes her team to remain focused, be professional and represent the agency proudly in all communications. Employees at the agency would say her attention is often in high demand due to her knowledge of "all things Systems Unlimited." When presented with a complex problem, Michelle will stay calm, evaluate options, gather her team, and provide solutions that reflect a true leader. In 2019, Michelle was promoted to Vice President of Administration for her outstanding work and leadership throughout her twenty plus year tenure with Systems Unlimited.
Kimberly Poston, Vice President of Billing and Invoicing, GreatAmerica Financial Services Corporation
When Kimberly joined GreatAmerica over 16 years ago, she was fresh out of college with little insight into the impact that she would make on the organization, her customers, and her fellow GreatAmericans. Her drive for excellence and inquisitive nature enabled her to see the path to meet customer needs in a way that is mutually beneficial for all parties. Along the way, she grew in her career, being “all in” with every role she held, determined to make a difference from the seat she was in. As a team leader, her mentorship really began to shine as saw the leadership potential in one of her team members and helped to develop her skills to position her for a future leadership role. Kimberly then moved from a sales role to a director role in operations. There, she expanded her knowledge by digging in to understand the nuances of each of the markets GreatAmerica serves. Once again, Kimberly saw the potential in one of her team members and, through a strong combination of setting expectations, mentoring, and accountability, she helped to prepare him to step into her role without missing a beat. Her current role has her again stepping outside of her comfort zone, and in true Kimberly fashion, she has jumped in and brought her knowledge from prior roles to hit the ground running. Her inquisitive nature and understanding of technical issues enables her to challenge the status quo in a respectful way. It is clear to all that interact with her that she is determined to do things right the first time for her customers and for GreatAmerica. Kimberly’s influence is woven throughout all of GreatAmerica where she has also mentored six additional new and aspiring leaders. Kimberly was the recipient of GreatAmerica’s highest award, the Outstanding Achiever, which recognizes individuals that are the best of the best. She also led the operations team’s first step into a new platform (ServiceCloud) and has continued to champion the solution as the rest of the organization comes on board. Her passion for the solution has been a driving force for continued advancement within the platform. And while Kimberly has certainly led an accomplished career, her true success is seen in the individuals where she saw their potential and made the commitment to help them achieve their goals. She has never been in it for the accolades or the career advancement, but always for the customers and the individuals that she leads. Kimberly’s greatest impact has been and will continue to be seen in those that she has mentored both at work and at home.
Kimberly has made an impact in the community by aligning her time, talents, and treasure where they mean the most to her and her family. Over the past 15 years, she has given in multiple ways to the Marion United Methodist Church, including being a Sunday school teacher, leading a group of teenagers in their preparation for confirmation, and serving on the 175th anniversary committee and finance committee. In all of this she gains as much as she gives while building a stronger community and personal relationships. Kimberly and her family are also passionate about Multiple Sclerosis as her sister was diagnosed many years ago. To show their support, she has raised money, spread awareness, and participated in the MS walk for the last 15 years.
Angela Richards, Bank Manager, US Bank
Angela Richards is a dual Bank Manager for US Bank, overseeing the Council Street and Amana locations. Angela leads her teams at US Bank with positivity and determination. During times when there is swift and constant change, Angela is a calming influence her staff can depend on to keep business running smoothly. Angela is mentor to her peers, willingly sharing her knowledge and experience to help the team grow. Angela is an alumni of the US Bank Women’s Leadership Group and also volunteers at St. Joseph Catholic Church teaching youth religion classes on Wednesday nights.
Kristin Roberts, President & CEO, United Way of East Central Iowa
When Kristin Roberts started her role as the President & CEO of United Way of East Central Iowa (UWECI) in early 2020, she faced many barriers that tested her as she worked to lead her organization and support the community. One month after beginning her new role, COVID-19 made its way to the community, and Kristin had to develop and navigate work-from-home strategies to keep her staff safe. Two months after starting her new role, UWECI’s Chief Financial Officer left right when budgeting for next fiscal year was scheduled to begin, adding a new task to her plate. Six months after starting her new role, the community is devastated by the Derecho, and Kristin worked to coordinate a collaborative disaster recovery group to keep everyone moving forward. While the first few months of Kristin’s time at United Way are evidence of her dedication and leadership skills, these traits were evident long before. In 2012-2013, Kristin served as the President for Junior League of Cedar Rapids, supporting a 300+ membership at the time. She also significantly increased fundraising efforts and success in her previous roles, including Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern Iowa & Western Illinois, Development Officer at Coe College, and Director of Communications & Planned Giving at Mercy Medical Center Foundation. In her personal life, Kristin has been involved with her Church Leadership Council, currently serving as the President, and has also supported Theater Cedar Rapids as a Board Member. Overall, Kristin’s commitment and dedication to the community has proved unstoppable and has touched many lives.
Tawnya Salsbery, Senior Director of Post-Acute & Senior Services, Mercy Medical Center
Tawnya grew up in Cedar Rapids, graduated from Mount Mercy University, and has a love for the community and its health and wellness. She is a dedicated and loyal Mercy Medical Center nurse who always finds a way to say yes to solving any problem or issue. With over 20 years of experience at Mercy, Tawnya has excelled from her first position as a dialysis nurse to her current role as the Senior Director of Post-Acute and Senior Services, where she oversees 10 departments: dialysis services, palliative and hospice services, geriatric services, home care, ACO/population health, care coordination, Mercy Health Partners, Inpatient Rehabilitation, and Hallmar (Mercy’s nursing care facility). Tawnya has built administrative relationships with the area nursing facilities and has been the trusted person to recommend ways to support them through their unique challenges of caring for residents with the devastation of the Derecho and the pandemic. Tawnya arranged for volunteer-made masks and other PPE supplies to be delivered when the nursing care facilities had none initially; she deployed a team to have conversations with residents/families to document orders of their wishes in case they should become ill; she spearheaded a set of guidelines from the start of COVID-19 suspicion to the care that can be managed in the facility as to when to come to the hospital if the residents need it; and she facilitated weekly telephone contact with all facilities and St. Luke’s Hospital to learn together how to do what is required from the CDC, Linn County Public Health, Iowa Department of Public Health, and facility corporate decisions. After the Derecho, Tawnya checked in with all departments to ensure employee and patient safety was maintained and then immediately checked in with nursing facilities. Tawnya helped nursing care facilities in the community find placement for elderly residents who had lost their homes and had to shelter in place for 48 hours after the Derecho. She went to the Health Plaza to support staff without working telephones and helped coordinate transportation to the hospital for patients who needed dialysis treatments. Tawnya also made arrangements for food, diapers, and baby wipes to be sent to the Health Plaza because she knew several employees had no access to these items because of their personal devastation. In December of 2020, Tawnya received Mercy’s highest honor – the Catherine McAuley Service Award.
Tawnya is a great teacher and always looks for an opportunity to match the skills of each individual she works with to a role where they can be most successful. Tawnya is never one to face away from a challenge and is an admirable leader, sharing her time to better the community. She supports several community organizations/efforts, including serving as an Innovation Center for Aging and Dementia committee member, American Nephrology Nurses’ Association member, and as a YPN board member. She was also recently voted by the Linn County Board of Supervisors to sit on the Linn County Board of Health.
June Schumacher, Senior Administrative Assistant, Parks & Recreation – City of Cedar Rapids
In September, June will celebrate 30 years as the Administrative Assistant to the Director of Cedar Rapids Parks & Recreation. In that time, she has made quite a reputation for herself as the WOO on her team. WOO is an acronym from StrengthFinders that stands for “Winning Others Over.” People with WOO talents enjoy the process of connecting with new people and helping people connect with one another. June exhibits this trait because she is full of energy and always “WOOing” for others when they do something great. As a Senior Admin, her philosophy is to build a better team; to listen to others so they feel like their comments count; to empower others to empower each other; and to have each other’s backs. June has a passion for helping others be the best version of themselves, serving others, and teaching others how to serve. About 10 years ago, she was asked to be part of the team facilitating customer service training, and she now helps conduct the training for all new hires. With COVID-19, the Parks & Recreation Department were unable to hire their seasonal help. June, along with many others, worked outside the scope of their jobs to support the golf courses. This meant working any shift, day or night, as needed. June did it with a smile on her face and a bounce in her step. With the Derecho, June worked with the distribution warehouse suppliers, dispensing items to sites the City was managing for those in need. June exhibits servant leadership in what she says and does. More so, she is humble, kind, and authentic. Outside of work, June has been a part of the Follies for 17 years, serving on the board the last five years. She is passionate about raising money for scholarships for kids in the arts. She supports her children and grandchildren by living her life motto: faith, family, and friends.
Teresa Wolken, Chief Financial Officer, Raining Rose, Inc.
Teresa is one of the rare individuals that possesses deep technical skills, the ability to genuinely relate to others, and a natural curiosity. Teresa spent 15 years at Rockwell and was a key member of their finance team in Cedar Rapids. She held a leadership position and had a very successful career. However, when she learned about the Chief Financial Officer position at Raining Rose, she saw an opportunity to take her skills and apply them in a new way for a new challenge. From day one, Teresa had a positive impact on the business. Her ability to communicate in kind yet direct manner has given her the ability to influence the entire organization. Raining Rose is transitioning to a more data driven operation, and this has required a new way of working and thinking about the business. Teresa not only brought the lessons she learned from being part of a larger and more sophisticated operation, but she has been willing to teach, encourage, and develop those skills in people throughout the company.
Teresa has a quiet presence, but has earned the respect of her peers and those that work with her. She typically listens more than she speaks, but when she is ready to share her perspective, it is thoughtful and balanced. Teresa has a unique ability to take financial information and develop a narrative that allows outside advisers to truly engage in the business. She takes the data and uses it to actually tell the story of how the company is doing and where they are going. She has also built bridges to the non- financial segments of the company so she has a better understanding of the intangibles that affect the day-to-day operations of the business. Outside of her professional accomplishments, Teresa lives life to the fullest, encouraging her three sons to reach for the stars and enjoying all the adventure’s life brings with her husband Michael. Teresa volunteers on the Sacred Heart School Board in Monticello, serving as the Board President from 2017- 2019. She currently serves as a Eucharistic minister at Sacred Heart Church in Monticello and has previously served as a volunteer spearheading the Parish fundraising committee. For several years, Teresa was an active member of the Jones County 4H Horse committee, actively supporting horse and pony clinics and donating to the awards pools.
Andjela Calasan, Producer Coordinator, TrueNorth Companies
Andjela Calasan moved to the United States from Serbia at age 17 without knowing anyone or speaking any English. Once settled in the US, she taught herself soccer in order to earn a college scholarship to pursue higher education. During her time in college, she held five different jobs in order to make ends meet. She also secured an internship with TrueNorth Companies where she supported Marketing & Sales, which led to her current job as a Producer Coordinator. After living in the United States for only five years, Andjela graduated from college and was offered a full-time role at TrueNorth Companies – a top 35 Insurance Agency in the United States. Andjela has worked in Marketing and as a Producer (Sales) Coordinator in one of the fastest growing parts of the company. Andjela loves people – so making calls and making new friends is natural to her. What some people find very uncomfortable, Andjela genuinely enjoys. Andjela has worked to help develop and establish a new specialty at TrueNorth – the area of Tanks and Towers – and she has become a beloved member of that industry across the United States. When members of that community talk to other team members at TrueNorth, they all insist that Andjela be a part of those calls. Andjela is also in high demand at TrueNorth. TrueNorth is organized into three main divisions and has four main geographies. Two of the geographies and two of the divisions want Andjela to work for them. Andjela is hard working, genuine, and a caring person who is friendly and always looking out for others. She makes any team she is on stronger – and the teams she supports benefit from her presence.
Kathy Courtney, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, GreenState Credit Union
Although Kathy was raised on a farm in Iowa with modest means, she was able to attain a world-class education and worldwide business experience. She is a first generation college graduate who earned her BBA in Finance from the University of Iowa in 1997. Kathy also earned her MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, graduating with honors in 2016. She started her career as a Management Consultant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, working on multiple large-scale projects across the U.S. She spent five years at Charles Schwab out of San Francisco and then spent over a decade with Northern Trust, working and living in Chicago, London/Europe, Singapore/Asia-Pacific, and Canada. After multiple decades away, she relocated back to her home state of Iowa in 2018 and joined GreenState Credit Union as EVP/Operations where she has been a leader for change and a strong supporter of “lifting others up” to help them achieve more than they thought possible, mentoring others and encouraging them on their leadership journeys. Kathy is also passionate about giving back to others and the communities in which she lives – particularly around causes spanning economic empowerment, education, and women in leadership. She is currently a board member for University of Iowa Tippie Advisory Council as well as CU Engage and previously held a board role at Youth Guidance out of Chicago. She also led a Women in Asset Management group and was an active leader in Northern Trust’s global Women in Leadership program while in Chicago. Additionally, she was an active volunteer and contributor to UCAN and Chicago Scholars while in Chicago as well as various youth education and women-focused groups while living in the Asia-specific region. Kathy is married to a vocal Colombian (Iowan by marriage) and is a proud stepmom to three children in their 20s. She is actively exploring additional ways to "give back" to the community since relocating back to Iowa.
Lindsay Leahy, Founder, Coach, & Consultant, The Restoration Project
As a child growing up in Nebraska, Lindsay overcame some significant obstacles with a family that did not always provide her what she needed. Her story is powerful and inspiring in hindsight and helps others, including her Little Sister through Big Brothers/Big Sisters, to envision a future brighter than present circumstances. She has been featured on numerous podcasts, videos, and writes a blog called Grit, Gratitude, and Grace. Lindsay is a great ally, friend, and even more exceptional human. Her bravery, vulnerability, and courage brings out the best in herself and others to make Cedar Rapids and the surrounding Corridor brighter. She walks the walk, earns the trust of people, asks the tough yet important questions, and practices what she preaches. Lindsay has such a unique and trusted insight into so many stigmatized or marginalized topics and communities. She does not shy away from discomfort or uncomfortable conversations, but rather leans in with the lessons to be learned and perseveres with her inner strength and fortitude. Her activism and advocacy around domestic violence alone has helped normalize the conversation and relate to others outside of the professional arena. Professionally, Lindsay transitioned away from corporate America to begin The Restoration Project. As the founder of a place that is committed to restoring the human experience to maximize the potential of businesses and people alike, she truly invests in people beyond profits. She and her team’s success is a true testament to the opportunities earned when hard work meets opportunity. She connects with people and organizations in ways that others often struggle with to get by in and commitment to mission, goals, and purpose. Lindsay’s commitment to improving lives is shared throughout the community with her involvement with several area organizations, such as Waypoint’s Domestic Violence Program, Willis Dady, House of Hope, 100+ Who Care, and many more. She has several awards and honors including Trailblazer Award by Corridor Area Leadership Live, speaker at the 2020 Woman Up Conference, and facilitator of the Creating Power webinar with Kirkwood Community College Corporate Training.
Service to the Community
Erika Brighi, Eastern Iowa Market Developer, RSM US LLP
Erika Brighi is the marketing leader for RSM’s six Eastern Iowa offices. Her focus is on the firm’s intentional growth strategies and building RSM’s brand in the communities they serve. Erika is also involved in the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts, specifically around the firm’s diverse recruiting efforts and the Middle Market Collaborative for Understanding, an initiative bringing together a group of middle market organizations working together to actively advance inclusion and racial understanding. RSM’s success in the community is in-part because of Erika’s strong commitment in the area. She is a role model to the people of RSM and leads by example when it comes to involvement in community activities. People consistently reach out to Erika for her guidance in this area.
Erika’s involvement and passion with more than ten local organizations makes a positive impact in the local community. She just completed a nearly three year term as board chair for 100+ Who Care – Cedar Rapids Metro. During her leadership, the organization made a significant community impact, raising more than $134,000 for local nonprofits. In 2020, Erika joined the board of Advocates for Social Justice (ASJ), and one of its founders described Erika as a true leader in her community who has been instrumental in forming ASJ. She challenges those around her to be better through her compassionate energy and steadfast commitment to making the community a more equitable place. Erika is also working with Community Hope and Transformation (C.H.A.T.) to help launch a mentoring program, Melanated Men, for black males in the community. She is an incoming board member for the Housing Fund for Linn County and is actively involved as a Rotarian, Junior Achievement volunteer teacher, CALL board member, and Leadership for Five Season Youth program committee member. Last year, Erika was part of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women’s Gala executive leadership committee and was on the planning committee for Camp Courageous Sprint Triathlon. Erika was recently named one of nine Pursue Your Passion winners across RSM’s U.S. and Canada locations. Erika will be awarded $10,000 and nine days of paid time off to pursue her passion. In 2020, Erika’s friend, Carlos, lost his 20-year-old son, Malik to gun violence, with two teenagers charged in his death. She will be using her time off to support Carlos in starting a mentoring program for young, black males in the community.
Karey Chase, Director of Community Investment, United Way of East Central Iowa
When the derecho hit on August 10, 2020, Karey had been leading United Way of East Central Iowa’s Community Impact team for only 40 days. Karey’s strong leadership, deep knowledge of the community, and problem-solving skills immediately drove the area’s nonprofit response. Karey stepped up in multiple ways during the immediate disaster response, seeing the complex needs in the community, partnering and collaborating with other key stakeholders, and creating solutions to those problems. One of those solutions was implementing Power BI data, which allowed United Way to share live links to resources and available services in partnership with Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster (LAP-AID). Beyond looking to those who have a strong foothold in the community’s non-profit landscape, Karey also developed relationships with grassroots non-profits. She recognized that immense community need spread beyond the Cedar Rapids metro area and diligently worked to make sure those in the rural areas also received the support they needed. Her efforts haven’t stopped as she continues to sit on multiple work groups looking to address the community’s complex problems. Most inspiring of Karey’s work in the aftermath of the Derecho was to not just recognize the need for homeowners to receive free labor and materials to repair their homes before winter hit, but her ability to work with a great team to create the process, gather those needed around the table, and create a collaborative solution. We now know her vision as the PATCH Program (Providing Assitance to Community Homeowners) being run by Matthew 25. Additionally, Karey’s role with UWECI put her in a unique position with access to the community’s top funders. It was Karey’s dual capacity to be a part of the funder’s cohort and knowledgably present the PATCH program to them that truly allowed it to become a reality. Through all of this, Karey also led UWECI’s Community Impact team as the go-to resource for volunteer needs in the community in the immediate after-effects of the Derecho. Because of her leadership, the Community Impact team came together in ways previously not seen to support each other, and ultimately, the community during this time. Like many in the community, she and her staff were working 12-plus hour days for multiple weeks in a row managing the volunteer requests coming into the community. Karey has also begun the ardent task of beginning a Community Impact Assessment, where she will lead the community and organization in collecting deep and meaningful information to act on. Through her work, the goal is to find out what UWECI needs to focus its efforts on to make this community stronger, more equitable, and a better place to live. Her work will create the Community Impact Agenda, the playbook of what United Way of East Central Iowa will focus on in the near future.
Stephanie Cooper, Director of Employee Health & Clinic Operations, Mercy Medical Center
Stephanie (Steph) Cooper has been with Mercy for more than 26 years and served in many roles of increasing responsibility. As the Director of Employee Health and Clinic Operations, Steph has been integral to the organization’s response to the challenges of COVID-19. When the virus first appeared in Eastern Iowa, Steph recognized the role she would need to play to ensure the safety of providers, staff, and patients. As the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) throughout the organization grew, despite limited resources, Steph helped assess the strategic location for CAPRs throughout the health system while also developing a plan to ensure N-95 fit testing for hospital and clinic providers and employees. As employees started to present with COVID-19 symptoms, Steph led the effort to ensure contact tracing was accomplished to determine whether the illness originated on or off-duty and provided critical insight into crafting the emergency leave policy for the organization. In this capacity, she monitored the number of providers and employees that were out with COVID-19. Steph injected herself into situations if there were concerns with departments not following organization procedures while also establishing an on-call schedule for the Employee Health Center providers to respond to concerns from providers and staff. Steph also helped coordinate efforts throughout the community to include providing assistance for COVID-related issues at Kirkwood Community College and Mount Mercy University.
As testing capability for COVID-19 became more prevalent in the community, Steph established a separate testing location at the hospital which provided convenient COVID-19 testing access for providers, staff, and patients while ensuring it was accomplished in a safe environment. As the distribution of the vaccine started to become a reality, Steph was an integral member of the planning committee for Mercy. She envisioned a clinic at the hospital to be used to vaccinate health care personnel, which resulted in people being vaccinated within two hours after the arrival of the vaccine. Her expertise and knowledge with setting up the temporary clinic downtown was instrumental in establishing a vaccination clinic at the Health Plaza; a clinic that went from a vision to reality in just over one week. Steph provided information for the weekly updates for community providers about the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape and assisted with the information included in a Return to Work presentation offered by Business Health Solutions. She guided the implementation of telehealth clinics at Mercy and provided a roadmap for video visits at other clinics. On top of all of her working during the COVID-19 health crisis, Steph has impacted Mercy by initiating Medical Emergency Team (MET) and Sepsis protocol for the organization and implemented organ donation support groups, including co-chairing the development of the organ donor memorial wall. Outside of her role at Mercy, Steph is a board member with the Alburnett School District Foundation, a volunteer for the Community Health Free Clinic, and supports the Linn County 4-H Youth Program.
Katie Curtis, Chief Development Officer, Foundation 2 Crisis Services
Katie Curtis has been with Foundation 2 Crisis Services for 2.5 years as Chief Development Officer and continues to establish and retain important community relationships, works to build a strong and vital community presence, and increases donor engagement around the work Foundation 2 does and the people they serve. She has a Master’s degree in Philanthropy & Nonprofit Management from the University of Northern Iowa and applies those skills daily. Great Development Directors and non-profit leaders are “long-sighted” and understand that they are laying groundwork for success that may not even come to fruition in their own career or they may not always see the direct effects. Patient, wise, and open-minded, Katie joined Foundation 2’s leadership team and strengthened the organization by building relationships in the community while raising the funds needed to support their critical mission, even developing a new event, Putts for Prevention, a successful annual putt-putt golf fundraiser for Foundation 2. Katie is invaluable to Foundation 2 and to the community. She cares deeply about the quality of life of others, and her understanding and support of the important work Foundation 2 does keeps them moving in the right direction. Katie has an appetite for expanding her knowledge. Whether it is new methods in donor engagement, non-profit leadership, or the community as a whole – she digs in and learns to improve and make things better. At the same time, Katie seeks out feedback and then applies it nearly immediately to quickly transform her efforts into success. Katie’s commitment to the service of others extends far beyond raising money. Immediately following the Derecho, Foundation 2 needed crisis counselors in mass volume to meet the needs of those coming to the Neighborhood Resource Centers for critical assistance. Katie dug deep into all her past skills doing direct service with those in crisis and worked the entire week at Taylor supporting people in need. It was important to her to personally give back and help others, even though it was not part of her role as Development Director. Driven by the concept of service to others, Katie is always promoting causes across the array of services and causes that make the Cedar Rapids area vibrant and strong and directly impacts the quality of life of so many. Katie is a member of the Leadership for Five Season Class of 2021 and is President Elect of the Junior League of Cedar Rapids (JLCR) and has been part of the recent organizational changes that set JLCR up to grow and continue their success in the future. With a special interest in serving youth, Katie has been an active and involved participant in Women Leaders Who Lunch, a program that pairs female leaders with students at Kenwood Leadership Academy and provides positive female role models and mentoring in leadership. Additionally, Katie is an active member of Downtown Rotary, contributing on the Communications Committee to bring her thoughtful and tactical expertise to the organization.
Stacie Eastman, Director of Development & Communications, His Hands Free Clinic
Stacie is the Director of Development & Communications at His Hands Free Clinic, an organization that provides free medical, dental, and other health care services to uninsured and underinsured individuals. During the COVID-19 health pandemic, Stacie wrote at least three grants per month, providing five new grants and raising more than $200,000 to keep His Hands operating during these crucial times. In addition to grant writing, Stacie used her creativity to pivot from in-person fundraising to creating compelling content to raise funds in new ways. In a period of four months, she had helped His Hands receive more publicity and support than in the previous 28 years of operation! Stacie has a strong work ethic and is selfless in trying to provide resources so His Hands and other organizations she supports can do their work. She is passionate about justice for all, giving her best and providing high standards that results in excellent work and care for others. In addition to her work at His Hands, Stacie also supports the Washington High School debate team as their assistant coach and serves as a board member for Central Furniture Rescue.
Julie Foley, Volunteer, Aging Services – AbbeHealth
Julie Foley is a volunteer with Aging Services, an organization that has a mission helping older adults stay independent and in their own homes for as long as possible. Julie has given over 800 hours of her time, driven over 7,000 miles, and provided over 800 rides to older adults with limited access to transportation since 2016 to ensure older adults receive transportation to medical appointments and other essential errands. Julie is hard working, flexible, and has a great sense of humor. She loves staying busy and provides multiple rides each week for Aging Services clients. Julie continued volunteering during the spring months of 2020 when the community was sheltering in place. She moved from her normal role of being a volunteer driver to distributing food boxes to senior living apartments to ensure clients had enough to eat. Julie returned to driving in June when the transportation program reopened. She played a key role in ensuring our transportation program could continue during the ongoing pandemic. Julie covered rides in areas outside of her normal driving area and took last minute requests when schedules changed. Without Julie's support, Aging Services would not be able to serve nearly as many older adults or provide the essentials services they offer to the community. Along with supporting Aging Services, Julie is an active volunteer with the Linn-Mar School District, the Boy Scouts of America, and Aid to Women. She is also a U.S. Army veteran.
Michele Kelly, First Impressions Team Member, Van Meter Inc.
Michele is a special employee-owner and leader for Van Meter’s involvement in the Especially For You Race Against Breast Cancer. She is a survivor herself and helps raise awareness by sharing her story. Being vulnerable and sharing your story is a tough thing to do, but Michele does this to benefit the millions of people who are affected and will be affected by breast cancer. Facilitating and encouraging fellow coworkers to support a passion in a company of 500 people takes organization, compassion, and a little bit of fire. She encourages people to join her and helps them do it easily. Michele has been involved in the Especially For You Race Against Breast Cancer for the past several years, serving as Van Meter’s Team Lead. She leads the Van Meter team by providing information about the race, assisting with registrations, and picking up and delivering all registration materials for those who register for the race. Michele also pushed for Van Meter to cover the participant fee through their Health & Wellness benefits. She didn’t let COVID-19 and other events of 2020 stop her enthusiasm, encouraging everyone to participate and support events in safe ways. Michele also serves as a member on the Health, Wellness, and Safety Committee. This is an important committee at Van Meter as it promotes Total Wellness to of all 500 employee-owners as well as community partners. Van Meter believes that wellness is all inclusive and is not only physical health, but emotional and social health. Aside from her full-time position at Van Meter, Michele also works at Home Instead Senior Living assisting with the day-to-day activities and care-takes for the residents.
Amy Korsmo, Freight Administrator, Van Meter Inc.
Being involved in the community is a top priority of many employee-owners at Van Meter, and Amy Korsmo is the perfect example of that. Her biggest passion and leadership at Van Meter is displayed in her support of the Red Kettle Campaign for the Salvation Army. Amy is responsible for the complete success of Red Kettle at Van Meter, having coordinated all components of the company’s involvement for the last ten years. Through her leadership, Van Meter takes over the Wilson Ave location for an entire week. She organizes who is going fill each shift, fills in where there is a gap, and created a Van Meter match initiative. 2020 brought many challenges, which made it extra critical that Van Meter continued its support of the Salvation Army and the Red Kettle Campaign. Amy’s responsibilities in managing their involvement increased due to employee-owners working from home, COVID-19 uncertainties, and coverage within the organization. She did not let this stop her and continued to encourage those around her, as well as stepping up to cover more times than years prior. Amy lives in Atkins and is very involved in her community. Beyond the Red Kettle Campaign, she and her husband are instrumental in planning the Atkins Watermelon Days every summer. Watermelon Days began 24 years ago and is a community event with a plethora of activities for the community. The money raised during Watermelon Days is invested back into the community every year. Amy is also involved in various events at Hawkeye Downs. For 30 years, Amy never missed a race that her husband participated in and has made her involvement in Hawkeye Downs a family affair.
Julie Smith, Manager Respiratory Therapy, UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids
Julie Smith, a 25-year health care veteran, is the manager of St. Luke’s Respiratory Care department and leads numerous respiratory therapists and technicians. As many are aware, the COVID-19 global health pandemic has dramatically impacted thousands of individuals and triggers what doctors call a respiratory tract infection. The need for expert and constant respiratory care and therapy to help patients fight the virus is in great demand.
During the last 11 months, Julie has led a remarkable team of respiratory experts to help care for the community in a dire time of need. The extraordinary work of her team and their countless hours has helped more than 900 COVID-19 patients who have been hospitalized at St. Luke’s. Through her work and that of her team, she has helped enhance the quality of life for so many people in the community. The countless hours of support, innovation, education, and responding to the needs of COVID-19 patients has never been greater and the need will continue well into the future. Throughout the pandemic, Julie ensured her team had the equipment and supplies needed to care for the respiratory needs of COVID-19 patients. She spent hours researching safe equipment that would decrease airborne emissions to keep healthcare workers safe. She collaborated with system-wide respiratory care leaders to take inventory of advanced respiratory equipment, determined possible needs, ensured that additional resources were obtained, and shared equipment needs as surge volumes fluctuated throughout the system. Respiratory equipment was sent to Mercy Medical Center, Jones Regional Medical Center, and Finley Hospital. Julie contributed long hours, working in direct care to help with the increase patient care needs, listening to fears and concerns of team members, patients, and their families to ensure they had the emotional support they needed. During the Derecho, much of the city was without power, and Julie was the point person to care for community members who needed power to run their home oxygen or CPAP/BIPAP systems. 21 community members were housed within St. Luke’s Hospital for five days so they could have this basic need fulfilled. Julie worked with her team to ensure these community members had the equipment and oxygen needed during the disaster. As a respiratory therapist, Julie is passionate for the respiratory care of patients and is forward-thinking in bringing new therapies and support for UnityPoint’s patients. She is passionate about educating and mentoring others and gives her time freely to local EMS teams, local career fairs, colleges, and state respiratory associations so they can learn from her expertise. She is often sought after as a speaker in her profession, and she currently serves as an Advisory Board member for curriculum and clinic needs for Kirkwood’s Respiratory Care Program.
Julie has received numerous Guardian Angel awards, which is an internal recognition program where patients and families sent gratitude notes to team members who were special in their loved ones care. She truly lives by UnityPoint’s mission statement: “To give the healthcare we’d like our loved ones to receive, treating every patient and their family members with respect, dignity and a caring touch.”
Waypoint is nothing without our community. For over 125 years, the community has been the backbone of the critical work we do in order to provide proactive resources and research-based solutions for those in crisis.
Each year, Waypoint chooses three recipients to receive scholarships to help them keep moving forward in their lives. A special thank you to the Honor Society for making this possible!