Author Archives: Andy Maw

Cardinal Mental Health Team Receives Legacy Youth Alliance Grant

The Mental Health Team at Cardinal Community School District (CCSD) works to eliminate barriers that keep students from succeeding at school or in society. “We believe that if kids aren’t healthy mentally, then it’s going to be tough to be at a high level academically. We want our students to know it’s OK to talk to us,” said Superintendent Joel Pedersen. The Mental Health Team ensures that all students have access to a Professional School Counselor or Social Worker and a fully licensed school therapist.

To further support their Mental Health Team’s efforts, CCSD applied for a Legacy Youth Alliance grant. The grant provides funding to purchase items that support basic human needs, promote student health, and support individuals in their sessions such as toys, books, hygiene items, rewards, and emotional support items. Items are being used in counseling settings and special education rooms that help students develop new coping skills and learn self-care.

Aimee Sivak, At-Risk Coordinator for the district, said, “Each student has unique needs, and we strive to meet each and every student where they’re at-whether that be help with separation, anxiety, or social skills.” The program is a collaborative effort to spread the news of resources available to district families and eliminate the stigma of reaching out for mental health support. The team provides whole group guidance lessons, small social support groups, counseling referrals, and 1:1 sessions.

When an individual has support, the team believes they can achieve big goals. The district is seeing that belief come to fruition through the Iowa Department of Education data regarding graduation and dropout rates for the 2019-2020 school year. 97% of Cardinal Seniors graduated last year; over 5% more than the state average of 91.8%.

The Mental Health Team Consists of Abbey Shelman (Elementary Guidance Counselor), Michelle Edwards (Middle/High School Guidance Counselor), Aimee Sivak (At-Risk Coordinator), Kathy Utterback (Great Prairie Area Education Agency Therapist), and Tammy Loerzel (River Hills Community Health Center Therapist).

Legacy Youth Alliance Member Spotlight: Kaitlyn Baeza

When Kaitlyn Baeza says she’s busy, she’s BUSY.

Baeza, a sophomore at Ottumwa High School, is a cheerleader, manager for boys’ football and girls’ soccer, and participates in the Talented And Gifted (TAG) Odyssey of the Mind program. She is also a part of is Al Exito, a group “who builds the leadership potential of Latino/a youth through college preparation, career development, and civic engagement.” Outside of school hours, she is active in ND4Y, an organization pushing for economic justice, racial justice, safe communities, and more.

Amidst her busy schedule, she also makes time to serve on the Legacy Youth Alliance. Despite her full schedule, Kaitlyn joined the Legacy Youth Alliance because she knew joining meant she would “be part of… helping support community needs such as the schools and mental health.”

The Legacy Youth Alliance meets once per month, hearing from speakers, reviewing grant applications, and working on projects that impact the community. “My favorite part of the Alliance so far is being able to see the applications from other organizations that come through and seeing what they believe would help our community and know we can help them be successful,” she said.

The Legacy Youth Alliance is comprised of 12 high school students from the Ottumwa, Cardinal, Eddyville, and Pekin school districts in addition to home-schooled students that are dedicated to using education, volunteerism, and grant-making to develop leadership skills, to act as role models, and to improve the communities in Wapello County. The Legacy Youth Alliance gives young people a voice in the issues that affect them now and the skills to confront the challenges they will face in the future. To learn more, visit:

Legacy Foundation Thanks Noel, Welcomes Sporer

The Legacy Foundation said goodbye and thank you to Phil Noel as he retired from the Board of Directors during the March board meeting. Phil joined the Board in 2020. Phil’s retirement from the Board of Directors coincides with his retirement as the Chief Executive Officer of Ottumwa Regional Health Center. To show our appreciation, the Board of Directors will award a $5,000 Laboratory Control Ltd. Health Career Scholarship in Phil’s name.

We are proud to announce that Russ Sporer will fill the vacancy created by Noel’s retirement. Russ is a retired co-owner and operator of Noel Insurance in Ottumwa. Russ served as the Dean of the Ottumwa Leadership Academy’s Inaugural Class, a Legacy Foundation program in 2012/2013. He has also served on the Board of Directors for the Ottumwa Regional Health Center, Partners in Progress, and Heartland Humane Society.

Kelly Genners, Legacy Foundation President and CEO, spoke of the transition, “Our organization has appreciated Phil’s health expertise greatly – particularly over the past year; it has been invaluable. We wish him the very best in his retirement – well deserved! Russ brings us an additional set of talents, among them a strong business acumen and years of servant leadership in the community.”

The all-volunteer Board of directors is selected for demonstrating a high level of commitment to the Ottumwa area, extensive knowledge in their professional area of expertise, and personal involvement in community engagement. The Legacy Board provides oversight of the strategic direction, policy, and responsibly steward over $70 million in assets.

Grantee Spotlight: Whatsoever You Do

Mary Margaret Butler’s life changed when she found a woman and five children freezing in their car in a parking lot in the middle of winter. “At that point, I decided to make every effort to help those who were lost and do everything in my power to get them off the streets.”

Mary Margaret, Director, and Founder of Whatsoever You Do (WYD), Inc, initially provided those in need with tents, camping gear, food cards, and bus tickets to the shelters. From there, the non-profit started renting apartments to provide shelter for homeless residents during the cold winter months. 

To create a more permanent solution, WYD, Inc. purchased the East End Presbyterian Church in Ottumwa. The group has a four-phase plan to renovate the building to create an emergency shelter for women and children. “Since we have started this shelter project, I am so overwhelmed by all the volunteers that have been coming forward to help us. Our community is made up of some of the most wonderful and giving people. We should be very proud of them. Whether it is an individual, organization, or church, they keep coming to help us to accomplish this dream,” Butler said. 

The organization received a Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Grant from the Legacy Foundation in the summer of 2020 to begin work on Phase 2 of the project, renovating the building’s basement level. Completing the basement will allow WYD, INC to open on a partial basis while continuing renovations in phases 3 and 4 of the project. At full capacity, the facility will have the ability to house 75-100 individuals in emergency situations.

Funds provided by the grant were used for plumbing expenses, including removing old sewer stacks, replacing them with new stacks, and re-routing pipes to service the downstairs Intake bathroom/shower, women bathroom/shower room, boy’s bathroom/shower room, commercial laundry room and commercial kitchen and a sprinkler system.

In total, the Legacy Foundation has provided $60,000 dollars from the Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund to support this project.  Other funds were used a new roof and asbestos abatement.

To learn more about Whatsoever You Do, Inc, visit

Legacy Foundation Donates Books to Local Youth

The Legacy Foundation believes reading is important because children who read for pleasure score higher on standardized tests, have greater reading comprehension skills, and display higher general knowledge levels.

To help ensure children in our community have books available at home, Legacy Foundation donated books to local youth at four locations in March.

First, Legacy Foundation staff visited Pickwick Preschool on March 11th and distributed the books and bookmarks directly to the 390 preschool students. Preschoolers received a copy of Moo Dog by David Milgrim, a book selected by Pickwick Preschool Teachers.

The Legacy Foundation also partnered with the Ottumwa Public Library to distribute books and bookmarks to Ottumwa youth as part of the Library’s Spring Break Craft Bag Giveaway on March 13th. Children could choose one of three books at the event; Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks, It’s Ok to be Different by Todd Parr, or Be Who You Are by Todd Parr. Legacy Foundation Staff chose the books for their focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Additionally, a copy of Save Me a Seat was given to every fourth-grade student at James Elementary. All 85 children at the Ottumwa Family YMCA Discovery Lane child development center also received a copy of either Be Who You Are or It’s Ok to be Different.

“After a challenging year, it was exciting to be able to partner with the school district and other groups making huge impacts in the lives of children, and provide kids with a book of their own,” said Heather Larson, Communications and Special Projects Manager for the Legacy Foundation. “You could see the kids smiles as they received their books, even through their masks. It was exciting to be able to bring a little fun to the children while also helping them read more.”

Legacy Youth Alliance Partners with Cardinal Preschool

Reading is the foundation for academic success. According to the Iowa Department of Education Early Literacy Initiative, nearly 1 in 4 Iowa 3rd grade students is not proficient in reading. For that reason, early childhood education is a priority area for the Legacy Youth Alliance (LYA).

The Legacy Youth Alliance used their service project fund to purchase 125 copies of the book “Be Who You Were Meant To Be” by Lauren Grabois Fischer. “The book selection was also very intentional; it had to fulfill three criteria: be age-appropriate, available in both English and Spanish, and have a story that focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says Amy Nossaman, Grants Program Manager at the Legacy Foundation.

Those 125 books were personalized with every preschool student’s name in the Cardinal School District and signed by all members of the Legacy Youth Alliance.

Allison Walker reads virtually to Cardinal Preschool students

COVID restrictions prevented the LYA members from personally visiting each classroom to distribute the books and read them to each class. Instead, using an electronic version of the book and ZOOM web conferencing, LYA members read the book virtually. The books were delivered to the school ahead of the reading sessions to allow students to follow along using their own books.

Allison Walker, senior at Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont and LYA member, said “Exposing children to the beauty of diversity is important to create an inclusive and accepting world. I loved having the opportunity to read to these kids to jump-start that change. It was great to see each of them celebrate and acknowledge each other’s differences.”

Mrs. Kern, four-year-old preschool teacher at Cardinal, said, “Our class loved having a virtual visitor! The kids followed along in their own individualized book while being read to via Zoom. Once our meeting was over, we read the book again as a class. They were so excited to take the book home and share it with their families!”

Scholar Spotlight: Shania Wilz

While she was a student at Oskaloosa High School, Shania Wilz started working in the Mahaska Drug gift department. After high school, Shania knew she wanted to pursue a pharmacy career. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in biology at William Penn University and continued working at Mahaska Drug. Simultaneously she earned her certification as a Pharmacy Technician and gained valuable experience working in the pharmacy.

After completing her bachelor’s, Shania earned her Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) from Drake University in Des Moines.  Shania, who is now a pharmacist for Mahaska Drug, said, “It was always the plan after pharmacy school to come back home and continue my career here.” She and her husband live on a farm in Southern Iowa, where they have crop ground and raise goats and sheep. Outside of work, Shania enjoys being outdoors, hunting, gardening, riding horses, and fitness.

Shania received a scholarship from the Laboratory Control Ltd. ‘(LCL) Health Career Scholarship Program.  The LCL Fund is an endowed fund administered by the Legacy Foundation for the express purpose of scholarship support for individuals interested in pursuing a career in health care. “The Legacy Foundation scholarship impacted my education by relieving the financial burden that college can put on a person. With this scholarship and many others, I was able to complete my undergraduate with zero debt,” Shania said.

The scholarship program intends to invest in the education of those students that may look to southeast Iowa for employment in health care following the completion of their studies. Over $425,000 – 315 scholarships – have been awarded to students in 35 communities disbursed throughout the ten-county area.

Awards vary in size, beginning with a $1,000 minimum and increasing as funds are available. Awards may be used for educational expenses, including tuition, books, and other fees, and are paid directly to the student’s college or university. Applications are currently being accepted through March 31st, 2021. To review eligibility guidelines and to submit an application, visit

Eldon Uptown/Downtown Leverages Bright Ideas Grant

Eldon Uptown/Downtown is a non-profit focused on bringing vibrancy back to the community’s commercial district. In 2017 the non-profit, led by Eldon resident Donna Jeffrey, received the buildings at 217 and 219 West Elm in Eldon as a donation. Prior, the buildings had sat empty for seven years.

Eldon Uptown/Downtown was awarded a $30,000 Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund grant in the fall of 2019. In 2020 Iowa Economic Development Authority announced $2.6 million in Community Catalyst Building Remediation grants. Eldon Uptown/Downtown was one of 26 Iowa communities awarded funding, leveraging their $30,000 grant from the Legacy Foundation to receive $100,000 in grant funding from the state.

The restoration process presented challenges along the way. The back wall of 419 West Elm collapsed when an addition was removed, adding extra expense to the project. The town raised additional funds to cover the added cost, leading to a total investment in the buildings’ restoration of $155,000. The buildings are being restored to include two street-level retail spaces and upper-level housing.

When discussing the project, Jeffrey said, “Our group is very excited that a lease has been signed to use the restored building as a restaurant. The building housed a restaurant for eighty years or more, and many have wanted it to remain that way.”

Jeffrey sees the restoration of 417 and 419 West Main as a catalyst for further restoration in their commercial district. She hopes that by adding retail business, the community will also help grow tourism in the area. 

The work completed by Jeffery and Eldon Uptown/Downtown earned her a spot on the Des Moines Register’s 15 people to watch in 2020. Read the full article here:


Legacy Foundation Thanks Conning, Franke, Hunsicker, and Miller for Service

The December 2020 Legacy Foundation Board Meeting marked the end of service for four Legacy Foundation Board members.

Eldon Hunsiker joined the Legacy Foundation board as a founding member in 2010.

Mark Franke  and Dr. Deb Miller, Pediatric Associates, joined shortly after, in 2011. Franke will continue to serve on the Finance and Investment Committee. Miller will continue her service on the Laboratory Control Ltd Health Care Career Scholarship Fund Committee.

Lesley Conning joined the board in 2020, soon after earning a promotion within the John Deere company, necessitating relocation.

“The Foundation has been so blessed with the caliber of members serving on the board.  During their tenure, these four individuals have demonstrated the kind of integrity, commitment, and leadership that we all strive to emulate – they will truly be missed,” said Kelly Genners, President/CEO of the Legacy Foundation.

Eldon Hunsicker

Mark Franke

Dr. Deb Miller

Lesley Conning

Filling the five open board seats are:

  • Jill Budde, Vice President, Learning and Engagement, Indian Hills Community College
  • Jessica McCullen, Optometrist, Ottumwa Eye Care
  • Wes Krenz, Branch Manager, Community First Credit Union
  • Taren Ferguson, Center Director, Job Corps
  • Jon Van Utrecht, Controller of the North American General Ledger Team, John Deere

Second Saturday Project Impacts 52 Households

The Southeast Iowa Dream Center brings together skilled volunteers to complete projects with the community. The Second Saturday Project, a name coined after the group began completing volunteer work on the second Saturday of each month, completes various projects, including yard work, building handicap accessible ramps, painting, and replacing windows and siding for those in need. However, the group faced constraints in their work because of their limited tools and supplies. 


In a Fall 2019 application to the Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund (BICEF), The Second Saturday Project want to expand their impact but were limited in tool supplies. After being awarded BICEF funding, the volunteer group was able to purchase tools and supplies that assisted them in:

  • Finishing the city ballfield dugouts
  • Completing 3 moving projects 
  • Building a wheelchair ramp for an elderly resident 
  • Building 30 picnic tables for Liberty and Douma Elementary Schools
  • Providing tree removal 
  • Drywalling for Whatsoever You Do Inc
  • Completing deck repairs 
  • Completing an improvement project for Habitat for Humanity Restore
  • Participating in a New Hope Ministry Auction project 
  • Providing 42 oil changes, free of charge, to residents in need 

Nearly 100 volunteers came together over five months, impacting 52 households. Bryce Lidtka, President of the Southeast Iowa Dream Center, said, “The Dream Center is blessed to have a team full of eager hearts to serve our community. In previous years, a limitation to our accomplishments was our tool supplies. We mostly relied on our volunteers to use their own tools, which limited our volunteering capacity and project capacity. Now, thanks to the Legacy Foundation’s generosity, we’ve been able to purchase a great lineup of tool supplies that will equip our team for almost any community need. The Dream Center is excited for more people to experience God’s love through community action, and are continuing to look for more opportunities to serve this beautiful city and surrounding areas.”

Do you have a Bright Idea? Applications for the Spring 2021 Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund will be accepted from February 1-28, 2020. Application guidelines and materials can be found at