Author Archives: Andy Maw

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

Tometich Earns Diversity & Inclusion Certificate

In the wake of major social issues that shook 2020, many leaders were challenged to examine their organization’s diversity and inclusion practices.

Hollie Tometich, Executive Director of the Ottumwa Leadership Academy (a program of the Legacy Foundation), enrolled in Cornell University’s Diversity and Inclusion certificate program to increase her knowledge in these areas and apply it to her work. The certificate program consists of 4 courses focused on helping organizations be more supportive and engaging places to work through understanding how people work together.

In addition to the course, Tometich collaborated with Kevin Pope, Branch Manager, Community 1st Credit Union, and Kayla Powell, NYTD (National Youth in Transition Database) and Youth Development Coordinator for the State of Iowa’s Department of Human Rights, in early 2020 to begin discussions around diversity and inclusion within the Ottumwa community.

The team created Brave Dialogue for Intentional Leaders, a program to hold a safe space for uncomfortable conversations where leaders can challenge assumptions to create intentional change related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This new conversation series, which is currently being piloted by Tometich, Pope, and Powell, challenges hardwired implicit biases and helps leaders begin their own journey to learn more about diversity and inclusion.

 “As a community leadership program, it’s important that we are part of conversations that propel our community forward as it relates to diversity and inclusion. Furthermore, we want to be a resource for organizations as they look at training, development, as well as creating an inclusive environment,” Tometich said.

As a graduate of the Diversity and Inclusion certificate program, Hollie is uniquely positioned to help local leaders understand the complex, and often difficult to discuss, challenges we face around diversity and inclusion in rural Iowa and opportunities for growth at work and in life. Local leaders interested in professional development opportunities around diversity, equity, and inclusion should reach out to Hollie Tometich,, for more information.

Claire Carmichael

Hawkeye, Scholar, Volunteer, Researcher, and Medical Student Ambassador, those are just a few descriptors that make up Claire Carmichael. However, her most significant title may be Rural Health Advocate. Claire, the daughter of the local veterinarian, grew up in Oskaloosa, Iowa (pop. 11,511). She has experienced running into someone in the grocery store that wants to talk about their dog or cat and having a meal interrupted by a medical emergency. Yet, she is still committed to practicing medicine in rural Iowa.

Claire Carmichael in front of the Iowa Capitol building.

Physician Day on the Hill discussing tort reform and health care access in Iowa with our elected officials

 “Ideally, it would be very similar to the small-town feel of my hometown, where Friday-night football games attract practically the entire community to the stadium or the Christmas lights decorating the businesses in the town square are all that anyone can talk about… You never truly take off the hat that says “doctor,” but that is something that draws me to medicine, especially in a smaller community. Medicine is more than just a job but is instead a lifelong commitment to the health of your daughter’s best friend or the elderly man you always see at the hardware store. That could be seen as a challenge, but I prefer to view it as a benefit to the community I would serve.”

Claire is a two-time recipient of the Laboratory Control Ltd. Health Care Career Scholarship. The scholarship program was started in 2004 by a group of committed healthcare professionals that foresaw the looming healthcare shortage. Their goal, then and now, is to support local students interested in both healthcare and returning to practice in southeast Iowa. Even in her undergraduate studies, Claire was gearing up for rural medicine. In 2018, Claire was one of eight undergraduate students to receive the University of Iowa Stanley Undergraduate Research Award. Claire’s project application was to use GIS and Spatial Analysis to map the relationship between poverty and Leptospirosis, a zoonotic disease passed to humans when water sources are contaminated by infected rodents. Claire spent the summer of 2018 in the urban slum regions of Salvador, Brazil, which opened the door for continued research through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Unfortunately, the timetable of the Fulbright Scholarship overlapped the timetable for medical school admissions. Claire declined the Fulbright Scholarship to continue moving forward in her educational journey.A photo of Claire Carmichael smiling at the camera

Today, Claire is a M.D. Candidate I and member of the Carver College of Medicine (CCOM) Rural Iowa Scholarship Program (CRISP). The CRISP program, like the LCL Health Care Career Scholarship, is designed to address the increasing shortage of health care professionals, especially in rural areas. The program is very competitive, and the four students admitted into the program each year must show dedication and a strong commitment to practice medicine in rural Iowa. The CRISP program uses a unique curriculum embedded with rural field experiences to ensure the students gain the breadth and depth of experience and knowledge they are likely to encounter in rural medicine. Claire spent six weeks over the summer at Boone County Hospital. She lived in a room at the hospital and ate almost all her meals in the cafeteria. She was thoroughly immersed in the small community hospital experience. “I spent the mornings with the surgeons, the afternoons in the clinic with various Family Medicine physicians, and the evenings in the emergency department.” She also gained experience riding along with the Emergency Medical Services team, working in the Wound and Hyperbaric Center, and learning from a Diabetes Educator.
Claire Carmichael taking a photo of herself in her white coat and a mask

Despite the increasing challenge in recruiting new practitioners to rural settings,, says it is possible to single out likely candidates by identifying core traits exhibited by successful rural practitioners.  These common traits are resilience1, mission-driven focus2, empathy3, and exceptional communication skills4. “The best Rural Superstars will have a blend of all these traits.”

The following are statements from Claire’s Letter of Recommendation submitted by Mary Denmead, Coordinator of Instructional Services at the Carver College of Medicine.

  1. Claire consistently demonstrates her ability to work hard and maintain balance in her life while investing the time and effort necessary to do many things well.” Resilience1.
  2. “In addition to her studies, Claire is involved in numerous student organizations at the Carver College of Medicine that prove her passion for community engagement and mentorship…As examples, she is bi-lingual (Spanish) and has volunteered in healthcare settings in Guatemala, the Johnson County WIC program, and the Iowa City Free Medical Clinics.” Mission-driven focus2.
  3. “Now that Claire is a medical student here at the College, we have had the opportunity to significantly note how she embodies the communication skills4 she was trained to observe in our students and now applies these skills to empathetic3 and well-structured patient encounters.

Beyond the eligibility requirements of geographical location, GPA, and field of study, the Laboratory Control Ltd. Health Care Career Scholarship and the University of Iowa CRISP program both have a common goal: attract, educate and inspire future “Rural Superstars” to help meet the healthcare demands of our state and Mary Denmead “cannot imagine a better candidate for this role than Claire Carmichael”. 


Bright Ideas Fall Recipients Announced

The Board of Directors, Staff, and Grant Review Committee members of the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation are pleased to announce the latest grant recipients of the Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund.  Since the first grant cycle in 2011, the Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund has awarded $4,104,087 to nonprofit organizations that serve Wapello County.

The most recent Wapello County nonprofit organizations to receive grants are:

  • Bridge View Center, Inc. to repair the exterior LED marquee sign
  • Cardinal A-Club to install a safety backstop at the Cardinal High School Softball field
  • Eddyville Community Foundation to install a concrete pad for the Eddyville Pocket Park
  • Food Bank of Iowa to assist with the replacement and installation of new HVAC system at the Ottumwa Distribution Warehouse
  • Ottumwa Park and Recreation to re-establish a tree nursery in Memorial Park for future transplanting into other parks in the Ottumwa parks system
  • Friends of the Blakesburg Public Library to assist with electrical upgrades in the library renovation project
  • Iowa Babe Ruth Leagues, Inc. to assist with upgrading to LED lights at the Ottumwa Babe Ruth field
  • Iowa Legal Aid to provide funding for an Employment Barriers & Expungement Clinic
  • Southeast Iowa Dream Center for the installation of safety and security technology at the Southeast
  • Iowa Dream Center warehouse facility

The Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund has three grant cycles each calendar year and awards up to $450,000 a year. Application eligibility requirements can be found at here. The next online application cycle opens February 1, 2021.