Creating Space for Equity
Advancing Equity in the Cedar Valley
Leading equity conversations and taking action cannot be done in community silos. Space must be created to listen and learn from all voices. In 2022, the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, Black Hawk County Public Health, and Grow Cedar Valley spearheaded “Advancing Equity in the Cedar Valley,” a series of collaborative conversations with people, groups, and organizations leading equity work.
Dr. Nafissa Cisse Egbounye, CFNEIA board member and racial equity committee chair, has been leading equity efforts in the Cedar Valley, both in her former role as Director of Black Hawk County Public Health, and now as Associate Vice President of Growth and Community Engagement with Molina Healthcare. “Advancing Equity in the Cedar Valley is about acknowledging that our systems and policies have contributed to environmental inequities. It’s important that as community leaders and organizations we acknowledge that and find ways to improve the quality of life for all people,” said Dr. Egbuonye.
Dr. Egbuonye believes CFNEIA is a critical partner in equity work. “Funding must happen in an equitable way. You want funding to get at the root causes of the disparities in our communities and to create collaboration. It’s something I think all foundations should lead with.”
Two events brought together hundreds of community members in 2022, and future convenings are focusing on areas identified through this collaboration. “We understand creating inclusive spaces to discover what resources are needed to help our collective community achieve equity is an important role,” said Kaye Englin, CFNEIA President and CEO. “Connecting people in this work in a very intentional way to seek effective solutions is crucial to success.”
“Advancing Equity in the Cedar Valley is about acknowledging that our systems and policies have contributed to environmental inequities. It’s important we acknowledge that and find ways to improve the quality of life for all people.“
– Dr. Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye
Chris & Lisa Garden
Chris Garden’s dad started L&J Industries in 1965, the same year Chris was born, in Charles City. Chris and his wife Lisa were high school sweethearts, and together, they have been growing the family-owned manufacturing business and giving back to their community. Both Chris and Lisa have been members of the Floyd County Community Foundation (FCCF) impact committee, along with many other community volunteer activities, as a way to do good for the community that has supported them. The couple also chooses to make a difference through grants from the Chris and Lisa Garden Family Fund, a donor advised fund with FCCF, a CFNEIA affiliate, that go to local organizations they care about, like The Learning Center childcare. It’s a legacy that will be passed to their children, just like the business. According to Lisa, it’s all about making the community stronger by working together to make something better.
The Learning Center
Childcare is an essential service for communities. Without it, families leave to find the services they need to work and raise a family. The Learning Center (TLC) saw this happening in Charles City and decided it was up to them to fill the need. The organization began by partnering with the Charles City School District, leading to the former middle school becoming TLC’s new expanded home. TLC Director Pam Ost says critical grant support, the establishment of The Learning Center Endowment Fund, and fundraising guidance from the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa and Floyd County Community Foundation, a CFNEIA affiliate, has been an invaluable resource. The now finished project has allowed TLC to increase from 93 available openings to 179, helping its community thrive.