Nonprofit Professionals to be Recognized at Celebration of Community Event

Published: November 9, 2016 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

On Wednesday, November 16, 2016, over 200 people will gather for the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation’s annual Celebration of Community event from 4 – 6 p.m. at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.  The celebration recognizes the work of nonprofits and the impact of philanthropy and grantmaking in our community.

Two local nonprofit professionals who go above and beyond to support the mission of their organizations have been selected to receive nonprofit excellence awards.

The Nonprofit Leadership Excellence Award recognizes the leadership and accomplishments of the chief executive officer of a Linn County nonprofit organization who offers exceptional leadership and creates a lasting impact on their organization and the community.  This award will be presented to Linda Henecke, President & CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids and East Central Iowa.

The Minnie Rubek Staff Excellence Award recognizes a nonprofit staff member who has gone “above and beyond” in their support of the organization’s mission and has greatly enhanced the overall effectiveness of the organization through his/her work.  This award was presented to Jean Weidenheft, Land Stewardship Director, Indian Creek Nature Center.

In addition to an award, each recipient will receive a $1,000 grant from the Community Foundation designated for staff development at the honoree’s organization.

The Community Foundation will also give tribute to Lois Buntz, President & CEO of United Way of East Central Iowa for her leadership and service to our community. Lois will be retiring from United Way after 12 years of service at the end of 2016.

For more information about the Celebration of Community event or to RSVP, please go to

More information about each award winner is included below:


Nonprofit Leadership Excellence Award:

Linda Henecke, President & CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids and East Central Iowa

Linda Henecke has been leading Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids & East Central Iowa (BBBS) since 1995. She has transformed the agency. Over the past 21 years, she has built capacity for unprecedented growth in the number of children served, growing from less than 200 children in 1995 to recently helping 826 children through mentoring friendships. Her work has made a lasting impact not only on children’s lives, but also on volunteers and the community.

Linda’s commitment to BBBS is unquestionable. Before becoming President & CEO, she served on the Board of Directors and volunteered as a Big Sister. Subsequently, Linda has mentored four children and truly understands the impact of one-to-one relationships.

Under Linda’s leadership, the agency’s programming is recognized as highly effective. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has named Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids & East Central Iowa a Quality Award honoree on multiple occasions, most recently in 2015. Agencies that receive this award have exceeded the national average for metrics. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids & East Central Iowa is one of the top achieving affiliates from the 340 agencies in the national mentoring network.

Linda is a natural collaborator and under her leadership, the agency works closely with area educational institutions and nonprofits focused on children and families. She launched the Lunch Buddies program in 2000 to serve more children through school-based mentoring. She has built a strong staff team and a great working environment, as shown by the agency’s recognition in 2016 by the Corridor Business Journal as one of the corridor’s “Coolest Places to Work.”

Linda brings creativity to every aspect of her work. She has tackled increased funding needs for the agency by creating a succession of new and successful fundraising events. She handles the staffing challenges faced by all small nonprofits with flexibility and grace. She is unflappable, energetic and solution-oriented.

It is due to Linda’s leadership and skillful board development work that BBBS has built an engaged and effective cadre of volunteer leaders and advocates. Any agency would be fortunate to have someone of Linda’s ability as its leader. The children and families of this area have benefited from her dedication.


Minnie Rubek Staff Excellence Award:

Jean Weidenheft, Land Stewardship Director, Indian Creek Nature Center

Jean continually displays and hones a myriad of talents and skills while paving the way toward a remarkable future for Indian Creek Nature Center. For more than 15 years she has managed hundreds of acres of land and the facilities of the Nature Center. She has established and built relationships with volunteer groups ranging from middle school biology classes to business teams. Jean delights in learning about the land and the plants and animals nourished by it, and enjoys passing that knowledge on for others to absorb, appreciate, and do in their own spaces.

In December 2013, Jean accepted a promotion to Land Stewardship Director and a second, temporary position as Project Manager for the Amazing Space building and campus initiative. From start to finish, Jean was integral in planning, brainstorming, and implementing the Amazing Space project. No part of Amazing Space was completed without her direct oversight and focus. She worked with the Nature Center’s Building Committee, contractors, and numerous subcontractors to make the best possible decisions to end up with facilities that were completed on time while putting the organization’s best, most innovative foot forward. She has neither hesitated nor complained about maintaining her regular duties while serving as Project Manager.

The Amazing Space has recently been revealed to visitors, and the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Jean has put so much into this project, which brings the outdoors in, encourages hands-on exploration of elements both inside and out, and showcases the best in energy efficiency and building techniques. Amazing Space drives the organization, Eastern Iowa, the Midwest, and the United States into a truly sustainable world, out of necessity for the wellbeing of present and future generations. None of this would be possible without Jean and her remarkable dedication.

Jean is a quiet leader who prefers to stay out of the spotlight. She possesses an exceptional work ethic and great respect for others, which she demonstrates with careful listening and consideration of other points of view. Jean encourages collaboration, drawing others into her sphere to make the best possible decisions, resulting in buy-in and excellent outcomes. As an active participant on the Nature Center’s leadership team, Jean displays great ability to think strategically, and then carry out decisions with laser-focused planning and execution.

Join us for our 75th Anniversary celebrations and complete our community survey.