Our staff is happy to assist you with information about the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. If you have additional questions, please call 319.366.2862. Our office hours are Monday thru Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Dr. Les Garner, Jr., President & CEO
Les joined the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation as President & CEO in 2010. He works closely with the board to carry out the vision, mission and strategies of the Community Foundation. He provides leadership for charitable giving, community opportunities and administrative activities of the Community Foundation. Les enjoys working with donors to help them discover ways to meet their philanthropic goals.
Les most recently served as president of Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, from 1994 to 2010. During his tenure, President Garner created a strategic plan for the college’s future that resulted in innovative opportunities for students. He was key in leading a successful five-year, $108 million effort to enhance the college’s endowment and upgrade its facilities. Les was also previously president of North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Prior to this appointment, he served as assistant professor of business administration and director of the Young Executives Institute at the University of North Carolina. He also served as special assistant to the director at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.
Les received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts in history and holds master’s and doctoral degrees in public policy from Harvard University.
Les lives on a 35-acre farm in Ely with his wife Katrina. They have two sons, Brantley and William. Les appreciates the opportunities and the extraordinary quality of life that pervades the Cedar Rapids community through education, arts and culture, and the ability to enjoy the physical environment.
Click here to view a video message from President & CEO, Les Garner, about how the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation creates opportunities for everyone.
Dahlia Latif, Executive Assistant and Donor Relations Officer
Dahlia provides a variety of support to the Community Foundation teams. As the Executive Assistant / Donor Relations Officer, she serves as assistant to the President & CEO. She also provides executive support to members of the Development Team, coordinates donor stewardship for corporate and family fund holders, and is the principal liaison to the Board of Directors and Council of Foundations for National Standards.
Dahlia is originally from Iraq. She grew up in Chicago and has lived in Cedar Rapids for over fifteen years. She received her A.A. Degree and Paralegal Certificate from Kirkwood Community College and her Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree in Linguistics from the University of Iowa. She also went to Capri College and received her Cosmetology license from the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts & Sciences. Dahlia has been a business owner and has over seven years of paralegal experience in the Cedar Rapids community.
Dahlia is trilingual and is on the roster of Arabic court interpreters for Linn County. She is passionate about music, health and fitness. She enjoys working out and watching various sporting events. Also, she enjoys traveling to new places with her son and daughter.
Michelle Beisker, Vice President of Development
Michelle Beisker is Vice President of Development at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. She provides guidance and support to donors to help them achieve their charitable giving goals. She is responsible for the asset development activities for the Community Foundation – overseeing donor service, stewardship, communication, as well as the administrative database and systems that support those activities. Since joining the Community Foundation in June 2014, Michelle developed an asset development strategic plan resulting in $40 million in contributions in 3 years. She is 21/64 Certified Advisor – Next Generation Philanthropy.
Michelle is a member of Downtown Rotary, Rotary Foundation Committee, Cedar Rapids Area Estate Planning Council, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Eastern Iowa Planned Giving Council and 100+ Who Care. She currently serves as board chair of the Eastern Iowa Health Center and member of the board of directors at Theatre Cedar Rapids.
Prior to joining the Community Foundation in 2014, Michelle was the Program Director of PUSH-CR with Four Oaks, a federal demonstration program to end family homelessness; Assistant Vice President of Development at Mount Mercy University; and Chief Operations Officer at Waypoint. In addition, she worked 10 years in business development at PMX Industries, Inc. in several roles including Inside Sales Manager and Global Sales Manager and was responsible for negotiating multi-million dollar contracts with global mints.
Michelle is a Cedar Rapids native and graduated from Prairie High School. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Business minor at the University of Iowa. Michelle and her husband, Craig, have two children, Alyssa and Erik, and live on an acreage south of Shueyville. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, tending to their 15 acres of timber, and traveling. She appreciates the people of Cedar Rapids and their passion for enriching our community. Michelle believes this is a resource-rich community that offers a great place to raise a family. Although she and her family have done extensive traveling, they always enjoy coming home to Cedar Rapids.
Josie Velles, Director of Development Services
Josie provides assistance to donors to help them with their philanthropic goals. She develops and oversees processes for donor services, including the online donor portal, Donor View. She likes being able to work with donors and agencies who are passionate about their commitment to building a strong community. Josie began at the Community Foundation in 2005, her current position is her fourth promotion within in the Community Foundation. Josie earned her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Iowa in Anthropology. Previously, Josie worked for nine years in development at the Milwaukee Public Museum and the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.
Josie was born in San Francisco, moved to the Iowa City area when she was 10 and then later moved to Cedar Rapids. She loves the diverse arts and culture Cedar Rapids offers, such as Theatre Cedar Rapids, Legion Arts, NewBo Market and the many wonderful museums. Josie spends her free time traveling. She has visited all 50 states. Her favorite places to visit are national parks, public gardens and quirky offbeat spots. She also volunteers for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and enjoys reading and spending time with her large extended family.
Susan Willey, Director of Planned Giving
Susan is responsible for meeting with current fund holders and identifying, cultivating and soliciting planned gifts from potential donors. She cultivates relationships with financial advisors, attorneys, accountants, insurance agents and other estate planning professionals regarding gift opportunities for fund holders and prospects. Susan attended UCLA where she studied Political Science and Economics. She went on to get her Law Degree at the University of California Hastings College of the Law and her Masters in Tax Law from Georgetown University. Susan was a lawyer at Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman for tax, business and estate planning groups. She also worked at McGladrey in the National Tax Group for 23 years and was on the Senate Finance Committee of Senator Grassley’s Tax Council prior to that. Susan was the chair of the Tax Section of the Iowa State Bar Association 2015-2016.
Susan was born in Glendale, California but has lived in Cedar Rapids for the past 29 years. She has two adult children, Katharine and James. Susan likes living in Cedar Rapids because the people are caring and conscientious. She appreciates the growth and revitalization that is taking place after the flood. You may see her biking or walking the nature trails because that is her favorite place to frequent in Cedar Rapids. Susan also enjoys attending concerts and plays, reading, gardening and spending time with friends. She also likes to travel all over the world, but her favorite place she has visited so far is South Africa. Susan serves as the Finance Chair for Matthew 25 and volunteers for Legal Aid and at Christ Episcopal Church.
Susan is excited to be able to use her tax skills at the Community Foundation to help people and the community. She is eager to work with people to help them identify their charitable goals.
Laura Booth, Donor Relations Officer
Laura coordinates stewardship for nonprofit and affiliate fund holders, serves as the primary contact for the Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program, and is the principal liaison to the Board of Directors and the Council of Foundations for National Standards. She enjoys partnering with our area nonprofits who provide such invaluable services to our community. Laura is a Cedar Rapids native and graduate of Jefferson High School. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Communication at the University of Northern Iowa. After graduation, Laura stayed in Cedar Falls, where she lived for 12 years. Her family, including her husband Joe and their two children, Nathan and Ashlyn, relocated to Cedar Rapids to be closer to family.
Laura started at the Community Foundation in 2014 after working in the retirement division at Principal Financial Group for 10 years. In her free time, Laura enjoys watching her children participate in their activities. She loves crafting jewelry and hair bows, as well as baking cakes and cupcakes. She and her family also like to spend time outside riding their bikes and walking on the trails. Laura loved growing up in Cedar Rapids and is glad she gets to share her favorite childhood experiences, like Kernels games and the Freedom Festival, with her own children.
Christi Smeed, Development Assistant
Christi provides support within the development team at the Community Foundation by assisting with administrative operations including gift processing, donor acknowledgement, and donor database management. She graduated from Kansas State University with her Bachelors and Masters in Accounting. After completing her education, Christi and her husband Bill moved to Arizona where she worked in Public and Corporate Accounting for six years. In 2001, Christi and her husband moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For the last 15 years, Christi stayed home to care for her three children, Thomas, Christopher and Bethany, while actively volunteering in the community. She served as Girl Scout leader; volunteered at school, including serving as PTA president; and is actively involved as a volunteer at church. In her free time, Christi enjoys watching her children participate in their activities, such as swimming, tennis, orchestra, football and Discovery Chorus.
Christi and her family are very interested in music and enjoy attending the Orchestra Iowa concerts. They also like to visit different museums around the country and travel Kansas City to cheer on the Royals baseball team. She enjoys living in Cedar Rapids because it is a community that encourages family life and her children have the opportunity to be involved in many different sports and activities. Christi enjoys the open, welcoming environment that the Cedar Rapids community offers.
Karla Twedt-Ball, Senior Vice President, Programs and Community Investment
Karla leads the program initiatives of the Community Foundation. She guides policy and strategy for grant making, nonprofit capacity building and community leadership, and helps guide the Community Foundation’s efforts to assist donors in meeting their philanthropic intent. Karla loves learning about the impressive work of local nonprofit organizations, and enjoys working with donors to help them accomplish their philanthropic goals.
Karla received her Bachelor of Science in Geography from the University of Iowa and her Master of Public Policy from the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota. Past positions include Northwestern University in the Institute for Policy Research and Executive Director of Churches United. Karla began at the Community Foundation in 2007 as the program director. Karla enjoys being a part of improving our community and getting to know the people and nonprofits that live and work here. She believes that the nonprofit organizations serving Linn County are exceptionally skilled and passionate about their missions.
Karla and her husband Clint have two children, Isaac and Annika. She is on the board of the Iowa United Methodist Foundation and serves as a Girl Scout troop leader. She enjoys being outdoors, including running, camping and hiking, and also loves to cook, play games and read. Karla enjoys Cedar Rapids because it is large enough to have an urban experience but small enough to be a cohesive community. Karla and her family like to spend time together in the community, including taking bike rides on the trails and attending community events such as the Maple Syrup Festival at the Indian Creek Nature Center.
Jenny Becker, Director of Grant Programs
Jenny comes to the Community Foundation with 15 years of experience in corporate philanthropy through her years at Rockwell Collins. A Minnesota native, Jenny and her husband moved to Cedar Rapids 1993. While they intended for it to be a short stay, they decided to raise their family here, in part because of the “authentic generosity of the people.”
She is an avid traveler, regularly making trips to visit her two adult daughters and son-in-law. She also enjoys spending days at home reading and gardening.
Jenny has a B.B.A. in Marketing from University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire and a B.B.A. in Accounting from Mount Mercy University.
She enjoys working with our community’s many exceptional nonprofit organizations and enjoys helping donor-advisors understand the impact of their grantmaking.
Elizabeth Cwik, Program Officer
Elizabeth manages all aspects of grants made from the Program Fund as well as nine corporate and family donor-advised funds. She also provides technical support for the online grant application process.
Elizabeth attended Loras College where she double majored in Finance and Parish Ministry, graduating cum laude. She worked for St. Pius X Church in Cedar Rapids for 24 years as a pastoral associate, in education and social outreach and pastoral care. During her tenure she served as a founding board member of the Community Health Free Clinic.She started at the Community Foundation in 2008 as a Program Associate and was promoted to her current role as Program Officer a few years later. Elizabeth loves learning about the breadth and depth of programs and initiatives going on in the community.Elizabeth is married to Bryan Schlotfelt, a retired teacher, and has two adult children. Elizabeth has lived all over the country, but when she moved to Iowa for college, she fell in love with the state and has stayed put. She lives close to Brucemore, and often attends entertainment offerings there including the Garden Show and the children’s plays that her husband performs in. In her free time, she enjoys many hobbies including painting with watercolors, baking bread, and writing short essays. She is also an avid gardener and self-taught landscape designer.
Rochelle Naylor, Program Officer
Rochelle manages several grant programs at the Community Foundation including the Organizational Development Fund, Endowment Challenge Fund, Linn County Fund, and President’s Fund, in addition to the education and scholarship programs. She enjoys being part of the Community Foundation’s work to strengthen nonprofit organizations in our community.
Rochelle received her Bachelor of Music degree in music performance from the University of Iowa, and she completed music therapy and elementary education certification there as a graduate student. She worked previously as a music therapist and teacher and served as both Operations Director and Education Director for the Cedar Rapids Symphony, now known as Orchestra Iowa.
Rochelle has lived in the Cedar Rapids area all her life, so she has had the opportunity to see the community grow and develop over the years. She is grateful for many positive changes in the community, including those since the 2008 flood.
Bernadette Gladish, Program Assistant
Bernadette provides administrative and grants management support to the program team.
Bernadette is originally from Manila, Philippines but moved to California with her family after college. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Joseph’s College in Mass Communication and worked at the Paley Center for Media in Visitor Services Department for 13 years. Bernadette and her husband Daniel moved to Cedar Rapids to raise their children, Jullian and Claire.
Bernadette’s customer service experience has equipped her to help grant applicants work through any problems they have. She enjoys connecting with the people of the nonprofit organizations in the community and playing a part in their good works, no matter how small. As a mother, Bernadette loves the greater Cedar Rapids community because it is a good place to raise a family with many opportunities for her kids to get involved. Her children like to swim at the YMCA, play in t-ball leagues, participate in dance programs and play at any of the wonderful parks in the area. Bernadette typically stays pretty busy with her children but if she gets a free moment, she likes to cook, explore different types of food, watch television and spend time with her family. She is also very involved at her church and takes time to volunteer at her children’s schools.
Carrie Walker, Nonprofit Network Manager
Carrie coordinates the activities of the Nonprofit Network, which provides resources for local nonprofit organizations including peer groups, professional development opportunities, and information. Carrie grew up in La Porte City, Iowa and then attended the University of Northern Iowa where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications/Public Relations. Carrie was the Development Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters for five years and worked at Henry Russell Bruce, a local advertising agency, prior to that. For the past 10 years, Carrie has been raising her kids while maintaining substantial volunteer work and running a small crafting business.
Carrie is proud to be part of an organization that supports the initiatives of local nonprofit organizations. She enjoys working with nonprofit professionals and sharing in their successes and challenges; as well as helping them connect with resources for support.
In the 18 years that Carrie has lived in Cedar Rapids, she has cultivated a deep appreciation for the people here – for their family-centered values and the vibrant sense of community they display. She also loves the innovation and revitalization that is constantly taking place in Cedar Rapids. Carrie and her husband Chad have three boys, Cameron, Casey and Coleman, and recently adopted their dog Brewster from a local rescue group. Carrie and her family like playing and watching sporting events, especially baseball and hockey. They are big fans of the St. Louis Cardinals but also love cheering on the local teams like the Iowa Hawkeyes, Cedar Rapids Kernels and Rough Riders. In her free time, Carrie enjoys scrapbooking, taking pictures, baking (especially monster cookies) and volunteering at her children’s school. She also volunteers at her church and is on the planning committee for the MDA Crop, a scrapbooking fundraiser supporting the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Jean Brenneman, Chief Financial Officer
Jean is responsible for planning and directing the financial and accounting operations of the Community Foundation. This includes fund administration, investment oversight, financial reporting, budget preparation and human resource management. Jean graduated from the University of Iowa with a BBA in Accounting and passed the CPA exam. Before the Community Foundation, she worked at McGladrey and Orchestra Iowa. Jean has been with the Community Foundation since 2007. She enjoys learning about the diversified pool of investments held by the Community Foundation and working with Emmy and Latonja to provide accurate and timely financial information to our donors and agencies.
Jean is the Treasurer of the nonprofit organization Matthew 25 and also volunteers at Brucemore events. She recently moved to the Newbo area and loves the revitalization that is taking place there. She especially enjoys going to concerts at CSPS to watch up-and-coming artists. Jean also enjoys spending time with her daughter Anne and trying new restaurants, attending University of Iowa sporting events, participating in a local book club and taking cooking classes. Jean appreciates a good movie and hosts an annual Oscar’s party.
Emmylou Ball, Controller
Emmy is responsible for the maintenance of all Community Foundation financial records. She manages the accounts payable, grants payable, payroll, cash and fund management, and preparation of financial reports. She is also the primary liaison with the Community Foundation’s database provider. Emmy graduated from the University of Iowa with a business degree in Economics.
In 2006, she moved to Cedar Rapids with her husband Courtney and their two daughters, Anyssa and Aidyn, so her husband could help start nonprofit organization called Matthew 25 Ministry Hub. Emmy began at the Community Foundation in 2007 in a position with the Linn County Nonprofit Resource Center, currently known as the Nonprofit Network. One year later she moved to the Finance Team as Accounting Assistant, worked her way up to Accountant and then was promoted to her current position of Controller. Even though Emmy loves accounting, she gets great satisfaction knowing that the work she does is making a greater impact in the community.
She enjoys the local food that is available to the Cedar Rapids community through the Farmers Markets and many CSAs in the area. She also really values the excellent school district in Cedar Rapids that allows her children to learn, grow and thrive. In her spare time Emmy enjoys reading, running, cooking, and watching movies.
Latonja Scott, Accountant
Latonja is responsible for the maintenance and control of the general ledger and financial transactions of the Community Foundation. This includes analysis and thorough review of financial records. In addition, the Accountant assists the CFO in benefits administration and risk management.
Latonja has more than 15 years of experience in the accounting field. She received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Upper Iowa University and was most recently employed by the University of Northern Iowa. Her favorite aspect of accounting work is financials – specifically, balancing budgets and telling stories with numbers. Latonja enjoys working for an organization that does so much good work in the community.
When not getting involved in community activities or volunteering, Latonja enjoys spending time with family (especially her grandchildren) and reading motivational books.
Corinne Ramler, Director of Marketing and Communications
Corinne is responsible for leading the marketing and communications activities for the Community Foundation. She guides the strategy and educates the public about the Community Foundation’s role in philanthropy, grantmaking, and community initiatives.
Corinne graduated from Mount Mercy University with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations. Prior to joining the Community Foundation in 2012, Corinne worked at Waypoint Services and Henry Russell Bruce. She enjoys her work at the Community Foundation and being a part of a mission-driven organization. She feels honored to tell the stories of the people and organizations that are doing great things in our community.
Corinne and her husband Cory have two children, Jack and Alyssa. Corinne volunteers in her children’s classrooms at St. Pius X School and enjoys the variety of activities her children are involved in. Corinne appreciates all that Cedar Rapids and its surrounding communities have to offer. The area provides her family with great schools, churches, restaurants, nightlife, theatres, youth activities and outdoor entertainment. She enjoys living in a region with seasons and all of the activities that go along with each one. Her family particularly enjoys camping, boating, snowmobiling, hiking and fishing.
Amber Waring, Marketing Associate
Amber assists with the development of marketing and communications projects and materials. She also coordinates Community Foundation events and assists with donor stewardship. Amber grew up on a small farm in Walker, Iowa. She earned her bachelor of arts at Wartburg College in Communication Arts/Public Relations. She previously worked as the Marketing Specialist at Farmers State Bank in Marion, Iowa.
Amber’s favorite part of her job is planning events to celebrate the generosity of our donors and the hard work of the nonprofits. She loves connecting with people in the community and establishing relationships that matter. Although she hasn’t lived in Cedar Rapids for long, she has come to love the generosity and the genuine hearts of the people in our community.
Outside of work, Amber is active in her church group and volunteers with the high school ministry at her church. She is passionate about mentoring youth in our community and also plays in various co-ed recreational sports leagues. She enjoys working out, playing sports, working on her parent’s farm, cooking healthy meals, spending time with her family and being outdoors.