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.
Michelle Beisker, Senior Vice President of Development
Michelle Beisker is Senior 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 over $83 million in contributions in 7 years. She is 21/64 Certified Advisor – Next Generation Philanthropy. Michelle was recognized as 2020 Outstanding Fundraising Professional by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Eastern Iowa Chapter and 2021 Women of Influence by the Corridor Business Journal.
Michelle is a member of Downtown Rotary, Cedar Rapids Area Estate Planning Council, Association of Fundraising Professionals and Eastern Iowa Planned Giving Council. She currently serves as member of the board of directors at Theatre Cedar Rapids and at Advancement Network (AdNet) a national network of community foundation development professionals. Michelle is also a Leadership for Five Seasons Alumni.
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 adult 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, 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, Senior 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. Previously, she worked for nine years in development at the Milwaukee Public Museum and the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. Josie has a BA from the University of Iowa and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Iowa State University.
Laura Booth, CFRE, Director of Family Philanthropy
Laura leads the Family Philanthropy Team and serves as the primary planned giving resource for the Community Foundation. She cultivates relationships with financial advisors, attorneys, accountants, insurance agents and other estate planning professionals regarding gift opportunities for fund holders and prospects.
Laura started at the Community Foundation in 2014 after working in the retirement division at Principal Financial Group for 10 years. Since joining the Community Foundation Laura has served in a variety of capacities on our Development team. She is a member of the Eastern Iowa Planned Giving Council and the Association of Fundraising Professionals Eastern Iowa Chapter, where she serves as 2022 Chapter President and on numerous committees.
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. In her free time, Laura enjoys watching her children participate in their activities, crafting and baking. Laura loved growing up in Cedar Rapids and is glad she gets to share her favorite childhood experiences, like attending Theatre Cedar Rapids and Orchestra Iowa productions, with her own children.
Arthur Kim, Development Officer
Arthur provides support for fund holders, including consultations and advising on philanthropic best practices. With a background in fundraising and community engagement, Arthur helps build relationships with Community Foundation donors. He also assists donors in identifying philanthropic goals and finding paths to success.
Born and raised in Maryland, Arthur received his BA in Anthropology from the University of Maryland. He spent the next five years working in education in New York City public schools and teaching English in Seoul, South Korea. He then returned to the Washington, D.C. area to earn his MA in Museum Studies from George Washington University and spent the next decade working in museums in D.C. and Iowa. Since then, Arthur has worked in fundraising here in Cedar Rapids. In his spare time, Arthur enjoys volunteering, travelling, visiting museums, and exploring food adventures with his wife and two daughters.
Christi Smeed, Development Associate
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 also serves as the primary contact for the Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program. She graduated from Kansas State University with her Bachelors and Masters in Accounting. After completing her education, Christi worked in Public and Corporate Accounting. In 2001, Christi and her husband moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Before starting at the Community Foundation in 2014 Christi spent time 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.
Christi and her family are 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 had the opportunities to be involved in many different sports and activities. Christi enjoys the open, welcoming environment that the Cedar Rapids community offers.
Karla Twedt-Ball, MPP, Senior Vice President, Programs and Community Investment
Karla is responsible for the programmatic activities of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, leading the team that implements grantmaking, nonprofit capacity building, and community leadership initiatives. Karla spends much of her time helping the Community Foundation address important community issues where philanthropy can play a key role. She is energized by opportunities to address challenging community issues through partnerships and collaborations, which currently includes disaster resiliency work and a community violence intervention initiative.
Karla is an adjunct instructor at the University of Iowa in the School of Planning and Public Affairs. She serves on the board of the Iowa Council of Foundations, including as board chair in FY 2021. She also serves on the board of The Funders Network, a national philanthropy serving organization that supports efforts to create communities and regions that are sustainable, prosperous, and just.
Karla has a Master of Public Policy degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, and a Bachelor of Science in Geography from the University of Iowa. Past positions include working at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research on a Chicago community policing evaluation project and serving as the Executive Director of Churches United in Cedar Rapids.
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 who live and work here. She is continually impressed with the Linn County nonprofit community, and their skill and passion in making the community a better place for all people.
Karla and her husband Clint have two young adult children, Isaac and Annika. In her free time, she loves to spend time outdoors camping and hiking, at home cooking or reading, or in the community enjoying various learning opportunities, cultural activities, or visiting with others.
Elizabeth Cwik, Senior Program Officer
Elizabeth is part of the grants leadership team. She staffs the Linn County grant program and the competitive donor-advised funds, and she is part of the Family Philanthropy team.
Elizabeth graduated from Loras College. She worked for St. Pius X Church in Cedar Rapids for 24 years as a pastoral associate in education, social concerns outreach and pastoral care. She served as a founding board member of the Community Health Free Clinic. Elizabeth loves learning about the breadth and depth of programs and initiatives going on in the community. Elizabeth has a passion for gardening. She is married to Bryan Schlotfelt. They live in Marion and enjoy living an empty nester life in a walkable neighborhood.
Rochelle Naylor, MPP, Senior Program Officer
Rochelle is part of the grants leadership team. She staffs the Organization Support, Endowment Challenge, and Rapid Response grant programs, and she also supports community leadership initiatives.
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 received her Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Northern Iowa in 2021.
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.
Sanjana Raghavan, MHA, Program Officer
Sanjana manages the Community Foundation’s scholarship programs and the Program Support grant program, providing technical assistance for applicants and support for review committees.
Sanjana is passionate about working with non-profits and helping them achieve their aspirations. Her background includes fundraising for non-profits, sales, elder care services, and administrative training. Before joining the Community Foundation, she was part of the leadership team at The Bird House, a residential hospice home, having worked there since its inception. She has a master’s degree in computer management from India and in Health Administration from the University of Iowa. A resident of Iowa for over two decades, Sanjana lives with her husband and two children. She enjoys reading, traveling, and experimenting with various world cuisines.
Casey Baustian, MSW, Program Officer
Casey manages a portfolio of grant funds, currently focusing on the Creating Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities (SET) Fund and the implementation of Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategies.
Growing up in Cedar Rapids, Casey appreciates the many opportunities and supports the community offers. She attended St. Olaf College in Minnesota, earning BA degrees in Biology and Economics, later completing her Masters of Social Work from the University of Minnesota. Her experience spans several fields – including outdoor education, public schools, and health sectors – all with a focus on learning and supportive services for children and families. Over the years, she has been involved with program development, harm reduction, crisis intervention, and restorative justice initiatives. She enjoys cooking, biking, and paddling the local waterways in her free time or planning her next travel adventure.
Bernadette Gladish, Grants and Programs Manager
Bernadette provides administrative grants and scholarship management support to the program team. She is also available to assist grant and scholarship applicants with any problems they may have.
Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, Bernadette moved to California after college. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Joseph’s College in Mass Communication and worked in Visitor Services at the Paley Center for Media for 13 years. Bernadette and her husband Daniel moved to Cedar Rapids to raise their children, Julian and Claire.
She enjoys connecting with the people of the nonprofit organizations in the community and playing a part to strengthen their mission. 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.
Carrie Walker, Nonprofit Network Manager
Carrie manages the activities of the Nonprofit Network, which provides resources for local nonprofit organizations including peer groups, professional development opportunities, and information. 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.
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. Before joining the Community Foundation in 2014, Carrie spent ten years raising her kids while maintaining substantial volunteer work and running a home-based crafting business. Previously, Carrie was the Development Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters and worked at a local advertising agency.
Carrie’s family includes her husband Chad and their three sons Cameron, Casey and Coleman. Carrie enjoys scrapbooking, taking pictures, volunteering, and being a fan of her kids’ various activities.
Jean Brenneman, CFO
Jean is responsible for the management and oversight of the Community Foundation’s financial and administrative functions. This includes financial accounting and reporting; review and analysis of financial records, budgets and projections; fund administration; investment management practices; audit and tax compliance; human resources management; and building maintenance. Jean graduated from the University of Iowa with a BBA in Accounting. She has been with the Community Foundation since 2007. Prior to that, Jean worked as a CPA at RSM.
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, Systems Analyst
Emmy is responsible for providing information and producing reports that enhance the processes and overall performance of the Community Foundation. She administers iPhiCore, the integrated information system used by the Community Foundation, designs and implements reports and does data analysis. She is also responsible for data and process management. 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. 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, was later promoted to Accountant and then Controller. In 2012, she led the foundation through an organization-wide database migration. Managing data systems gradually led to the creation of her position as Systems Analyst in 2019. Emmy enjoys both this role as a problem solver and the team she gets to work with.
Outside work, Emmy likes to spend time with family and friends, usually centered around sharing good food. She loves to explore the world and different cultures through travel, again often food-focused. She is an avid reader and also enjoys hiking, movies, gardening, and music.
Paula Lange, CPA, Controller
Paula is responsible for the management of the financial operations of the Community Foundation. She manages the financial accounting, reporting, and data analysis; audit and tax. Paula graduated from Northern Michigan University with a BS in accounting and is a CPA. Prior to joining the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, Paula worked at the Austin Community Foundation for 17 years, most recently in the Controller position.
In 2018, Paula relocated to Cedar Rapids with her husband, Chris, and their two sons, Chris and Sammy. She enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, exercising, reading, playing cards, and supporting her sons with their sports and scout activities.
America Manjarrez, Office Manager
America is responsible for the management of the Community Foundation offices. She cultivates relationships with vendors and facility service providers to maintain the historic Torch Press Building. As acting safety manager, she is responsible for monitoring security systems, inventory control, and providing administrative support to multiple teams. She is the principal liaison to the Board of Directors and manages the National Standards process.
America is originally from Fresno, California and is a founding member of Teatro Aqua Viva, a grass-roots theatre troupe focused on serving marginalized at-risk youth in rural immigrant communities. She served as the lead costume and lighting director for seven years and moved to Iowa in 2010. She graduated from Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, IA in 2014 with a BS in Pre-Integrative Medicine and minor in Business Administration. With seven years of administrative experience in the home health and human services sector, she most recently worked as a quality assurance specialist for a Cedar Valley HCBS service provider assisting adults with mental illness, intellectual and other developmental disabilities.
America identifies as a Chicana and celebrates her Mexican heritage through her love of food specializing in tostadas and “aguas frescas.” She relocated to Cedar Rapids in 2019 and can often be found exploring local parks and hiking trails with her son Andres and dog Lola. America is thrilled to serve Linn County as a member of the Community Foundation team.
Corinne Ramler, Vice President 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 has two teenagers, Jack and Alyssa. She enjoys the variety of activities they are involved in. Corinne appreciates all that Cedar Rapids and its surrounding communities have to offer. The area provides her family with great schools, restaurants, theatres, events and outdoor entertainment. She enjoys living in a region with seasons and all of the activities that go along with each one.
Drew Morton, Multimedia Design Specialist
Drew is responsible for creating visual and digital aspects of marketing materials, website, and other media at the Community Foundation. As designer and videographer, he elevates stories about donors and nonprofits in our community while also promoting philanthropy and impactful grantmaking for the Community Foundation.
Drew graduated from the University of Iowa with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Cinema Studies and Jazz Studies. Upon completion of his education, he has stayed in the area working as a freelance and part-time graphic/motion designer while also performing as a bassist and composer with local groups Jack Lion, Koplant No and Christopher’s Very Happy. Band. Now a part of the team at the Community Foundation, Drew loves learning about the nonprofit organizations and enjoys being able to contribute to the philanthropic goals that benefit the community.
Drew and his wife, Shivhan, have a son named Rowan and two cats, Toby and Liam. He and his wife keep busy with music performances in the area, but when time allows, Drew enjoys cooking, baking, being in nature, creating music and abstract digital art/animations, and spending with family.
Dylan Cooley, MFA, Content and Information Officer
Dylan is the primary writer and editor at the Community Foundation, serving on the marketing and grant teams. He is responsible for writing informative and inspiring stories and content to promote philanthropy and impactful grantmaking in our community. In addition, he provides writing, research and analytical support regarding grant applications and programs.
Dylan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Iowa State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Iowa. With his wife and two sons, Dylan enjoys playing music, hiking, reading, and learning.