2022 Spirit of Minnie Rubek Honorees
Children’s Services Clinic Director
Balance Autism Cedar Rapids
“Brad embraces children and families in our community who are touched by an Autism diagnosis.”
Brad Bezilla has dedicated the last 30 years of his life to improving the lives of children who face differences and disabilities all across the globe. Brad has spent the last nine years working with the children and families who receive ABA Services through Balance Autism in Cedar Rapids. Prior to that, his compassion was utilized for four years in England, and seventeen years in Georgia. Brad is the embodiment of “take your job seriously, but not yourself” as he is often found engaging with our clients in games, jokes and even dressing up like a giant sock monkey! Brad is a loving husband to his wife, April. He is an advocate for the St. Jude Foundation, raising over $47,000 for their marathon in 2021 in his daughter Alexis’ memory, who lost her fight with cancer in 2019.
Foundation 2 Crisis Services
“For two decades, Kim Brown has worked as an overnight Crisis Counselor in the Foundation 2 Crisis Center, answering thousands of calls from Iowans experiencing mental health and suicide related crisis.”
Kim has dedicated her career to the Foundation 2 philosophy of person-centered care, frequently engaging in supporting individuals at their most vulnerable who call into Foundation 2 on the Iowa Crisis Line or The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Due to the nature of the overnight shift, Kim has regularly provided care and support to individuals in crisis, late at night or in the early morning hours when other types of mental health support are unavailable to those in crisis. Throughout her two decades at Foundation 2, Kim has regularly been complimented by both clients and colleagues for her gentle, compassionate, and empathetic approach to those experiencing suicide ideation. In addition to her work as a phone counselor, Kim has also taken part in several suicide prevention initiatives within Linn County, including The Hope Walk and facilitating The Foundation 2 Suicide Loss Survivors Support Group, raising awareness throughout our community for mental wellness and suicide prevention. Kim has a deep dedication for helping people in crisis and exemplifies Foundation 2’s mission of helping all people, any time, every time. From the floods of 2008 to the COVID-19 pandemic, and derecho of 2020, Kim has been a consistent and caring voice available to all members of our community through just a phone call. Foundation 2 is grateful to have had Kim on our team, and are excited for her to start her next chapter as she celebrates retirement.
Director of Operations
United Way of East Central Iowa
“Through her sharp intelligence, historical knowledge, and love for our organization, Abbie has guided our organization through massive amounts of change over the course of the last few years, helping us emerge stronger and better with each transformation.”
Over the course of her 15 years, Abbie Covenah has given her heart to United Way of East Central Iowa, and through it, our community. Since starting in 2007, she has grown from Database Manager to Senior Manager of Operations which includes her initial duties, plus first line of upkeep and maintenance for our Human Services Campus, and managing several national company relationships and workplace campaigns, among many other responsibilities. She is passionate about her work at United Way of East Central Iowa as she tells people she has been able to create the job she loves at a place that she loves. Abbie gladly goes above and beyond in helping on the ‘back side’ of company campaigns, events and other projects; has stepped up and in multiple times to cover open positions; is constantly looking for process and procedures to be more efficient and effective; and does it all with her quick wit and warm personality. Abbie is a standfast reason our organization is poised for positive change.
Human Resources and Payroll Manager
Horizons A Family Service Alliance
“Dawn recruited and built an incredible team of people to empower our neighbors in need.”
Dawn D’Amico has been part of the Horizons team for 20 years. From her first day on the job as a youth support worker, Dawn has dedicated herself to making life better for everyone around her. Over the years, she has taken on several new roles, including accounts payable, payroll, and finally human resources. Her bright spirit and compassion have shone through natural disasters, organizational changes, and a global pandemic. The kindness with which Dawn treats others has a ripple effect – it radiates through to the team, to the volunteers, to the clients, and to the community as a whole. Dawn is very humble, and it is hard to envision her speaking highly of her own accomplishments – we are honored to take this opportunity to sing her praises. Her commitment to the agency and those we serve has been integral to every project, every service, and every person we serve.
Hawkeye Area Council, Boy Scouts of America
“Sarah has led our organization through national challenges, organizational changes, and disaster relief.”
Sarah exemplifies the Spirit of Minnie Rubek by going ‘above and beyond’ with her commitment and dedication to the Boy Scouts of America and the youth she serves in Eastern Iowa. Sarah joined the Scouting organization immediately out of college and has been involved for over 20 years. When the pandemic and derecho arrived, Sarah quickly and expertly adapted our youth programs to keep Scouts and their families engaged safely. With her creative ideas and open-mindedness, she was able to keep her employees and the organization’s doors open for business during this challenging time.
Associate Executive Director
“Amber ensures older adults, individuals with special needs and their loved ones know how much they matter.”
Amber Franzen has dedicated nearly 20 years to Aging Services and, in that time, she has exemplified what it means to care for others. It takes an incredible amount of time and energy to lead an adult day center, which she has done with an incredible amount of devotion, but what sets Amber apart is her commitment to going above and beyond for the individuals we serve. This became even more evident over the last couple of years when Amber was found opening Milestones in Marion during the Derecho-related closure to ensure older adults had access to a safe shower and delivering homemade meals during the COVID-19-related closure to ensure people had access to food. Amber Franzen exemplifies the spirit of Minnie Rubek by dedicating her life to others, not for recognition, but because it’s the right thing to do.
United We March Forward
“Mugisha has built community partnerships to advance the education, health, and quality of life of others.”
During the derecho and the pandemic, many services had stopped, but Mugisha looked at different ways to connect with families. He started a social media conversation where he could reach over 50 people. He also started a committee of African immigrants. This committee told him the needs they were seeing in the community and alongside him we started providing food, masks and other services that were needed. He initiated Drivers Education for Immigrants (DEFI). This workshop helped families learn the basic rules and responsibilities of owning and driving a vehicle.
Central Furniture Rescue
“Janet has a way of making our clients feel seen and important.”
Janet is the embodiment of our mission: “We believe all people deserve to be treated with love, dignity and kindness.” Each day Janet is the one who works with our clients to find out what their needs are. Janet will find out something special about each client and make sure they feel heard and supported when their furniture and household items arrive. Janet is the spirit of humanity.
Discovery Living, Inc.
“Bob has led our organization through Medicaid Managed Care changes, the COVID-19 Pandemic, and the Derecho.”
During an unprecedented time in our industry and community, Bob remained focused on ensuring that quality services were delivered – regardless of the circumstances. His focus on member needs and supports allowed Discovery Living to rise up and meet every challenge faced by the people we support, their families and our employees.
“Jackie is a compassionate employee whose dedication to the mission is demonstrated through her work in the accounting department, always ensuring ethical values and code of conduct are followed and financial operations are properly managed.”
Jackie has been instrumental in Waypoint’s Accounting Department for 18 years, helping lead others with her positive and caring heart. Jackie is key to the success of the agency’s grant funding, helping manage over $2 million for the crucial programs offered to the community. She is always willing to help other staff members understand the complexities of grant funds, while also ensuring Waypoint is a financially strong organization. Reliable accounting is vital to the success of any nonprofit organization, and Jackie is a big part of why Waypoint’s financial record is top notch. Jackie is an unsung heroine of Waypoint and always putting others in front of herself.
His Hands Free Clinic
“Margie makes all people feel valuable.”
Margie is love personified. At our clinic, we see the uninsured and those without adequate resources. Many of our patients have experienced trauma or shame and it is hard for many of them to open up. Many of them do not feel worthy or understood. Margie treats all people with such grace and kindness. She makes everyone feel heard, understood, and valued. She truly listens and does so with love. She changes the lives of all who come in contact with her because of her compassion and open attitude. She works hard in a busy clinic to make sure we have everything we need so that we can give our patients what they need to be their healthiest, best self. She always has time for people. She goes out of her way to make sure everyone is doing okay. She does not judge anyone. In an uncertain time, she is an anchor.
Kids First Law Center
“Laura Martin has helped thousands of separated parents coparent together and has been a pivotal partner in supporting Kids First and the community as they grow.”
For seven years, Laura Martin, LISW, has singlehandedly managed Kids First’s joint parenting program. In joint parenting sessions, Laura works with separated parents to improve their co-parenting by helping them find common ground, reduce conflict, and improve communications regarding their children. Laura handles all facets of the program from the first inquiry to the final parenting plan and everything in between. She does it all with an uplifting attitude and positive outlook. Since the pandemic halted in-person meetings, Laura quickly pivoted to hosting mediations on Zoom. These online sessions allowed her to expand her services statewide and reach even more parents and families. As Laura found a common need among parents, she developed a toolbox of resources to help parents work on cooperative communication. This past year Laura held a webinar series inviting therapists and social workers to learn more about how to interact with the legal system. Laura is constantly looking for ways to raise awareness about Kids First and make sure families are connected to needed services. Laura is the first person to connect callers and Kids First clients with services curated to their specific needs, whether it’s a local therapist fluent in an obscure language or a program for a parent struggling with a personality disorder. Laura keeps connected with local social services through her vital role on the Community Accountability Board and the Client Services Advisory Committee for the Department of Correctional Services.
Director of Ministry Support Team
St. Pauls’s United Methodist Church & Foundation
“Dave stepped in to serve without pay in the role of a fulltime Director of Ministry Support for an active, historic church after the position was vacated and much reorganization was needed.”
Through the years, Dave has quietly and humbly reached out to individual church members who were going through various times of loss and transition. He offered to help them sort through challenges to achieve better financial health and wellbeing. Though he had been retired for many years, after the death of his beloved spouse he offered to come out of retirement to serve his church in a key position, but as a volunteer. When the church business administrator left, he took over that person’s responsibilities and offered his gifts and experience, sharing his life-long expertise in business administration and financial management. He gives selflessly of his time and energy to provide oversight to various areas of church administration. He works with the trustees to care for the large church building and grounds, including navigating the complexities of derecho recovery and insurance claims. He oversees personnel matters — made more difficult because of COVID and labor shortages. He gives direction to all financial matters, giving new structure and management to a multi-faceted fund-accounting operation. He serves as a part of the church leadership, offering resources to the clergy, church council, and several other ministry teams. He has given this position his all and can often be found tending to matters beyond normal office hours. It is with a sense of calling and faith that Dave exemplifies the Spirit of Minnie Rubek in the heart of Cedar Rapids.
Catherine McAuley Center
“Achissa’s quiet, yet strong, presence keeps things running smoothly in the Education Department at the Catherine McAuley Center where each week hundreds of students come to learn English and are warmly welcomed by her.”
Achissa came to Iowa as an asylee from Rwanda and a year later was already enrolled in English language classes at the Catherine McAuley Center and classes at Kirkwood. Quickly advancing through CMC’s curriculum, she was encouraged to apply for a staff position. With her growing proficiency in English and her skills in data management, she joined the staff and today is in the pivotal role of managing scheduling for the more than 500 students and volunteer tutors in Education Services. Achissa has learned so much that she is also able to teach and has her own students. Her ambition is to play an even greater role in the community, setting an example for her children (who also volunteer at CMC!). Achissa knows that the ability to communicate is the most critical element in making progress and achieving her goals. Her remarkable ability to be patient, while diligently and quietly pushing forward, has helped many of CMC’s students and clients move forward in their lives as well.
Jill O’Hara, CDA, RDA, EFDA
Dental Clinic Manager
Eastern Iowa Health Center – Dental Health Clinic
“Jill is dedicated to providing exceptional and accessible oral health care to all, regardless of ability to pay.”
Jill O’Hara began working at the Eastern Iowa Dental Clinic (EIDC) in 2016 before the clinic officially opened in 2017. Jill invested a tremendous amount of energy and a significant amount of industry knowledge to firmly establish the oral health service line. Jill’s enthusiasm and dedication to the EIDC remains to this day. While her ability to initiate and lead successful workflows is outstanding, Jill’s greatest gift is her dedication to exceptional and accessible patient-centered health care. EIDC is fortunate to employ a dental clinic manager whose work is led by her compassion for people. By combining compassion and skill, Jill O’Hara serves our community and our community members, especially those who may be denied service elsewhere.
Supported Employment Specialist
The Arc of East Central Iowa
“Tora works creatively with job candidates and employers to achieve successful employment outcomes for both parties.”
Tora demonstrates a strong and consistent dedication to The Arc’s mission and the people we serve. She believes everyone, regardless of their disability, is capable of working. She has received her certification in Customized Employment and just recently became a Certified Job Placement Specialist. She works with each individual person to create a supported employment plan that is meaningful to them, taking into consideration their strengths, interests and goals. She has built relationships with many local businesses to help them create jobs that meet their needs as well as the job candidates, resulting in successful job placements for both the employer and the candidate. Tora is a very creative person that continually radiates positive energy and a can-do attitude throughout everything she does.
Food Pantry Manager
Metro Catholic Outreach
“Jackie has led the food pantry through a global pandemic, derecho, inflation, and astronomical growth.”
After 30+ years at Tanager as a social worker, she retired but still felt the need to help. MCO hired her as the Food Pantry Manager and she has flourished in the role. She has dealt with a global pandemic, a derecho, difficulty in finding the food and goods we need to operate, and now massive price and client increases in a little over two years. Only someone with her background and love of serving could have rolled with all that has been tossed at her. Jackie is phenomenal with our volunteers. She knows which ones need a gentle hand and which enjoy some teasing back and forth. She remembers the important life events for them. She is excellent with our donors (corporate and individual) as well as our clients. She knows that sometimes clients need someone to listen and sometimes they just need a food box to help in a crisis moment. When a client experiences a mental health crisis, she stays calm and knows how to deescalate or call for help. She just gets it. She never asks for recognition. She genuinely just wants to help. She doesn’t have to spend her days in a physically exhausting job when she deserves a rest after her social work career, but she knows clients and volunteers depend on her and she still feels the need to help our community in her quiet way.
“Chelsey is able to connect with and advocate for young, diverse families in Cedar Rapids while mentoring new staff.”
Chelsey embodies the YPN mission on a daily basis. She works alongside staff, mentoring and coaching them to grow into leaders. You will often hear Chelsey tell staff, “Don’t think of me as your supervisor, I’m here doing the same thing and working towards the same mission as you.” Chelsey is humble in her interactions with staff, volunteers, and participants. Much like she mentors staff, Chelsey comes alongside participants, meeting them where they’re at and helps provide them the tools they need to be successful parents. Chelsey makes sure to celebrate all successes with the young families in our program, knowing that YPN may be their only support system. Chelsey also identified the need and ways YPN could support new Afghan families to Cedar Rapids last fall. Chelsey immediately went to work finding ways to help these families gain parenting information and become stable with the basics for their children. Chelsey is truly a leader, not because she seeks out that role, but because she is respected by all that she interacts with.
“Karen touches clients, co-workers and visitors with her compassionate spirit and unflappable perseverance.”
Karen Takes has made a tremendous impact during her 14 years at Tanager Place, often behind the scenes and going without recognition. She has coordinated multiple teams of volunteers to work on volunteer days, several Americorps groups, and many volunteer groups to help with derecho cleanup. She is not only extremely organized during these projects, but she often jumps in and works right along with the volunteers. She is able to think through projects thoroughly, having all materials ordered and ready. Through this all, she is a tremendous communicator, leading everyone to be well aware of plans and allowing projects to run smoothly. Karen never complains. She comes in early, stays late, and jumps in to help anywhere she can. If she sees a need, she often just takes care of it. There is so much she does that goes unnoticed and most don’t even know. She is friendly and genuinely loves people and the kids that Tanager Place serves.
Executive Director & Founder
“Clint has led the organization and this community through disaster relief more than once.”
Clint has an amazing ability to vision something needed and then gather people who can help get the project done. Time after time he has seen a problem and helped to find a way to lessen or solve the problem. After the 2008 floods it was the Block by Block program, bringing 25 blocks of homes back. Later it was starting the first Urban Farm in Iowa. Then starting the first ‘Pay it Forward’ Café in Iowa and stepping forward after the Derecho to coordinate the repairs of homes with the PATCH program. This year it was starting an Urban Grocery store on the NW side of Cedar Rapids. Matthew 25 has more than 10 ongoing programs that focus on different aspects of neighborhood building and development. In true entrepreneurial spirit, Clint improves our community.
Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa
“Michelle humbly leads our team and is devoted to making Junior Achievement a great place to work.”
Michelle is a humble leader and seeks no recognition for the hard work that she does. She goes above and beyond to make everyone on the team feel valued and creates a sense of belonging from day one. She has been a behind-the-scenes leader for more than ten years. Michelle is quick to deflect compliments and instead shines the spotlight on others who contribute to the team’s success.
Director, Transitions of Care and Continuum of Care
Mercy Medical Center
“Dianne is a strong advocate for some of our most vulnerable populations, including low income, homeless and elderly individuals.”
Dianne has built strong relationships in the Linn County community to help our citizens. She’s a strong problem solver and a forward thinker. She has a community presence that utilizes relationships, creativity and resourcefulness to support the next transition of care for many people in our health system. Dianne and her teams recognize the impact that social determinants of health play in the health and well-being of the community we serve. In fact, this year, a social worker position was added to the continuum of care department, which Dianne oversees, due to the significant needs of the community. Under Dianne’s direction, this social worker focuses on patients who transition from inpatient to outpatient, as well as those who visit our MercyCare clinics. Additionally, Dianne has led her team to develop a clothing closet for people who are in need upon their discharge. Dianne developed a screening tool that is being utilized on admission as to SDOF. Dianne played an instrumental role in partnering with HACAP to bring food boxes to Mercy and the Mercy clinics.