Meet Our 2021 Grantees

Help us celebrate these amazing grant partners across the state of Iowa who are daily working to break down the barriers that keep woman and girls from achieving economic self-sufficency.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa

Smart Girls

Location: Polk County
Barrier: Education/Training

The SMART Girls program strategically focuses on providing academic and emotional support for girls to fill the gap in female-specific programming. SMART Girls gives female members ages 8-18 the space, support, and tools to navigate adolescence and emerge as strong, healthy young adults. This includes tackling issues ranging from family troubles, struggles with body image and self-esteem, to the impact of school stress and bullying. The focus of the program is on closing the achievement gaps for female members, and creating high expectations so they can go on to obtain employment, attain financial independence, and reach their full potential. The program allows for a network of support as participants grow, learn, and work towards success and independence. Adult mentoring is integrated throughout the program, along with guest speakers, hands-on activities, and field trips which help build independent, confident young women who are prepared for future education, careers, and economic self-sufficiency.

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands

SMART Girls Program at Council Bluffs and Carter Lake Boys & Girls Clubs

Location: Pottawattamie County
Barrier: Mentorship

SMART Girls is a program designed to meet the developmental needs of Club girls through curriculum that address topics related to health, fitness and self-esteem enhancement. The program offers dynamic instructional sessions, highly participatory activities, field trips and mentoring opportunities with adult women. Club girls explore their own attitudes and values as they build skills to care for their changing bodies, learn to understand their ongoing emotional growth and develop positive relationships with peers and adults. The goal of SMART Girls is to develop healthy and positive understandings and attitudes related to the transition to adulthood in female Club members.

Catherine McAuley Center

Expanding Supportive Housing for Women

*This grant was awarded with support from the Helen Frye Memorial Fund.

Location: Linn County
Barrier: Housing

The goal of this project is to expand support to women in need of housing and services as they heal from trauma and regain stability in their lives. While it specifically focuses on housing, there is a tight interconnectedness with employment, childcare and education related barriers. Recognizing the need for a “next step” for women who are making progress in the program but not yet ready to live a fully independent life, CMC recently introduced its Supportive Housing Program. It fills that need by providing an environment where women are living together in a home, making decisions as a collective and holding each other accountable for how they’ve agreed to live together, while continuing to rebuild their lives. Services they received as residents in the Transitional Housing Program are still part of their care and delivered in the same way, using a trauma-informed, female responsive approach. This includes ongoing case management, skill-building, and group learning along with having access to community resources. Women in Supportive Housing are also gaining experience with managing a housing budget and rebuilding their credit history through monthly rent payments they are required to make.

Crittenton Center

Growing Beyond Barriers

Location: Woodbury County
Barrier: Child Care

The Sioux City Community School District developed a program in August, 2006 to provide support to high school parents and assist them in completing their educations. West High School has an infant care center located within their building. In collaboration with the school district, students have the opportunity to have transportation to and from school along with their infant. Full time high school or college students may be eligible for the state block grant, however, many of the students are not able to make payments for childcare prior to getting tuition assistance which may delay the start of classes. Often times there is 30 day delay from application to approval for the state block grant which impacts their ability to start classes as soon as possible. This can be the difference of graduating on schedule or delaying indefinitely. This project is designed to get student parents into the classroom with as little disruption as possible. Quality childcare is a community priority and families with barriers such as financial or educational need that access. The mission is to advocate for those who need an extra voice to reach their potential. Providing funding to those student parents upon enrollment covers 30 days of cost of care so a student in high school or college can secure childcare to start school on time.

Grin & Grow Child Care Ltd.

Removing Child Care As A Barrier To Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency

Location: Black Hawk County
Barrier: Child Care

This program works to remove the barrier of accessing affordable, quality child care to obtain/maintain work or training and decrease the work force gap while increasing women’s economic security for female-head of households based on poverty guidelines under 200%. This program provides children with a quality, nurturing early childhood environment that embraces and promotes all diversities working and learning together.

This Scholarship will allow ALL women-headed households to receive the equal value of scholarships as those households receiving Child Care Assistance from the state. The program will also work to alleviate some stress for single-parent mothers by offering one two-hour parent meeting with a light snack, a speaker, and the opportunity to have parents connect.


Hawkeye Community College Foundation

Hawkeye Childcare Disparity Scholarships

Location: Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Chickasaw, Fayette, Floyd, Grundy, and Tama Counties
Barrier: Child Care

Hawkeye students are at-risk, defined as anyone who faces greater than normal obstacles in pursuing, achieving, and succeeding in educational goals. The childcare obstacle is insurmountable for low-income students. Hawkeye tries to carefully balance the expense of providing quality childcare with the need for affordable access. One solution is to leverage scholarships to mitigate the disparity between cost of service and ability to pay. High quality comes from degreed staff using developmentally appropriate practices for the way children progress and learn. The Center staffs two lead teachers in each of four classrooms: infants (6 weeks-18 months), young toddlers (18 months –2 years), older toddlers (18 months–3 years), and preschoolers (3-5 years). Enrolled children receive significant benefits from research-based early education curriculum and interventions. Hawkeye’s disparity scholarships benefit both generations, giving women access to higher education to improve their earning power and their children a solid educational foundation for continued learning.


Horizons, A Family Service Alliance

Creating Economic Mobility for Women

Location: Linn County
Barrier: Transportation

“Creating Economic Mobility for Women” program covers the ridership fees of women dropping their children off to daycare for work shifts and the subsequent transportation to work. The goal is to increase the accessibility of women to nontraditional working hours (outside 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday), increase access to equitable and safe child care, and develop a network of support for women to experience economic mobility. During the last rider survey, 75% of clients reported an increase in income after using Neighborhood Transportation Service (NTS) through Horizons. Funding will provide rides to work and school for at least 180 women, 75% of which are anticipated to report an increase of income after receiving services.



Location: Scott County
Barrier: Mentorship

LeadHer has identified a gap in local professional development for women, particularly development that would be accessible to every woman in the community, regardless of employment status or ability to pay for the service. To meet that need, the organization developed the Strike-A-Match mentoring program which connects applicants with a mentor who is individually recruited to meet each applicant’s needs. Not only does this provide one-on-one professional development, but in most cases, it also means that the applicant gains access to a new professional network in the community. The benefit of an expansive professional network cannot be overstated. The women who come through the program consistently report an increase in confidence from these new connections and this confidence translates directly into more tangible outcomes like willingness to negotiate salary and likelihood of applying for promotion thus increasing their economic self-sufficiency. The Strike-A-Match program participants are provided with structured networking events, skill-building sessions, and volunteer opportunities in addition to an assigned mentor or mentee.


Lutheran Services in Iowa

Refugee Child Care Business Development Program

Location: Polk County with technical assistance to other counties
Barrier: Child Care

LSI’s Child Care Business Development program has worked to build bridges within the child care system for prospective and existing child care providers from various ethnic groups since 2012. The program helps refugee women increase their families’ financial stability by becoming registered in-home child care providers through the Iowa Department of Human Services (IDHS); it improves the number of quality culturally and linguistically appropriate child care spots available for refugee parents who are seeking to go to work or school; it Increases retention of registered child care providers who have limited English and American business backgrounds, to keep the pool of available culturally-competent child care slots at a reasonable level; and it offers support to other refugee populations and their advocates who may want to increase registered child care homes in their area of Iowa.

LSI provides interpreted DHS-approved training, registration support, literacy and business development home visits, walk-in technical assistance, and connection to childcare professional development networks. In addition to offering training to providers in Central Iowa, LSI is also committed to providing technical assistance and training to other communities and organizations interested in starting a refugee childcare training program.

United Way of the Quad Cities

Girls Mentoring Project

Location: Scott County
Barrier: Mentorship

United Way of the Quad Cities’ African American Leadership Society (AALS) formed to address the opportunity gap in our community. African-American students in the Quad Cities lag behind their peers at every educational benchmark: school readiness (13% gap), reading proficiency (30% gap), middle school attendance (9% gap), and high school completion (7% gap). To address these gaps, AALS has selected a single school – Madison Elementary in Davenport – for a pilot project that coordinates an array of community services on behalf of the school’s African-American students and their families. The ultimate goal is to provide stability in the students’ lives so they can benefit more from the education they receive. This new program is based on a successful mentoring program for 4th and 5th grade boys and will provide these elementary aged girls with an adult African-American female mentor. The mentors serve as role models of what it means to be an educated, successful, African-American woman.

The program will feature presentations and discussions about various topics, including self-image, personal responsibility, and the media’s portrayal of women. This group will take field trips to sites throughout the Quad Cities in order to broaden these students’ knowledge of the world and the variety of career options open to them.

University of Iowa Labor Center

Iowa Women in Trades: Apprenticeship Opportunity Network

Location: Benton, Cedar, Dubuque, Johnson, Linn, Jones, Muscatine, Scott, and Polk Counties
Barrier: Employment

The Iowa Women in Trades: Apprenticeship Opportunity Network links unemployed or underemployed Iowa women with opportunities to prepare for and enroll in Iowa Registered Apprentice programs in construction trades. This project builds on work done in the past two years to pilot a new preparatory skills-based “pre-apprentice” program intended to prepare women and other underrepresented candidates for enrollment in registered apprenticeships in high-demand, livable wage jobs, to expand the number of women enrolled in the new program, and to establish an Iowa Women in Trades network to facilitate ongoing mentoring and support to program graduates. In addition to skills-based preparation designed to increase women’s qualifications to enter an apprentice program, this project directly connects participants with eastern Iowa apprentice program training coordinators, leadership development programming, and peer networking to support the success of women who enter registered apprentice programs and begin work on male-dominated job sites. The ultimate goal of this project is a sustainable system for bridging significant gaps between apprenticeship training opportunities and Iowa women who are underrepresented in the construction trades, resulting in a clear pipeline to high-quality jobs in these fields.


Women Food & Agriculture Network

Harvesting Our Potential: Growing Skills, Confidence and Sustainability

Location: Statewide program available to women in all Iowa counties
Barrier: Mentorship

For 20 years the WFAN’s Harvesting Our Potential (HOP) program has been inspiring and growing women farmers and advocates by empowering them to become active farmers, mentors, and advocates. This mentoring program is expanding to provide opportunities for women farmers of all stages in their careers not only as they begin their farm enterprise, but as they grow and seek to diversify and/or expand their farm business. New opportunities for existing women farmers who seek additional training on topics such as how to add new enterprises, operate a tractor, or improve their marketing skills. On-line meetings with previous program participants to share their “where I am now” stories with current participants, will also serve as evaluatory information for WFAN. Additionally, this project will pilot a farm-sitting component by providing funding for a trained farm-sitter to care for a farmer’s operations while they leave for additional training. This will provide both parties opportunities to grow skills and provide experience for the farm-sitter to use in future farm employment opportunities.

St. Mark Youth Enrichment

Social Emotional Learning: Expanding Model for Greater Impact

Location: Dubuque
Barrier: Education/Training

St. Mark’s is expanding its social emotional learning model to have direct programming for girls throughout the school year and summer, family engagement and education efforts targeted for single mothers to gain skills to foster healthy parenting practices at home, and adding training and consulting for other organizations in effective implementation of social emotional strategies. Implementation of social emotional learning is reflected at every level of St. Mark, from the purposeful training the staff receive to the physical tools utilized daily on site. The aim of these efforts is for students to build 5 cognitive and behavioral competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Family events provide education on effective and healthy discipline practices focusing on composure and positive approaches to working with behavior challenges.