Trailblazing Women: Bringing Hope to Cancer Patients & Family

Give us a brief bio and tell us a little bit about yourself!  

Service is at the heart of everything I do. My husband and I have been married for 39 years and have two adult children and seven granddaughters who I get to see often. I currently work at my church as the Communications Director and have been serving here for 17 years. I am active with the American Cancer Society and serve on the local, state, and national boards. During my time there, I have started a Pack the Bus campaign which aims to provide cancer patients who are staying at the Hope Lodge in Iowa City, IA with food, office, and paper supplies during their outpatient treatment. I volunteer with other organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, working on their Women Build Day to empower and benefit women in the area, and with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank serving in whatever ways needed and have sat on their board. My husband and I donate time and services to the area homeless shelter, Hospitality House, and help with Veteran Affairs. The final bit of volunteering I do is close to my heart. I am a certified volunteer at Cedar Valley Hospice Home, the place where my mother felt at home in her final days.  

So much of being a trailblazer means finding yourself in uncertain ground – landing in a place that you never could have anticipated.  

Tell us about where you thought you’d be - and where you are now.  

Given my age, I am right about where I thought I would be in my career. I am the first Communications Director at my church which was and still can be uncharted territory. Seeing what worked and what didn’t—taking chances, listening, and learning from others is what I find works best. When I accepted this position, we were one church. Now, we have six campuses and are still growing so I never stop learning how to adapt. Covid-19 has also had us thinking outside the box with how we communicate and stay in touch with our congregation.  

More recently I found myself in uncertain ground with my dad. He was placed in a nursing home in 2013 and since then both my husband and I were devoted to caring for him by spending time with him and by taking him out for meals on a regular basis. When Covid-19 hit, we were unable to see him and this was something he struggled to understand. We made the decision to bring him to live with us in our home in April. We set up his bed in our living room and my husband and I slept on the floor near him in the event he tried to get up in the night. We got to spend beautiful moments together from then on until his peaceful death on June 11 at the age of 96.  

What keeps you going – what brings you back to the game day after day?  

I’d like to think of myself as a leader and someone who tries daily to make a difference in people's lives whether by what I do, where I serve, or what I say. If I see or hear of a need, I want to see what I can do to help—not enable but lead and help. I keep myself humble and have a teachable spirit—I don't let praise go to my head or hurtful, critical statements hurt my heart. Each day is different and full of new challenges and I want to be able to be a part in conquering new things and making a difference with excellence and attention to details.  

How do you blow off steam – what do you do for fun? 

I am not one to get too emotional or have a short fuse—but to talk through the tough things I'll grab a girlfriend or my husband and we'll have supper or sit and have a drink or coffee and just pour out our hearts. I have a great (smaller) circle of good friends who I know have my back and want the best for me. I love to get outside and go for a long walk or bike ride and to take in and intentionally notice the little details that sometimes get lost in the busyness. I also love decorating my home and office and love to shop! 

Do you have any advice for the next generation of trailblazers?  

Be bold and don't be afraid to fail. Get up, dust yourself off and try again. Surround yourself with leaders and seek out mentors who can pour into you and who believe in you.