“When caring women unite, children’s lives improve”


mgr_ELIWLC_thumb.jpgUnited Way of Central Iowa Women’s Leadership Connection (WLC) members believe all children should start school ready to learn. Graduation from high school is an 18-year journey, beginning at birth. WLC invests in research-based strategies that ensure children are ready for kindergarten – the first step in that journey.

Since 2002, WLC contributions have exceeded $12 million to improve the network of care and learning that ensure young children are ready to succeed in school. More than 600 of central Iowa’s most generous and influential women give their time, voice and resources to support quality early learning and provide opportunities for those who need it most.


WLC Members     WLC Programs


“I feel good knowing that the dollars I contribute to United Way WLC support young children in our community and puts them on the right path to be ready to start kindergarten. I also enjoy the networking opportunity that WLC events provide.”

– Jamie Schug, WLC member


Why Join?

  • Nothing is more important to our community than ensuring every young person succeeds in school. Through financial contributions, advocacy and volunteerism, Women’s Leadership Connection members ensure children are ready for kindergarten.Align your financial contribution and volunteer efforts to help children start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed.

  • Network with like-minded women and community leaders.

  • See first-hand how your investment is improving young children’s lives in central Iowa.

  • Be part of a nationally-recognized group of dedicated female philanthropists.

We’re inviting you to LIVE UNITED and join United Way of Central Iowa Women’s Leadership Connection with an investment of $1,000 or more for kindergarten readiness.


WLC Membership Benefits

Member level

  • Exclusive invitations to WLC events, where you can meet, learn from and connect with some of central Iowa’s most influential women.

  • Timely e-newsletters that relay information about your investment in kindergarten readiness, events and volunteer opportunities.

$1,000 Level

  • Membership in the Leadership Circle, a group of more than 3,500 local leaders contributing $1,000-9,999 to United Way of Central Iowa.

  • Recognition in our United Way of Central Iowa Community Report and Leadership Circle Registry, published annually.

  • Opportunity to participate on WLC committees that provide direction related to special events, volunteer opportunities, early childhood investments, fundraising and advocacy.

$2,500 level – Lead Woman


If you are ready to join WLC but cannot yet make the full financial commitment of $1,000 or $2,500, the step-up program is a great way to begin.


WLC Member

WLC Lead Woman

Women of Tocqueville ($10,000)


$500 (Minimum)

$1,500 (Minimum)

$5,000 (Minimum)










Advisory Committee

Comprised of the Chairs of each WLC Committee, members of the Advisory Committee share updates on each area, discuss strategic direction, and assist with on-going communication and explore ways to highlight WLC successes and early childhood issues.



Natali Justiniano Pahl
Assistant Vice President,
Human Resources Systems and Support
The Principal Financial Group

Carrie Bening
Lonnie Dafney
Jem Gong-Browne
Linda Graff
Lynn Graves
Siobhan Harman
Debbie Hubbell

Cathy Lacy
Kathleen Lillis
Jessica McCulloh
Joyce Pingel
Denise Smithson Green
Maria Volante

WLC Advocacy Committee

Monitor and engage in legislative activities related to early childhood learning including interaction with legislators and hosting advocacy-related educational sessions for WLC members.



Mandi McReynolds
Global Community Relations Manager Principal Financial Group

Emily Abbas
Susan Aschenbrenner
Anne Bacon
Heather Bahe
Margaret Borgen
Teree Caldwell-Johnson
Carrie Clogg
Martha Crist
Lonnie Dafney
Cheryl Dahlquist
Stephanie Darbo
Darcy Darrah
Danielle Foster
Michelle Giffith
Emily Hamilton
Suzanne Heckenlaible
Christine Hensley
Ashley Holter
Karman Hotchkiss

Kristin Hurd
Natali Justiniano Pahl
Carrie King
Lara Liss
Judy McCoy Davis
Andrea McGuire
Becky Nash
Susan Pegg
Beth Roy
Lauren Sartwell
Marla Sheffler
Melissa Shields
Kira Sisson
Georgann Smith
Cari Spear
Mikki Stier
Georgia Van Gundy
Stacie Webstre
Erika Williams

WLC Investment Committee

Develop new investment strategies, monitor current investments, make annual funding recommendations and provide quarterly updates to UWCI Executive Committee.



Jem Gong-Browne
Assistant Director, Internal Audit Risk
Principal Financial Group

Jess McCulloh

Wendy Batchelder
Laura Beebe
Michelle Book
Christine Bruner
Jean Durant
Mary Gottschalk
Debbie Hubbell
Tessie Johnson

Julia Lawler
Kathleen Lillis
Judy McCoy Davis
Eve Patterson
Sherry Perkins
Joyce Pingel
Jamie Schug
Ellen Willadsen

Women’s Leadership Connection members invest their money, expertise, time and influence to strengthen our community’s network of early learning for young children— helping them begin kindergarten ready to read, learn, succeed.

Your WLC contributions and volunteer action:

  • Support 18 early learning centers and more than 200 in-home care proviers, giving 2,000 children a nurturing, safe and enriching environment in which to learn and grow

  • Improve children's health and development by promoting quality child care, school readiness and early grade reading skills

  • Provide facility improvements, curriculum enhancements, wage incentives and training for teachers and staff

  • Participate in volunteer opportunites such as Stuff The Bus book drive and the Book Buddy reading program

WLC Special Events Volunteer Engagement Committee

Plan and execute special events for WLC members including networking, education, and recognition of child care providers reaching milestones.



Denise Smithson Green
Director, Ticket Office
Des Moines Performing Arts

Lonnie Dafney

Emily Abbas
Jenene Armstrong
Heather Bahe
Lora Brons
Cheryl Dalhquist
Stephanie Darbo
Christina Davis
Marian Flattery
Michelle Giffith
Suzanne Heckenlaible

Joelle Knowler
Lara Liss
Becky Nash
Nancy Sandor
Kira Sisson
Georgann Smith
Mikki Stier
Chris Terhark
Erika Williams

WLC 2015 Fundraising Committee

Provides input to determine annual WLC fundraising goal and reaches out via personal phone calls and written communication to assist with renewing and prospecting members.



Siobahn Harman
Real Estate Development Manager
Kum & Go

Carrie Beneing

Jenene Armstong
Kira Barclay
Lisa Bender
Jennifer Fegter
Colleen Friedman
Carrie King
Andrea Kloberdanz
Erin Kouri

Mary O'Keefe
Dayle Sanders
Marla Sheffler
Renee Wood

"The Women's Leadership Connection has been a powerful force in central Iowa for preschool children in need. We are proud to have raised millions and invested in some amazing programs to help kids."

Ka'Meka Lowery

Ka'Meka Lowrey
Women's Leadership Connection Director


klowery@unitedwaydm.org   (515) 246-6541