At this year’s LIVE UNITED event, the organization shared community needs under its strategic imperative, UNITED to THRIVE, and recognized organizations and individuals doing exceptional work in the areas of giving, advocating, and volunteering. Athene receives Spirit of Central Iowa Award for the fourth time.

 At today’s LIVE UNITED celebration luncheon, United Way of Central Iowa unveiled its 2022 Community Report and recognized 10 organizations and three individuals with its annual LIVE UNITED Awards. Athene was awarded the 2022 Spirit of Central Iowa Award for the second consecutive year and fourth time overall.

During the event, the organization’s president, Mary Sellers, called attention to the significant need and instability our community is currently experiencing and reminded attendees of United Way’s 105-year history of uniting our community to work through tough times.

“We have been here before,” said Sellers. “From the Great Depression through wars and natural disasters, United Way of Central Iowa has been here to help central Iowans stand strong amidst crisis, uniting people across our community to navigate challenges together through hard work, exceptional generosity, and a spirit of collaboration. Our path forward is built with hope, courage, and determination. And like all tough challenges, we know we can create solutions when we all work together, in a United Way.”

The Evolution of United Way of Central Iowa: UNITED to THRIVE

UNITED to THRIVE, United Way of Central Iowa’s strategic imperative unveiled in 2021, lays the path forward as the organization strives to help every central Iowan not only survive, but thrive.

 UNITED to THRIVE evolves the work of United Way of Central Iowa in the following ways:

  • Strategies to address challenges within the 5 Elements of a Thriving Community – Essential Needs, Early Childhood Success, Education Success, Economic Opportunity, and Health & Well-Being – are focused on growth and progress, building upon the work of the past decade which was more focused on central Iowans’ foundational needs.

  • Progress and impact of inter-dependent strategies will be measured and tracked through multiple community metrics versus the three independent goals from the previous decade.

  • All strategies and initiatives place specific emphasis on equity and reducing or eliminating barriers to ensure every central Iowan has the opportunity to thrive.

2022 Community Report Highlights

The 2022 Community Report, which can be found at, highlights some of the community’s challenges in each of the 5 Elements of a Thriving Community and how United Way of Central Iowa will continue to hold their unique position in central Iowa – bringing every sector together to identify gaps and leverage investments and partnerships to address them at their roots.

  • In the area of Essential Needs –
    • 1 in 4 central Iowa households are “housing burdened” spending at least 30% of their income on housing.
    • United Way forms and joins coalitions focused on systems change to address central Iowa’s affordable housing challenges. The organization funds programs preventing homelessness, providing legal assistance to avoid foreclosures and evictions, and offering supports needed to attain affordable, stable housing.
  • In the area of Early Childhood Success –
    • 30% fewer childcare providers are in central Iowa than five years ago.
    • United Way works with partners to provide high-quality, affordable childcare to families living in low-income households.
  • In Economic Opportunity –
    • 5% of employed central Iowans are living in extreme poverty (for example an annual household income of $27,750 or less for a family of four).
    • United Way supports training and other resources for people to secure good jobs providing sufficient income and opportunities to build wealth.

  • In Education Success –
    • In the past two years, central Iowa’s third grade reading proficiency scores have dropped 23%.
    • United Way works with schools and partners to improve reading scores and provide wrap-around supportive services to our most vulnerable students.
  • In Health & Well-Being –
    • 24% of Iowa teens contemplated suicide last year.
    • United Way works with local organizations to eliminate barriers and promote physical, mental, and social well-being for central Iowa children, families, and adults.

2022 LIVE UNITED Award Recipients

At the LIVE UNITED Celebration Luncheon, the following individuals and organizations were honored and recognized as Game Changers for their achievements in giving throughout this past year’s campaign, as Impact Makers for their dedication to advocating for those in need throughout our community, and as Hand Raisers for their commitment to improving central Iowa through volunteerism. This year’s recipients are:  

  • Spirit of Central Iowa Award – Athene
    Recognized as this year’s Spirit of Central Iowa Award winner, Athene’s corporate and employee giving increased 27.8% from prior year to $1,561,966. Through company sponsored volunteerism and individual efforts aligning with the 5 Elements of a Thriving Community, employees volunteered 5,085 hours in 2021. In addition, Athene’s longstanding focus on advocating for education helps equip students located in the Des Moines metro with their basic needs to succeed in school. WATCH: Athene Receives the 2022 Spirit of Central Iowa Award: 

  • Individuals recognized:
    • Game Changer Award: Molly Ver Mulm, for strong leadership during SHAZAM’s 2021 United Way Campaign, a first-ever hybrid campaign for the company.
    • Impact Maker Award: Mira Yusef, for advocacy efforts extending beyond gender-based violence within Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
    • Hand Raiser Award: Sedina Traljesic, for dedicated volunteerism aiding Afghan refugees.
  • Additional organizations recognized:
    • Game Changer Award: NCMIC, F&G, and Krause Group
    • Impact Maker Award: Beckley Automotive Repair, SHAZAM, and Principal
    • Hand Raiser Award: McGill Junge Wealth Management, ITA Group, and Nationwide

“It was such a great experience to have LIVE UNITED in person again this year,” said Sean Vicente, Managing Partner with KPMG Des Moines, and United Way of Central Iowa Board Chair. “Being together with the companies and organizations that bring this work to life is such an honor. It’s no secret we’ve experienced some tough times, but I know that with this community behind us, United Way is going to make great strides to improve central Iowa.”


Andy TeBockhorst

About The Author: Andy TeBockhorst

Andy TeBockhorst is United Way of Central Iowa's Chief Strategic Communications Officer.