Young Professionals Lauren Steenhoek, Linda Craven, Chelsea Keenan and Melanie Campbell (L-R) participated in the first year of Community Connect. The mentorship program is gearing up for its second year in 2014. (Special to Juice)

Lauren Steenhoek, Linda Craven, Chelsea Keenan and Melanie Campbell (L-R) participated in the first year of Community Connect. The mentorship program is gearing up for its second year in 2014. (Special to Juice)

Three lessons from Community Connect

Published on January 7th, 2014 | by Josh Hafner

Last week brought the announcement of who the participants will be for Community Connect: Mentors Inspiring Success.

The program, launched last year, aims to cultivate mentoring relationships between current community leaders and aspiring future ones. Mentors this year include Urbandale Mayor Bob Andeweg, Greater Des Moines Partnership CEO Jay Byers and Cara Heiden, a former co-president with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

The program developed out of the “Social Capital” committee of Capital Crossroads, a regional planning initiative aimed at improving life in Central Iowa.

Committee co-chair Kristi Knous mentored during the program’s first year and says organizers learned a few things about what does and doesn’t work. Here are three lessons about fostering mentorship that Community Connect organizers learned, according to Knous.

Create unstructured space

Knous said Community Connect came about as a way to put structure around mentoring, to pair mentors and mentees in an intentional way that sidesteps the initial awkwardness or difficulty some might have in reaching out to influential or experienced leaders.

But connections really thrived in the unstructured times, Knous said, like when mentors and mentees would head to a bar for drinks and more conversation after meeting.

“We don’t want to structure it too much. We want to leave time for some of those organic relationships to happen,” said Knous, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. “We intentionally added more time (this year) for that kind of conversation.”

Offer more diversity

Last year’s mentees asked for more professional diversity among mentors in Community Connect’s second year.

Knous calls the request a reflection of the divergent paths participants see themselves taking in the Des Moines area. She hopes the program can offer helpful mentorship to anyone who participates, whether they want to lead a large company or work for a small nonprofit.

“They also said to us: ‘What about people who run for public office? That’s something some of us are interested in, too,’” Knous said. “So we tried to broaden the representation of the mentors … to make sure it was more diverse.”

Mentorship is for non-leaders, too

Knous said that while many who actively seek out mentorship are on a leadership track, some aren’t. And those mentees also could benefit from experienced coaches in their personal and professional lives. Creating an effective mentorship environment means catering to both, she said.

“Some of the people involved in this may not strive to lead a company,” Knous said, “but they want to be their best person and would like a personal and professional coach along the way.”

Programs exist in central Iowa that focus on developing leadership in professionals, Knous said. Rather than duplicating those, organizers behind the program are trying to create a hub that attracts and links diverse professionals who can help one another develop for the betterment of central Iowa.

“This is really about relationships,” said Knous, who will again serve as a mentor. “This isn’t your young, up-and- coming leadership program. This is more about making connections.”

This year’s mentees selected for Community Connect:

Jeff Anderlik, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield

Pattie Anderson, RBC Wealth Management

Anne Bacon, Bidwell Riverside Center

Kate Banasiak, Diversified Management Services

Jacki Boldt, Des Moines Area Community College

Carrie Clogg, Civic Music Association

Brian Crotty, HDH Advisors, LLC

Kari Dyjak, Amgen

Brianne Fitzgerald, United Way of Central Iowa

Allie Geysen, PepsiCo

Jami Haberl, Safeguard Iowa Partnership

Richard Hannasch, Principal Financial Group

Julie Hergenrader, Daiichi Sankyo

Gregory Jackson, Wells Fargo Bank

Carrie Kruse, City of Des Moines

Zachary Lukasiewicz, SALT Solutions

Ana Mancebo, Iowa Citizens for Community Involvement

Michael McInerney, The Dana Company

David Nelmark, Belin McCormick, PC

Olga Poputnikova, EMC Insurance Companies

Levi Rosol, Goodsmiths

Colleen Scharlau, Marsh & McLennan

Kelsey Sinnwell, Visionary Services, Inc.

Amy Smith, PrimeLending

Joe Sorenson, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines

Sara Stibitz, Self-employed

Sunni Swarbrick, Simpson College

Angela Ten Clay, TMG Financial Services

Jordan Watkins, Blue Oak Construction Group LLC

Kaylee Williams, VolunteerLocal

This year’s mentors participating in Community Connect: Bob Andeweg, Nyemaster Good, P.C., &  Urbandale Mayor; Mary Bontrager, Greater Des Moines Partnership; Jay Byers, Greater Des Moines Partnership; Mike Colwell, Business Innovation Zone; Cara Heiden, Wells Fargo & Co., Retired; Phil Hodgin, RDG Planning & Design; H. Lynn Horak, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Retired; Carolyn Jenison, Ballet Des Moines; Kristi Knous, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines; Rose Mitchell, Hy-Vee, Retired; Alex Piedras, Grand View University; Scott Raecker, Character Counts In Iowa; Dana Ramundt, The Dana Company; and Mary Sellers, United Way of Central Iowa.

About the Author

covers young professionals for The Des Moines Register. Josh can be reached at or on Twitter via @joshhafner.

Back to Top ↑

do my essay for money