Inclusion 2012

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Cedar Valley Inclusion

Celebrating Diversity in the Cedar Valley

FALL 2012

Times have changed.

We have too.

Allen College recruits men and women of all races, ethnicities and abilities for careers in nursing and health sciences. We celebrate diversity, and we are inclusive. It’s our mission and our culture. We’re not the only ones who think so. Allen College was awarded a Nursing Workforce Diversity grant for $984,000 from the United States Department of Health and Human Services – Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). There were only 10 HRSA grants awarded nationwide. We’re proud to be honored, and we’re using the grant to help historically underrepresented students discover all we have to offer and all they can become. If you see yourself in this picture, call us. You are welcome at Allen College. • 319-226-2000

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Liz Becker, left, chats with Ivelissa Diaz at a multicultural reception hosted by Veridian Credit Union, the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber and other local businesses Aug. 9 at the YWCA in Waterloo. Photo by Brandon Pollock | 3

From left, Toby Ojeda, his son, Toby Ojeda Jr. and Shane Blackledge sample ethnic dishes at a multicultural reception hosted by Veridian Credit Union, the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber and other local businesses Aug. 9 at the YWCA in Waterloo. Photo by Brandon Pollock

Text | Jim Offner


ome call it “inclusion” or “diversity” in describing a program or concept that brings people from a variety of backgrounds together to accomplish a singular goal. An organization looking to follow that path must think of the concept on several levels, according to Jean Trainor, CEO of Waterloo-based Veridian Credit Union, which has instituted a comprehensive inclusion effort in the last few years. It starts with a top-down attitude, said Trainor, who admits to being passionate about the concept and played a leadership role in forming a diversity committee at the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber. For businesses looking to set up such a diversity program within, it’s not difficult, Trainor said. In fact, she said, it’s just good business. A multi-layered approach works well, Trainor said, such as having a mentoring program and brainstorming sessions at which employees are encouraged to add input that may stem from their own unique backgrounds. “Studies show you get better results with an inclusive workforce,” Trainor said. Communication is a key in crossing cultural lines, Trainor said. The credit union, for example, has hosted two multicultural receptions this year, with a goal of bringing local business people from all backgrounds together to swap stories, insights and build contacts. The latest reception was Aug. 9 at the YWCA of Black Hawk County in downtown Waterloo. “The purpose of the free reception is to provide networking opportunities for community leaders and organizations to work together to attract and retain a diverse workforce in the area,” the company said in a news release. “Individuals seeking employment with a company who values diversity and inclusion are encouraged to attend as are employers who share these values.”

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The receptions drew crowds estimated at 100, according to Renee Christoffer, Veridian’s senior vice president of administration. “We approach inclusion from a 360-degree perspective — our members, employment, vendors and the communities we serve.” The emphasis on inclusion will increase in the next several years, and it’s a model other businesses can follow successfully, Christoffer said. “We’re really looking at a supplier diversity program, and we have a mentoring program that continues to evolve,” she said. Any inclusion program worthy of note should involve employee mentors, Christoffer said. Community outreach is another way to build a diverse workforce, as well as connect with constituents of all backgrounds, Christoffer said, adding that the credit union’s inclusion director, Angie Weekley, focuses on visiting schools and financial literacy and community outreach. Weekley also assists in human resources-related processes. “She’s well-rounded in her responsibilities,” Christoffer said. A business looking to diversify its workforce also might consider another important point, especially today, with baby boomers still in the job market, Trainor said. “It goes beyond race and gender,” she said. “What I’m learning now is real differences in generation. In our workplace, we probably have four generations. Different age groups is a new way of thinking of inclusion. That’s something we think about.” Trainor said 10 years hence, perhaps, an inclusion program might not be needed. “My vision for this whole initiative is we won’t be talking about this in 10 years; it will be natural,” Trainor said.


Reaching the cedaR vaLLey With PRint onLine, taBLet and smaRtPhone. You’re holding a Courier product. Inclusion was developed by The Courier to educate, inform and celebrate diversity in our community. Today our print, online, tablet, and Smartphone applications reach more audience than ever in our 150-year history. Over 77,000 readers view our newspaper daily, over 500,000 unique visitors use our website monthly, and in July alone over 200,000 visitors read us on their Smartphone.

Reaching the diveRsified community…the couRieR.

to suBscRiBe caLL 319-291-1444

Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.

Tyson Fresh Meats Cares about the Cedar Valley Tyson Fresh Meats is proud to support growth and prosperity in the Cedar Valley. We are committed to contributing to the local economy and to making a difference in our community through job opportunities, employee benefit programs, our diversity, and the many rewarding partnerships we enjoy throughout our community.

©2012 ©20 12 Tys Tyson on Foo Foods, ds, In Inc. c. Tra Tradem demark dem arkss and ark and reg regist istere ist eredd trad ere trad radema emarks ema rks ar aree owne owne wnedd by by Tyso Tyso ysonn Food Food oods, s, Inc Inc.. or or its its sub subsid sidiar sid iaries iar ies.. 308 ies 308820 82034820 34-001 3400155 001

Cedar Valley Inclusion


Downtown restaurant is heart of Hispanic community.


Burmese store helps new immigrants settle in.







Couple finds allies in community.

Veridian recruits from deep talent pool.



Veterans find support on local campuses.

It takes a comprehensive approach for businesses to embrace diversity.

Partnerships expand opportunities for disabled.

Linguistics keep Tyson running smoothly.

22 SELF-EXPRESSION Autistic man finds voice through theater. Publisher David A. Braton Editor Nancy Raffensperger Newhoff Project Manager & Advertising Sales Sheila Kerns (319) 291-1448

Contributing Writers Emily Christensen Karen Heinselman Tina Hinz Tim Jamison Pat Kinney John Molseed Jim Offner Amie Steffen Matthew Wilde Andrew Wind Meta Hemenway-Forbes Holly Hudson

Special needs woman brews social connections in coffee shop.

Electrician seizes opportunity at every turn.

44 EQUAL OPPORTUNITY C.F. Human Rights Commission aims to end discrimination. Graphic Designers Angela Dark Amanda Hansen Contributing Photographers Rick Chase Brandon Pollock Matthew Putney Tiffany Rushing Dawn J. Sagert

A publication of The Courier, Waterloo-Cedar Falls. | 7

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Cedar Valley Inclusion



Joe Wellner

ob opportunities are still sometimes scarce for anyone. But if you happen to have an intellectual or physical disability, it might be even tougher for you to secure work. That’s where Inclusion Connection, a nonprofit based in Waverly, comes in. The organization, started at the end of 2004, has as its mission to provide opportunities to people with disabilities. And it all started in a high school. “Inclusion Connection started out of Waverly-Shell Rock High School’s Dynamics of Inclusion class,” said Kayleen Symmonds, team leader at Inclusion Connection. “The students actually initiated the idea, and that was to expand social opportunities for students with and without disabilities.” Since then, Inclusion Connection has implemented two major programs. One of those is employing adults in permanent, minimumwage jobs around the Cedar Valley, a program they’ve done for about a year, which has hired out seven people so far. Inclusion Connection’s goal is to get 12 people hired each year. Symmonds said they have partnerships with several local employers, include Hy-Vee Food Stores, Veridian Credit Union, Walmart, Hawkeye Community College and the GallagherBluedorn Performing Arts Center. More are in the works. “We talk about expansion of diversity in their company; it’s a win-win situation,” she said. | 9

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Joe Wellner was able to secure his job at Hy-Vee on University Avenue in Waterloo through the Inclusion Connection program, based in Waverly. Photos by Dawn J. Sagert

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Inclusion Connection doesn’t force the people they’re helping into certain jobs, nor does it force employers to hire a particular employee. Instead, the organization finds out the interests of its clients and simultaneously educates potential employers on ways they can integrate employees who have a disability. “It’s really individual, just like it is for anybody,” Symmonds said. “Some individuals (have) no customer contact; some (have) frequent contact and love it and are very social.” The other program at Inclusion Connection is more geared toward children. Called Together We Play, its goal is to help recreational organizations better include disabled children into their programs, be they sports or arts, and it was the program that Inclusion Connection started with in 2004. Twelve partnerships have been forged with community recreational programs through Inclusion Connection, Symmonds said. “We’ve worked one-on-one on how to include individuals, maybe in an art program, softball or baseball, Little League programs,” she said. In the future, Inclusion Connection hopes to expand its offerings to disabled persons beyond these programs to further its goal of “an ordinary life (for everyone.” One of their goals is a home ownership program. “We’re working on living and learning,” said Symmonds. “We have a really good board and we set really good goals.” On the web:

Diversity describes the rich differences that people bring to the University of Northern Iowa community. UNI celebrates the unique contributions of each person and prepares students to thrive in a diverse, global environment.

Cedar Valley Inclusion

DIVERSITY While Black Hawk County’s population is

85.6% white

according to the 2010 U.S. Census, only four of Iowa’s 99 counties are more racially diverse: Buena Vista, Crawford, Woodbury and Polk.

AFRICAN-AMERICANS Black Hawk County has the largest percentage of black or African-American residents of any county in Iowa at

8.9% according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Only 2.9% of the state’s population is black.

There are 11,640 residents of Black Hawk County who indicated they were black or African-American in 2010. That jumps to 13,368 people when including those who are black in combination with another race.

Black Hawk County’s total population dropped from

137,961 to 131,090 residents between the 1980 and 2010 U.S. Census reports. But the number of black or African-American residents grew from 8,595 to 11,640 during that period.

The city of Waterloo has the largest percentage of black or African-American residents of any other city in Iowa at.


Only 2.1%of Cedar Falls residents are black, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

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Taking teamwork to new levels At John Deere, we believe in the ongoing exchange of ideas. That’s how we’ve become a global leader, known for innovative, breakthrough technologies and respected for our inclusive, employee focused culture. As we continue to strive for diversity and inclusion in our workplace, our community and with our dealers and suppliers, we do our best to make each life we touch, a better life overall. That’s what being a great global citizen is all about. It’s the way we are - and the way we’ve always been.

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Text | Meta Hemenway-Forbes


uring the first Cedar Valley Pride Fest in August, Brenda Fite and Jennifer Waldron were among hundreds who listened intently to Zach Wahls talk about growing up with two moms. Zach became nationally known after giving a passionate speech about equality last year during a public hearing held by the Iowa House Judiciary Committee. A video of Zach’s speech against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Iowa was posted on YouTube. It’s received more than 18 million views to date, which earned him appearances on several national television programs like “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” Brenda and Jennifer think highly of Zach, but hope their 2-year-old son, Lloyd, won’t have to follow in his footsteps. “When Lloyd is Zach’s age now, I hope this won’t even be an issue,” Brenda said. The couple have made a life in the Cedar Valley and say that despite the ongoing debate about same-sex marriage, the community as a whole has welcomed their family. When Brenda, an independent software programmer, and Jennifer, an associate professor at the University of Northern Iowa, were married in 2009, their neighbors were congratulatory. Those same neighbors now look after Lloyd on occasion. The couple attend St. Timothy’s United Methodist Church, and their lives in the Cedar Valley are filled with supportive family and friends. “There are a lot of allies in the community,” Jennifer noted. “People speak out in support. We’re really doing well. Most of our experiences are civil dialogues and respectful conversations.” This summer, however, they were reminded that not everyone is so civil and respectful. Jennifer and Lloyd were playing in the front yard when a car full of people drove by and shouted homophobic slurs about the family. “It was pretty jarring,” Jennifer said. “And a little scary.” Additionally, Brenda and Jennifer would like to be the married parents of Lloyd wherever they go. Although their marriage is legal in Iowa, it’s not recognized in Ohio where Brenda’s parents live. “My parents travel here and they’re still married. We’d like to travel to Ohio and still be married. We’re not asking for special rights, just equal rights,” she said. When they do travel, the family carries copies of all of their legal documents, including proof of Lloyd’s birth and adoption. Brenda is Lloyd’s biological mother, and through a long and harried process Lloyd was legally adopted by Jennifer. Brenda Fite, left, and Jennifer Waldron pose with their son, Lloyd, in the front yard of their Cedar Falls home. Photos by Matthew Putney | 15

Cedar Valley Inclusion

“There were four months of Jen not having a legal right to Lloyd,” Brenda said. “If something had happened to me, who was going to speak for Lloyd?” Although Brenda and Jennifer have had some involvement with Why Marriage Matters, a joint campaign effort of One Iowa and Freedom to Marry, the couple say they are not activists. They will, however, not shy away from telling their family’s story. “It’s important that there are voices,” Waldron said. “Those voices have made it easier for us to live our quiet lives.” That quiet life plays out in the landscape of their home. Toys litter the corner of the living room, where Lloyd is quick to show off his dump truck and mom Brenda is quick to translate what he’s saying. A toddler swing hangs from a tree branch in the front yard. Daisy, a 7-year-old rescue dog and newest addition to the family, is, for now, skittish around newcomers. “With our family structure, most people are willing to get to know us even if they aren’t quite sure,” Jennifer said. The couple say they’re like any other parents, with the same worries, routines and responsibilities. “You’ll just find us doing dishes and giving Lloyd a bath,” Brenda said. Brenda Fite, left, and Jennifer Waldron listen intently as their 2-year-old son, Lloyd, tells of an early day adventure with a dump truck.

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Two-year-old Lloyd peers out the front window of his Cedar Falls home. His family includes moms Brenda and Jennifer, and Daisy, a 7-year-old rescue dog.

diverse minds a s d i v erse a s o ur t e c h n olo g y. From Fr om the t he planning p la lann nnin nn ing in g stage stag st age ag e of your y ou ourr project proj pr ojec oj ectt to delivery, ec d el eliv iver iv ery, er y, you will be glad you formed a relationship with the printing company who is committed to giving you their best... every day. | 17

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KEEPS TYSON HUMMING Text | Matthew Wilde


ixteen different languages and dialects are spoken at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant on the north edge of town. Officials say interpreters play a key role in keeping the company’s largest pork processing facility running smooth.

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Cedar Valley Inclusion

Tyson Fresh Meats interpreters Rosie Saucedo, left, and Emsud Pajazetovic, along with more than 25 other employees that help bridge language barriers, play an integral role in keeping the Waterloo pork processing plant running efficiently. Photo by Brandon Pollock | 19

Cedar Valley Inclusion

The plant employs 25 to 30 linguists — some working in the office and others on the production floor — to bridge language barriers that exist in the region’s most diverse workforce. Making sure people who aren’t fluent in English understand their job, safety issues and pay and benefits not only helps the plant, officials said, but the whole community. “It’s critical to be able to communicate with all team members, so good interpreters are necessary,” said Worth Sparkman, a Tyson spokesman based at the company’s headquarters in Springdale, Ark.

Hispanics make up about 20 percent of employees and Bosnians about 19 percent. Within the past two years, refugees from Burma have moved to the area. About 300 Burmese work at Tyson. Spanish interpreter Rosie Saucedo has worked at the meat processing facility for 17 years, starting when it was IBP Inc. She said the company has come a long way from the early days when only three interpreters were on staff and overcoming language barriers was difficult. After a couple of months on the production line, she was promoted. More and more workers from all

Officials say interpreters play a key role in keeping the company’s largest pork processing facility running smoothly. Tyson is the second-largest manufacturing employer in the Cedar Valley with about 2,600 employees. Plant officials say interpreters play a big role in retention rates. Longevity often means better wages, which are spent locally. An ample, skilled workforce allows Tyson to buy and process well more than 10,000 hogs a day from area farmers. A large, steady market encourages hog production, which generates millions of dollars in economic activity. In a way, the plant’s interpreters are vital to the success of the local economy, officials said. “It’s a critical job used through the whole process: hiring, training and retention. They help in every aspect,” said Jim Hook, human resources complex manager. The diversity of the workforce at Tyson is a direct reflection of the Cedar Valley. The four most-spoken languages at the plant are English, Spanish, Bosnian and Vietnamese. Employees who speak English as their first language make up the majority of workers, but not by much.


nationalities followed suit, as the company realized good communication was the key to success. Saucedo does everything from helping Spanishspeaking workers fill out medical and vacation paperwork to translating between employee and boss. Lending a helping hand to the Hispanic community feels good, she said. “It’s very rewarding,” Saucedo continued. “It’s hard to describe the joy of helping others. I see myself in their shoes.” All interpreters must pass written and oral tests and undergo an extensive training process. Tyson encourages interpreters to help employees with non work-related matters, like speaking to credit card companies or landlords on their behalf. That type of service has helped retention efforts because it shows Tyson cares, officials said. “They would rather stay here than go somewhere else,” said Emsud Pajazetovic, a 14-year employee and Bosnian interpreter.

There are

297 Black Hawk County

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residents who identified themselves as Native American or Native Alaskan in the 2010 U.S. Census, which represents about 0.2 % of the total county population. Statewide, only 0.8 % of the population is Native American.



Black Hawk County residents who identified themselves as Latino or Hispanic in the 2010 U.S. Census, which is


of the total county population. That is a 400% increase from the 1980 Census, which identified 946 Latino residents.

The percentage of Latino and Hispanic residents in Black Hawk County is below many other counties in Iowa. Black Hawk ranks




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out of


counties in the percentage of Latino population.

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Some 5.6% of Waterloo’s population is Latino or Hispanic compared to 2% in Cedar Falls. Five percent of the state’s total population is Latino.





of Black Hawk County’s Latino population indicate they are of Mexican decent. About 4% are Puerto Rican and less than 1% are Cuban.

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Jonathan Danker, at right, has found a passion in theater.

Photos by Rick Chase | 23

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t’s hard to read from facial expressions exactly how Jonathan Danker feels about most things. The 20-year-old young man is on the autism spectrum. But when he is anywhere near a theatrical stage or working with young actors through the Sturgis Youth Theatre, you can see the joy. In fact, he glows. “Acting is pretending you’re someone else. It’s fun. This is what I want to do,” he said. At 14, Jonathan attended an after-school drama workshop at Bunger Middle School for children on the autism spectrum,

taught by University of Northern Iowa theater professor Gretta Berghammer. He continued taking workshops and for the past five summers has been actively involved in Sturgis Youth Theatre, first as a performer and now as an intern assisting Berghammer. “The light just went on. He had such passion for acting. Other kids would stop and watch him. I saw a gift in Jonathan that no one else had noticed before,” said Berghammer. “There are lots of different characteristics of autism, and for some, the ability to engage in pretend-play is an outlet.” Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social impairments, cognitive impairments, communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors, according to the National Autism Association. It can range from very mild to very severe and occur in all ethnic, socioeconomic and age groups. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females. Jonathan’s parents, Steve and Julie of Waterloo, agreed their son’s involvement in theater has made him more social. “Kids with autism tend not to be very social, but he’s been able to meet other kids. He’s also become more focused. It’s been a great experience for him,” Steve explained. Julie appreciates how accepting “drama kids have been of Jonathan. We were worried at first that he’d be teased, but it’s worked out fine.” Jonathan has a twin brother, and when they were toddlers they talked to each other in their own “language,” as twins will do. At some point, Jonathan stopped talking. Autism was the diagnosis. The Dankers credit River Hills School with building Jonathan’s

Jonathan Danker, above and at right, and Sturgis Youth Artistic Director Gretta Berghammer helps with character disguises in this summer’s theater production.

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skills as a youngster. He graduated from Waterloo’s West High School. He has appeared in such Sturgis shows as “Beauty and the Beast” and “Jungle Book,” as well as high school shows. He also works backstage on Sturgis productions and serves as a line and character coach. “Jonathan is the reason why I got into working with children on the autism spectrum. He reinforced for me to play to a child’s strength,” Berghammer said. “Structure is important for autistic kids. They need to know what’s coming next. He could sit in the theater and recite the entire text — every role — in ‘Jungle Book’ by day five, so I sit in him in the theater to prompt actors with their lines. He also paints scenery and makes sure the kids are on track.” “But I don’t want to be a baby sitter,” Jonathan interjected. He writes his own comedy sketches, enjoys reading nonfiction books on American history and watching movies, and dreams about one day becoming a director. A nondegree theater student at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, he has been involved in several shows, including “Bat Boy,” and works as a stagehand and bus wrangler at the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Center. Theater has helped Jonathan become successful, Steve says. “There are so many barriers, fears about using people with autism. Jonathan’s got this great resume, so that’s frustrating.” Jonathan summed it more simply. “I don’t want autism to stop me from doing things.”

Proud of Our Community Proud of Our Diversity The many faces of our friends and neighbors make this a better place to live and work.

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2000 Heritage Way • Waverly, IA 50677 | 25




urora Torres says she still has a lot to learn about running a business. Since June last year, when she and her husband, Vicent Martinez, opened El Patron Family Mexican Restaurant, she has learned quite a bit. The business is now a centerpiece in the heart of downtown Waterloo. The restaurant was the anchor for this year’s downtown Cinco de Mayo festival. The event brought hundreds of people out to celebrate Hispanic cultures. Torres said she doesn’t see herself as one of the leaders of the Hispanic community. “But I’m not saying I wouldn’t do what I can do to help.” Torrez and Martinez decided to open a restaurant after Martinez had worked at Las Margaritas for years. “You’re working for someone else and you put all those hours in,” she said. “If you’re going to be working, you might as well work for yourself.” Martinez’s restaurant experience helped get the couple established with a menu and setup. The couple had a steep learning curve on the business side of the operation. “It’s a hard job,” Torres said. “But when it comes down to it, it’s your own and you want to do it right.” The Cinco de Mayo celebration was a rewarding experience and showed people what a big role the Hispanic community plays in the area. “A lot of people don’t realize how many Hispanics are in Waterloo,” she said. Torres said she hopes the festival will continue next year and improve. She said more vendors were expected to set up along East Fourth Street but didn’t and that left the closed-off street somewhat empty. “It was kind of a ghost town,” she said. “We can always make it better. We want to do something of our own here.” The event did help raise the profile of the restaurant, Torres said. “We still get people saying ‘I had no idea you were open,’” she said. The restaurant itself has helped maintain a Hispanic presence in downtown Waterloo. “It helps downtown to have a little diversity,” she said. “I think we need that.” Torres said her fluency in both Spanish and English has helped her succeed. She is able to communicate with all her customers and conduct the legal and financial matters of the business. However, Torres says that’s where she still has a lot to learn. “I still don’t think I’ve learned all I need to know,” she said.

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Aurora Torres at El Patron restaurant, 301 E. Fourth St., in downtown Waterloo.


Photo By Brandon Pollock

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aterloo may not have a refugee office, but for the last few months, Burmese newcomers have been able to find assistance for various needs. Zaw Min Thant at his store in downtown Waterloo. Photo by Brandon Pollock | 29

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At Lucky Brothers Asian Food Mart, people can find leads on apartments, transportation and keys to day-to-day tasks. “Most speak very little English,” said Zaw Min Thant, owner of Lucky Brothers. “We have to help each other.” Waterloo has become home to hundreds of Burmese refugees since 2010. Most move here from refugee camps in other areas of the U.S. to take jobs at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Waterloo. Thant first arrived in Iowa to work at JBS Swift & Co., a meat processor in Marshalltown. Last fall, he moved to Waterloo to open an Asian food store. “Most of the Burmese, they are not familiar with American foods,” he said. “They don’t know what to buy.” The store offers more than familiar foods, Thant said. People new to the area can learn where city services are or get help finding an apartment or a car. Sometimes help goes beyond getting information. For customers who lack transportation, Thant will deliver groceries to their homes for no extra charge. “I want to help my people,” he said. “But I don’t have much money. So I try to help in this way.” Since the 1990s, thousands of political dissidents and Karen and Chin ethnic minorities have fled Myanmar, as Burma is now called by its military government. Thant first arrived in the U.S. in May 2010 from a Burmese refugee camp in Malaysia. In Marshalltown, Thant befriended Win Kyaw, the owner of Golden Land, an Asian food store there. The two saw a new business opportunity with the continuing influx of Burmese workers into Waterloo. With Kyaw’s help, Thant opened Lucky Brothers in November last year.

The store is the first Burmese business to open since refugees began moving to Waterloo. For at least one neighboring business, it has been a welcome addition. Banjong Wachakit, owner of My Thai Cuisine, can find ingredients she needs on short notice there. Thailand and Myanmar are neighboring countries. Thant gets new vegetables shipments every Tuesday. Most customers, including Wachakit visit shortly after the shipment comes in, Thant said. He offered Wachakit fresh long beans on one of her visits on Wednesday. “No, I took three yesterday,” she said. Thant said he would like to introduce Americans to Burmese food. He said he has pointed curious customers to certain products — a bean snack and varieties of soup mixes — but added he has a hard time explaining to them what some of his products are and understanding what new American customers are looking for. “The problem is I don’t speak English fluently,” he said. “So it’s difficult to describe things to them.” Thant said he plans to expand his store to include room for people to sample or order prepared food. He has more shelving on order and is working on a new layout of the space. He said the new format might help broaden the appeal for all customers. Thant said he is seeing more Burmese who originally located to other states than Iowa moving to Waterloo. He said he wants to help them get established here and build a thriving Burmese community in the Cedar Valley. “Maybe by next year, we’ll have 1,000 people from Burma (living here),” he said.

Embracing Diversity

Building Our Workforce 30 |

Angie Torres

Photos by Brandon Pollock

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Text | Andrew Wind

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Angie Torres


hose arriving on Hawkeye Community College’s campus during the past two years who sought out the student veterans support group likely would have encountered Angie Torres. The 30-year-old Cedar Falls woman, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was one of the first people to join the college’s chapter of Student Veterans of America. She served as its president during her last semester at Hawkeye before graduating with an associate’s degree in the spring. Torres has since transferred to the University of Northern Iowa, where she is a pre-med biology major, and is serving on U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley’s advisory committee on veterans’ issues. Braley asked Torres to join the committee — which is still getting started — after she sat on a student panel he moderated at UNI early this year that looked at the state of higher education. Braley, a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, will get input from the advisory group related to potential legislation affecting veterans. “We want to address issues that are specific to veterans,” said Torres, such as efforts to ensure they can find jobs. The veterans support group started during Torres’ first semester at Hawkeye. The group, which started with five active members, helped her transition into college. Torres served in the Air Force in Texas, Nebraska, North Dakota and California from 2000 to 2005. She and her husband, Steven, have a daughter, Marion. Torres tried to sit in the back of classes and not be seen when she first arrived on campus. Being involved with Student Veterans of America “really made it easier to sit through those classes,” she said, and make friends. “It made me less afraid of going to school and being with kids who are a lot younger than me.” Torres added, “Now I only sit in the front. It drives me crazy to sit in the back.” Veterans are the fastest growing demographic at Hawkeye, said Robin Knight, the college’s veteran services coordinator. Last year, Hawkeye enrolled more than 200 veterans, many of whom made use of the college tuition benefits available through the G.I. Bill. The number of veterans at the college has increased by 180 percent since 1997, when there were 76. Between fall 2010 and February 2012, their numbers grew by 34 percent. By last spring, the Student Veterans of America chapter had more than 20 active members. It was the second-largest student group on campus after the student senate. Torres said the group has “become a small family” that does many activities together: raising money so the daughter of a veteran who was having financial difficulties could go to camp, participating in the University of Iowa Veteran’s Association Warrior Challenge 5K run, and sponsoring a bone marrow registry drive. The group also has plans to provide more direct help to veteran students. “It’s still in the works, but we want to plan to do a veteranto-veteran tutoring program and a peer mentoring program,” said Torres. The group has been important for her and others because they are often more comfortable with other veterans or members of the military. “We learn differently, we interact with people differently,” said Torres. “I think I stayed involved because it helped me become me — not just that out-of-place 30-year-old college student.” | 33

Cedar Valley Inclusion

BREWING CONNECTIONS Text | Emily Christensen

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Cedar Valley Inclusion

Em Hillman, right, and her job coach, Mari Butler, hug at Em’s Coffee Co. in Independence.

Photos by Rick Chase | 35

Cedar Valley Inclusion



t has been more than two years since Emilea Hillman first opened her namesake coffee shop in downtown Independence but she still gets excited every time a new customers walks through her front (or back) door. She gladly asks them about their day, takes their order and then takes their money. Her smile persists even as she works through the required math skills needed to count back their change. And when she does struggle, her job coach Mari Butler, or mom, Tami Fenner, are always there to help. Hillman, 24, was born with a congenital abnormality called agenesis of the corpus callosum, which means that the structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, the corpus callosum, is either partially or completely absent. “When she was born the doctors told me to put her in an institution because she would never walk or talk,” said Fenner. “Now look at her. She’s running the cash register.” Originally Hillman attempted the employment path that many young adults with mental and physical challenges set out on: she worked sorting and hanging clothes for less-than-minimum wage. But Fenner said it was quite obvious that the position wasn’t a good fit for her daughter. “She’s very people oriented and chatty. She needed to be where she could do those things,” Fenner said. The family assessed both Hillman’s and the community’s needs before finally deciding to open the coffee shop in 2009. Fenner, who co-owns the hardware store just down the block from Em’s, said she and her husband purchased the building for the shop and “set it up so that she wouldn’t have to bring in a lot of money.” They used grant money from Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services to pay for equipment, training and other business services so that Hillman could open without the added stress of a business loan. Locals donated some of the equipment. And Fenner and her husband, Gordy, gutted the building, which had previously housed an insurance agency, and prepared it for its new incarnation as a local gathering spot. Two years later the shop is still going strong, offering both hot and cold drinks, homemade pastries, ice cream and sandwiches for lunch. The Fenners have rented out office space in the building’s rear to two fledgling businesses — a massage therapist and nail salon. And the “Newsroom,” a funky room at the back of the shop decorated with metal newspaper plates from years ago, has offered community groups a place to gather and musicians a place to jam. John Klotzbach, a regular customer and editor of the local newspaper, said it’s not just the quality drinks that bring people back to Em’s. “It’s the effervescence of Em,” he said. Hillman, who admits she isn’t a coffee fan, said she does like owning her own business. “I like being the boss,” she said. The shop employs about a half dozen people, including two others with special needs. “This allows them to work face-to-face with the community. So often they are put in roles with sub-minimum wage washing

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dishes or hanging clothes,” Fenner said. “Here, they wait on customers, chat with the customers. They still have to wash the dishes and clean the toilets, but they get to do the fun stuff, too.” And Hillman definitely loves to chat, though she’s not much for answering questions. She’d rather talk about her sister, her dog and cat, or Butler. “I live right across the street from my buddy,” she said of Butler, an Independence native who frequented the coffee shop before finally applying. Butler picks Hillman up every weekday morning so the pair can open up the shop. When they aren’t serving customers the two can usually be found surfing the Internet on their laptops, reading books or dancing to the music that’s piped through the shop via Hillman’s iPod. “It’s so interesting and very rewarding. I like working with you Em,” said said, slinging her arm around her co-worker’s shoulder. “We have fun.”

Cedar Valley Inclusion


Em Hillman, left, and her job coach, Mari Butler, give change to a customer at Em’s Coffee Co. in Independence. | 37

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Jean Trainor

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Courtesy Photo

Cedar Valley Inclusion



diverse workplace opens doors to new ideas and perhaps, new customers. But that’s just part of the thinking behind Veridian Credit Union’s inclusion efforts. They want to include people from different backgrounds in their workforce, but also reach out to connect with all parts of the community and attract a diverse membership. “It just makes sense from a business standpoint. If you’re not you’re excluding part of your markets,” said Jean Trainor, Veridian’s Chief Executive Officer who now has added Chief Inclusion Officer to her title. “It’s good business as well as being the right thing to do.” Trainor’s interest in inclusion efforts stem from her own personal story. Her son, Nate, has a disability and she worked with schools on including him in experiences. To her, the experience translates well to the business world and has been a hot topic in business. “The strategy we’ve used is to make sure our workforce reflects our community and we’re not quite there yet. However, as we hire more people from diverse backgrounds then we feel we will be able to serve members from diverse backgrounds,” Trainor said. “If I come in the door and see someone who looks like myself, I’m probably going to feel more welcome than if I don’t.” Trainor said Veridian works to have diversity among the employees at each of its branches, but does work to add particular focus on locations that may be more likely to serve ethnic populations. For example, if a branch may be near a significant Latino population, they would try to include Spanish-speaking personnel at that branch.

The credit union feels that people from diverse backgrounds can help reach segments of the population that miss out on the company’s message through traditional channels. As a result, Veridian feels it can both generate new members and have a head start on recruiting new employees. With more Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, Trainor said it will be important for businesses to be able to recruit talent from as deep of a pool as possible. A year ago Veridian added a new position to the company, community inclusion manager. The position was created when the company’s former community development manager left and they decided to change the job title and description. In steps Angela Weekley to fill the new position. Most of her work has focused on two aspects. One is creating a diversity inclusion scorecard to track progress on company goals. The second is creating a supplier diversity program to develop a diverse pool of vendors to select from when making purchasing decisions at Veridian. The supplier program is just coming together, whereas the scorecard will soon be evaluating the company’s success at what it has already been trying to do. “The hardest part has been supplier diversity because it is very new to our organization,” Weekley said. “As far as diversity and inclusion it has been something that has been part of our culture for years, now we’re just taking a look at it to see what gaps we have because there will always be room for improvement.” | 39

Cedar Valley Inclusion

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Cedar Valley Inclusion


Martin Culpepper

Photos by Brandon Pollock | 41

Cedar Valley Inclusion



Martin Culpepper of Culpepper Electric has been an electrician for nearly 40 years, thanks to the help of parents of a fallen Vietnam comrade.

Text | Pat Kinney


or Vietnam veteran Martin Culpepper, the opportunity for meaninful employment, and selfemployment, for people of all walks of life is worth fighting for. For Culpepper, who has served as head of the Cedar Valley Minority Contractors Association, his career was born out of the loss of a comrade in Vietnam.

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Culpepper, of Waterloo, served with Michael Mullen of La Porte City, killed in his sleep by “friendly fire” from U.S. artillery in 1970. In fact, he helped dig the foxhole where Mullen died. And it was Culpepper who told the truth about Mullen’s death to his parents, Gene and Peg Mullen of La Porte City.

Cedar Valley Inclusion

The Mullens were so grateful they became like a second set of parents for Culpepper and paid his way through electrical contractor school. Culpepper never forgot that, and made it his task to make a way for others in the profession, just as the Mullens had done for him. “With me, it all started with Peg and Gene Mullen,� Culpepper said. “Then it was (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 288, and I talked to Don Frost, the business agent, and from there I went and applied for apprenticeship program. Then I have to thank Don Frank of Paulson Electric for getting me into an apprenticeship program.� When he went into business for himself, Nelson Electric of Cedar Rapids showed him the ins and outs of running a business and how to estimate and bid on projects. “It takes a lot to learn, but it helps when you’ve got some extremely good help,� he said. He has advocated long for businesses and state and local governments to follow the rules to ensure that a locally thinning number of minority subcontractors receive their share of the work on government-funded projects.

“We’re not a large percentage so we don’t get much attention. That’s why I like federal jobs,� where those objectives are followed more strictly. But, he said, those starting out on their own still have to do the work and prove themselves. “It’s extremely hard to get into an electrical program,� Culpepper said. “You have four or five openings, and 40 to 50 people apply, and at least 80 percent of them are qualified. You have to sell yourself when you’re competing with that many people.� The attitude and determination to succeed is born out of life experience, and, for Culpepper, that experience was his military background. “I was a military veteran. Being a Vietnam veteran, you’ve got a little different attitude,� he said. “You know what you have to do. You know what’s expected of you. And you come to win. You don’t want to be slightly better. You want to be better than the average guy. “If you get help, get an opportunity, you take advantage of it, and make sure you do everything in your power to take advantage of it,� he said.

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Cedar Valley Inclusion


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Cedar Valley Inclusion

Text | Tina Hinz


edar Falls has a Human Rights Commission, too. While the community is not as diverse as neighboring Waterloo, complaints of discrimination do happen. “Cedar Falls has kind of a reputation for being very white, middle class, Protestant,” Commissioner Susan Langan said. But that’s far from the truth. In the schools alone, the population of nonwhite students has grown during the past three to four years. Langan, who works in the district, recalled three years ago when Cedar Falls High School had two African-American senior guys. This year, the school has enrolled 60 black young men in grades 10 through 12. The University of Northern Iowa brings in international students, educators and their families from around the world, as well as speakers that strengthen multiculturalism. And Orchard Hill Elementary’s English language-learner program has 26 countries represented, according to Tracy Johns, another teacher at the high school. “Around the Olympics, they had their own Parade of Nations,” she said. “It’s not just an increase in our African-American population. It’s an increase in diversity, period.” Numbers show demographics indeed have changed slightly. In 2010, 93.4 percent of Cedar Falls residents identified as white, compared to 95.1 percent at the beginning of the decade. Over the same time period, the AfricanAmerican population increased from 1.6 to 2.1 percent; Asian or Pacific Islander from 1.6 to 2.3 percent; and Hispanic/Latino from 1.1 to 2 percent. “We have everything Waterloo has, just not as large of a percentage,” said Mayor Jon Crews, who successfully recommended the City Council establish the commission in 1974, during his second term in office. The council had rejected an attempt by Crews during his first administration to create such a group. “There were similar organizations in Waterloo, and I felt citizens of Cedar Falls should have a local group to hear violations and concerns of civil and human rights,” he said. The commission enforces discrimination laws,

investigates complaints, cooperates with state and federal agencies in law enforcement activities and educates on human rights issues. Members do not handle housing issues but refer them to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Colleen Sole serves as the city liaison for the group. “We can’t become complacent or comfortable in the fact that we don’t have continual goals to make it better yet,” original member Jim Day said. “The goal of any human rights commission is to go out of business, to live in a community where nobody gets discriminated against on protected areas.” Communities in Iowa with at least 29,000 inhabitants now are required by law to have a local human or civil rights commission. “That’s free to citizens,” Johns said. “They don’t have to convince someone necessarily to take that case and pay” an attorney bill, though taking the matter to court always is an option. “It’s a good place to start to see if you have a leg to stand on,” added Teri Lynn Jorgensen of Waterloo, a disc jockey at KCVM 93.5 FM in Cedar Falls, who was born with spina bifida and has always had difficulty walking. “There are probably a lot more cases out there that could be potential cases, but people don’t come forward. I sit on this board ... (to) speak out for the disabled community that may feel they’re falling on deaf ears. Kind of been there, done that. Fear of retaliation is huge.” Handicap-accessible housing is one area that needs work, she said. “From an educational standpoint, we just can’t live in our own little world anymore,” said Langan, who noted that kids need to be prepared to compete for jobs across the globe. Currently the volunteer commission is comprised of 11 members, each serving a threeyear term. One male opening is available, and anyone interested is encouraged to apply. One of the newest commissioners, Eashaan Vajpeyi, moved back to his native Cedar Falls after graduating from the University of Iowa College of Law in 2011. He joined the Waterloo law firm of Ball, Kirk, & Holm, which has done some past work in areas related to human rights. “I guess I had some interest there,” he said. “Just a way to get involved.” | 45

Cedar Valley Inclusion

FESTIVALS Cinco de Mayo Courtesy Photo

Annual event marking the Mexican holiday commemorating the 1862 Battle of Puebla, in which Mexican defenders defeated an invading French army. The event, which includes music, food vendors, a car show, petting zoo and children’s activities, is an opportunity to showcase Hispanic and Latino culture.

Courtesy Photos


Las Mexicanitas dancers entertain a crowd at the Cinco de Mayo celebration in May.

The event is held in and around Lincoln Park and downtown Waterloo. Admission is free.

The Union Baptist Crusaders drill team leads the Black Hawk County NAACP Peach March down Fourth Street to open Juneteenth Day festivities.

VeRonica Levett Johnson of Mississippi performs during the Juneteenth Day celebration at Gates Park.

An annual, multi-day event held in mid-June at a number of sites throughout Waterloo, Juneteenth marks the freeing of the last slaves in the United States at the end of the Civil War. The event traditionally includes music, prayer, entertainment and exhibition booths.

Cedar Valley Pridefest

Lane Rodenburgh, 9, and his mother Roby Rodenburgh, look at merchandise at a vendor tent during Cedar Valley Pridefest in August.

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Courtesy Photo

Organizers held the first Cedar Valley Pridefest in August in downtown Waterloo and hope to make it an annual event highlighting the diverse gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community of Eastern Iowa in a positive and informative manner in an effort to promote acceptance, understanding and equality. The event included entertainers, music, information, food and vendors.

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Irish Fest

Courtesy Photo


Jessie Burns plays violin as Gaelic Store performs with the Trinity Irish Dancer in Lincoln Park during August’s Iowa Irish Fest.

Iowa Irish Fest is dedicated to celebrating Irish culture in Iowa, takes place in the Lincoln Park area of downtown Waterloo, and is held annually during the first full weekend of August.

North End Arts & Music Fest

JESSE COSBY NEIGHBORHOOD CENTER The Jesse Cosby Neighborhood Center provides community-based and culturally competent services to individuals and families in need of assistance and serves as the coordinating link between the greater community and available resources. 1112 Mobile St., Waterloo 232-1793

Courtesy Photos

This annual event, held in late August, celebrates the arts and culture of Waterloo’s north end, the historical starting point for many of the ethnic groups that came to Waterloo. It was the entry point of the Italians, the Greeks, the Russians, the Germans, the African-Americans and many others.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Center is a neighborhood center that provides educational opportunities for the community. The center has a state-of-the-art computer lab that is open to students and the community. 515 Beech St., Waterloo 319-296-4440


THE ARC CEDAR VALLEY Meetings are held at 7 p.m. the fourth Thursday of every month at the Jesse Cosby Center. 112 Mobile St., Waterloo. 232-7150 The Arc’s mission is to advance the total well-being, dignity, individual potential and rights of persons with intellectual and related developmental disabilities and their families. 232-0437


SPECIAL OLYMPICS The Bosnian Cultural Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Waterloo that is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Bosnian and Bosnian-American culture, traditions and artifacts. 242-1623 Special Olympics is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition. Special Olympics offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round training and competition in 26 Olympic-type summer and winter sports. There is no charge to participate in Special Olympics. (515) 986-5520


Robert Speller, left, talks with artist Chaveevah Ferguson about her acrylic artwork at the North End Arts and Music Festival in late August.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. CENTER OF HAWKEYE COMMUNITY COLLEGE The Waterloo Commission on Human Rights is an organization committed to addressing and redressing all forms of discrimination. 620 Mulberry St. 291-4441

AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL MUSEUM AAHCM is a boxcar museum whose mission is to promote greater knowledge of the African-American community in the Cedar Valley through the collection, preservation and interpretation of the historical past. 1320 E. Fourth St.,Waterloo

NORTH STAR COMMUNITY SERVICES North Star is a private, non-profit rehabilitative services agency providing adult day services, employment services and supported community living services so individuals with disabilities are better able to live enriched lives in our communities. 3420 University Ave., Waterloo 236-0901 | 47

Growing up in Waterloo taught me about bringing together people from different backgrounds. Now, I help students from diverse backgrounds find their way at Wartburg College and in the Cedar Valley community. I’m a people person. This is me. This is what I was meant to do. Wartburg helped me discover that. — Krystal Madlock, Director of Student Diversity Programs, Wartburg College

This is my Wartburg story.

What’s yours? For more information, scan this code using a QR code reader app on your smartphone.

Leadership. Service. Faith. Learning.


EXCEPTIONAL PERSONS INC. EPI was created to facilitate and coordinate the development of local activity centers for persons with disabilities. 760 Ansborough Ave., Waterloo 232-6671

Waterloo Commission on Human Rights

BLACK HAWK CENTER FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING Centers for Independent Living are private, nonprofit corporations that provide services to maximize the independence of individuals with disabilities and the accessibility of the communities they live in. Serves Benton, Bremer, Black Hawk, Butler, Grundy counties. 312 Jefferson St., Waterloo 291-7755

IOWA DEPARTMENT FOR THE BLIND Iowa Department for the Blind offers specialized, integrated services that blind and severely visually impaired Iowans need to live independently and work competitively. Department services and programs include a library for the blind and physically handicapped, vocational rehabilitation services, independent living rehabilitation services, the adult orientation and adjustment center, business enterprises program, an aids and devices store, and public education and in-service training. Waterloo Branch 3420 University Ave., Ste. A, Waterloo 226-3352 Compiled by Holly Hudson

“Resolving housing problems and providing housing solutions for the last 46 years� | 49

Cedar Valley Inclusion

ASIAN Asian Indian residents make up the largest segment of Black Hawk County’s Asian population, with 435 residents.

Black Hawk County is home to

They are followed by Chinese (367), Korean (227), Vietnamese (208), Filipino (109) and Japanese (57). The remaining 304 Asian respondents listed “other.”


Fourteen other Iowa counties have a higher percentage of Asian residents than Black Hawk. Story County’s

residents who identified themselves as Asian or Asian in combination with another race, based on the 2010 U.S. That is 1.7% of the population. Only 1.3% indicated they were Asian alone.



Asian population leads the state.

Waterloo’s population of Asian or mixed-race Asian residents is 1.5% of the total population, while Cedar Falls is 2.8%. Iowa is 2.1% Asian, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.


Cedar Valley Diversity & Inclusion Partnership Strengthening Cedar Valley Business through the promotion of effective diversity and inclusion practices.

Summit • Multicultural Receptions • Webinars • Awards

Cedar Valley Diversity & Inclusion Partnership Awards

for outstanding contribution by a business or organization for leadership in creating and strengthening an environment of diversity and inclusion in the workplace culture, business practices and in the community. Awards will be presented each year at the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Annual Celebration. 2013 Nomination Deadline October 31, 2012.

Annual Celebration March 7, 2013

Find out more at 50 |

Inclusion is a belief that everyone The staff is always willing to assist me and make me feel welcome. Hope - Veridian member since 2007

Veridian treats you right. They treat you with respect. Alan - Veridian member since 1985

I know that Veridian is doing everything they can to meet my needs. Megan - Veridian member since 2002 Megan ÂŽ

At Veridian Credit Union , we believe inclusion happens when everyone feels welcome and valued. Our goal is to create an environment


where members and employees can be themselves and feel accepted. See how members experience this belief and learn more about Veridian’s inclusion efforts by visiting



Cedar Valley Inclusion

Right Where Yo u Live.

Our associates reflect the diverse population we serve. When patients and their family members come to Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, they put their lives in our hands. That’s why it’s critical they receive the best care possible from caregivers who understand their particular needs. Our workforce has evolved to reflect the diversity of our patients. Diversity encompasses all the ways in which human beings are both similar and different. By employing associates who understand the health beliefs and practices prevalent in the community, we can help patients feel welcome and better understood while receiving the highest quality health care delivered with compassion and care. At Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, we utilize our “likenesses” and “differences” to continuously improve services, strengthen programs and increase community participation. We have talented and skilled associates from diverse backgrounds who embrace the needs of our patients.

Covenant Clinic

Covenant Medical Center

Mercy Hospital

Sartori Memorial Hospital