Prepare for Impact

The vision, insight, planning, and collaboration that initiatives require allows for everyone to look at the big picture with the hope of finding a solution to create a transformational impact. Instead of a wait and see approach, initiatives are proactive and involve ongoing conversations with community leaders and key partner organizations as well as data-driven research to lead change. With initiatives we ask, what is currently available? What has worked in other similar-sized cities? Who needs to be at the table for this discussion? What is the most efficient, effective way to do this? The Foundation’s previous strategic plan called for us to serve as a community convener and a leader. Initiatives allow us to fulfill that role. Here are some key initiatives from 2017.

scroll to discover

Raise Me To Read

Being read to from birth can route a path to Kindergarten readiness. Kindergarten readiness can determine reading ability in third grade. Third-grade reading ability can predict high school graduation rate. In Pottawattamie County, one out of three students can’t read proficiently. This initiative emphasizes the importance of early literacy through free book distribution, story walks and the promotion of attendance and summer learning opportunities.

Upcoming Events

River's Edge

A catalyst from the beginning, Iowa West believes in the vast potential of the Missouri Riverfront. By committing $22 million over the past 15 years to develop the Great Lawn at Tom Hanafan Park, incorporate works of public art like “Big Mo” and “Rays,” and continually support events such as Loessfest, River’s Edge has become the place to be. Investments including the Community Pavilion, surrounding water features and 700 + stall parking garage will continue to draw thousands of people to the banks of the river each year. Look for IWF headquarters to relocate to the riverfront in early 2019.

Pottawattamie Arts, Culture & Entertainment

A $27 million Arts & Culture Center? In Council Bluffs? That’s right. The largest gift in Iowa West’s history helped make this a reality. With a mission to showcase Council Bluffs’ history, provide high-quality performance space, and strengthen arts education offerings, PACE will be transformational for Pottawattamie County. Construction is underway with plans to open in 2019.

PACE Website

International Baccalaureate Middle Schools

Why? How? This inquiry-based style of learning is all about questioning and understanding the way the world works. After launching with the help of Iowa West Foundation funding at College View and Carter Lake elementary schools, now the initiative is expanding into Council Bluffs Community School Districts’ Middle Schools: Wilson and Kirn. Students are encouraged to keep an open mind, take risks, and express their ideas.

MAC Area

With an initial multi-million dollar investment in the Mid-America Center, Iowa West Foundation leadership is committed to the success of this area. With a package that included funding for the construction of the Iowa West Field House (separate entry on the Placemaking page) and an agreement with the Courtyard by Marriott hotel (that recently opened for business), this development is resulting in packed parking lots. More retail and restaurants are on the horizon with improved signage for the area coming soon.

Pottawattamie Promise

More than just a scholarship. This initiative funds full tuition for students who qualify from FIVE Pottawattamie County high schools on their quest for a better life. Support starts in high school and continues with intrusive counseling at Iowa Western Community College. From there, a diploma, credential or certificate helps lead to a living wage in a fulfilling career.

Scholars Video

West Broadway

A city’s main thoroughfare serves as the first impression of the community. By funding $9 million for aesthetic improvements to this multi-million dollar construction project on West Broadway, what could’ve been just a road will be a memorable gateway into Council Bluffs. The beautification will not only impress tourists but also make residents proud.

Iowa West Field House

These eight hardwood basketball courts that convert to 12 volleyball courts are an impressive sight to behold. Access for southwest Iowa sports teams was priority one when the facility opened its doors in 2017. One year later, players in the COBRA and the YMCA leagues have racked up more than 3,800 hours of free court time, saving them more than $133,000. The facility is also driving economic development in the MAC area.

Iowa West Field House


This scholarship program administered by the Community Education Foundation is designed to assist parents in accessing post-secondary education. Today, more than 200 Pottawattamie County residents have received an Associate’s and/or a Bachelor’s degree as a result of the STARS program.