MFLCares Gives Back to HopeSpoke

Midwest Family Lending’s Jean Holman presents, Jenny Cardwell,
development director of HopeSpoke, a $2020 donation through our MFLCares program

HopeSpoke is our last featured charity of 2020 and has received a $2020 donation through our MFLCares program. The funds will be used in support of the non-profit’s mission of inspiring healthy futures for children and their families through comprehensive behavioral and mental health services.

“HopeSpoke helps kids who might otherwise fall through the cracks and not get the help they need,” says Jean Holman, one of our licensed mortgage loan originators. “And, like I always say, we can all use a little help sometimes.”

MFLCares logo

Through MFLCares, Midwest Family Lending employees nominate and select one cause a month to support that is dear to their hearts. Jean nominated HopeSpoke after one of her customers had told her about the local non-profit and its mission.

“We’re grateful to Jean for choosing HopeSpoke to receive this generous gift, which will ensure HopeSpoke has the crucial resources to provide outpatient services to all who need them, regardless of their ability to pay for services,” says Katie McLeese Stephenson, MSW, executive director of HopeSpoke.

About HopeSpoke

HopeSpoke helps children and families heal, be courageous and find strength to live well by providing them with the skills to feel empowered and be successful. The local non-profit has a long history of reaching out with expert care to make the community a better place, full of happy, hopeful and healthy families.

The organization was founded under the vision of the Junior League of Lincoln and the Community Chest (the precursor to United Way) in 1949 as Child Guidance Center. It was formed to meet the community’s needs after the Child Guidance national movement identified how treatment for children’s mental health services needed to be different from that of adults.

HopeSpoke inspires healthy futures for children and their families through comprehensive behavioral and mental health services. Its philosophy is to understand the unique qualities and experiences of those it serves as influenced by emotional and cognitive development, family situation, social environment and personality. Then through dynamic, interactive therapy, its team works to examine problems while building on strengths.

How You Can Help


Due to COVID-19, HopeSpoke’s committee members are looking into alternative options for holding its annual spring event. But donations are still needed now. Community support helps the team serve 1,800 individuals of all ages annually.

About MFLCares

MFLCares is a program of Midwest Family Lending, a local mortgage company committed to creating customers for life and to community impact. Check out our calendar to learn more about the great causes MFLCares has supported this year.

The struggle is real. Mental health issues and trauma are hard for anyone to overcome, especially if you’re a kid. And the pandemic has only increased the need for support. When things feel hopeless, HopeSpoke helps families find confidence.

Katie McLeese Stephenson, MSW, Executive Director of HopeSpoke
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Merry Christmas! How our “Elves” #SpreadCheer this season! 🎁

In the understatement of the year, 2020 has been incredibly difficult for many. Although the need’s overwhelming, our employees wanted to help end it on a positive note and make the Christmas season a bit brighter.

Enter #SpreadCheer

Each employee selected an organization or family they’d like to support in a project we called “SpreadCheer”. We hope you’ve joined us in celebrating the 25 days of Christmas by watching as we’ve announced the recipients of our 25 employees’ gifts of $1000 to 25 people and organizations in need.

ICYMI, here’s a recap!

We encourage you to check them out! And we would love it if you would share their stories too. Though we know monetary donations are important and appreciated, we truly believe the long-term benefit is growing the awareness of these incredible organizations and people.

Day 1 🎁 Eric Schepers | Adel Good Samaritan Food Pantry

The pantry serves central Iowa and offers a Backpack program to feed children in five local schools who would otherwise go hungry. Each week, 125-150 meals are distributed through the program.

“As a Backpack program volunteer, I’ve heard firsthand the stories of how important these meals are to food-insecure children in our community,” Eric says. “No one wants children in our community to go hungry. When I first started to help, I wasn’t aware of how large of a need there was — and that need is greater today than it has ever been. That’s why it is so important to continue to support this wonderful program.”

According to Feeding America, a network of nationwide food pantries, 1 in 7 Iowa children struggles with hunger. The need for assistance is growing as a result of the pandemic.

Day 2 🎁 Derek Draisey | University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital

Through the use of play and other forms of communication, UIHC’s Child Life specialists help children and families cope with hospitalization and medical treatment. Child Life staff are positive, kind, gentle and understanding souls who provide an invaluable service to families facing pediatric illness — and that care wraps around the entire family. Sibling support group is a program that focuses on ensuring siblings of patients are also included. The team answers siblings’ questions about the patient’s care and fills some of the downtime by playing games and other fun activities with them. The team’s care made an impact on the Draisey family when Derek’s son Bryce was hospitalized several times in the span of two years.

“UIHC’s Child Life team is a wonderful group of people who spend their days making a very difficult time a little less scary for pediatric patients and their families,” Derek says. “They brought us all comfort and even joy during a very difficult time. Even after all these years, we still consider the Child Life staff family.”

Day 3 🎁 Jackie Ezell |The Foxhoven family of Des Moines

As her son’s oldest friend from elementary school, Jackie has developed a close relationship with PJ and his wife Becky, whom she says are “the kindest, most giving couple I know”. And she’s also seen the impact their daughter Freya’s medical needs have had on the family.

Freya was born 9 weeks early. Umbilical complications resulted in lack of oxygen for nearly 10 minutes and left their firstborn fighting for her life. After months of care in the hospital, they were finally able to bring her home. But the resulting complications, medical bills and a job loss have taken a toll on this sweet family. Obtaining specialized equipment to help Freya with her special needs and development remains an ongoing concern.

“Needless to say, the past couple of years have been extremely stressful for this family,” Jackie says. “I can’t imagine the strain put on them both, but they remain positive and keep fighting and finding ways to get Freya the help she needs.”

Day 4 🎁 Mike Draisey | Angels for Sam

Angels for Sam supports local families who have been impacted financially by illness, injury or bereavement. Having a niece and nephew who have battled life-threatening diseases at a young age, Mike is familiar with some of the struggles families of children with health issues are faced with. While the children endure the illness, the families that are faced with the reality and emotions of having a sick child along with the accompanying financial hardship. Through fundraising efforts and donations and a recipient referral process, Angels for Sam is able to help some of these families in need.

“Families facing this shouldn’t have to be concerned about financial hardship on top of everything,” Mike says. “I’m thankful to be able to support Angels for Sam in its effort to “pay it forward”.

Day 5 🎁 Kyle Guldenpfennig a.k.a #TallMoneyMan | An Altoona Family

Altoona residents Cassey and Kodi have five children ages 3-13 and have been working multiple jobs to try to make ends meet.

“After being notified of this opportunity to bless someone in our community, I called the pastor at my church, knowing he would be the best place to start,” Kyle says. “A local family came to mind immediately. When Pastor Greg called them about this gift, Cassey was brought to tears of joy. My pastor said it was the best phone call he’s gotten to be a part of in a long time.”

Day 6 🎁  Molly M Maguire | Van Meter Athletic Booster Club’s “Bulldog Boost”

“This is the BEST gift I have EVER received from an employer!” Molly says. “2020 has been a year like no other. I’m grateful that I can give back to a community that supports my kids while I’m working from home. As Coretta Scott King so wisely said, ‘The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members’.”

The Van Meter Athletic Booster Club is a non-profit organization committed to fundraising, volunteerism and community engagement. “Bulldog Boost” is a program the club recently launched to help and encourage local families in need. The Club is working with the school nurse, counselors, administrators and the Van Meter United Methodist Churchto identify local individuals and families who could use an extra “boost” this holiday season. 100% of funds raised will be distributed to Van Meter Bulldog fans in need.

Day 7 🎁 Sara J. Fuller – Midwest Family Lending | Patriot Guard Riders of Iowa

The Patriot Guard Riders is a volunteer organization that ensures dignity and respect at memorial services honoring fallen military heroes, first responders and honorably discharged veterans. The group has an unwavering respect for those who risk their lives for America’ freedom and security. The riders escort and “stand for those who stood for us” with flags in hand lining cemeteries and churches to honor and protect families of the fallen. They volunteer their time, gas, lodging, etc. Donations are used to provide plaques, flags, teddy bears, challenge coins and police officer coins in recognition of service and sacrifice. The riders donate any remaining funds at the end of the year to various fallen solider/wounded warrior programs.

“I’ve personally seen the passion Jim Clark (state captain for Patriot Guard Rider’s Iowa Chapter, pictured center) and Bill Murphy (the chapter’s chaplain, pictured right) share for the group’s mission,” Sara says. “Jim’s attended more than 1,000 missions and Bill has been part of about 100, along with his whole family. Our first responders and military are the first call we make when we are in trouble, and they deserve protection and peace of mind as they lay their loved ones to rest.”

Patriot Guard Riders only attend services to which they’ve been invited by the family. You don’t have to be a veteran to join. You don’t have to ride a bike to join. You only need respect and the desire to show it.

Day 8 🎁 Linden Heikens | The Grav Family of Dell Rapids, South Dakota

Brianna grew up a few doors down from the Heikens and was their go-to babysitter whenever they needed an extra hand while raising their family. Now married with a family of her own, the Heikens consider Brianna and the Gravs part of their extended family. As such, they’ve seen the toll the past four years have been on the Gravs.

Saige and her twin, Sawyer, were born on March 11, 2016. Saige entered the world with two life-threatening birth defects — esophageal atresia (her esophagus and stomach weren’t connected) and tracheoesophageal fistula (an abnormal connection between her esophagus and windpipe). As a result, she’s endured more than 22 surgeries, numerous ambulance rides, lengthy hospitals stays, daily treatments and ongoing doctor appointments. She’s been in the hospital more than she’s been home. And, unfortunately, this little warrior’s challenges have not ended.

“In the past four years the Gravs have experienced extended separations, financial challenges, and more emotional and heartbreaking strains than most would experience in a lifetime,” Linden says. “I wanted to help ease the burden for this resilient and steadfast family and to pass on some Christmas cheer to them this year.”

Day 9 🎁 Kim Hinrichsen “The Mortgage Lady” | Food Bank of Siouxland, Inc.

Leading Siouxland in the fight against hunger, the local food bank is the distribution center to more than 110 agencies in northwestern Iowa and northeastern Nebraska. It’s also home to three additional programs — The Mobile Pantry Program: Food to You, the Mobile School Pantry Program: Food for Families, and the BackPack Program: Food for Kids. The latter’s what drew Kim to the cause to which she has personally donated for several years.

“The thought of anyone going hungry much less a child was just not acceptable,” Kim says. “This year has been an especially difficult year with the pandemic that has left so many struggling to provide food for their families. It’s also the season of giving; I’m reminded of just how blessed my family and I are and hope that this contribution can help as many people as possible.”

“We are experiencing extraordinary times right now. However, in the midst of all the challenges and concerns, one thing remains constant: the need to eat,” says Valerie Petersen, Director Of Development for the Food Bank of Siouxland. “In addition to those who were food insecure before we heard the term ‘COVID-19’, now countless individuals and families who are no longer certain of their paychecks need our help as well.”

In FY20 Food Bank of Siouxland distributed more than 3.5 million pounds of food — a 35% increase over FY19. Prior to the pandemic, its monthly distribution increase was 10% on average, which is considered normal. Between March and September its monthly increases ranged between 38% and 73%. Monetary and physical donations (preferably shelf-stable items) and volunteers are needed to help meet this. Another way to help is the 17th Annual Empty Bowls Fundraiser and Hunger Awareness event, which will be held virtually this year on Friday, February 5.

Day 10 🎁 Eric Smith | The Little Al Foundation

The Little Al Foundation helps families who have to travel for their children to receive medical treatment by providing dining, gas, groceries, lodging and other gift cards. The Foundation’s goal is to alleviate some of the financial burden not covered by insurance. Ryan and Holly Miller started the foundation in memory of their son Alan who died in 2005. The Little Al Foundation is dedicated to helping families in Iowa stay together while going through some of the toughest things they will face.

“The Foundation supported some friends of mine when their daughter needed heart surgery and helped to take a lot of stress out of their hard journey,” Eric says. “It’s a great cause that supports families facing the unimaginable in their time of need.”

Day 11 🎁 Katie McIntyre | Camp Quaker Heights (CQH)

Katie grew up attending the camp each summer and spent 13 summers volunteering there as a counselor, music leader and grounds/kitchen volunteer. The camp had such an impact on her that it’s even where she got married! And each year her family rents one of its retreat cabins to get away and enjoy the great outdoors together.

“Camp Quaker Heights has meant so much to me, and knowing it was greatly needed this year, I wanted to do more to help,” Katie says. “I feel so blessed to share this gift.”

Through various camps and retreats, church camps provide a positive environment for kids and adults alike. And the foundations made at camp last a lifetime. “Surrounded by nature and unplugged from today’s distractions, camps provide what many call a ‘thin spot’— a place to connect to what matters most. We all need that now more than ever,” Katie says.

Unfortunately, church camps across the county have been hit hard by COVID-19, causing some to have to close their doors permanently. Summer camps typically account for nearly 60% of CQH’s annual budget. It was only able to host camps for two weekends last summer — 10% its typical number of campers.

“We’re so grateful for this gift to help with our operating costs,” says Chip Daleske, CQH camp administrator. “It’s been a tough year with everything life has thrown at us. Because our income was affected so much this year, we’re extra thankful for the individuals and churches that have stepped up their giving this year — above and beyond!”

Looking to get away somewhere safe and spend time with those you love? CQH’s retreat center and cabins are available to rent year round. Its property borders Pine Lake State Park and the Iowa River—great for hiking, exploring and unwinding!

Day 12 🎁 Troy Engel Angels Among Us

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, a family’s life as they know it comes to an abrupt halt. Unfortunately, their monthly expenses do not. That’s where Angels Among Us comes in. The charity provides financial and emotional support to families battling pediatric cancer in Nebraska. Prior to Troy being born, his parents had a son who died of leukemia at the age of 5. He knows how difficult the experience was on his parents, and it inspired him to personally donate to this Omaha-based organization each year.

“When you read and see what these children are going through and how hard it is on them and their families, it pulls at your heartstrings,” Troy says. “It’s important to me to help this local charity financially to carry out its great mission.”

Day 13 🎁 Marti Myer | Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Department

The Department proudly provides fire and EMS protection for 36 square miles in Warren County Iowa. As an all-volunteer fire & rescue department, volunteers lose sleep, miss family functions and are currently putting themselves at a higher risk with COVID-19 to protect others in their community. They rely on donations but, unfortunately, weren’t able to hold their annual fundraiser this year due to the pandemic.

The group is “near and dear” to Marti’s heart, as her husband has served as a local volunteer firefighter for the past 13 years.

“I know this year has been tough on the fire department,” Marti says. “They’re passionate about helping others and giving back to our community — even in the middle of the night when the rest of us our sleeping. And they deserve our support.”

Day 14 🎁 | Stacy Wegman | FreeStore

The FreeStore is a furniture bank run by volunteers that supports children and families who’ve escaped domestic violence situations and those suffering from other forms of trauma including natural disaster and criminal assault. It provides donated furniture and household goods to help these families start over in safe environments.

“These families often have nowhere to turn and nowhere to call home,” Stacy says. “The FreeStore serves so many families who literally have nothing. I can’t imagine being in that position, especially with children in tow.”

Stacy learned about the charity through a board member and has collected donations through her church the last several years. She says they’re always in need of small kitchen appliances, bedding, furniture, other household goods and monetary gifts. Last year the FreeStore served 336 families, including 390 adults and 549 children, with 274 tons of furniture and other household goods. COVID-19 has been challenging for the charity, as many of its volunteers are older than 70. The warehouse had to shut down in March and reopened in May with protocols to protect clients, volunteers and donors.

Day 15 🎁 | Mark Engleman| Crisis Intervention & Advocacy Center

The Center supports survivors to unite communities to promote social change. Crisis Intervention includes support, listening, information, options and assessing danger. Advocacy includes exploring alternatives, formulating action plans and providing follow up and resources. The center’s services are free, voluntary, confidential and available to all without discrimination. Trained advocates provide acute crisis response and long-term advocacy services.

Mark learned about the center through our #MFLCares program and has also since heard about the impact of the organization’s services directly from a survivor. “Crisis Intervention & Advocacy Center is a wonderful and much needed service, supporting those in our communities facing the worst of what humans can do to one another,” Mark says. “I’m hopeful our support of the center will shed light on what a great organization it is and will encourage others to support it as well.”

“When a business like Midwest Family Lending takes the time to hear our mission, it’s also coming alongside us to see violence and oppression in its own communities and doing something about it,” says Taylor Sullivan, Crisis Intervention & Advocacy Center’s communication & technology coordinator. “Thank you for choosing to donate and support our mission to make our communities stronger and safer.”

Day 16 🎁 Carey Barber | The Williamson family of Adel

Cole Williamson is a senior at Adel DeSoto Minburn Community School District battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects children and young adults. Cole was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma in September and is now undergoing chemotherapy. His treatment plan throughout the course of the next year will also require radiation and surgery. Despite all of this, Cole maintains a positive attitude and loves being part of his high school football and baseball teams.

Cole played travel baseball with Carey’s son on a team her husband coached for about 7 years. And, as anyone who’s had children in competitive sports knows, through all the games, traveling tournaments, team meals and hotel stays teammates and their families become part of your own.

“You laugh together, cry together and take care of each other,” Carey says. “Cole’s family is splitting their time with work and hospital stays, which can be challenging. This gift will hopefully ease a little bit of the burden they have right now.”

Day 17 🎁 | Curvin Larson | Bidwell Riverside Center

The Bidwell Riverside Center supports Des Moines’ Southside community through its Food & Clothing Pantry and Child Development Center. Curvin learned about the center through its partnership with Des Moines Area Religious Council, where he’s volunteered through the nonprofit’s Meals from the Market program, collecting donations from patrons and vendors at the Downtown Farmers Market. The donations, largely of fresh produce, are then delivered to DMARC’s network of local pantries, including Bidwell Riverside Center.

“When the Farmers Market couldn’t be held as it traditionally is, I thought of all the boxes and truckloads of fresh food that never made their way to local food pantries as a result,” Curvin says. “With 2020 being so difficult for so many, I find comfort and hope knowing there are places like the Bidwell Riverside Center in my community to help.”

Day 18 🎁 Josh Brandt | Warrior Peyton

Peyton is a 5th grader at Lakewood Elementaryin Norwalk battling stage 3 ovarian cancer.

“I can’t imagine one of my kids going through this,” Josh says. “I wanted to help out a local family that was dealing with a tough time. So I contacted our school system, where Mr. Larson connected me with the Currents.”

Peyton had a 5 lb. 2 oz tumor removed from her abdomen in October, which the surgeon said was a miracle. She’s currently on her second round of chemo, five days a week, with two more rounds to follow. She will have extensive hospital bills and out-of-pocket costs will likely exceed $24K just in the next 6 months. She’ll then transition to weekly, two-hour blood tests for the next two years. Due to her condition and COVID-19, Peyton’s been completely isolated from her friends. This gift will help her family to purchase a computer so she may play games and communicate with her family and friends. But it doesn’t end there….

Shortly after Josh spoke with Peyton’s father about his gift, Mr. Current called back with an incredible question — “I’ve talked with my wife, and we’re very appreciative of the gift you’re going to give to help us through Christmas and make it special. But I was wondering if we could give half of the money to another family that’s going through the same thing as Peyton? They have 9 kids, and it’s a little rough for them at this time.”

The Currents are an inspiring example of what our #SpreadCheer movement is all about – paying it forward.

Day 19 🎁 Jason Pleggenkuhle | The Johansen family of Urbandale

Because our mission’s to create customers for life, our customers become an extension of our “family” at Midwest Family Lending. And that’s how Jason got to know the Johansens five years ago…

“Life hasn’t been easy for the Johansens; Kendra and John are the definition of selfless love,” Jason says. “I feel like I become a better person just by being around them.”

Jennifer, the Johansens’ only child, was born premature and not breathing with the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around her neck. As a result, she requires 24/7 care, and her parents have spent the last 33 years “guessing” her needs/wishes. At age 5, surgeons inserted a shunt to relieve pressure caused by a cyst at the base of her brain, which has required many revision surgeries. The one in 2005 left her unable to walk. She’s crossed death’s door many times, and John had to take early retirement to help care for her when Medicaid ran out. But he says it’s all been part of a greater plan.

“Jennifer’s life and spirit has been all about teaching others — mostly how to love and accept each other. We know our three lives have definitely been blessed,” John says. “We continue to take one day at a time. We hope this little glimpse into our lives will inspire each of you to experience the Miracle this season’s all about.”

Day 20 🎁 | Ben Kugler | Scottish Rite Omaha’s Foundation

“As a member for several years, I’ve seen firsthand how donations through the Foundation make a difference in people’s lives,” Ben says. “This organization has been committed to helping people on a day-to-day basis and continues to try to expand and improve on making our community a better place.”

Philanthropy has been Omaha’s Scottish Rite Masonic’s hallmark of the since its formation in 1867 — just three months after Nebraska became a state. The foundation gives more than $100,000 to the community each year. Since 1992, it has underwritten $28,000 annually in merit and need-based scholarships for University of Nebraska at Omaha students. Omaha’s Scottish Rite’s signature focus is RiteCare Speech and Language therapy, to which the Masons have donated more than $25 million since 1975. RiteCare Speech and Language Clinic is located at the UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute. Speech therapy is also offered to Nebraska children through clinic locations in Omaha, Lincoln, Hastings and Kearney, as well as to children across the state through telepractice. In the past year, 1,035 children received 5,000 therapy sessions. Therapy’s provided to children on the Autism Spectrum, those with Down Syndrome, Aphasia, Apraxia, feeding and swallowing disorders, and a host of speech disorders. And services are provided to families without regard to their ability to pay. The Scottish Rite Foundation of Omaha also seeks to give back to the community through financial support each year to the Omaha Home for Boys, the Masonic-Eastern Star Home for Children, the Fatherhood-Family Initiative, as well as the Meyer Foundation for Disabilities.

Day 21 🎁 Charlie Chedester | Central Iowa FCA’s Training Table program

Training Table rescues and redistributes perishable food to some of the most diverse and at-risk student populations in Des Moines — primarily through urban high schools and area nonprofits. Several years ago, FCA asked the coaches in Des Moines’ five urban high schools how the ministry could best serve them and their student athletes. The resounding, surprising and unanimous response was “feed our kids”.  Urban coaches were seeing too many hungry students from food-insecure homes. The coaches knew their athletes were at a disadvantage in competing because many lacked the nutrition to give their best physically and mentally in practice and in games, let alone perform well in the classroom. In an effort to help, FCA partnered with QuikTrip to rescue perishable food the stores could no longer sell, but that had not reached its expiration date. In that past 5 ½ years, Training Table has rescued more than 570,000 food items valued in excess of $1.9 million dollars redistributed at no cost to student athletes representing 21 different sports in 5 schools, as well as other at-risk youth in the community. Thanks to local nonprofits, students also get access to this food even during non-school days and the summer!

Charlie’s $1,000 gift will be used to fund the maintenance needed for food distribution this winter. He heard about the program through Contributors Breakfast Club, which was started in 1987 for members to connect with peers and the community through charitable work, reciprocity and social activities.

“Three simultaneous wins makes for an extremely impactful mission — kids are fed, companies are engaging with the communities they serve, and food waste is drastically eliminated,” Charlie says. “I also love that a (then) newly retired CEO came up with the idea, proving that some of life’s best ideas don’t have an age expiration.”

Day 22 🎁Jean Holman | Fresh Start Home

Fresh Start is a transitional shelter located in Lincoln that empowers homeless women to change their lives by recognizing and utilizing their strengths to overcome barriers to self-sufficiency. Fresh Start is more than a shelter — it’s a goals program that supports women who are working diligently to improve their lives. Women may stay in the shelter up to 1 year followed by community support up to 2 years with monthly visits and quarterly food baskets provided. Fresh Start has served more than 1,500 women throughout the last 30 years.

A friend introduced Jean to the charity, and she was moved to take action after seeing the videos about what they do. “I wanted to help women struggling in our community to get back on their feet.” Jean says. “We all need a little help sometime.”

Day 23 🎁 Hannah Fuller | 10 Des Moines Families in Need

Hannah selected a drive to provide Christmas gifts and food to families in need in the Des Moines area. Ten sponsors have purchased gifts, food, etc. to provide joy and hope to 10 families from homes in Oakridge and the Boys & Girls Club of Central Iowa.

Hannah learned of the project after her family had been requested to be a sponsor through connections at @Dowling Catholic High School. “Usually companies are sponsors for families, but with many people working from home because of COVID, it was harder to find corporate sponsors,” Hannah says. “I used to do something very similar when I was in high school, called Christmas Baskets. It’s a great way to give back and help others have an amazing Christmas, filled with the things they’ve always wanted.”

This project stems from former Drake University basketball player Jeff Hill’s Future All-American Basketball Camp. Jeff wanted to bless these families at Christmas. Heidi Grace with @Grace Label Inc. and Mary Jo Hardy with @Skeffingtons have helped organize sponsors to provide for families in need over the years. Hannah’s gift will provide monetary gifts to all 10 families and ensure they’re taken care of this holiday season.

Day 24 🎁 Aaron Peck | Process Skateboard Ministry |

Process Skateboard Ministry uses skateboarding as a tool to teach, mentor and disciple youth. Its goal is to provide a safe, sober, year-round facility for skaters to do what they love in an encouraging, fun and positive environment. The nonprofit runs the only indoor skate facility in southern Colorado (G&P Indoor Skatepark) and now had a second location in Rapid City, South Dakota (G&P SD). Process Skateboard Ministry is a youth outreach program through Aaron’s church.

Day 25 🎁 Justin Roche | Light the Night |Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for The Quinn family of Omaha, NE

“My wife and I have known Mike for over 20 years,” Justin says. “He’s beat this disease, and we want to help find a cure for anyone else who comes down with this.” 

Bonus! Day 26 🎁 Chuck & Jean West | The Dawes Family of Adel/LD Strong

Chuck, our president, and his wife Jean have so enjoyed learning about all of the awesome people and organizations selected, they wanted to kick off the New Year by adding one more recipient!

Laurie Dawes is a wife, mom, daughter, sister and nurse who lives in the Wests’ community of Adel and is in the midst of battling ALS. She’s spent many years caring for others, and now it’s time for the community to come together to support her in her time of need.

“We’ve selected the Dawes family because we want them to know they have a community of support behind them as Laurie battles ALS,” Jean says. “The medical bills, along with the living accommodations that come with ALS can become financial burdens on any family. But this burden doesn’t even compare to the emotional strains of living with the disease. We hope sharing their story spreads awareness of their situation and lifts them up with a little donation and a lot of love and prayers. Laurie has brightened many a room with her huge smile. We hope this will also bring a smile to her face!”

Whether it’s to these awesome causes or an equally deserving party, we encourage you to #SpreadCheer into 2021!

I’d like to thank these amazing families and organizations for sharing their stories with us this Christmas season. The daily examples of compassion, sacrifice and perseverance have been truly inspirational.  We are surrounded by communities made up of incredible people, and I‘ve been reminded of that each day this month.

~Chuck West, President, Midwest Family Lending

Merry Christmas from all of us at Midwest Family Lending! May your days be Merry & Bright! 🎄

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Celebrate the 25 Days of Christmas with Us!

“For it is in giving that we receive.” –St. Francis of Assisi

In the understatement of the year, 2020 has been incredibly difficult for many. But the year’s not over and neither is the chance for all of us to come together to do what we can to help end it on a positive note.

Enter #SpreadCheer

Although the need is overwhelming, Midwest Family Lending’s employees are hoping to make the Christmas season a bit brighter for at least a few.
Each employee has selected an organization or family they would like to help out this month in a project we’re calling “SpreadCheer”.

Starting December 1, we’re celebrating the 25 days of Christmas by donating $1000 daily to families and organizations important to our 25 employees and sharing their amazing stories!

Please watch our Facebook page daily, where we’ll announce each recipient and share their story. We encourage you to check them out, and learn about these amazing groups and people! And we would love it if you would share their stories too. Though we know monetary donations are important and appreciated, we truly believe the long-term benefit is growing the awareness of these incredible organizations and people.

Whether it’s to one of these awesome causes or an equally deserving party, we encourage you to #SpreadCheer during this Christmas season!

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From all of us at Midwest Family Lending, Happy Thanksgiving!

We are Thankful for YOU!

Though we may not be observing our same, time-honored traditions, what we’re celebrating remains the same — giving thanks.

On this and every day, we are beyond grateful for the opportunity to help our customers achieve the dream of home ownership. All of us at Midwest Family Lending are truly grateful to have you as part of our Midwest Family Lending family.

Despite the challenges this year has brought, we all have a lot to be thankful for. Though we may not be observing our same, time-honored traditions, what we’re celebrating remains the same — giving thanks.

Looking for some alternative ideas?

Here are some of our team members’ fave traditions:

  • Mom’s homemade pumpkin pie is my favorite. But it has to have real whipped cream with enough sugar to have a little “gritty” texture. No Cool Whip for this guy; I like the real stuff! ~Linden
  • We have a longstanding tradition of playing games together. The loser has to do the dishes. Going on 21 years of never doing a dish! ~Josh
  • In addition to a traditional Thanksgiving meal, my wife’s side of the family also has one that’s themed. Last year it was Greek, the year before that was Southern food and the year before was German! We’re all responsible for bringing something to contribute and trying our luck at making food outside of our comfort zone. We’ve had some flops and some awesome ones too. The Asian-themed year with the fryer in the garage catching fire was memorable for sure! ~Kyle, aka #TallMoneyMan
  • One of our family’s traditions is to say what we’re thankful for while standing in a circle and holding hands. ~Marti, our processor
  • The whole family helps clean the turkey and prepare the cornbread stuffing the night before Thanksgiving. Everyone has a task, and family tradition dictates that significant others have to chop the onions their first Thanksgiving with us. In a week filled with prep work for the meal, this is where Mom gets to kick back and relax. Her only job is to add the sage to the dressing. I’m not typically a fan of stuffing but this family recipe is legendary. ~Curvin
  • On the way home from visiting my family, we stop in Nebraska to load up on Runza’s (seasoned ground beef mixed with cabbage and onions baked inside a bread pocket). ~Mark
  • We spend the afternoon playing canasta while enjoying pumpkin pie. ~Jackie, our mortgage loan closer
  • Fighting over the leftovers — the stuffing’s my favorite! ~Molly
  • Usually I cook and we host my husband’s family. Due to COVID-19 it will be very small this year. But it makes my husband happy that he will have more leftover turkey, so I guess that is a win! ~Jean
  • My favorite tradition is ‘grazing’ and chatting while the food is being prepped! ~Charlie
  • Traditionally it’s the one time all year my siblings are all together. Then we have Casey’s pizza for dinner. ~Jason
  • Card games with the entire family after dinner. Yes, they’re for money, because everyone knows there’s no such thing a “playing for fun” in a card game.  ~Chuck, our president
  • One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is watching a movie at the end of the night with the fam! ~Hannah, our mortgage processing associate

However you celebrate this year, we wish you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving. Thank you again for making what we do what we love.

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MFLCares Gives Back to UCAN

(Pictured from left to right): Midwest Family Lending’s Jackie Ezell presents
Ron Markway, treasurer of
Urbandale Community Action Network’s board of directors and Laura Holms, UCAN executive director a $2020 donation through our MFLCares program.

The Urbandale Community Action Network (UCAN) is our featured charity this month and has received a $2020 donation through our MFLCares program. The funds will be used toward programs that support quality of life for residents of Urbandale, Iowa, where our home office has been located for more than 20 years.

“UCAN is so grateful to be among the great organizations Midwest Family Lending has chosen to support this year,” says UCAN’s executive director Laura Holms. “The needs in Urbandale have grown at a rate that has been hard to keep up with. So this contribution will go straight to work helping the most vulnerable right here in Urbandale!”

MFLCares logo

Through MFLCares, Midwest Family Lending employees nominate and select one cause a month to support that is dear to their hearts. Our closer, Jackie Ezell, has also called Urbandale “home” for nearly 20 years, raising her youngest son here.

From growing up in a small town, Urbandale has always felt like a small town in a big city,” Jackie says. It has its neighborhoods, parks and kind neighbors. When I found UCAN through a mutual friend, I was impressed how the organization took care of Urbandale’s adults and children in need — through raking leaves for the elderly during the fall, gathering school supplies and winter clothes for children or providing free food for those going hungry. It is like the small-town church that feeds and clothes its community. To me, UCAN is the heart of Urbandale.

About UCAN

UCAN provides leadership and ongoing support for comprehensive community-based action to improve quality of life in Urbandale.

The 501(c)(3) citizen group works collaboratively with local government, churches, civic and community organizations, not for profits, citizens and the business community to accomplish common goals and to help make a difference in the lives of Urbandale residents.

The local non-profit’s a catalyst for positive community action by implementing programs to support its vision of an engaged, vibrant and healthy Urbandale.

How You Can Help


Holiday Helping Hands programs a how people can get involved to help

Hundreds of low-income families in our community have difficulty meeting their day-to-day needs. During the holidays, finding resources for gifts and a special meal is out of reach for many of them. UCAN has organized Holiday Helping Hands programs for families and those in need during the holiday season. Below is information on how you can get help bring hope this holiday season! To sign up to help please contact UCAN at or call 515-278-3936.

Adopt a Family – Families in need are matched with individuals or groups who want to help spread holiday joy. When you sign up to participate in the Adopt-a-Family program, you’ll purchase gifts suggested by each member of the family (approx. $35 per recipient) and food for a special holiday meal (or provide a gift card to cover the cost of such a meal). You can choose to deliver the items to the family, or UCAN will coordinate a drop off using its volunteers.

At-Risk Teen Outreach – UCAN matches sponsors with Metro West Alternative High School students in need. The sponsor provides needed items (socks, shirts, hats, gloves) as well as items that teens would enjoy such as beauty products, gift cards, etc.

Santa for Seniors –  This past 6 months have been extremely hard on many of Urbandale seniors! UCAN provides many opportunities to connect with local senior citizens in need. UCAN’s Senior programs, identify those living in isolation, who have no relatives or very few nearby, and who have very limited contact with others. The charity wants to reach out to these isolated seniors and brighten their holiday season. It needs volunteers to donate cards, warm blankets, large print crossword or puzzle books, poinsettia or amaryllis plants and provide holiday treats. Each senior will receive a care package the week before Christmas. Volunteers are needed to deliver the items as well. Low-income seniors are also given a grocery store gift card.

Christmas Food Assistance – For adults without children, UCAN provides gift cards to local grocery stores to help supplement holiday food needs. Donations of gift cards in $25 increments are needed to support this program!

About MFLCares

MFLCares is a program of Midwest Family Lending, a local mortgage company committed to creating customers for life and to community impact. Check out our calendar to learn more about the great causes MFLCares has supported this year.

We’re all in this adventure called ‘life’ together. When those in our community are hurting, we’re all hurting. UCAN’s programs provide opportunities to lift up a neighbor — to show that our strength doesn’t come as individuals but rather by coming together to make a difference.

Laura Holms, Executive Director, UCAN
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Serving Those Who Have Served

Midwest Family Lending’s Mortgage Loan Originators Earn Certified Veterans Loan Specialist Certification

Midwest Family Lending’s Molly Maguire, Jason Pleggenkuhle, Kyle Guldenpfennig, Charles D. Chedester and Curvin Larson have earned the National Association of Mortgage Brokers’ (NAMB) Certified Veterans Loans Specialist (CVLS) Certification. The team members, pictured earlier this year, represent half of Iowa’s 10 CVLS-certified mortgage loan originators.

In celebration of Veterans Day, we’re proud to announce that five of our licensed mortgage loan originators have earned the National Association of Mortgage Brokers’ (NAMB) Certified Veterans Loans Specialist (CVLS) Certification! Jason Pleggenkuhle, Molly Maguire, Kyle Guldenpfennig, Charles D. Chedester and Curvin Larson completed this advanced training to help veterans get the most out of their VA loan benefits, demonstrating their commitment to serving homebuyers who have served in the military.

The Certified Veterans Loan Specialist Certification enables mortgage professionals to expertly guide borrowers through the many nuances associated with VA loans including the program’s requirements, restrictions and exemptions.

“VA loans are an amazing benefit that veterans have earned, and it’s our responsibility as loan originators to help them take advantage of it,” says Charles Chedester, CRMS, CVLS, one of our licensed mortgage loan originators with Team Chedester. “But to maximize that benefit, veterans need their loan officer to understand and help guide them through their applications.”

Our vets deserve the best. We’re proud to share that Midwest Family Lending has more Certified Veterans Loans Specialists than any other company in the state – five of Iowa’s 10 mortgage loan originators with the CLVS designation work at Midwest Family Lending! And our team joins the more than 500 certified nationally.

“Serving those who have served in our nation’s military is important to us as a company. We hope our team members’ certifications are an indication of that strong commitment.”

Chuck West, Midwest Family Lending president

Today we remember all of the heroic men and women who have protected and defended our country. Make sure to give thanks to those who have served our country to give us the freedom we have today.

Contact us to learn more about our VA loan options.

They’ve protected our homes. Now it’s our turn to help them find one of their own.

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MFLCares Gives Back to EveryStep

Midwest Family Lending’s marketing director Katie McIntyre presents Tray Wade, EveryStep president and CEO a $2020 donation through our MFLCares program

EveryStep is one of our featured charities this year and has received a $2020 donation through our MFLCares program. The funds will be used to support the local non-profit’s vision for all individuals to have access to health care and support services to live their best lives.

“EveryStep empowers individuals and supports families through healthcare challenges and life changes,” says Tray Wade, EveryStep president and CEO. “It’s clear that Midwest Family Lending shares our family-focused commitment, and we are so appreciative of their support.”

Through MFLCares, Midwest Family Lending employees nominate and select one cause a month to support that is dear to their hearts. Our marketing director, Katie McIntyre worked for EveryStep for a decade before joining our team. In her role, she heard firsthand the amazing stories of how the local non-profit makes a difference for Iowans during life’s most critical moments. Katie also personally witnessed its compassionate care when the hospice team cared for one of her grandfathers and and great-grandmothers.

MFLCares logo

“I’ve literally been moved to tears when hearing the incredible compassion EveryStep’s staff and volunteers have provided to families from all walks of life,” Katie says. “I’m so grateful to now work for a company and team that support the good work of our local non-profits like EveryStep. They need our support now more than ever.”

About EveryStep

EveryStep is one of Iowa’s oldest, largest and most trusted non-profit healthcare and support services organizations, serving more than 67,000 people annually. At least one EveryStep program is available to residents in every Iowa county.

Its more than 32 programs fill vital needs community needs. They provide grief support to those living with loss; bring care to those who are homebound, injured, ill or facing the end of life; offer education and baby supplies to new parents; and connect growing families, immigrants and refugees to the resources they need. These programs have been known under many different names – programs like HCI Hospice Care Services, Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, Amanda the Panda, HCI Giving Tree, VNS Home Care, Community Voices, Hospice With Heart, VNS of Iowa Wellness, Stork’s Nest, Storybook Project – and many more.

How You Can Help


Your kind gifts help Iowans to live their best lives.

EveryStep offers support and empowerment at the right place and the right time. Donations ensure that vulnerable Iowans may receive that same support and empowerment and that EveryStep may care for an entire family — not just its patients.


Yes; that’s right — we said shop!

EveryStep Giving Tree thrift store is right up the street from our main office in Urbandale at 3330 100th Street. All proceeds from thrift store sales toward programs and services which benefit EveryStep’s patients, clients and their families. It’s the perfect place to snag some new-to-you furniture for the home we helped you finance!

About MFLCares

MFLCares is a program of Midwest Family Lending, a local mortgage company committed to creating customers for life and to community impact. Check out our calendar to learn more about the great causes MFLCares has supported this year.

Strengthening communities is part of our mission. Life is fragile, and things don’t always go as planned. When people face life’s most difficult changes and challenges, we are with them, at EveryStep.

Tray Wade
President and CEO, EveryStep
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Is your home ready for fall?

Fall is officially here!

We’re surrounded by signs that fall has arrived! The leaves are turning brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow, and pumpkin spice flavored everything (seriously, everything — even dog treats!) has hit the store shelves. While you’re enjoying all the splendors fall has to offer, it’s also time to get your home ready for winter!

Cross these easy seasonal maintenance items off your to do list. Then cuddle up under your fave blanket or next to the fire, and enjoy the season:

  • Schedule a service call to make sure your furnace, chimney and fireplace are in working order so they’ll be ready when you need them.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries, and be sure to always keep extra batteries on hand.
  • Add weatherstripping and door sweeps to any drafty areas to keep your heating bill low.
  • Drain all outdoor faucets and disconnect garden hoses from outside spigots to help keep water from freezing and prevent burst pipes.
  • Seal cracks in your concrete driveway or patio to prevent water from seeping in, which can then freeze, expand and cause the crack to grow. Fixing small cracks before temperatures fall can help prevent more expensive repairs down the road.
  • Rake leaves (be sure to jump in the pile to fully experience the joys of the season with childlike wonder!)
  • Aerate and seed your yard to prep it for looking its best come spring.
  • Prep your snow blower, and you’ll be thanking yourself once the first big storm hits!

Fall’s also a great time of year to start saving up for Christmas gifts, spring vacations, etc. Have you checked with our team to see how much you could be saving by refinancing? Or maybe it’s time to buy a new home to make new fall memories in? We’re here for you! Happy Fall, Y’all!

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MFLCares about Bryce’s Warriors

Midwest Family Lending branch manager Mike Draisey presents
Michelle Draisey with Bryce’s Warriors Foundation a $2020 donation through the local mortgage company’s MFLCares program.

Bryce’s Warriors is our featured charity this month and has received a $2020 donation through our MFLCares program.

“We’re so grateful to Midwest Family Lending for this very generous donation,” says Bryce’s Warriors Foundation’s Michelle Draisey. “It will go a long way in helping Bryce’s Warriors accomplish our mission of assisting transplant families and providing scholarships.”

MFLCares logo

Through MFLCares, Midwest Family Lending employees nominate and select one cause a month to support that is dear to their hearts. Though each of the charities MFLCares supports throughout the year is meaningful to our team, Bryce’s Warriors Foundation holds a special significance. Bryce was the son of one of our loan officers, Derek Draisey and nephew of branch manager Mike Draisey. Bryce’s memory and impact lives on through the foundation in his name.

“I’m grateful to work for a company that supports the memory of our son and keeps helping us raise funds to help other transplant families and high school seniors in need in our community,” Derek says. “It’s people and businesses like Midwest Family Lending that have enabled us to find new areas where we can make an impact in the lives of these children and their families while remembering Bryce.”

About Bryce’s Warriors

Bryce’s Warriors Foundation supports the Bryce Draisey Memorial Dollars for Scholars scholarship fund, families of children waiting for and who have had heart transplants, Children’s Miracle Network and Iowa Donor Network. Funds raised through the Foundation also provide Thanksgiving meals to children and families in the PICU at University of Iowa Hospitals, as well as food and gas cards to those families in need while a child is living at the hospital. The Foundation is also looking into additional options to expand its assistance to families of transplant children.

Learn more about Bryce’s Warriors Foundation and its four missions here. Bryce was proud to spread his story to as many people as he could to create awareness for organ donation. In doing this, he also spread a story of love, courage, and forgiveness that all who knew him will remember.

Remembering Bryce

Bryce Draisey was a happy and presumably healthy 11-year-old boy when he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. Over the next 2+ years, he endured several surgeries, including a heart transplant, rejection of his new heart, many hospital stays and many other health complications that arose during that time. Bryce endured all of this believing that each day is a new one and the trials, sadness, or anger that may have happened yesterday no longer matter today. He took his health problems seriously and complied with all of his doctors’ instructions, but he also took all of it in stride most of the time. Bryce just wanted to be a normal teenager who went to school and had fun with friends.

How You Can Help

The majority of Bryce’s Warrior’s funds are raised through an annual golf tournament typically held each September. Unfortunately, like many charity events this year, the Foundation made the difficult decision not to hold the event due to COVID-19. Thus, donations are more important than ever to help support the Foundation’s mission.

“We will still be donating to our favorite organizations that helped us so much while Bryce was sick as well as to provide scholarships to seniors in need in our community,” Michelle says. “And if the hospital will allow, we will still be catering Thanksgiving dinner to the PICU as well. We’re also looking at different ways to expand our assistance to families of transplant kiddos.”

To donate, checks may be mailed to:

Bryce’s Warriors, Inc.
PO Box 42131
Urbandale, IA 50323-3855

MFLCares is a program of Midwest Family Lending, a local mortgage company committed to creating customers for life and to community impact. Check out our calendar to learn more about the great causes MFLCares has supported this year.

Our hearts are full; as due to the strange and difficult time we are in, Midwest Family Lending’s generosity may make an even bigger impact than ever before.”

Michelle Draisey, Bryce’s Warriors Foundation and mother of Bryce
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MFLCares Gives Back to Iowa Able Foundation

Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator Kyle Guldenpfennig, CVLS (pictured left) presents a $2020 donation on behalf of Midwest Family Lending’s MFLCares program to
Anna Magnusson, (right) executive director of Iowa Able Foundation.

Iowa Able Foundation is our featured charity this month and has received a $2020 donation through our MFLCares program. The funds will be used to support the local non-profit’s mission to help people of all abilities become financially independent.

“The Iowa Able Foundation is not only proud and honored to have been selected as the cause of the month for MFLCares in August, but we also greatly appreciate that Midwest Family Lending supports its team members giving of their time and talents to nonprofit organizations,” says Anna Magnusson, executive director of Iowa Able Foundation. “It means so much to our team that Midwest Family Lending is a partner in serving Iowans who need financial assistance to acquire the products and services required to achieve independence.”

MFLCares logo

Through MFLCares, Midwest Family Lending employees nominate and select one cause a month to support that is dear to their hearts. Kyle
Guldenpfennig, CVLS, licensed mortgage loan originator with Midwest Family Lending, nominated Iowa Able Foundation. Kyle is the Foundation’s executive board secretary. He was looking to get involved in the community and a mutual friend connected him with Anna. He was inspired to join Iowa Able Foundation because of the impact his late aunt’s work as a special education teacher for preschoolers had on him.

“I nominated the Iowa Able Foundation for the MFLCares program because of the hard work and dedication I’ve seen demonstrated daily in moving the mission and its members forward to support people with all abilities in communities around the state,” Kyle says. “With a personal connection to someone who gave her life to supporting the disability community, I felt a strong urge to connect with and give back to those who need our support the most!”

About Iowa Able Foundation

The Iowa Able Foundation is a statewide non-profit organization that helps people of all abilities become financially independent by providing solutions to financial needs and empowering them to achieve their financial goals.

Throughout the past 25 years the Foundation has been dedicated to developing a highly effective model that moves Iowans from a place of financial insecurity to empowerment through its Financial Solutions and Financial Empowerment programs.

Iowa Able Foundation provides immediate, short-term financial relief. Its Financial Solutions program focuses on getting Iowans the immediate financial relief they need to achieve independence. This relief can come in the form of a traditional, credit builder or forgivable loan. The Foundation currently offers the following loan products:

  • Home Modification
  • Vehicle Modification
  • Assistive Technology
  • Service Animal
  • Credit Builder

Iowa Able Foundation also helps Iowans achieve long-term financial stability. Its financial empowerment program focuses on helping Iowans gain the financial skills, knowledge and habits they need to maintain independence. Iowa Able coaches work one-on-one with Iowans to establish and follow personalized plans centered around long-term financial goals. Its model is specifically designed to benefit those who need it most.

What’s New

The financial impact of COVID-19 has hit the disabled community particularly hard. Many Iowans with disabilities are not able to afford equipment that is essential for independent living, such as hearing aids, wheelchairs, vehicle or home modifications, prosthetics and more.

To ensure access to all, earlier this summer Iowa Able Foundation began piloting expanded loan options and lowered interest rates in Black Hawk, Polk and Story Counties. Those with the least ability to pay are given the lowest interest rates. Interest rates range from 0-4 percent for loan applicants who participate in the financial education program, which includes coaching services.

Expanded loan options mean more needs can be met. In addition to providing loans for disability-assistance equipment, loans are available to Iowans with disabilities for home or vehicle repair, vehicle purchase, service animals, educational needs, and equipment for self-employment.

How You Can Help

Spread the Word and Invest in Iowans!

Encourage those who might need assistance to apply and invest in Iowans.

“Everyone should care about what Iowa Able Foundation is doing because everyone knows someone who uses assisted technology – be it a hearing aid, wheelchair, etc. And none of us know what the future holds; we may need it too.”

-Kyle Guldenpfennig, CVLS, licensed mortgage loan originator with Midwest Family Lending,

MFLCares is a program of Midwest Family Lending, a local mortgage company committed to creating customers for life and to community impact. Check out our calendar to learn more about the great causes MFLCares has supported this year.

“The pandemic has only increased the need for our assistance. Because Midwest Family Lending cares about our community, together we can increase access to financial resources to enrich the lives of Iowans who need our help.”

-Anna Magnusson, Executive Director of Iowa Able Foundation
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