‘Iowan of the Day’

Community Foundation director to be honored at fair

T-R Photo By Sam Stuve — Julie Hitchens, the Executive Director for the Community Foundation of Marshall County, is being honored as the “Iowan of the Day,” on Aug. 16 at the Iowa State Fair.

One of Marshalltown’s own is set to be honored at the 2021 Iowa State Fair.

Julie Hitchins, the executive director of the Community Foundation of Marshall County, is being honored as the “Iowan of the Day,” at the fair on Aug. 16 on the Anne and Billy Riley Stage. She is one of 10 individuals from across the state, who will be honored on separate days.

The Iowa State Ribbon Foundation has been recognizing individuals who fit the criteria since 1997. Winners are selected by the foundation, people who show “exceptional integrity, Iowa Pride, hard work and dedication.”

The announcement of the win came as a surprise to Hitchins.

“The Iowa State Blue Ribbon Foundation called me out of the blue. I had no idea I had even been nominated,” Hitchins said. “I was shocked. I was pretty much speechless, because I didn’t even think about it. It wasn’t on my radar, and It’s quite an honor.”

To be selected as an Iowan of the Day, individuals have to be nominated by colleagues or other members of their community.

Hitchins, who grew up in Jewell, said she and her husband have been 30-year residents of Marshalltown. Since the tornado in 2018, she has led the Rebuild Marshalltown Fund which has raised more than $800,000 to help rebuild areas which were damaged or destroyed by the tornado.

Hitchins said the committee has been a big reason for the success of the fund over the last three years.

“A key for success has been, I’ve got a great grant committee that really reviews the grants and their mantra from day one has been, we aren’t just going to rebuild it, we’re going to rebuild it to something better,” she said.

Hitchins said with the recent natural disasters that have hit Marshalltown, the community foundation has been centered around disaster relief.

A turning point for her career was the tornado. Before the tornado hit, Hitchins was working with Emerson, but found an itch to work in the nonprofit world after the 2018 disaster. While the damage to her family’s property wasn’t severe, outside of a totaled car, Hitchins had to ask for help and people were calling and messaging her, asking for help.

“That’s Iowa nice — we help our neighbors out and so we received a lot of help post-tornado,” she said.

When Hitchins went back to work shortly after the tornado, she felt the desire to change career fields.

“I went back to work and I knew probably within two weeks that I would not be ending my career with Emerson and that I wanted to do something in the nonprofit world to help others,” she said.

At the time, the foundation was looking for a new director, which Hitchins applied for and received. She has always had the desire to help others, and she loves what she does.

“I love what I do in my job. I couldn’t be happier,” Hitchins said. “Having to ask for that help, having people help you that you don’t even know, friends of friends is very humbling and I always want to be that helper, I always have, but my desire is much bigger to help others.”

One of the people in the community Hitchins has worked with is Karn Gregoire, a project coordinator and member of the Fisher Governor Board of Trustees.

“She continues to provide the community with leading the foundation and funding opportunities. To assist with disaster relief, and with other resources that our community needs has been very impactful,” Gregoire said. “The Community Foundation itself is extremely impactful to benefit our community and with Julie at the helm, it’s done great work for Marshalltown.”

According to Gregoire, Hitchins does a lot of work behind the scenes the public does not know about.

“They don’t necessarily understand what it is that she brings to the table because she’s quiet, and a servant leader,” Gregoire said. “I think it’s wonderful that she’s been publicly recognized because much of her work is done quietly behind the scenes, but the net effect of the work that she does is huge.”

She said Hitchens has a great work ethic, a heart dedicated to community service and a wonderful leader.

“She’s one of our key leaders in the community. As the executive director of the Community Foundation of Marshall County, Julie is key and will continue to be so in her role, but what she does on a volunteer basis is also going to be of tremendous value for our community,” Gregoire said.

In addition to being the Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Marshall County, Hitchins is a co-chair of Vision Marshalltown and on the board of directors of the Child Abuse Prevention Services in Marshalltown.

“Julie’s on a roll, and she is quite valuable, and dearly loved in our community,” Gregoire said.

Hitchins said there’s a large number of behind the scenes groups that donate to charitable causes. The support the community residents have for one another is, “incredible.”

“It’s stepped up with the tornado and the derecho. That made us really go into high gear helping others,” Hitchins said. “Walking down the street, you get a smile, or a hello, even if you don’t know the person. That doesn’t happen everywhere. I just love the people and the big hearts they have.”

Contact Sam Stuve at 641-753-6611 or sstuve@timesrepublican.com.


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