We are positioned to bring the right resources, people and inspiration together to ensure our region is a place where all people thrive.
Rooted in our history and values, we reach towards the opportunities ahead—to keep our home strong, our foundation solid and our commitment unwavering.
Accounting and Human Resources Specialist
Lori supports the general operational and accounting functions at Southwest Initiative Foundation. Over the course of her career, she has done bookkeeping for just about every kind of organization — an automotive repair shop, construction, landscape, real estate and a church. She has had the most experience with smaller companies and enjoyed helping them grow and guiding them through the ins and outs of doing their books. Lori holds an accounting clerk diploma.
Lori's favorite thing about southwest Minnesota is the scenery. Outside of work, she enjoys crafting with her two daughters and volunteering at the local elementary school. Lori also likes to go on walks with her dog, explore new parks with the girls and go swimming with them.
Tiff joined the foundation in February 2020. She believes in giving back to the communities that raised her and is excited to be a part of a team that works hard to bring opportunity to all. She appreciates southwest Minnesota for the strong roots of its communities and the humble work ethic. Tiff was fortunate to have a best friend in her neighbor growing up in Hutchinson. They organized reading and exercise challenges and neighborhood-wide street games. The pair directed and wrote scripts for homemade videos, practiced their entrepreneurial skills selling everything from lemonade to leaves and participated in sports.
Tiff holds a degree in psychology from the College of Saint Benedict. She learned even more outside the classroom during her experiences studying and working abroad, including spending two years in Guatemala after college. She is a former small business owner and has experience in sales.
Tiff serves on the Hutchinson School Board, the local Early Childhood Family Education Advisory Committee, the City of Hutchinson’s Charter Commission and Parks, Recreation and Community Education Board. She has also been part of the Downtown Hutchinson Vision Team, the Hutchinson Farmer's Market and anything related to her kids' activities.
An enthusiast of many things, Tiff likes to travel, read, cook and eat, take walks and hikes and spend time outdoors with her husband, three kids and rescue dog.
Entrepreneurship Finance Specialist
Selina is happy knowing her daily work helps entrepreneurs find solutions to build their businesses in the communities they grew up in. Selina spent nearly 20 years in banking working with commercial, agricultural and personal loans. At SWIF, she's our Entrepreneurship Finance Specilist. Selina holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., and an associate’s degree in accounting from Willmar Community College. Finance is a great fit for her personality as a rule-follower.
A product of the Kerkhoven/Pennock/Willmar area, Selina grew up on a dairy farm. She has two daughters, one cat and two dogs and enjoys counted cross-stitch, puzzles and a good read. Selina volunteers with several groups at her church and recently trained to bring healing in the midst of crisis and disasters as a chaplain on the Rapid Response Team with the Billy Graham Association.
Youth & Community Program Officer
What Amy loves best about southwest Minnesota is that everywhere she goes, it feels like home; and in one way another, that has always been the case for her. As our Youth & Community Program Officer, Amy is a resource to build and strengthen southwest Minnesota’s youth and families by creating community connections and directing resources to opportunities that impact critical needs for the education and well-being of children birth-to-18 and families across the region. Her focus is on early childhood, youth mental health and wholistic models of family care and support, centering on single mothers.
Previously, Amy spent two decades in the human services field across Meeker County and the state. She’s inspired by the opportunity to bring the level of community wellbeing up a notch through addressing systemic issues and shoring up the areas that are already assets in our region. Amy believes strongly in community and that people have the desire and the power to help each other when the right tools are put in their hands.
When it comes to hobbies, Amy enjoys anything creative and exploratory — stained glass, pottery, household renovations, cooking, sewing, painting, getting lost in the woods, even raising chickens. She’s an avid photographer. In community, Amy is an ally for LGBTQ+ kids and families. She also administers a Facebook group to connect people to volunteer opportunities in Meeker County and serves on the board of her lake association.
Liz Cheney, CFRE
Vice President of Giving
Southwest Initiative Foundation has an eye toward the future. It’s what Liz loved when she started at SWIF over 17 years ago, and what she loves today.
Liz leads all things resource development, along with the team at SWIF doing that work. This includes fundraising strategies to fuel SWIF’s big mission, restricted giving via our fund partners and helping people make future gifts through their estate planning. She is a Certified Fund Raising Executive, in addition to her bachelor’s degree in English and organizational communication.
Liz knows that people really care about their neighbors and their communities, and she has the honor of helping people knit that “care” together through their charitable giving. She thinks she has the best job at SWIF, but that’s up for debate among the rest of the staff.
A wife to former SWIF loan client Matt, mother to Amazing Zachary and general do-gooder, Liz is also a proud Cobber and serves on Concordia College’s National Alumni Board as vice president. She is part of the Minnesota Council on Foundations Government Relations and Public Policy Committee, in addition to its Donor-Advised Fund Task Force.
Liz is a morning person and known for getting an early start on the day, so she can be fully invested as a wife and mother during family time.
Grants and Operations Assistant
As the grants administrative assistant, Laura provides day-to-day administrative support and coordination for Southwest Initiative Foundation’s grant program – the behind-the-scenes work to distribute grant dollars to communities. She joined the staff in 2020.
Laura was drawn to the impact our mission has on communities in the region. Her favorite thing about southwest Minnesota is the people who make it their home, people who are hardworking, goal oriented and guided by strong values. A close second is the natural landscapes of the region, from the cool spring mornings when everything is covered in new life to the colors of fall (even the ground covered in snow is beautiful!).
When she’s not at work, Laura is studying for an associate degree at Ridgewater College. She also enjoys time with her kids, taking bike rides down the Luce Line Trail, walking through a mall, listening to music or having a conversation. Friends and family always keep her smiling. Laura likes to volunteer for local churches, including a project translating letters from missionaries in South America from Spanish to English. Laura has also given of her time in the church kitchen, preparing massive meals, ensuring things run smoothly and cleaning up afterward.
Vice President of Community Impact
Nancy still remembers waiting on the edge of her hometown with her friends for the carnival rides to arrive at the annual community festival. It’s that community spirit that brings her back every year to reconnect with friends, and propels her in the daily work leading the foundation's grant and community programs. Because of her rural Minnesota roots, Nancy see the value SWIF brings to the towns in our region, and she’s proud to be a part of our unique model of philanthropy.
When Nancy is not working, she practices her homework skills with her grade school kids, Thomas and Ellie. And as a true Minnesotan, she enjoys ice fishing with her husband, Marc, and honors her agricultural roots in her vegetable and flower gardens.
Nancy has a bachelor’s degree in management and geography from Gustavus Adolphus College. She’s on the United Community Action Agency board of directors and Winsted Economic Development Commission, helped found the Winsted Arts Council and is an alumna of the Blandin Community Leadership Program.
Board Governance Administrator | Database Specialist
From chaos, Nancy creates order. Her talent for organizing and implementing most anything has guided her through a career of 30+ years in various administrative positions, more than half of that time at SWIF. She’s proud to be part of the foundation making great things happen in southwest Minnesota. She graduated from Hutchinson Area Vocational Institute (now Ridgewater College) and is an alum of the Hutchinson Leadership Institute.
Farm born and raised, Nancy appreciates the beauty and calm of rural. Some of her favorite memories from childhood were Sunday afternoons "road farming" with her Dad. Nancy finds mowing lawn therapeutic and loves reading a good “who done it” while vacationing, since putting the book down is hard to do. She loves to bake and cook, sometimes sharing her “experiments” with staff. Nancy resides in the rural Hutchinson/Litchfield area with her husband.
Than Than Kyaw
Community Engagement Specialist
Meet Than Than
Than Than sees Southwest Initiative Foundation as a great support for communities across the region, and he was drawn to its mission and vison for the people of Southwest Minnesota. His role as community engagement specialist is identifying strengths and challenges, building community-based skills and being a resource to the region through community-led partnerships especially with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
Thanks to mentorship from his community’s leaders, Than Than is passionate about supporting people and believing in their success stories. In previous roles, he has worked in community organizing, corporate community engagement, student services and community education. Than Than moved to Minnesota from a refugee camp in Thailand at age 11 and graduated from Worthington High School; he continues to make his home in Worthington. Outside of work, Than Than enjoys art, traveling, spending time outdoors and playing volleyball.
Marketing and Communications Officer
Meghan drives the foundation's communications, marketing and external engagement work. Working for an organization that is making a positive impact in southwest Minnesota, a place she’s proud to call home, is a dream come true for Meghan. She believes people in the region value their families, friends and community members. Living here offers endless possibilities to slow down and enjoy life, whether that's walking on the Luce Line or volunteering at a local event. Meghan and her husband have three young children and make their home in Hutchinson; they are major University of Minnesota Gopher fans.
Meghan earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and has focused her career on working in philanthropy. In the community, she volunteers for RiverSong music festival and the Hutchinson Jaycees. She enjoys helping plan events, including Hutchinson’s annual Water Carnival activities. She can also be found helping out at her son's school and cheering on her kids at their various activities.
While Karen didn’t know much about SWIF before she started working here, she liked the idea of working at a nonprofit, and the friendly atmosphere. More than 10 years later, she’s still here. During that time, Karen has been a part of the accounting team. She also works with the Microenterprise Loan Program. Karen has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and worked in the insurance and manufacturing industries before starting at the foundation.
As a kid and as a grown-up, Karen has always liked to be outside. When she was young, she loved time on the lake water skiing, swimming, and fishing; snowmobiling; and weekend bonfires. Now it’s time on the lake, gardening, shopping at flea markets and antique shops, small projects around the house, trips to Montana and time with her kids. Karen has volunteered with Sunday School, Youth Committee, school events and the Red Rooster Days festival in Dassel.
Rural Equity Specialist
Khou enjoys the relationships and the people of Southwest Minnesota and is determined to do what it takes to invite, share and create space for voices in the region. As a first-generation immigrant, many of Khou’s younger years were spent navigating systems and being the voice for her immigrant parents. Through these lived experiences, she realized her love for creating space for people to speak on behalf themselves, in their truest form.
Khou appreciates how Southwest Initiative Foundation values community. In her role as Rural Equity Specialist, Khou will be a resource for communities across the region, while helping build and strengthen local Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders and organizations in southwest Minnesota. She has a background in community engagement work and a passion for sharing resources and knowledge.
A photographer in her free time, Khou appreciates visual art. She also likes spending time with family. Khou is involved with the Hmong community in southwest Minnesota as a leader and organizer and is part of various community groups in the Tracy community. She makes her home in North Branch with her husband and daughter.
Director of Talent & Operations
Missy has always enjoyed helping people. She loves making them laugh and seeing them thrive. Talent management is her passion. When she joined SWIF, the mission and vision of the Foundation drew her in, and she’s proud to be part of helping our communities.
As a kid, Missy loved anything to do with sports and the outdoors. Her social, energetic personality hasn’t changed. Now she channels it into keeping up with her husband and their three young boys. They live a busy life on a farm and love every minute of it.
Missy’s list of credentials is long. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Metropolitan State University. Missy is certified in Korn Ferry Leadership Architect Competencies and in the Wellness Councils of America’s “Seven Benchmarks.” She’s the lead preschool teacher at her church, a Hutchinson Leadership Institute alum, leadership team member for Wellbeing at Work Consortium, past chair of business development for Hutchinson PULSE steering committee, past licensed insurance producer for the state of Minnesota and a Minnesota Notary Public.
Scott was named Southwest Initiative Foundation President effective Feb. 1, 2023. Scott has managed the foundation’s business finance, entrepreneurship, child care, career pathways, Employer Resource Network®, and general economic development programs and initiatives, in addition to having roles with farmland management and as staff liaison to the Investment Committee.
He is a board member and past chair of the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, a member of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Education and Certification Advisory Committee, board vice chair and Loan and Fiscal Sponsorship Committee chair for Propel Nonprofits, Vice President of the Greater Minnesota Partnership, a board member of the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission and the Minnesota Economic Development Foundation and the IEDC Upper Midwest Basic Economic Development Course co-director.
Locally, Scott is a member of the Montevideo Police Civil Service Commission and the Montevideo Planning Commission. He is a past president of the Economic Development Association of Minnesota (EDAM) and currently serves as chair of the Government Relations Committee and as a member of the Conference Committee. He and his wife, Amber, are proud parents of Abby and Annie.
Gifts and Records Processing Coordinator
Kim has a passion for helping others and enjoys connecting with our SWIF family and friends through her daily work. She graduated from St. Cloud Area Vocational-Technical Institute and first heard about us from her dear neighbor, Diana Anderson.
As a kid, Kim spent a lot of time with her nose in a book; she considered Nancy Drew her best friend. She fondly recalls hours of cane pole fishing at her grandparents’, playing 500 rummy and canning and baking enough to feed the county. A mother of two, Kim continues to support her adult daughters in their adventures, wherever life takes them. She enjoys reading, looking for new healthy ways to cook and bake, supporting her brother in his Special Olympic events and going for walks and bike rides. Outside work, Kim is involved with the Aveyron Homes, Inc. Board and Special Olympics. She is a graduate of the Hutchinson Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Institute.
Chief Financial Officer
A Hutchinson native, Margie received a bachelor’s degree from Mankato State University and is completing a master’s in accounting and financial management at Keller Graduate School of Management. She is also a farmer. Though they no longer have dairy cows, Margie and her husband still raise crops, which ties her in a unique way to the land of southwest Minnesota. She’s also drawn to its people, and has seen how communities band together to help themselves and people in need.
During her 20 years with SWIF, Margie has had the amazing opportunity to grow and contribute through many roles. She’s witnessed staff numbers nearly double, assets more than double and has helped moved office locations twice.
There’s not much to say about Margie as a kid; she was really low key. In the Hutchinson High School senior yearbook awards, she came in second for being the quietest. These days, she’s very active in the community. She likes spending time with family, is active in her church, has completed the Dale Carnegie Course in leadership training and is an alum of the Hutchinson Leadership Institute.
Community Engagement Specialist
Ivan makes his home in Worthington. He loves southwest Minnesota for its ability to be a home to anyone. He feels the people, the food and its potential for growth are all great reasons to love the region.
Ivan is passionate about connecting to people, hearing their stories, and taking steps to make sure those stories are validated and advocated for. As a community engagement specialist, he identifies strengths and challenges, builds community-based skills and is a resource to the region through community-led partnerships, especially with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
Previously, Ivan worked in corporate community engagement. He’s also been involved in local and electoral politics as well as various nonprofits and projects including Be the Change and Voices for Racial Justice.
Outside work, Ivan enjoys listening to and practicing music, meeting up with friends and trying new foods.
Salesforce Project Manager
Jenelle came to SWIF for the amazing work and stayed for the beautiful landscapes and changing seasons that offer outdoor fun throughout the region, all year long. Her favorite memory from growing up was camping with her aunt, uncle and cousin in a 1978 StarCraft pop-up. They took many trips together, and she later inherited the camper and took her kids camping in it. If you’re sensing an outdoors theme, you’re getting the right impression of the Stiras family.
Jenelle is a graduate of North Hennepin Community College, an alumna of the Hutchinson Leadership Institute and a part of the Blandin Community Leadership Program cohort in Hutchinson. She volunteers at her church on the Parish Education Committee and teaches Sunday School. Helping in her kids’ classrooms at school is important to her too.
Economic Development Officer
A former small business owner herself, Jackie was drawn to working with entrepreneurs in our Microenterprise Loan Program 18 years ago. Before joining SWIF, she worked in economic development at the county level. She’s always had an adventurous spirit. Growing up in the country, she and her brothers went outside exploring, playing and riding their bikes everywhere they could.
Jackie is an alumna of the Blandin Community Leadership Program and Partners-in-Leadership. She is certified in SCORE mentorship, in economic development through Hamlin University and in the Seven Benchmarks of America’s Healthiest Companies from Wellness Councils of America, Wellness Institute. She completed the Leading from Within Program of the Institute for Conservation Leadership.
Jackie holds a degree in mass communications, with a minor in public relations. She raised her twins in southwest Minnesota, and she still appreciates the values of its rural communities and the camaraderie in the region. She and her husband spend their time traveling, bike riding, motorcycling, snowmobiling, exploring estate sales and gathering their three kids together as often as possible.
Community Gift Officer
Raised in the small town of St. Michael (not so small anymore), Jeff has always had a heart for rural Minnesota. Never one to sit still, he crisscrosses the region in his daily work, helping our communities build on their assets. He's also been hitting the road with his bike and is on track to pass the 3,500 mile mark this year.
While his day job is pretty great, the occupation of fatherhood is hard to beat. Jeff enjoys being a dad and spending time with family camping, making music and traveling. This summer, he and son Henry are building an outdoor pizza oven. Bon appétit!
Jeff has an associate degree in architectural drafting and construction estimating from Dunwoody College, a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from St. Cloud State University and a master’s in community development from Iowa State University. He is an alum of the Minnesota Agricultural and Rural Leadership (MARL) program. Jeff shares his time and talent with the New London-Spicer School Board, New London-Spicer Education Foundation and New London Economic Development Authority.
Business Finance Director
There were no traveling sports teams in Amy’s youth. Instead, her summer ball league met on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and whoever wanted to play was in. In the afternoon, most of the same kids would go down to the lake to swim and cool off or bike to the library for the summer reading program. No wonder southwest Minnesota has always felt like home, and still does.
Amy is our Business Finance Director. She helps small businesses secure financing to grow and improve. Amy is also a commissioner on the City of Worthington’s Planning and Zoning Commission, a board member of the Nobles County DAC Board and chair of the Worthington Christian Reformed Church’s Legacy Foundation. When she’s off the clock, she likes to golf, play Pinochle and spend time with her grandchildren. Amy holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a finance concentration from Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall. She’s certified in the Seven Benchmarks of America’s Healthiest Companies from Wellness Councils of America, Wellness Institute.
Marie is an award-winning writer who can find a story anywhere. Connecting people is an important part of her work at Southwest Initiative Foundation, and Marie believes those connections are the key to building a sense of belonging for all our neighbors in every southwest Minnesota community.
Marie has experience as a community journalist as well as a degree in communications from the College of Saint Benedict. She completed the Blandin Community Leadership Program with fellow community members from Glencoe. She volunteers on the Board of Education at her church in Brownton and with Together we are Glencoe, a community group focused on building belonging. Marie is a former board member of McLeod For Tomorrow and an alum of its leadership program.