Our professional staff connect people with the resources and inspiration they need to make southwest Minnesota stronger.
We all care deeply for this place we call “home” and have a wide range of expertise to help you make an impact.
Need to connect with us but don’t know where to start? Call our main line at 320-587-4848 or 800-594-9480.
There’s not one thing Diana loves most about southwest Minnesota: She loves it all. Originally from western South Dakota, her rural roots run deep. She attended grade school in a one-room country schoolhouse where all eight grades were taught by the same teacher.
As our President and CEO, she considers it an honor and a joy to be part of the incredible network of people that has been created over the past 32 years. Diana serves on several boards: Community Foundation National Standards, Lakeview Ranch and Aveyron Homes, Inc. She is also part of the Great Lakes Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and the Career and Technical Education (CTE) advisory committee that will help develop our region’s future workforce.
Should you find her outside, she’s likely playing the role of accidental gardener — a pastime required by her home’s large yard, and one she’s come to enjoy.
Lori holds an accounting clerk diploma, and she uses those powers for good: Before starting at SWIF this year as our Accounting Assistant, she did 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.
Her favorite thing about southwest Minnesota is the scenery. As a kid, Lori was outgoing and energetic. Outside of work, Lori enjoys crafting with her two daughters and volunteering at the local elementary school. She also likes to go on walks with her dog, explore new parks with the girls and go swimming with them.
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. After nearly 20 years in banking (working with commercial, agricultural and personal loans), Selina started at SWIF this year on our Microenterprise Loan Program team. She 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 was quiet and reserved as a child, but now leads cardio dance classes in her free time. She has two daughters, one cat and three 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.
Liz Cheney, CFRE
Director of Philanthropy
Southwest Initiative Foundation keeps rural relevant in today’s changing world. And Liz loves that. Without any formal training in philanthropy — but a little experience and a lot of energy — she started 14 years ago in fundraising at SWIF. Educational opportunities and mentors helped her grow into the role of philanthropy director. She is a Certified Fund Raising Executive, in addition to her bachelor’s degree in English and organizational communication.
A shy kid, Liz’s mom will often share that Liz would disappear for hours at a time. She never worried because she’d always find Liz reading a book. Liz still loves to read, now with silly voices and sound effects for her son, Zachary. Quality time with family, including husband Matt, is important. But first, a cup of coffee to start the day.
A proud Cobber, Liz chairs the Student Success Committee and is a member of the Executive Committee for the National Alumni Board at Concordia College, Moorhead. She serves on the planning committee for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (Stewart) for its 125th anniversary celebration, and she is a Share ‘n Care Hospice Fundraising Event Planning Committee member for the Hutchinson Health Foundation.
Community Impact Director
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 directing SWIF’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.
Community Resource Assistant
Creativity has marked Marsha’s life and career. As a kid, she’d make cookies out of sand with her siblings in their sandbox kitchen, or craft a bouncing horse out of two old tires and pretend they were riding in the Wild West. As part of a three-member SWIF team raising funds to support food shelves in our 18 counties, Marsha dressed up as Abe Lincoln for a friendly President’s Day competition.
Marsha earned an associate’s degree from Golden Valley Lutheran College with the goal of becoming a parole or probation officer, but life took her in a different direction. As our Community Resource Assistant, she does behind-the-scenes work to distribute grant dollars to communities.
In the summer, Marsha enjoys motorcycling. In the winter, she and her husband head to a beach with palm trees for vacation. She loves the small town feel of southwest Minnesota and its beautiful countryside. Marsha has been involved in the community as a Sunday School teacher, youth group leader and chaperone and township Clerk.
Olivia is Karen’s hometown, and she finds it fulfilling to work somewhere she can support the kinds of people—many of the people—who made an impact in her life. As a child, Karen loved going places with adults. While her mom worked in her classroom, Karen sat nearby drawing. Following her dad through the grocery store as he checked in on weekends, she hoped he’d snag a donut hole in the bakery. When her grandpa checked fields, she went along for the ride.
Nowadays, you’ll find her gardening, kayaking, reading, checking out local wineries and breweries, watching a baseball game or camping. Volleyball league gets her through Minnesota winters — and projects like refinishing a 100-year-old upright piano (a family heirloom).
Karen holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and English literature from Concordia College in Moorhead. She volunteers at some of Hutchinson’s great events, like Arts & Crafts Festival, Pottery Festival, RiverSong and local fundraisers. She can also claim the 2010 Hutchinson Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Young Leader Award Recipient.
It’s funny where hot dogs can lead. For Greg, they led to SWIF. After 30+ years working in advertising, marketing and sales, he retired early. That didn’t last. In 2009, he came out of retirement: He opened the first Chicago hot dog cart south of the South Fork of the Crow River in northern downtown Hutchinson, with help from a SWIF loan. He became the ‘poster senior’ of SWIF’s newly created Encore Entrepreneur program. He later helped guide entrepreneurs of all ages in the Microenterprise Loan Program. Today, he works in development.
Greg holds a master’s in business communications and volunteers on the boards of Hutchinson Center for the Arts and Kandiyohi Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities. He’s also part of the Hutchinson Public Arts Council and Hutchinson Rotary. A self-described “very happy kid,” Greg continues to approach life with a sense of humor. He likes to laugh with his wife Betty – the funniest person he knows. Greg says when you mix in grandkids, friends and a little golf, life is good.
From chaos, Nancy creates order. Her talent for organizing and implementing most anything has guided her through a career of 20 years in various administrative positions, more than half of that time at SWIF. She’s proud to be part of a Foundation making great things happen in southwest Minnesota. Nancy is an alumna of Hutchinson Area Vocational Institute (now Ridgewater College).
Though you wouldn’t know it now, Nancy was a shy kid, and can still get pretty quiet when she’s outside her comfort zone. Some of her favorite memories from childhood were Sunday afternoons "road farming" with her Dad, and spending time at Grandma's in the playhouse making mud pies and cakes.
Born and raised a farm girl, Nancy appreciates the beauty of rural Minnesota. She also appreciates a gripping mystery novel — but only on vacation, since she won’t put down a good book and has been known to read into the wee morning hours. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her husband and family.
While she didn’t know much about SWIF before she started working here, liked the idea of working at a nonprofit, and the friendly atmosphere. Seven years later, she’s still here. Much of that time, Karen helped the Microenterprise Loan Program, and was part of the team that won a Dot.Org Award for Innovative Program Delivery from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and MAP for Nonprofits. Karen has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and has worked with our accounting team part-time over the years; she recently joined that team full-time.
As a kid and as a grown-up, Karen has always liked to be outside. When she was little, 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 trips and the Red Rooster Days festival in Dassel.
Youth and Family Officer
Jodi’s motto is, “Why buy something for $7 when you can make it yourself with $92 of craft supplies?” This crafty woman has a heart for kids and a lot of experience working for nonprofits. At SWIF, she focuses on our youngest residents and their families.
Born and raised in southwest Minnesota, Jodi tried moving away from the region more than once, but she always ended up returning to her roots. As appealing as big city opportunities seemed to be, those places never felt like home.
A carefree kid, Jodi was constantly on the go — whether swimming at the pool, riding bike with friends all over town or enrolled in every summer camp and activity offered. She was always busy with friends, asking for “just one more sleepover… pleeeeease!?”
Jodi graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., with a bachelor’s degree in child and family studies, and she is a licensed parent educator. She admits to a vicious sweet tooth and the inability to whistle.
Talent and Operations Manager
Missy’s has always enjoyed helping people. She loves making them laugh and seeing them thrive. Talent management is her passion. When she joined SWIF four years ago, 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 two 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 social event vice chair for Hutchinson Young Professionals' steering committee, lead preschool teacher at her church, a Hutchinson Leadership Institute participant, leadership team member for Worksite Wellness Consortium and a licensed Insurance Producer for the state of Minnesota.
Economic development inspires Scott. What does he love most about southwest Minnesota? Wonderful people AND a solid economic base. Formerly an economic development director at the city level, Scott was drawn to SWIF to work and think regionally about the economy. He works with our business finance and entrepreneurship programs to help businesses large and small grow and improve.
Scott is chair of the board of directors for the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership. He serves on the boards of Propel Nonprofits and the Blandin Foundation Broadband Initiative. His committee involvement includes the conference committee of the Economic Development Association of Minnesota as well as the education and certification advisory committee of the International Economic Development Council. After work, Scott enjoys spending time with family.
Kim is the first face most visitors see at our office, and it’s a warm welcome. She has a passion for helping others and looks forward to every day, connecting with our SWIF family and friends. Kim 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 16 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’s currently serving on the leadership board at her church.
J. Pablo Obregón
Community Engagement Officer
As the Community Engagement Officer, Pablo manages community research and engagement for Southwest Initiative Foundation’s intergenerational, leadership and Grow Our Own initiatives. He attended Lutheran Bible Institute in California, received his Master of Divinity degree from Luther Seminary in St. Paul and spent several years in ministry. Most recently, Pablo served as Reentry Ready Navigator with Pact for Families in Willmar, supporting youth in transitioning back into their community following a criminal offense.
Pablo was born and raised in Lima Peru, where his parents gave him a great education and encouraged him to try soccer, guitar and carpentry. He loves southwest Minnesota for its mix of long-term residents and newcomers and believes it’s a great place to raise a family.
Outside work, Pablo enjoys time with his family, hitting the pickleball courts, cooking Peruvian food and having a strong cup of coffee. He is a volunteer coach with the Willmar Soccer Association, volunteers with Willmar’s Cinco de Mayo celebration and is a member of the Willmar Lakes Area Vision 2040 Steering Committee.
Judy is proud to work at SWIF because we help people, plain and simple. As our one-person office IT department, she’s managed major technology changes and the challenges that go with them.
Judy appreciates southwest Minnesota for open spaces, family, people who care about community and others — and no traffic! At home, she enjoys cooking and testing new recipes and kitchen gadgets. She makes time for walking and an occasional bike ride. Her husband, Randy, is an avid gardener and "plant whisperer" who has taught her a lot about gardening, though she still does her best work once the vegetables hit the kitchen.
Some of Judy’s fondest memories from childhood are of rainy summer afternoons playing with the farm kittens in the barn. Emerging from the barn with arms and legs covered in tiny scratches didn’t diminish the wonder of those days, when she didn’t have a care in the world.
Judy has a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and is studying to be a certified Salesforce System Administrator.
Jenelle’s title is long because she does a little bit of everything here. When she’s not at work helping community fund partners with financial statements or managing promotional items for events, Jenelle is into whatever her kids are doing, mostly camping, hiking and biking as a family.
She 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. 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 15 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 Philanthropy Officer
Jeff was a hyperactive child (too many Twinkies?) and a joker. His neighborhood was filled with kids — one family down the street had 15 — and there was always somebody to play with. Much time was spent outdoors playing football or stickball in an empty lot or riding bikes around town.
Never one to sit still, Jeff now crisscrosses the region in his daily work, helping our communities build on their assets. As you might imagine, he loves to travel, whether it is a camping trip to a state park with his family, a long road trip across the country or an overseas adventure. If Jeff is sitting still, he’s probably reading; he’s on track to read three books a month this year.
Jeff has an associate’s 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. New London Arts Alliance benefits from his involvement on its board of directors.
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 one-year-old granddaughter. 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. With her experience in community journalism, she knows the importance of sitting down at someone’s kitchen table and listening. Connecting people is an important part of her work at Southwest Initiative Foundation, and Marie passionately believes those connections are what makes our communities into what we want them to be.
Words have always been Marie’s thing. She spent long hours as a child composing original fairytales. Thanks in no small part to coffee and mentors, Marie went on to interview the coach of a British soccer dynasty, shake hands with the CEO of AGCO and help hold up The Mills Trophy honoring the Jackson County Pilot as the best weekly newspaper in the state.
Marie holds a degree in communications from the College of Saint Benedict.