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.
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As Southwest Initiative Foundation President and CEO, Diana Anderson considers it an honor to be part of the incredible network of people working daily to keep southwest Minnesota strong and vibrant. Originally from western South Dakota, her rural roots run deep, and she champions the spirit of innovation and collaboration that defines small towns across the Upper Midwest.
Since joining Southwest Initiative Foundation in 2001, Diana has brought her expertise to every aspect of the foundation’s work. From fundraising and programming to operations and human relations, Diana has built relationships, strategy and infrastructure that make the foundation a trusted partner and regional leader. Her skill in making connections and an iterative learning approach has elevated the foundation’s unique position, bringing together its work in economic development, social growth and philanthropy for an even greater impact.
Diana’s vision launched a new movement in 2016 called Grow Our Own, an effort to ensure all southwest Minnesota youth can find success. Her philosophy has been shaped by raising her family in multiple rural communities, Southwest Initiative Foundation’s work and her previous work in healthcare administration and communication. She sees supporting our next generation as a long-term economic development strategy and simply the right thing to do.
Diana received her bachelor’s degree from Augustana University in Sioux Falls and continued her education at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. She applies her education, strategic thinking and advocacy through volunteer leadership on several boards, including the Minnesota Council on Foundations, Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council, Anderson Center, Aveyron Homes, Inc. and the I. J. Burich Foundation.
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.
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.
Grants Administrative 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.
Liz Cheney, CFRE
Vice President of Philanthropy
Southwest Initiative Foundation keeps rural relevant in today’s changing world. And Liz loves that. She started 15 years ago in fundraising at SWIF. Today, Liz leads fundraising strategies to build our endowments through current and planned gifts and helps donors find meaning through their giving. 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 lost in a book. She still loves to read, now with silly voices and sound effects for son Zachary. Quality time with family, including husband and entrepreneur Matt, is important. But first, a cup of coffee at 5 a.m. to start the day before the family wakes.
A proud Cobber, Liz chairs the Giving Committee and is a member of the Executive Committee for the National Alumni Board at Concordia College, Moorhead. She is also part of the Minnesota Council on Foundations Government Relations and Public Policy Committee.
Lead For America Fellow
As a Lead For America Fellow, Andrea is focusing on Census Outreach, facilitating conversations among young leaders and expanding efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion in southwest Minnesota. During her two-year fellowship, she hopes to build bridges between community members and local government, as well as helping to change the narrative of what rural America and rural Minnesota are like. Andrea will be based in Worthington during her fellowship, marking a return to the community where she grew up.
Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, women's studies, and English from St. Catherine University. Her interests lie in journalism, story-telling, immigration law and politics. In 2016, she was selected as a Minnesota Jay and Rose Phillips Scholar and used the opportunity to create “Stories from Unheard Voices,” a collection of first-person stories from Latinx immigrants and their children. She has been honored as a Harry S. Truman Scholar, recognizing her leadership, public service and academic achievement. Most recently, Duarte-Alonso interned at the Obama Foundation in Washington DC with its International Team.
Southwest Initiative Foundation received funding from Blandin Foundation to support the Lead For America Fellowship.
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.
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.
Major Gifts Officer
It’s funny where hot dogs can lead. For Greg, they led to the Southwest Initiative Foundation. After 30 plus years working in advertising, marketing and sales, he retired early. That didn’t last. In 2009, he unretired and 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. Soon he became the ‘poster senior’ of SWIF’s newly created Encore Entrepreneur program. Today he’s in development/fundraising and is a proud Growing Home Circle member working with donors around the region.
Greg holds a master’s in business communications, an associate degree in photography and a PHD (Proprietor of Hot Dogs) from Vienna Beef’s Hot Dog University.
Art is important to him. He serves on the boards of the Hutchinson Center for the Arts, the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council and is a member of the Hutchinson Public Arts Commission.
A self-described “very happy kid,” 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 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 alumna 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.
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.
Director of Talent & Operations
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, 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 Business Development Coordinator for Hutchinson PULSE steering committee, lead preschool teacher at her church, a Hutchinson Leadership Institute alum, leadership team member for Wellbeing at Work Consortium, past licensed insurance producer for the state of Minnesota and a Minnesota Notary Public.
Senior Vice President
Scott is the board chair for the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, a member of the Blandin Foundation Broadband Strategy Board, a member of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Education and Certification Advisory Committee, a board member and the chair of the Loan and Fiscal Sponsorship Committee for Propel Nonprofits, the treasurer and a board member of the Greater Minnesota Partnership, a board member of the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission, a member of the ConnectedMN Steering Committee, a board member for the Minnesota Economic Development Foundation, a member of the Minnesota Family Child Care Task Force and a member of the ConnectedMN Steering Committee.
Scott 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 is also a member of the Local Economy Foundation Circle of Common Future (formerly known as the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies). Locally, he is a member of the Montevideo Planning Commission and the Montevideo Police Civil Service Commission. Scott holds a Master of Public Administration and an undergraduate degree from the University of South Dakota. He is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) through IEDC and a Certified Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) through the National Development Council.
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 19 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 as treasurer at her church. Margie has completed the Dale Carnegie Course in leadership training and is an alumna of the Hutchinson Leadership Institute.
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.
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 a certified Salesforce System Administrator.
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 16 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 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. With her experience in community journalism, she's comfortable sitting down at someone’s kitchen table and listening. Connecting people is an important part of her work at Southwest Initiative Foundation, and Marie believes those connections are what makes our communities into what we want them to be.
Marie has a degree in communications from the College of Saint Benedict and is an alum of the Blandin Community Leadership Program. She serves on the board of McLeod For Tomorrow, a local leadership nonprofit, and the Board of Education at her church in Brownton and volunteers with the Glencoe Area Community Foundation.