The YWCA along with 250 attendees, celebrated phenomenal women and organizations that empower women during their 17th Annual Cedar Valley Women of Persimmon luncheon.

Held on Thursday, April 13, 2023 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Cedar Falls, the award luncheon recognizes women, businesses and organizations who exemplify the YWCA mission and vision through their commitment to the community and service-before-self

The event’s emcee, Tara Thomas-Gettman, Strategic Communication Director for the City of Waterloo, provided entertaining and informative commentary as she congratulated all of the nominees for their impressive accomplishments. Cindy Mohr, YWCA Executive Director provided a brief overview of the YWCA’s history and programs and joined Tracey Schatz, YWCA Board of Directors President, and Diane Meggers, Vice President, in presenting the Women of Persimmon awards. YWCA program participants Qulishia Williams, Hattie Timmer, and Mindy Sternhagen, moved the audience with their personal stories of how YWCA programming had positively impacted their lives.

Hillery Oberle receives the 2023 Jean Parker

YWCA Woman of Persimmon Award Hillery grew up outside of Brookings, South Dakota. She earned a BA in International Studies, a Bachelors of Journalism and a MA in Geography from
the University of Missouri. She met her husband at the University of Missouri where they were both graduate Teaching Assistants, and have been married since 1999. They moved to Cedar Falls in 2005, and her first job was at Aerial Services, Inc. She then started at UNI where she was a Pre-Award Specialist at UNI’s Office of Sponsored Programs. From there she worked her way up into her current position at the UNI Foundation, Assistant Vice President for Strategy, Communications, and Campaigns.

The UNI Foundation’s goal is to fundraise to support all parts of the university and every aspect of campus life. Through her current role, she is recognized for her work on “big ticket” items, but it’s the less splashy but highly impactful work she does that inspires and motivates her, especially when it directly supports UNI students or helps fledgling projects. Over the years she has recognized the financial barriers and challenges many students encounter and mobilized support from the university to assist them on their journey to graduate. She has a passion for music and the arts, and goes the extra mile to support efforts in these areas. This support sometimes requires a considerable commitment to generate a small amount of money, but it is often where a small amount of money has the greatest impact. A philosophy that no doubt led her the YWCA.

Hillery joined the YWCA in 2016 when she was elected to serve on the Board of Directors. During her six years on the Board, she served one year as Vice President and three years as President. While on the Board, she served on the Finance Committee, and the Nominating committee and chaired the by-laws review committee. She also chaired the campaign feasibility committee, where she led the YWCA through the process of choosing a capital campaign consultant and completed a feasibility study for Phase 2 of our Preserving the Past – Ensuring the Future capital campaign, only to have the campaign slowed by the difficult times of Covid-19 shut downs and re-openings and the civil unrest felt across our country and community. Currently, she serves on the YWCA’s Investment Committee and served on the search committee for the new executive director. Hillery and her husband are members of our 1884 Society, our giving club for donors of more than $500 a year and they are financial supporters of the YWCA’s capital campaign.

The YWCA is not the only community organization that has or does benefit from Hillery’s involvement - she volunteered for several years with the Cedar Falls Planning and Zoning Commission and she currently serves on the Exceptional Persons Inc. Foundation board. She has helped fundraise for David O’Shields, a UNI affiliated filmmaker who produced a well-known documentary on tallgrass prairies and more recently premiered a film on the life of Iowa artist Gary Kelley. However, Hillery is not all work and no play; she balances her life with family, friends, vacations and hobbies, particularly enjoying gardening.

During her tenure as Board President, Hillery provided guidance, leadership and support at a time when the community as a whole was struggling. She led many candid discussions regarding funding, programming and personnel during which she always demonstrated that she truly understood her role – providing honest, upfront guidance and strong support. Her insight to always show the benefits to the community and participants strengthened our message in grants and in the capital campaign philosophy and materials. Cindy Mohr said of Hillery, “She is strategic and planful, intelligent and resourceful. She is humorous and genuine. She is humble. She is strong, supportive and caring. She is fiercely loyal and committed to the people, organizations and causes she loves, going above and beyond in her dedication, efforts and support. She is truly persimmon”.