Cedar Valley United Way Announces 2021 Campaign Co-Chairs

Waterloo, IA – You can make a difference in our community through giving to Cedar Valley United Way’s 2021 campaign. Join us in helping to improve the health, education, financial stability and emergency and basic needs of all residents in the Cedar Valley.

Cedar Valley United Way is thrilled to have Stacey Bentley and Robert Smith, Jr. leading the 2021 Campaign. As prominent faces in the community, they are already working hard to cultivate support among local businesses and individuals and ensure the success of this year’s campaigning efforts.

Ms. Bentley is the President and CEO of Community Bank and Trust and has been with the company since its beginning 24 years ago. Mr. Smith has been the Executive Director of the Educational Opportunity Center/Special Community Services at University of Northern Iowa since 2005 (and with the University since 1988).

When asked why she is passionate about making an impact in our community, Ms. Bentley responded “There are challenges in our community. This past year has added additional challenges brought on by the pandemic. Mental health is one example that has affected people in our community now more than ever before. I believe if we work together, we can advance for the common good of all of us. United Way can bring together the people, partners, and resources. We are stronger together. I know every single one of us knows someone who has benefitted from one of our United Way agencies. It’s time to pay it forward.”

Likewise, Mr. Smith is passionate about making an impact in our community because “That comes from my childhood. I met and interacted with a great number of community-minded people. I remember people who volunteered their time for me, for the services that helped me. I would not have had the exposure to things like leisure services without these individuals giving back to their community. Serving as co-chair of this important campaign is one of my ways to give back to the Cedar Valley. When you give to United Way, you aren’t helping just one agency, you are helping multiple agencies, families, and children. That is really exciting to me. The money we raise will help families and children who are just like I was growing up in Texas.”

On September 1st from 11am to 1pm at Hilton Garden Inn – Cedar Falls, Cedar Valley United Way will kick off the 2021 Campaign at the Rally for the Valley, where business professionals will Unite to raise excitement for the work being done in the Cedar Valley. The Cedar Valley United Way Campaign will run from September 1 to approximately December 31, 2021.

If you are interested in learning more about how you or your organization can participate in a United Way campaign this year and help support the Cedar Valley United Way’s mission, feel free to give us a call at 319-235-6211 or email UnitedWay@cvuw.org.

Meet the Campaign Co-Chairs:

Ms. Bentley is the President and CEO of Community Bank and Trust and has been with the company since its beginning 24 years ago. Ms. Bentley is currently serving on the American Bankers Association Board of Directors, Membership Committee, Venture Investment Committee and Audit Committee. Currently, Ms. Bentley is a board member, a member of the Executive Committee and is the chair of the Finance Committee for Unity Point Hospital.  In addition, Ms. Bentley is a board member of Grow Cedar Valley, a board member of the Waterloo Foundation and Exceptional Persons Foundation.  Current Co-Chair of Black Hawk Grundy Mental Health Fundraiser Committee for mental illness awareness.  Ms. Bentley received the “Fulfilling the Vision of One” award through the Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber in 2017. She has been recognized as a recipient of Courier Communications Top 20 Under 40 Award and as Iowa’s Rising Star in Banking Award. She is married to Russ Bentley and has two adult children and one grandchild.  

Mr. Smith is the Executive Director of the Educational Opportunity Center/Special Community Services at University of Northern Iowa. There, he identifies community needs; fosters communication, cooperation, and coordination with educational and human service agencies; provides a positive environment for lifelong learning; works with UNI Continuing Education and oversees the Educational Opportunity Center Program, Educational Talent Search Program, and Classic Upward Bound Program (UNI-CUE Programs). Currently, Mr. Smith sits on the Allen Hospital Board of Directors, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northeastern Iowa Board of Directors and Waterloo Community Schools Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development (ICYD) Committee. Mr. Smith also is President of the Big Ten Officials’ Association, on the Big Ten Equality Coalition Committee, and a member of the NASO Official’s Board of Directors. Some of his past involvement includes the Allen Hospital Board of Directors, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northeastern Iowa Board Of Directors and Waterloo Community Schools Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development committee. Mr. Smith has received the Juneteenth Liberty Award by the Iowa Secretary of State, Sisters on Target Award, Twenty Under Forty Award, Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser by the Eastern Iowa Chapter of the AFP’s, Afro American Community Broadcasting Inc. Founders Award, Kappa Alpha Phi Outstanding Citizen of the Year, Waterloo Chamber of Commerce Public Citizen of the Year and more.

Q and A:

Q: What do you think is the best part of the Cedar Valley?
A (Bentley): We have a community that cares and wants to do the right thing to help others. We are a small enough community that every single person can make a difference. Together we can make an impact.  The diversity of our community can be celebrated, it’s what makes us unique. / (Smith): Having had a chance to travel quite a bit as a Big Ten college official, I've seen other cities, and I have experienced other cities. When it all boils down, the Cedar Valley is a very diverse place, and I don't think people appreciate or know just how diverse we are. Because I live here, when I travel and move around a very diverse America -- and world, really -- I find that I am quite prepared for the experience. It's really very valuable, living here in the Cedar Valley and interacting with so many different kinds of people.

Q: What are you most excited about as you take over as this year’s Campaign Co-Chairs?
A (Bentley): I love the fact I get to be working side by side with Robert Smith. He has been a friend, mentor and advocate for me and our team since a founding director of our bank. I highly admire Robert’s insight and passion. Yes, we are competitive and as Robert said, this will put our competitive natures work. / (Smith): I’m always excited about joining a team, but in this case, I'm getting to work with Stacey Bentley. Working with her is always a joy. I worked with her when I was a board member for Community National Bank. We are both competitive, and for a good reason: To go help raise money for the Cedar Valley United Way is a great way to put our competitive natures to work and serve our community at the same time.

Q: What are your goals for this year’s Campaign?
A (Bentley): To continue the tradition that the United Way has built over the years. United Way says, “Give where you Live”. Together we can tackle the biggest issues in the Cedar Valley. We are stronger
when we work together. / (Smith): I definitely want to meet the goals set by the board of the Cedar Valley United Way Board and hope to exceed that goal. The United Way helps to serve the community, and that's a passion of mine. I've dedicated my life to helping first-generation, low-income individuals. This is one way I can do that; to see this campaign be a success.

Q: What is one interesting thing about you?
A (Bentley): I come from a very large family. My mom was one of 14 siblings and I have over 65 first cousins. Also, my husband and I have been married 40 years, and we had our first grandchild in December.  It is such a joy to be a grandma! / (Smith): There are actually a couple of things. Most people know that I was a wide receiver for the Iowa Hawkeyes in the '80s. But I participated in two college sports: I was a football player, but I also ran track. I ran the 60m, the 100m, and the 4x100m relay. I held the 60m record at Iowa when I graduated, and at one time held the University of Iowa record for the 4x100 record. When I left, I also had the most touchdown receptions (16). The second thing people might not know is that I played in the Rose Bowl, attended the Rose Bowl as a fan after graduation, and then went on to officiate in the Rose Bowl in 2014 as a Big Ten football official. It is a pretty interesting coincidence.

Where does my money go?

In 2020, Cedar Valley United Way invested over $2.1 million in 61 programs at 36 different organizations that change the lives of people in our community. These programs are here working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year... and we are seeing positive results from these investments. Thanks to you, kids are stronger readers and heading toward success in school. Income constrained families are receiving quality childcare while parents focus on work or school. And, with your help, local leaders are developing a path to improve the state of mental health and related services in our area.

Additionally, Cedar Valley United Way provides funding to 211, a free and confidential community information and referral hotline to those needing assistance with food, rent, utilities and more.

If I cannot afford to give much, will a small donation do any good?

Every gift gives hope and improves lives. Even a $1 gift per pay period can help provide solutions to the most pressing health and human services in our community. It's not the size of one gift - it is all of us giving together that makes United Way a unique and powerful concept. Every donation matters!

Why should I give to United Way?

Charitable giving is a personal and voluntary decision and Cedar Valley United Way encourages you to do what is most comfortable to you. A gift to Cedar Valley United Way is an investment that benefits the entire community, not just one program, issue, or population.

There are many valuable non-profit organizations in the area that you may care about. Cedar Valley United Way provides an opportunity for your one gift to support a variety of local needs. If everyone designated their gifts to their favorite agency, many services to those in need would not be available to the community. Through one gift to Cedar Valley United Way, you can accomplish so much good!

You can also be assured that your gift to Cedar Valley United Way goes directly to fund programs that help people most in need. Cedar Valley United Way conducts periodic needs assessments to ensure donor dollars are addressing the most pressing community needs. We also monitor funded programs and initiatives annually to make sure they are efficiently and effectively improving people's lives and making a positive impact.

Finally, contributing through Cedar Valley United Way guarantees agencies funds they can rely on every month rather than depending on sporadic contributions.

What is the easiest way to contribute?

Payroll deduction is by far the most convenient method of contribution. You can participate in this form of giving through workplace campaigns at your place of business or through filling out a pledge form at www.cedarvalleyunitedway.org/give. A small amount is taken from your paycheck each payday, allowing you to make a small contribution each week than can make a big difference over the course of a year.

However, you can also give to Cedar Valley United Way with cash, check, or credit card. You may make a donation online at www.cedarvalleyunitedway.org/give or send a check in to our office at 425 Cedar Street, Suite 300, Waterloo, Iowa 50701.

Thank you to our generous Cedar Valley Community. United We Can create better futures: one person, one family, one helping hand at a time.