Norwalk hosted its party of the decade on July 23, 2019, when 20,000 bicyclists, support crews and guests rode into town on RAGBRAI, the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.
For Dr. Donna Grant, partner in Norwalk Family Dentistry, her vision for the day, her leadership of hundreds of volunteers and her unflagging energy from dawn to dark has earned her recognition as Member of the Year for the Norwalk Area Chamber of Commerce. The award was presented at the Chamber’s 27th Annual Awards Celebration on January 24 at Echo Valley Country Club.
“I am immensely proud of how we pulled together in Norwalk to put on a day to show off our community to RAGBRAI,” Grant says. “I was honored to be a part of presenting Norwalk as a Hometown for Heroes and, as a community, we proved we have many heroes who got involved to give everyone – visitors and residents – a great time.”
The list to recognize everyone involved is huge, Grant notes, from the volunteer steering committee, to city department staffs, especially Police, Fire and Public Works, to civic organizations and, of course, the Chamber, she says. She cites especially City Council Member Jaki Livingston and Chamber Executive Director Lucinda Sperry, who joined her to power the planning committee. “The entire committee was phenomenal,” she adds.
Grant proposed Norwalk’s City Park as the main venue for the day and then set to work managing the project, hosting planning meetings, securing bands and entertainment, collecting the massive supplies needed and coordinating vendors including beer tents – among a thousand other tasks.
The best measure of the day’s success, she says, is that more than $20,000 was raised in sales at the beverage tents and returned to the community through donations to the Norwalk Boy Scouts, RoboWarriors, Norwalk Lions Club Fireworks Fund, New Life Lutheran Church, Norwalk Community School District water filling station, Norwalk Ministerial Association Emergency Fund and the Hometown Pride Veterans’ Memorial Fund.
Once bicyclists and crews left town in late afternoon, Grant hosted another event: Celebrate Norwalk, the RAGBRAI after party for the community with hundreds of Norwalk families gathering at North & Main and City Park for entertainment and relaxation after the successful day. “The after party was awesome,” she says. “We had everything there after the full day event and it was a perfect way for us to celebrate as a community.”
Grant’s role on the RAGBRAI host committee was just the latest in her long association with the Chamber which she served as president for two years, followed by a role as chair of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the organization of all Chambers in Central Iowa.
Another 2019 Chamber involvement was as a presenter at the Warren County event during the Des Moines metro-wide Mentoring for Women event in April, a project of numerous area Chambers. The Norwalk event brought together women from Norwalk, Carlisle, Indianola and rural Warren County to discuss women’s role as leaders.
“I was honored to be involved,” Grant says. “If what I’ve done as a businesswoman is something other women think is helpful and can possibly impact their endeavors, that’s very humbling.”
Dr. Grant is also busy with family. Her son Jake is a senior at Iowa State University and her son Cole is a senior at Norwalk High School.
Would she suggest others get involved in the Chamber? “Absolutely,” she says. “Involvement in the Chamber is the best way for a business or an organization and their leaders to get to know the community, to get to know people and, in turn, to give back to the community.”
Her own involvement with the Chamber began when she was recruited by Mark Miller, former City Manager and still active Chamber member. “Mark was committed to getting more people involved and he convinced me to join one day after a conversation. The next day, he said to me, ‘You’re on the board now, too,’” she laughs.
Chamber membership is also a reflection of how she looks at her dental practice. After graduating from the University of Nebraska College of Dentistry, Grant saw a posting on a bulletin board at the University about a practice with an open position in Norwalk, Iowa. She accepted the position and a few years later purchased the practice.
Today she and Dr. Maureen Winslow are partners in the practice and Dr. Elizabeth Fleck is an associate. The staff includes seven dental hygienists, four dental assistants and an office staff of five.
“I feel the involvement of Norwalk Family Dentistry in the Norwalk Area Chamber is part of who we are in Norwalk. We are all intertwined with the community and being part of the Chamber is another way of supporting that community and, in turn, earning the community’s support of us,” she says.
“Even if you are not involved in the Chamber or in a specific group, volunteering is always needed somewhere in a community,” she adds. “Reach out. It’s rewarding and exciting.”