2023 NPD Honorees


Outstanding Individual Philanthropist
~ Sue and Ron Olson ~

Sue and Ron Olson have been active community volunteers and philanthropists since their return to Cedar Rapids in 1973, following Ron’s service in the Army. 

Upon their return Sue embarked on a career in human services including Parent Alliance Coordinator at St. Luke’s Child Protection Center, a social worker at St. Luke’s Hospital, Executive Director of the Madge Phillips Center and then Director at Young Parents Network.  Ron joined Paulson Electric Company, a fourth-generation family electrical construction business, where he worked until his retirement in 2015.  

From the time they returned to Cedar Rapids, and continuing today, community involvement and philanthropy have been an integral part of their lives. Sue has served on numerous boards including Linn County Community Empowerment, Hillcrest Family Services, Junior League of CR, the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. Ron has served on the boards and held volunteer leadership roles at the YMCA, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, CR Chamber of Commerce (now Economic Alliance), was elected to serve on the Cedar Rapids Community School District Board of Education for 12 years, and was a Co-Trustee and Chairman of the Esther and Robert Armstrong Charitable Trust. Ron has volunteered with  UWECI in many roles, including chairing the 2013 Annual Campaign, as a member of the United Way Board of Trustees, and as Chairman of the Human Service Campus Committee.  In his ‘free-time’ Ron has also volunteered with Horizons as a driver for their Meals on Wheels program. 

Sue and Ron have established an endowed fund at the Community Foundation which will share their philanthropic commitment with our community in perpetuity.   Prior to retirement, Sue and Ron were integral in Paulson Electric establishing two corporate giving funds at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. They are pleased the company continues its tradition to invest in the community in a variety of ways. 

Ron and Sue are delighted that their sense of community and the importance of giving back has continued through their adult children and spouses.  They actively involve their young grandchildren in philanthropy, allowing each child to research community needs and designate funds for their top priorities.  Sue and Ron hope this sense of community giving will continue through yet another generation. 

Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser
~ Nick AbouAssaly ~

Nick AbouAssaly was born in Beirut and immigrated to the US in 1975. He graduated from Linn-Mar High School and earned degrees in finance and in law from the University of Iowa.  He worked as an attorney for Exxon Corporation, but was drawn back to eastern Iowa by the desire to be near family and the opportunity to live in a community where he could make a greater impact. 

He served on the Marion City Council for 2 ½ years before his election to the office of Mayor in November 2015. He began his second term in January 2020, having received 70% of the vote.  

Mayor Nick is a partner with Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman, where he heads the real estate law department. He is included on the Best Lawyers in  America® and Great Plains Super Lawyers lists and was the Best Lawyers – Lawyer of the Year for real estate law in Cedar Rapids in 2020 and 2021.  

He is a champion for progress in Marion and the region. When the Marion library embarked on a significant capital campaign, Mayor Nick stepped forward to help, setting a personal fundraising goal of $100,000. He surpassed his goal, raising an impressive $460,000 in gifts and pledges. He has also successfully fundraised for the Marion YMCA, Marion Central Plaza, Uptown Marion District, the Intercultural Festival of Linn County, and St. George Orthodox Church. 

Mayor Nick has served on numerous boards, commissions, steering committees and volunteer roles. Including Rotary, Linn Mar School Foundation, Junior Achievement, The History Center, St. George Orthodox Church, LGBTQ+ youth program, Intercultural Festival of Linn County, and Mayor’s Youth Council. For the city of Marion, he has served on the Public Art Master Plan Steering Committee, Lowe Park Amphitheater project, Marion Cultural & Entertainment District Steering Committee and was a founding member of Uptown Marion.

He was an inaugural recipient of the CBJ’s Forty under 40 award and has been on the CJB’s list of most  influential people in the Corridor for seven consecutive years, topping the list in 2018 and again in 2020. In 2019 he received the National Council on Youth Leadership’s Visionary Youth Leadership Award. Most recently, he was named the inaugural Mayor of the Year for cities of more than 2,000 in population by the Iowa Mayors Association.

Outstanding Fundraising Professional
~ Lois Buntz, CFRE ~

Lois A. Buntz is a Certified FundRaising Executive (CFRE), author, and fund development consultant. As CEO of United Way of East Central Iowa, Lois raised more than $125 million throughout her career. Prior to joining United Way, she held administrative positions at numerous nonprofits, including Four Oaks and Horizons. Lois is currently consulting with WomenStrong, an international women’s organization that provides services in Africa, South America, and India.  

Lois served as an adjunct faculty at the University of Iowa Graduate School of Social Work for ten years, and was an Assistant Professor at Clarke University, where she also chaired the Tri- College Social Work Program.

She holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin, an MSW from the University of Iowa and a certificate in Nonprofit Executive Leadership from Stanford University. 

As a volunteer she has served on more than twenty nonprofit boards including the Cedar Rapids Library Foundation Board, UnityPoint St. Luke’s Foundation Board, Common Good Iowa, Meth-Wick Community, Cedar Rapids Rotary (President in 2012), and the Association of Fundraising Professionals.  Her book, Generosity and Gender: Philanthropic Models for Women Donors and the Fund Development Professionals Who Support Them was published in 2022 by Palgrave MacMillan.  

Lois has received several awards for her work in the nonprofit sector: The Community Trustee Award from Leadership for Five Seasons, Larry Christy Award from Cedar Rapids Rotary, Corridor Business Journal’s Women of Influence and Waypoint’s Tribute to Women of Achievement. 

Lois and her husband Bob enjoy bicycling, golfing, and traveling. They have four adult children and six grandchildren.  

Outstanding Large Philanthropic Organization
~ New Leader Manufacturing ~

New Leader Manufacturing, formerly known as Highway Equipment Company, was founded in 1939 in Cedar Rapids. NLM is the leading manufacturer of agricultural and road maintenance equipment, serving both original equipment manufacturers and major metropolitan cities. With its two locations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Indaiatuba, Brazil, and over 200 employees across both facilities, NLM is proud to serve customers in Canada, the United States, and Brazil.

NLM has always had a “community first” mind-set and has supported local and global organizations for more than 30 years. In June of 2019, those philanthropic efforts were formalized when NLM created Spreading Good 380. Spreading Good spreads generosity and kindness by sharing NLM’s resources with those who are working to improve lives in the ICR region. Spreading Good offers two grant cycles each year for nonprofits, organizations and schools to apply for funding. Requests can vary from support of a particular program, to funds for a specific piece of equipment, or resources an organization needs to succeed. NLM understands needs come up outside of the formal application process and are open to receiving requests year-round. Since the program’s inception, NLM has donated more than $1M to local and global initiatives, including those serving women and children, animal care, unhoused, veterans, mental health organizations, healthcare clinics, and our school systems. 

“For more than 80 years, New Leader Manufacturing has been committed to giving back and improving the lives of those around us. The Spreading Good program builds on that foundation, helping to create vibrant communities where our employees work and live, and supporting causes we know will help make a difference in peoples’ lives.” says Rocki Shepard, CEO of NLM.

In addition to monetary support, NLM gives back with sweat-equity and hands-on interactions by organizing group volunteer outings for their teammates and empowering employees to utilize their Volunteer Time Off hours.

 Our communities are filled with people, organizations, and causes that do great things and inspire others to do more. NLM is honored to support these worthy causes both locally and globally through the Spreading Good initiative.

Outstanding Small Philanthropic Organization
~ Sunrise Builders ~

Sunrise Builders was established in 2017 and has served Cedar Rapids and surrounding areas since spring of 2020. With a focus on communication and transparency, Sunrise Builders works hard to give residential clients peace of mind through the entire remodel process. Sunrise Builders is dedicated to supporting various causes that aim to create a better world for both current and future generations. 

Sunrise Builders is committed to preserving the natural environment and educating the community through the diverse and fun-filled programs offered at Indian Creek Nature Center, supporting numerous programs there, including: Bioblitz, 50 Donors for 50 Years, and annual fundraising events, including Nature’s Noel, Farm to Table Dinners, Practice in the Prairie, and the Maple Syrup Festival. These events have not only raised funds but also fostered a sense of community and environmental stewardship.  

Sunrise Builders is proud to have been a sponsor of Cedar Rapids Public Library’s Tech 2-GO program, which promotes equitable access to technology and inspiring educational activities in the community. Through the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation they have supported Literacy Vines, a fundraising event for the library, and the 2023 Dolly Parton Birthday Party, which celebrated the milestone of mailing the 300,000th book to a Cedar Rapids child through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. 

Being in the construction industry, Sunrise Builders continues to be a dedicated advocate for Habitat for Humanity. Their sponsorship of the Recycle Gala, the Bags for a Builder Tournament, and Home Team Huddle fundraisers has made it possible to continue building homes in Linn and Benton counties, providing safe and stable housing for those in need. 

Sunrise Builders wants to serve as an inspiring example of a positive impact that can be achieved through selfless giving and community support to create a better world for today and generations to come. 

Outstanding Philanthropic Youth
~ Andrea Mwamini Zabibu ~

Andrea Mwamini Zabibu lives in Iowa City with her family and goes to Hillcrest Academy, where she is maintaining a 4.0 GPA. 

Andrea has a passion to help community members. At a very young age, she started donating her own Christmas gifts to the Salvation Army to ensure other kids her age had presents under the tree. . Andrea enjoys helping immigrant classmates with their school assignments, has volunteered to serve meals at the Iowa City homeless shelter, and often serves people in her church community by babysitting children for free, mostly for single mothers. When a church member could not afford to make their mortgage payment on time, Andrea raised $2,000 for the family by selling cookies, lemonade, old toys, books and used clothes. While traveling to Africa she had the opportunity to volunteer in a number of orphanages she visited.

In 2022, the Iowa City Area Business Partnership and Iowa City Area Development Group honored Andrea with an Impact Award. She was recognized by the Iowa City Human Rights Commission at their annual Human Rights Youth Awards Ceremony in 2023.

Outside of school, Andrea enjoys attending Bible studies every Wednesday night, spending time with her family and visiting new places to explore and appreciate nature. After graduation, she plans to attend Harvard or Yale University and her dream is to attend law school.

Benjamin Franklin Award
~ Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity Women Build ~

Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity (IVHFH) is nearing completion of its 13th annual Women Build, a new home that will provide safe, affordable, permanent housing for a single mother in Iowa City. This year the Women Build program will also sponsor an affordable home repair: the replacement of a failed roof for owners of a manufactured home in Iowa City. These projects are made possible by a rotating group of as many as 30 women volunteers who have made up IVHFH’s Women Build committee since its first Women Build in 2004. 

Through education, volunteerism, and philanthropy, this group of women empowers and engages the entire community to support affordable housing solutions. The Women Build Committee works to break down barriers that have historically excluded women from the construction industry. All people are welcome to take part in the program, but the primary focus is to include and encourage women and any others who may not otherwise feel comfortable volunteering at a construction site. 

The Women Build Committee also recognizes the talented and hard-working women in the Iowa Valley community through a special honoree tradition. Each year, a Women Build honoree serving as the Committee’s chair is selected in recognition of her contributions and service to her profession and to the community. This year the committee is working under the leadership of honoree Mary Mascher. IVHFH attributes the success of Women Build to this dedicated committee which has involved tens of thousands of volunteers and raised over $1,000,000 for IVHFH’s Homeownership and Helping Hands programs over the past 19 years. These women have allowed IVHFH to serve more than 300 families since it was founded in 1992. Most importantly, Women Build volunteers have directly helped 16 low-income households to build strength, stability, and self-reliance through affordable housing solutions. 

Eastern Iowa Lifetime Achievement Award
~ Carol and Jared Hills ~

Carol and Jared Hills have shared an unsurpassed commitment to philanthropy. 

After meeting at the University of Iowa, Carol and Jared were married for nearly 64 years. Jared worked for, then became owner of, Diving Engineering. He never retired, and continued to enjoy going into the office for over 63 years. Carol spent her career in nursing, providing the couple a unique insight on community needs. She is a member and past president of the St. Luke’s Auxiliary, and has served on the St. Luke’s Foundation board. Jared served as chair of the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band commission, where he played sousaphone with the band for 54 years. He also served on boards for Asbury United Methodist Church, Salvation Army, and United Way of East Central Iowa.

Since 1978, Carol and Jared have donated more than $500,000 to St. Luke’s Foundation to support several vital health care programs. In 2021, they donated the lead gift to help create the Jared & Carol Hills Dialysis Suite. Jared and both of the couple’s children inherited polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which results in kidney failure. All three had successful kidney transplants and the family is determined to make life more comfortable for other kidney patients. 

Through her position as a school nurse, Carol learned about children that attended camp through Tanager. Their affinity for the camp continued to grow, and in 2019 Carol and Jared gave the largest donation to Tanager in their then 140 year history - nearly $1.8 million. Carol and Jared have also been supporters of Camp Courageous, regularly attending breakfast and open house events. Charlie Becker fondly remembers one such breakfast where Jared mentioned the camp’s Burma Bridge was quite an adventure. Charlie inquired if Jared had seen a picture, as the adventure course is tucked away in the camp’s woods and requires a safety rope system. To his surprise, Jared responded “Oh, no… I did it!” - making Jared the only known person to cross the bridge, 30’ in the air above a ravine, without the use of safety straps and ropes.

“Jared and Carol Hills have been some of the most generous people in the history of our city, giving their time and resources to many causes” said Dr. Steve Shanley, conductor of the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band. Big Brothers Big Sisters, United Way, University of Iowa, Orchestra Iowa, and the Arc of East Central Iowa are just a few of the numerous organizations they have supported.  In addition, Carol and Jared have been amazing champions of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Eastern Iowa and annual sponsors of National Philanthropy Day.