Angie Dethlefs-Trettin Has the Floor

Foundations, Funding and Fishing with Community Foundation VP

Angie Dethlefs-Trettin Has the Floor

If you spend any time with Angie Dethlefs-Trettin, you will quickly discover that early in her life she took to the world of community philanthropy like a fish to water.  Apropos because she loves fishing and can fillet a fish, thanks to her grandpa.  We talked about how she came to Des Moines, the investment made by The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines to support the first Regional Housing Strategy for our area, and her “aha-moment” related to housing.

Q:  Your professional career has been devoted to serving Community Foundations, first the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, then the  Iowa Council of Foundations and now the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. How did you choose this career path?

It started with a poster in my path – literally. When I was a high school student in Waterloo I saw a poster in the hallway that read, “What would you do with $10,000?”
Naturally it caught my attention and I became involved inTeen Trust, an offshoot of the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa that allowed high-school students to grant funding to community groups and organizations. The experience set my life’s course, I was hooked on philanthropy.

Q:  I understand you were so hooked that you chose to commute over 100 miles. True? 

My husband is an actuary, so Des Moines was like a magnet with all of its insurance and finance opportunities. Since I am an Iowa girl at heart and basically refused to leave the state, he landed a position here and I continued to work at the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa in Waterloo.  I loved my job (and of course my husband) so I made the commute for almost two years before becoming President of the Iowa Council of Foundations and moving my career to Des Moines. And now as the Vice President of Community Investment and Initiatives for the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines I have a daily commute of just 4 miles!

Q:  What did the Community Foundation’s grantmaking committee see in PCHTF and Housing Tomorrow that made it something they wanted to back?

A:  To answer your question I need to first provide a little background on the role of the Community Foundation. We recognize the needs of our region’s communities far surpass the availability of traditional funding. Simply providing grants is not enough. So we help leverage resources, make connections and work to enable community leadership that accomplishes more than any grant can do.

One of the ways we do that is by being a partner in major community initiatives that are supported by thoughtful planning and focused leadership. Housing Tomorrow, as our region’s housing plan is a great example. 

We have watched as the PCHTF has evolved from being a funder to being a leader. The transformation has been exciting and the timing couldn’t be better. Housing, and the need for housing options, affect just about every initiative to improve the quality of life in our community – directly or indirectly. When their grant application came in as a proposal for leading the Regional Affordable Housing Strategy I almost cheered out loud. After reviewing the proposal, which included describing the project, community need, goals, measurable outcomes, timeframes potential barriers, expected impact, advancing a shared vision, inclusion of progressive strategies, etc. the grantmaking committee was equally excited to approve the $25,000 request to lead the first ever regional plan for safe and affordable housing. 

Q:  The Community Foundation talks a lot about the need for transformational change and helping connect the dots to make things happen. When did you, personally, make the connection that affordable housing needed to be at the heart of some of the community’s largest, strategic initiatives?  

A: It was the Can I Be Your Neighbor Campaign that really moved me to think about all the people who make our community work. Seeing the posters of employees, what they are paid, what they can afford really underscored for me that we as a community need to come together to make sure there are safe, stable and affordable housing options for all. I think this campaign opened a lot of eyes and hopefully lessened the stigma associated with affordable housing. The cost of homes and apartments is simply beyond what many people can afford.

It is our hope and expectation that Housing Tomorrow will connect developers, employers, service providers, policymakers, community leaders and others. The depth, breadth and impact of housing is so far-reaching and important that we believe this particular plan is one that will have an impact on community planning and the quality of life we provide for generations to come.