Foundation honors emerging leaders


The LincolnWay Community Foundation’s 2023 celebration last month honored the hard work of six local leaders under 40 while presenting a vision of how rural Clinton County is building strong communities for today, tomorrow and forever.

Clinton County residents Trisha Costello, Derek Fox, Clay Waterbury, Dr. Ashley Wegmann-Connell, Amber Busch and Dr. Jacob Cram received recognition for their community-building work. 

As a sign of appreciation, the Foundation granted $250 to a nonprofit of each awardee’s choice. Honorees selected the Education Foundation of Central DeWitt, DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department, Charlotte Fire Department, Welton Volunteer Fire Department, Central DeWitt Community School District – Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Northeast Community School District PTO. 

The Foundation has been working hard over the past three years to build its Forever LincolnWay endowment through the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque’s Small-town Dreams Initiative. Thanks to local support, LincolnWay reached its $450,000 fundraising goal in 2023 – including a $100,000 match from an anonymous donor. The fund now supports a paid executive director for the Foundation, and this year, was used to celebrate these local leaders.

“We were able to award grants to nonprofits at the celebration thanks to Small-town Dreams,” says Amanda Willimack, executive director of the LincolnWay Community Foundation. “Grant dollars went directly to the local organizations that each of these young leaders represents and cares about so deeply.”

Those in attendance at the celebration voted for two additional grants to be awarded to Central Community Historical Society & Museum and Dolly Parton Imagination Library Clinton County. 

The Foundation also celebrated the winner of its Spotlight Award, Melissa Paulsen, who embodies the Foundation’s mission to connect the dots between community needs and those working to make a difference in rural Clinton County. 

As the owner of RISE Counseling and Consulting, Paulsen is committed to bringing quality mental health services to rural communities in Iowa. She opened her doors in January of 2022 and in a short time has grown to four locations throughout Eastern Iowa with 10 therapists and a nurse practitioner. 

“Melissa is addressing a need in our community and making a real difference in people’s lives,” says Willimack. “When she saw a need in DeWitt, she worked to make this her newest location.”

LincolnWay’s Leaders Under 40 program was created in 2012 as a way to acknowledge the valuable contributions of young leaders in the community. Since that time, the Foundation has recognized 58 individuals making a positive impact throughout rural Clinton County. 

The Community Foundation offers many opportunities to improve quality of life by addressing an array of local issues. To learn more about how you can establish a fund or make a gift that impacts your community, contact Amanda Willimack at 563-212-2812 or email lwcf@dbqfoundation.orgTo learn more or make a gift to the Forever LincolnWay fund, visit