Photo by Duane Tinkey
Photo by Duane Tinkey

Judy Winkelpleck is searching for her next cause.

She already has put together the team that built the Bernie Lorenz Recovery center for recovering chemically dependent women and assembled its first board of directors and executive director. She just finished her term as president of the Iowa Council for International Understanding. And she is down from serving on about a dozen boards at one time to just a couple.

But she is driven to do more by one core belief. "It's always what is going to add the most to people's lives," she said. "So that's always the theme, I would say. I believe that the reason we're on Earth is to be of service to others."

Patsy Shors and Judith Conlin echoed this in their nomination letter: "Judy, from the time she flipped hamburgers for Wink's Concessions in Ogden, Iowa, to her current role as chief operating officer for the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, has lived a mission-driven life. The operating principle for every major decision Judy makes is, 'What is the value, and is this value consistent with my personal philosophy and beliefs?'"

Careerwise, she started working for Iowa State University, mainly doing research, administration and programming development, after getting a Ph.D. in sociology, followed by a master's in counseling. Then she started a 12-year stint at Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., which ended with her serving as director of workforce strategies. In 2002, she became vice president and chief operating officer of the Civic Center, where she oversees the strategic and operational functions of the $12 million organization.

But throughout these career changes, she has had what she considers her "nonprofit career," which has been volunteer work, including serving as an associate pastor for the Walnut Hills United Methodist Church, an adviser for the Junior League of Des Moines and a director for the Chrysalis Foundation.

Her recent work with the Iowa Council for International Understanding and her previous experience with the American Red Cross have inspired her next possible step of helping in international emergencies. "It is a time when you can directly affect people's lives and give them hope that all is not lost," Winkelpleck said.

When asked her greatest accomplishment, she pauses for a long time, then responds: "The thing that I am most grateful for is that people trust me. People have trusted me as their manager, as their leader, as their board chair and as their pastor."

With no immediate family in her life anymore, she greatly values her close friends, especially those who join her for a drive in the country in her 1946 Ford pickup.

But her real passion is her service work. "What excites me is if I can see there's a need and it's not been done," she said. "Much of my life, I've responded to people who said, 'We can't do anything there.' To me, that just means we've got the wrong people at the table."