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2018 Most Influential Women: Bridget Dierks

Community Foundation of the Ozarks Inc.

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Each year Community Foundation of the Ozarks Inc. awards roughly $1.4 million in unrestricted grants to area nonprofits. Behind the scenes orchestrating that funding is Bridget Dierks.

As CFO’s vice president of programs, Dierks says she researches, creates and manages grant programs to “make significant community impact via the wonderful ideas and significant effort of our nonprofit partners.”

“The work, while challenging,” she says, “is incredibly rewarding.”

Dierks joined CFO in 2006 and has landed several promotions before securing her current role in fall 2017.

She says one of her favorite programs at CFO is with the Louis L. and Julia Dorothy Coover Charitable Foundation, which has provided more than $5 million in grants since 2002.

“Programs which would have no other funding source can come to Coover and potentially find money to solve rural community challenges,” she says. “I enjoy being the person who ensures their voice gets heard.”

Though she admittedly is a behind-the-scenes influencer, that hasn’t stopped her from making her mark.

“Anytime I think of those who are shaping our great community, Bridget Dierks is always at the top of the list,” says Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, in the Missouri House of Representatives.

Quade has worked with Dierks on various matters, including the Northwest Project, one of Dierks’ proudest efforts in helping to create. CFO was the original funder and remains involved through grant writing, she says. Now under the leadership of the Drew Lewis Foundation, Missouri State University and Drury University, the program has helped over 200 people in its first two years.

“Individuals have returned to college, completed high school equivalency tests, acquired positions which pay higher wages and purchased homes,” Dierks says. “Payday loan debt is slowly becoming eradicated among the participants, and debt overall has dramatically decreased.”

Her work with the Northwest Project highlights a personal passion of hers: ensuring equity for all community members.

This year, she started a grant program at CFO focused on diversity and inclusion.

“Bringing light to important programs which are helping improve quality of life for marginalized people in our community is vital work,” she says.

Beyond her day job, she owns her family’s fireworks business, and her primary community involvement is as co-chair of the Springfield Public Schools Task Force on Facilities. The group is focused on evaluating SPS school buildings and presenting options on future school bond issues. She says it’s a cause close to her heart as her mother is a retired elementary school teacher and her son will soon be an SPS student.

“I believe children of all income levels and life circumstances deserve quality education in a school that functions well for the purposes of educating in the modern world,” she says.

She also sits on the board for Community Partnership of the Ozarks Inc. and on an advisory board for her alma mater, MSU’s College of Arts and Letters.

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