FOREST CITY | Winnebago Industries has received the Iowa Job Honor Award, a new initiative aimed at recognizing Iowans who have overcome significant barriers to employment.

Kyle Horn, founder and director of the awards, described his motivation to launch the initiative.

“Our society celebrates lottery winners, celebrities and professional athletes. Yet if these are the only paths to self-sufficiency, then most Iowans will never escape poverty," he said. "It’s time for a new kind of hero.”

Nominations were submitted via the organization's website,, and judged by a statewide panel. Gary McCarthy, Winnebago Industries’ personnel supervisor, was on hand for the award presentation during the Iowa Association of Business and Industry annual conference June 11.

Several hundred Iowa business leaders assembled in Cedar Rapids’ Paramount Theatre to witness the ceremony, in which biographical videos described the honoree’s efforts to win life-changing jobs.

In the employer category, T&D Repair in Burlington and Winnebago Industries of Forest City were honored for their commitment to hire disadvantaged candidates.

According to McCarthy, “Our employees are very loyal, hard-working, and dependable. Because of their struggles, they really value their job.”

T&D Repair owner David Dingman added, “Some of my best employees are the ones with limitations because they strive harder than everybody else.”

One such honoree is Yvonne Rodriguez of Sheldon. Trapped in a life of poverty and lacking marketable skills, Rodriguez pursued training in her struggle to gain financial independence for her family. She’s now employed as an optometrist assistant at Eye Care Center in Sheldon, where her employer credits her with attracting new customers through community involvement and bilingual skills.

Sharing employee honors is Megan Dawson of Des Moines. After training with Goodwill Industries of Central Iowa, Dawson enrolled in Goodwill’s Project SEARCH, an internship program for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Dawson was hired to work full-time in Hy-Vee’s bakery.

Caleb Cork, human resources manager at Hy-Vee in Windsor Heights, said, “When you have a person that truly enjoys their job, that rubs off on the others. Megan is a morale-booster.”

Each employee honoree received $500 and an engraved trophy.

Honoree Yvonne Rodriguez believes perseverance is the key for struggling job seekers.

“Always believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “There will be a day you wake up and say ‘This is the life I’ve been wanting.’”


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