Women of influence

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Michelle De La Riva is the executive director of Community and Family Resources.

Editor’s note: This story previously appeared in the March 2019 issue of the Fort Dodge Today magazine.

A quick biography:

  Michelle De La Riva graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in psychology in 1991 and from Purdue University with a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy in 1994. She worked in northwest Indiana for the first part of her career at a large community mental health center providing services to adolescents and their families. De La Riva, along with her husband Tom, and their children Angela and Ashley, moved back to Iowa in 2005 and De La Riva joined the team at Community and Family Resources shortly after their move. She has worked in several capacities at CFR; an adolescent counselor, the co-occurring coordinator, clinical director and in 2012 she moved to the executive director position. De La Riva enjoys reading, riding horses and traveling with her family during her leisure time.

What is

important to you?

  In thinking about what is important to me, the No. 1 thing that comes to mind is family. After Tom and I had kids, we decided that it was very important to us to have them grow up in the same environment that I grew up in, which is what prompted the move back to Iowa. I grew up in a very small town in Iowa and found that growing up there provided me with such a sense of community and value. When we moved back to Iowa, we chose to purchase a small acreage outside of a small town in order to provide our children with the opportunity to learn about values, responsibility and commitment. The kids participated in 4-H, FFA and all the school activities that can be found in a smaller community, which I think helps to instill those values.

  One other thing that we chose to do as a family in order to instill the sense of responsibility and caring for others was by volunteering for the CARES program as puppy socializers. The CARES program is a not-for-profit program out of Kansas that provides medical alert dogs for those with medical concerns. Our family has served as puppy socializers for the past eight years and has raised 15 dogs for the not-for-profit. The families that serve as socializers must not only care for the puppies from the ages of 6 months to a year but also take them along everywhere that you go in order to acclimate them to the outside environment, but also to work on obedience in the community.   

  These dogs are then trained by the CARES program for a specialty area, such as diabetic alert, and then placed with a family. It is a very rewarding program that has helped to teach my children about the importance of doing something selfless in order to give back to someone in need. My husband and I have continued to volunteer now that our children are grown as a way to continue with that mission of giving back.

  The second area that is very important to me is the work that I do as a human service provider. When I moved back to Iowa, I wanted to find a place to work that had the same type of mission and values that I was used to working at while in Indiana.   

  CFR has turned out to be a great fit for me. While working at CFR for the past 14 years, I have been able to see the program really expand over the years in our ability to serve those in need of behavioral health services.

  The climate in behavioral health has changed over the years and the needs of the community have continued to increase as we have seen awareness of substance use, gambling and mental health increase.

  The staff at CFR are truly dedicated to providing outstanding services to the community that we live in.

  Each and every day, I am able to see people coming in for services that truly want to make a change, and it is so rewarding to see the progress that they make as they start their journey down the road to recovery.

  It is amazing as well to see so many of them return to our agency seeking out employment so that they can give back to the program that helped to change their own life.

  This year is going to be a monumental year for us as we completed our building project in Fort Dodge. Our new centralized campus will be able to increase capacity to services, increase safety and security for those that we serve, be accessible to visitors of all mobility and most importantly provide a space to reflect a feeling of hope and wellness for the recovering person and their families.

  We look forward to continuing to make this a reality with the help of Woodruff Construction of Fort Dodge, ASK Studio of Des Moines and Great Western Bank of Fort Dodge, along with our many generous donors.