Family planning agency head to step down

On Feb. 28, Dinny Nielsen will say her goodbyes and look back on a career that made a positive impact to people in the area.

Nielsen, 66, is retiring after 27 years as executive director of Central Iowa Family Planning in Marshalltown.

“I feel rewarded for helping a lot of people,” Nielsen said. “I’m happy with the career path that I took.”

Central Iowa Family Planning provides health care, birth control and counseling for area residents planning families and also is a testing site for sexually transmitted infections.

Nielsen said 70 percent of the clients they serve are at or below the poverty level.

Nielsen was a nurse at Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center when the opportunity at the agency opened up. She stayed in the family planning field because it was so rewarding.

“I just have a passion to help people,” she said.

Through the years since she started in 1986, the agency has opened satellite offices in Grinnell and Toledo and has adjusted to the changing demographics in the area.

She said one couple sticks out among the thousands she has helped during her career. It was a couple trying to get pregnant and their reaction when they finally were pregnant brought a smile to the faces of the staff. The couple even sent the agency the birth announcement.

“That was really special,” Nielsen said.

She is quick to point out all of the accomplishments of the agency are not her’s alone.

“Over the years, we’ve had a very strong staff,” Nielsen said. “I feel very fortunate to have a great, supportive staff.”

Debra Tharp, board president of Central Iowa Family Planning, said Nielsen has been crucial to the whole organization.

“She’s committed to family planning services for the community,” Tharp said.

The Marshalltown resident said she plans to travel with her husband Bob during her retirement with more time to visit their three children and nine grandchildren.

She’ll also fill her newfound free time with a few of her favorite hobbies: decorating, sewing and painting.

On March 1, four-year agency employee Shannon Zoffka will take over as executive director of Central Iowa Family Planning. Nielsen said the agency is in good hands with Zoffka.

“I’ve learned a lot over the years from Dinny,” Zoffka said.