Meet the Team!

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Iowa Prison Industries is the work arm of the Iowa Department of Corrections, providing offenders with the opportunity for Building Brighter Futures, through our work training programs. Learn a little more about our employees and the work they do for Iowa Prison Industries! Every Monday we'll be featuring a new employee in hopes you'll learn about the people, culture and capabilities that make IPI unique.

Meet Karen Donahue! She has been at the IPI Showroom for 2 years working in Customer Service and Sales Support for Cities, Libraries, Churches, Private Schools, Colleges and Healthcare. A Des Moines native, Karen is an East High School graduate and attended American Airlines Travel Academy in Ft Worth, Texas. Before IPI, she worked 18 years as an airport agent with American Airlines, and 11 years in Sales/ Photography/Publishing with Lifetouch National School Studios. Her current favorite project is trying to come up with new products to grow sales for the Graphic Arts shop. “On average I spend about half the day on the phone answering questions and taking orders from customers. The remainder of the day I am taking orders via email or the website and working with the shops for layouts, drawings, pricing and other details required to get quotes to the customers and orders into the shop. Throughout the day we assist customers that walk into the showroom with questions and orders.” Karen has been married 37 years to her high school sweetheart. She has 3 adult children, 3 grandchildren, and a feisty dachshund. She loves traveling, the beach, old movies, and relaxing on the patio. Karen is also a proud Hawkeye fan! Her favorite thing about IPI is seeing the growth in our clerks from the time they start until they leave, and the pride they have when they accomplish a new task.

Meet Sara Schnotala! She has worked in the IPI Showroom for 2 years as a customer service representative. She is originally from Fremont, Iowa, and graduated from Buena Vista University with a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology. Before working at IPI, Sara worked in Sales, Customer Service, International roles with Vermeer, Conductix-Wampfler and American Building Components. “I help IPI develop strong relationships with our customers by answering their questions, help resolve their problems and make suggestions regarding the purchase of additional IPI products and services they might not be aware we supply.” A typical day for Sara includes taking customer phone calls, processing orders, training new incarcerated clerks, helping any customers that stop by the Showroom and other LEAN activities. Her favorite project she’s worked on at IPI is a large tv unit, table and credenza for the Pottawattamie County Sheriff. In Sara’s free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Dave and daughter, Brielle. She enjoys reading, volleyball, softball, anything baseball (GO CARDS!), hanging out with friends, attending church and participating in several Army FRG events as a member of the board. Sara’s favorite thing about IPI is working with incarcerated individuals, hearing their stories, and sharing her work experience.

Meet Tammy Nielsen! She has been at IPI for 2 years and handles sales for several markets including colleges, private K-12 schools, cities, churches and healthcare. Before working for IPI, she worked in Logistics and Supply Chain Management for 10 years. She shares, “I spend the majority of my time on the road visiting customers and working with them on furniture projects. Altoona City Hall and Police Department is my favorite project to date. While it was challenging, I learned a lot about the design process and as a result was able to update some of IPI's current furniture lines with new, modern twists.” Tammy is originally from Winterset, Iowa, and has a bachelor's degree in Marketing and Sales. “My family and I are HUGE baseball fans and you can find us cheering on the Cubs and watching my son play his final year of high school baseball in the State Championships.” Tammy’s favorite part about IPI is the design process and seeing new trends in the marketplace. “I learn something new every day!”

Meet Julie Olinger! She has been at the IPI Showroom for 3 years. She searches for General Contractor projects that can be bid by our various shops. Before working at IPI, Julie was a stay at home mom for 12 years. During that time she taught water fitness/swim classes for the YMCA in OH and NC. She also nannied for other families and continues to substitute teach for preschool-12th grade. “I always start my day by looking for addendums to projects that are offered to our shops so they have the most current information available. I also search various sites for new projects to offer. After bids are submitted and a GC selected, I call to see if we won the bid, or if not, try to find out how our bid compared so I can share with shops for future bids. I enter all the job leads and updates into Global for tracking.” When she started, GC bidding was just beginning. She says it’s been fun to figure out the process and procedures. Julie is originally from Persia, Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University. She shares “I have been married for 19 years and we have four children, two boys and two girls...two teenagers! My favorite things to do are sand volleyball and dirt therapy...gardening!” Julie’s favorite thing about IPI is working with incarcerated individuals and reassuring them that people are willing to give them a second chance.

Meet Ann Baughman! A Marketing Manager, Ann has been at IPI for 16 years! She shares “I wear a lot of hats at IPI and my position has certainly evolved over the past 16 years. In a nutshell, I'm ensuring our sales and customer service team have everything they need to promote our products and services to our customers. The orders they generate provide the work needed for training the incarcerated individuals in our programs.” One of her favorite projects was working on the migration from our old website to a fully functioning e-commerce website. “Every day is a little bit different for me, but may entail updating product information on our website and catalogs, preparing and sending email marketing campaigns, hiring and training our showroom clerks, and researching new products and working with the shops on product line development.” Originally from Central Illinois, Ann now lives in West Des Moines with her husband, son, step-daughter, 2 rescue dogs and 2 cats. Before moving to the Des Moines area, she worked as a graphic designer in the publishing and advertising fields since graduating from Bradley University. In her free time she coaches and teaches kickboxing classes and goes to her son’s sporting events. Her favorite part about IPI is watching the showroom clerks gain job skills and confidence during their time training here in the Showroom.

Meet Bob Fairfax! He’s on his 21st year at the IPI Showroom as the Director of Sales/Marketing and Customer Service, the commercial team in charge of all activities involving our customers and developing sustainable revenue growth for IPI. Before working for IPI, Bob worked in Private Sector Business Management/Sales and Marketing Development and Organizational Growth for Fortune 500 companies in the Midwest. He says “No two days are the same at IPI; every day brings new challenges to meet the needs of our customers and prospects while continually coming up with products and services to increase our incarcerated individuals work opportunities and help them develop the skills needed to succeed upon release.” He shares, “While working with our customers is extremely rewarding meeting their needs with product and services, I think one of the most memorable and rewarding projects was working with teams of incarcerated individuals assisting the National Governors Meeting in Des Moines 14 years ago. We did logistics, product and meeting set up and tear down, and helped that organization and Iowa shine with the other Governors from other States. Our team stepped up and made Iowa look like a leader in the Correctional Industries Programs across the United States. Numerous comments from other Governors how they would go back and tell our story to their leaders in their State.” Bob is originally from Kirksville, MO, and graduated from Truman State University with a BS in Business Administration/ Marketing/Accounting. He has been married for 39 years, has 3 sons, and 4 granddaughters. Weather permitting, you can find him golfing. His favorite thing about IPI is the look on the face of an incarcerated individual when they realize they have beat the cycle and succeeded in transitioning back to society as a valuable member of that group. He says it is priceless.

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