Reflect on Our Past History
The Faces of Four Oaks
In 1973, Four Oaks’ founders looked into the faces of “troubled” kids and chose to see their potential for success. Fifty years later, that unwavering vision—Expect Success—remains constant.
In this, our 50th year, we invite you to join us as we reflect on and celebrate the Faces of Four Oaks, past and present. These committed staff, determined youth, hopeful families, steadfast partners, and tireless supporters have helped make Four Oaks what we are today.
Mary Ann Kucera
Mary Ann Kucera has been an avid supporter of Four Oaks since the early days. Through the decades, she has remained a dedicated advocate of Four Oaks programs and services.
Mary Ann’s connection to the Cedar Rapids community runs deep. She attended Johnson Elementary School in Wellington Heights as a child, and became a teacher in the Cedar Rapids school district after graduating from Coe College.
She parlayed her teaching experience into a run for the Cedar Rapids School Board, where she held a seat from 1974 through 1997. It was as a school board member that Mary Ann met former Four Oaks President and CEO Jim Ernst, who introduced her to the new child welfare organization.
Mary Ann believed in the work Four Oaks was doing to help children in her community, and she was a champion of the mission to assure children become successful adults. “I was very impressed with Jim’s vision and wanted to support it,” Mary Ann said.
The Oak Leaf Society celebrates donors who have committed to helping ensure the future success of Four Oaks by establishing planned gifts. Mary Ann and her late husband, Howard, joined the Oak Leaf Society in 2015. Mary Ann said, “Four Oaks is a necessity. I’m not sure what Cedar Rapids would do without it.”
For Mike Wilkins, working at UFG for over three decades eventually led him back to his hometown of Cedar Rapids and to the board of Four Oaks.
Wilkins said when he got involved in Four Oaks as a member of the board, he immediately connected to the organization’s mission and its determination to help children become successful adults.
His business experience has helped the board operate like a business, setting goals and mission-driven objectives, to help ensure the long-term success of Four Oaks youth.
Wilkins has seen the impact of Four Oaks on the Cedar Rapids community, not only helping to break the chain of challenges for youth, but also in improving the local housing situation.
Wilkins said hearing stories from former Four Oaks youth who have become successful adults is one of the most impactful experiences he’s had.
“There are not many dry eyes at the events when they are talking,” said Wilkins. “It’s easy to make excuses for those who have not been successful, but you really don’t know the challenges they have had. So when you hear the stories and the resilience that exists there with the support from Four Oaks, it really helps cement in your brain the worthwhile cause it truly is.”
Myron “Mike” Wilson has been a Four Oaks supporter for over 30 years and became an Oak Leaf Society member in 2010. He and his wife, Esther, who recently passed, have been generous and willing to help wherever they were needed. “We got connected with Four Oaks and we were just really impressed with the job they’re doing.”
Mike continues to advocate for Four Oaks to fellow residents in his new senior living facility and encourages them to become involved. “I think Four Oaks is doing a great job. I’m happy I could be a part of it. Even though Esther’s gone, I’m still interested in what more I can do.”
Janice Baumback was a passionate philanthropist and community leader who won a contest to rename Boys Acres in 1984, resulting in the birth of Four Oaks. To better reflect the agency’s growing services, the name Four Oaks was chosen to represent the family, the agency, and the community standing together with the child to build a future strong as the mighty oak. Involving the family in the treatment of the child remains the hallmark of the Four Oaks philosophy.
Janice was a clinical social worker for 14 years with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics before retiring in 1985. She served on Four Oaks’ Iowa City Advisory Board for 36 years, and regularly provided insight and feedback on Four Oaks services that could best help children in the community. Janice was also a charter member of the Oak Leaf Society, a planned giving society that helps to ensure the future of Four Oaks.
Janice was a strong supporter of Four Oaks’ mission and vision, and her extensive community involvement and leadership positions reflected her dedication to providing hope and supporting the success of youth facing complex challenges.
Today, Janice’s legacy lives on through the annual Janice Baumback Outstanding Youth Achievement Award that provides $300.00 to a youth between the ages of 5 and 18 who has participated in Four Oaks services and made positive changes to overcome personal adversity or had a positive impact on themselves, their family, or their community.