top of page

Meet the Storytelling Speakers


Lauren Ready

Principal Storyteller, 

Forever Ready Productions

Mackenzie Ryan Walters.jpg

Mackenzie Walters

CEO and Strategist,

StoryStruck Marketing


Zuli Garcia

Founding President,

Knock and Drop Iowa


Amal Barre

Founder and Project Director of unevictIA

Rachel headshot - reduced.jpg

Rachel Vogel Quinn

Strategic Communications Consultant RVQ Communications

Meet our Keynote Speaker - Lauren Ready

Lauren Ready is a keynote speaker and the Principal Storyteller of Forever Ready Productions, a video production company with offices in Memphis and Chicago. The Forever Ready team tells mission-driven stories for nonprofits and businesses so they can realize and harness their collective purpose and impact. 


Lauren Ready started her TV news career at 17 years old as a production assistant. She then spent nearly ten years as a video journalist, and moved across Iowa, Nebraska, and Memphis to cover national breaking news. But it was the local, ordinary stories she loved best.


Since leaving her TV news career and starting Forever Ready in 2016, her company has received the Small Business of the Year Award from the Memphis Business Journal. Lauren has also won 4 regional Emmys and was named Memphis Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40. 


Today, Lauren is based in Memphis with her husband, Scott, and their son, Max. She’s a certified drone pilot (did you know <6% of U.S. certified drone pilots are women? She loves being in this stat!) enjoys rock climbing, and without a doubt packs her camera for every family trip. Learn more at here

Mackenzie Walters


Mackenzie Walters is the CEO and strategist at StoryStruck Marketing, a marketing research company that uses journalism techniques to understand customer experiences, decision drivers, and preferences. A former national award-winning journalist, Mackenzie is passionate about guiding businesses, nonprofits, and associations on making customer-centered decisions. She lives in West Des Moines with her husband, Andy, two boys, and two dogs. In her free time she enjoys gardening and baking sourdough bread.

Rachel Vogel Quinn


Rachel Vogel Quinn is a writer, storyteller, and communications specialist with more than a decade of experience writing and telling stories for nonprofit organizations and magazines. Her work promotes individual engagement and collective action among nonprofit donors and supporters that can lead to change in local communities.


As founder and president of RVQ Communications LLC, Rachel provides communications strategy and content creation for local, regional, and national nonprofits. She also regularly writes profiles for dsm magazine.


In her previous role at United Way of Central Iowa, Rachel developed a storytelling culture and process that led to increased donor engagement. Over the years, she has written hundreds of print and digital stories for nonprofits and other publications. She also facilitates storytelling trainings for nonprofit staff.


Rachel co-authored the book “Hunger in the Heartland: A Resource Guide for Alleviating Hunger  in Your Community, No Matter Where You Live.” Her multimedia story “The Girl Who Walked Through The War” won a American Advertising Federation Award.


Her other areas of expertise include:

●  Messaging development

●  Communications strategy

●  Digital marketing

●  Content marketing

●  Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


Reach out to Rachel with questions about storytelling or requests for consulting at 

Zuli Garcia

Zuli Garcia is the Founding President of Knock and Drop Iowa, the first Latino food pantry in Des Moines. Zuli was born in El Salvador and grew up in California before moving to the City of Des Moines at the age of 19. Since then, she has dedicated her career and personal time to educating, empowering, and assisting the Latino community in Des Moines. 
She discovered the many unaddressed essential needs within the Latino community. Food insecurity came sharply into view as the pandemic limited access to food and public transportation. Zuli acted by delivering food bags to various doorsteps of those in greatest need. As the magnitude of the issue became more known, she decided to establish a non-profit organization to serve as many individuals and families in her community as possible. On March 24, 2020, the first Latino food pantry – Knock and Drop Iowa, was established to service the needs in the Latino Community. The organization has expanded slightly from supplying food by raising funds, grants, and finding sponsors for winter coats, vaccination clinics and informational resources.

Waughtal-Magiera Photo.png

Leah Waughtal-Magiera

Teaching Artist with

Say: Poetry 

andrew headshot[4].jpg

Andrew Allen

President and CEO


Leah Waughtal-Magiera

Leah Waughtal-Magiera is an Alumni of North High School and the University of Iowa. She is currently employed as a teaching artist for Say: Poetry, an organization that provides free afterschool writing workshops to elementary, middle and high school students within Des Moines Public Schools. She is also a Community Schools Coordinator for Moulton Elementary where she assists with support services and direct student needs. She believes in creating safe + brave spaces where young people are given the tools of art, activism, and radical unconditional care as pathways to healing, catharsis and liberation.

Andrew Allen

Andrew Allen is President and CEO of YSS, a 45-year-old youth development agency with more than 300 employees serving more than 20,000 youth across Iowa each year. YSS helps youth stand strong by providing children, teens and young adults the opportunity to find their voice, make healthy choices, learn life skills, heal with compassion, and grow their confidence through an array of prevention, treatment, child welfare and transitional services.

A native Iowan, Allen spent 14 years at Principal Financial Group, where he rose to the position of President of Principal Financial Group Foundation, with global responsibilities over charitable giving and corporate citizenship.

Allen credits YSS with providing services that saved his life in 1995. He later became the charter youth member on the YSS Board of Directors, and then served on the YSS Foundation Board. Before becoming CEO, he dedicated more than 20 years to serving YSS as a volunteer, advocate and fundraiser, leading two successful YSS capital campaigns and creating Reggie’s Sleepout, a signature fundraising and awareness event benefitting YSS.

Allen has been recognized with the Fortune 500 HERO Award from Fortune Magazine, was named the Inaugural Young Professional of the Year by Juice Magazine and the Des Moines Register, is part of the Des Moines Business Record’s Forty Under 40, has received the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from Iowa State University, and was inducted into the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame by the State of Iowa. 


Jodi Long

Health Equity Director Healthy Birth Day Inc. 


Max Mowitz

Program Director

One Iowa

Jodi Long

Jodi Long serves as the Health Equity Director for Healthy Birth Day Inc. The non - profit
organization oversees the stillbirth prevention campaign, Count the Kicks. She has
worked for the organization since October 2022. 

Long passionately advocates for stillbirth prevention, addresses racial disparities that
exist in birth outcomes and leads efforts to expand conversations around health equity
and stillbirth prevention in the country.

Previously, Long worked for a decade in local television news and is an award winning
and Emmy nominated journalist. She has earned recognition for her work on the
maternal health disparities in the state of Iowa. 
Long lives in Clive, Iowa with her husband Ra Shaan and their two children.

Max Mowitz, One Iowa

Max Mowitz is Program Director at One Iowa, Iowa’s statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, overseeing organizational programming, direct service, and community education via LGBTQ training. Max has been active in LGBTQ advocacy work since coming out in high school, focusing on comprehensive LGBTQ education to the broader community as a component of queer liberation. Max is a certified Community Health Worker and specializes in topics related to the trans and nonbinary community, LGBTQ birth work, LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare, and mental healthcare. Max previously served as the Volunteer and Office Coordinator at the Young Women’s Resource Center after earning their undergraduate degree in Ethnomusicology and African American Studies.

Max serves as a board member for the Iowa Abortion Access Fund and Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund. Max is pursuing their birth and postpartum doula certification and is practicing as a gender-affirming doula, serving Trans and Nonbinary individuals in their gender-affirming experiences as a support system as they navigate healthcare systems, social gender-affirmation, and mental health. Max is passionate about justice and the liberation of all marginalized peoples. Max is a harpist, powerlifter, drag enthusiast, abolitionist, and a spouse to Austin and partner to June.

Amal Barre

Amal is a Somali-American urban planner and researcher. She leads projects that advance access to safe, affordable and stable housing, including research that facilitates community collaboration in reimagining and creating inclusive and equitable spaces. Her focus areas are affordable housing preservation, asset-based community development, and geographic equity. Amal is the founder and project director of unevictIA, an eviction and housing displacement research initiative. Amal serves as the VP of Planning and Strategy at Oakridge Neighborhood and is a PhD candidate in Urban Planning and Governance at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Outside of work, she enjoys cycling, sharing her love of crepes, and overcoming her fear of falling to match the bravery of her nieces and nephews. She recently picked-up electric skateboarding and has successfully fallen in public more than once.

bottom of page