Tom Walz

Iowa City, Iowa, United States

Extend The Dream Foundation

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I’ve spent my life as a teacher and organizer for people who are less well off than most. Every person has something to contribute and I take great joy in helping people with disabilities become self-sufficient. Every moment generally is a feel good moment. I work a 60-70 hour week giving my old age a real purpose.

In 2000, I retired from a career in social work and founded the Extend the Dream Foundation in Iowa City, Iowa. Extend the Dream Foundation is run entirely by volunteers, many of whom come from the University of Iowa’s social work and small business administration programs. Others are people with disabilities.

In addition to my work helping others, I am also a creative writer and poet. It’s important to nurture yourself and your own creative pursuits so you can continue to serve others.

As a PivotPlanet advisor, I can teach you many things about running a non-profit organization including:

• Micro-enterprise development and training
• How to run a program that teaches handicapped and low-income people to augment their incomes
• How to lead by working along side others who believe in the same mission
• How to keep your financial overhead low, so the project can succeed
• How to teach people to use social media and the internet for their own purposes
• How to understand the needs and hopes of people with disabilities and how to best work with them


I was inspired to start Extend the Dream by the story of Bill Sackter, a man who spent 44 years in an institution and who came out to be an international hero for people with disabilities. He ended up as one of the most well loved and respected members of the community in Iowa City where he spent the last eight years of his life.

Inspired by Bill, we assist people with disabilities to start their own micro enterprises and expand their employment opportunities. We also educate the public about “disability.”

Five of the businesses that EDF has helped launch over the past five years are now operating independently or close to it, and have been embraced by the general community.

I’ve had a life of service, including a career as a professor and dean of social work, gerontology and family practice. I’ve founded a number of non-profit organizations over my lifetime that serve the most vulnerable in our community. I worked with the Peace Corps in Honduras and founded a welfare advocacy group in Minneapolis the 1960s. I started the National Family Training Center at the University of Iowa along with programs educating about child abuse, gerontology and people with disabilities.

My philosophy is social work is not a profession, but a way of life. The most notable social workers, Gandhi and Mother Theresa, did not have certificates indicating they were social workers. I am a Gandhi scholar and teacher and I believe Gandhian ideas are critical in the discussion about how to solve contemporary problems.

Because I know each person has creativity within them, I founded the National Creative Writing Seminar for Social Workers at the University of Iowa.

I am a 2006 Encore Career's / Civic Venture's Purpose Prize winner.

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