About Us

Our Vision

Mother Theresa once wrote that she could not do great things; she could only do small things with great love.

Likewise, Serve Iowa isn't trying to do the BIG things; instead we seek to fill in the small gaps between what parents need to successfully and safely maintain their kids at home (i.e., prevent removal), and what DHS  can do. We do those small things with great love.

Our Story

As an attorney practicing in juvenile child welfare, founder Jean Baker saw many things that, for most people, would be a mere annoyance, or small obstacle. But for the families she worked with, these small obstacles sometimes turned into insurmountable barriers. They were beyond what DHS could, or were permitted to do. So she created Serve Iowa to step in and help.

The other key part of Serve Iowa is to create a way for kids who are DHS involved to participate in extra-curricular activities. It's a little slice of normal in an otherwise not normal situation.

Meet the Team

Our board is made up of people who are passionate about families! From former DHS workers to educators, attorneys, and people who just plain have a heart for it—these are people working to make a difference every day.

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Jean M. Baker, J.D.

Founder & Interim Director

Jean Baker is an attorney practicing in juvenile child welfare court. She has previously practiced in both family law and plaintiff’s employment law.

She has an undergraduate degree in elementary education from the University of Northern Iowa, and her law degree is from Drake University Law School. She is a life-long resident of Des Moines.

Ms. Baker volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA coach. She is the founder of Serve Iowa, has served as a mock trial coach at the high school level, and a mock trial judge at the collegiate level. She has served as an accompanist for a variety of children and youth choirs, and has served on a variety of community and church boards.


Mary Beth

Mary Beth Schroeder Fracek


Mary Beth Schroeder Fracek is an experienced educator, having taught at the junior high and high school, upper elementary, community college, and university levels. Following her public school and higher education teaching experience, she became administrator of a non-profit organization in Des Moines, Iowa.

Ms. Schroeder Fracek began working at the Iowa Department of Education in curriculum and instruction serving schools statewide in specified content areas, kindergarten through grade twelve. She has served as the Interim Legislative Liaison and also Special Projects Coordinator for the agency. She served as an Administrative Consultant in the area of teacher quality in the Department of Education, directing the work of a $9 million-dollar federal Teacher Quality Partnership grant and administered Iowa’s Mentoring and Induction program for beginning teachers. Most recently, Ms. Schroeder Fracek has been Faculty Support Specialist for the Drake University School of Education. She currently evaluates first-year teachers for the Regents’ Alternative Pathway to Iowa Licensure.

Ms. Schroeder Fracek is a Fulbright Scholar and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts, a Masters of Art in Education, and a Masters of Public Administration in Public Policy.



Janelle Larson


Janelle Larson is a Talent Management Specialist at EMC Insurance in Des Moines. As part of the Human Resources team, Ms. Larson is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct and providing ongoing support and expertise to management personnel.
Before joining EMC in 2018, Ms. Larson spent 20 years working in the child welfare system as a case manager, child abuse investigator, and trainer for the Iowa Department of Human Services. She has extensive experience with family engagement and addressing dis-proportionality and disparities for families of color. Ms. Larson has done training for the Zero to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, and is also a master trainer of the Building a Better Future parent mentor curriculum.
Ms. Larson is a Des Moines native and a graduate of Iowa State University.

Pam Spangler


Pam Spangler has over 30 years of experience as an educator. Currently, Ms. Spangler is a School Improvement Consultant for the Iowa Department of Education. She specializes in the field of accreditation and school improvement. She is responsible for the north central and northwestern school districts in Iowa.

Ms. Spangler has a B.A. in Elementary Education (emphasis in Early Childhood Education)from Simpson College. She taught in Pleasantville, Iowa, and then was a teacher in the Des Moines Public Schools for 25 years, primarily teaching 1stand 2ndgrade.

In 2009, Ms. Spangler earned her M.S. degree from Walden University, specializing in Reading and Literacy. With that degree, she served as a Reading First coach and a Literacy coach, again within the Des Moines. Public Schools.

She puts her knitting skills to good use,  knitting blankets for kittens in shelter. She also helps raise funds for Happy Tails Ranch and Rescueand does daily small acts of kindness for friends and family.

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Tonja Schira



Tonja Schira is currently working as a full-time real estate agent with Iowa Realty. She has her BS degree in accounting from Simpson College and does the bookkeeping and accounting needs for a local business.

She previously worked in the finance department of UnityPoint for over seven years. She is a life resident of Des Moines, Iowa.

Ms. Schira has always been a believer in giving back to the community and is an Ambassador and active member of the DM West Side Chamber of Commerce, a co-founder of a volunteer group called Hands On DM, is on her Iowa Realty office’s Giving Back committee, and is the Board Treasurer for Serve Iowa.

Ms. Schira is a prolific reader and a proponent of supporting youth and families to achieve stable outcomes benefitting the community.

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Margaret Jensen Connet

At Large Member

Margaret has worked in the human service field for over 45 years.  Her work in the non-profit and public sectors includes substance abuse and violence prevention, teen pregnancy prevention and services to teen parents, program and agency development and direction, and equity consulting.

Since 2016 Margaret has served as an independent private consultant serving nonprofits and state agencies.  From 2010 – 2016 she served as the Equity and Title IX Consultant and for the Iowa Department of Education where she conducted educational equity reviews in public schools and community colleges around the state of Iowa.

From 1997-2010 she served as the SUCCESS Program Manager in the Des Moines Public Schools where she directed a case management program aimed at removing barriers to success in school for students from birth to age 21.

She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Augsburg College in Minneapolis.  In 1994 she received the Ms. Foundation’s “Women of Vision Award” from Gloria Steinem in New York City.

Next Steps...

There are lots of ways to get involved, whether you want to give time, talent, or treasure.

Currently, we are looking for board members who can help us with social media/marketing, as well as someone who has experience writing local grants and other fundraising experience.

Want to donate? You can do that on our Facebook page! Click the "Donate Now" button and it will take you there directly (and we'd love it if you "liked" our page and followed us while you were there!).

Welcome to the team!