Planned Parenthood of Southeast Iowa began because of the efforts of three dedicated volunteers. In 1964, Mrs. DeWitt Shuck, Mrs. Annie Gross, and Mrs. Sally Mears founded Planned Parenthood of Keokuk. The organization's first office was in the cafeteria of Graham Hospital in Keokuk. Funds were raised locally; guidance and medical information were volunteered by the late Dr. F.L. Steffey. After the first month of operation, Planned Parenthood of Keokuk had a patient load of four. The Keokuk organization gained nationwide attention when it received a $16,000 grant under the Johnson administration's newly organized Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) program in 1966, making it the first Planned Parenthood affiliate to receive federal assistance. Up until that time, the clinic in Keokuk was supported solely by private contributions and staffed by volunteers.
In May of 1966, Planned Parenthood held its first family planning clinic in Fort Madison and Planned Parenthood of Keokuk became Planned Parenthood of Lee County. Mrs. Gross was the first Executive Director. The first Fort Madison office was located in the basement of the Valley Clinic at the corner of Avenue E and 20th. Mrs. Scott McLemore was the local Director.
In 1969, Mrs. Gross was in the news again. Planned Parenthood of Lee County received national and international recognition for its pilot program in family planning in conjunction with the Mental Health Institute (MHI) of Mount Pleasant. Mrs. Gross worked very closely with officials at MHI to lay the groundwork for the inclusion of a Planned Parenthood office at the hospital - the first of its kind anywhere in the world. Inquiries about the pilot program were received from across the nation and the project was written up in publications as far away as Bombay, India.
Newspaper accounts at the time applauded MHI and Planned Parenthood as "pioneers in the field for having established the world's first Planned Parenthood program in a hospital for the mentally ill." Convinced of the worth of the plan and the need for its expansion, Dr. Walter Fox, superintendent of MHI, offered space in the Human Resources Center on the hospital grounds so the program could grow to include all interested persons in Henry County.
By August 1967, Planned Parenthood volunteers in Burlington, Iowa had completed the necessary preliminary work for establishing a Board of Directors for a Des Moines County Chapter of Planned Parenthood. A meeting was held in the Iowa Southern Utility's meeting room in September. The members had received a copy of the Planned Parenthood of Iowa By-Laws and used them for guidance in writing a set of By-Laws for themselves (Planned Parenthood of Iowa also gave the Burlington members a $200.00 contribution - their first). Planned Parenthood of Lee County loaned the group supplies and also made arrangements for the training of a nurse practitioner. Karen Egland was hired as the group's Executive Secretary, which essentially made her Burlington's first Director.
The Washington County Chapter of Planned Parenthood began with a 26-member Board of Directors in the basement of the Robert Day Law Office Building in April of 1970. Cornie Day presided over the first meeting as acting president, but later on in the meeting, nominations for president were called for and Mr. Bean became the first president of Planned Parenthood of Washington County. It was reported that in February of 1970, Planned Parenthood of Washington County held its first family planning clinic.
The five chapters held their first joint meeting on August 30, 1973 at the Washington County chapter clinic. Board and staff members from each of the five centers were present and Marg Wischmeier was nominated chairperson. The first board minutes state that the nomination was "approved by acclamation." Most of the business at the first meeting involved minor editorial changes to the By-Laws which were subsequently approved later on in the meeting. Norman and Barbara Levine were Planned Parenthood of Southeast Iowa's first Executive Directors.
Louisa County was added to Planned Parenthood of Southest Iowa's area in June of 1975. The first meeting of the board was held in the Presbyterian Church in Wapello, Iowa and Janet Jordan was nominated for president at the first meeting. In September ,the board hired Susan Criss of Columbus Junction as the organization's first program coordinator.
Today, we serve over six thousand women and over two hundred men annually in seven counties.