Listen to this article

On the list of six LGBTQ+ activists honored this year by dsm Magazine‘s Legacy Awards, two people are a little different than the others.

Those two are Rich Hendricks and Aime Wichtendahl, two eastern Iowans among a group of honorees that are otherwise based in central Iowa.

Hendricks has been pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of the Quad Cities in Davenport, along the Illinois/Iowa line, for 20 years.  Wichtendahl is a city council member in Hiawatha, just west of the eastern Iowa city of Cedar Rapids. She’s also Iowa’s first-ever openly transgender elected official, a distinction she earned four years ago after earning her first of two terms on the council.

The two eastern Iowans caught the attention of dsm Magazine in their deliberations for their fifth annual LGBTQ Legacy Awards, chosen out of 26 total nomineees statewide. Michael Morain, editor of dsm, said the nonprofit and activist group One Iowa helped encourage nominees from throughout the state for the awards this year.

The magazine, which covers arts, culture and lifestyle in Des Moines, chooses the award winners with a panel of five editors. Morain said Hendricks and Wichtendahl are two award-winners who impressed the dsm Magazine panel as “people who are doing exactly what they should be doing.”

Sometimes, you can see people that have found their calling and are using all the skills they have to light up the community,” Morain said.

Rich Hendricks at book banning

Rich Hendricks, pastor of MCC of the Quad Cities, protests a book-banning in early August.

Hendricks founded several Quad Cities Pride traditions, One Human Family

Hendricks, nominated by fellow Davenport Pastor Jeff Simpson, brings a combined law and faith background that the selection committee thought was a “useful skill-set.” Hendricks was a practicing attorney in business law and civil rights in the early 2000s. He is also founder of One Human Family QCA, which focuses on awareness of hate incidents and crimes, and Quad Cities Pride in Memory, a nonprofit devoted to preserving LGBTQ+ history in the Quad Cities.

In addition, Hendricks co-founded the Quad Cities’ first-ever Pride nonprofit, QC Pride, and helped organize the first-ever QC Pride Fest in 2008. Hendricks also helped coordinate the first-ever Pride Parade in the Quad Cities, in 2018.

“His background in law has informed his work in civil rights, and his faith has informed his priorities leading not only his congregation, but also the broader community in the Quad Cities,” Morain says.

Hendricks said he was thankful to his church for letting him “preach radically.”

“Activism goes hand in hand with spirituality,” he said. “Connecting with God or a higher power, however you conceive it to be, connecting to the people and to the world around us, provides a raison d’etre, the grounding and the balance needed to work for justice day after day.”

Hendricks is only the second Quad Cities area honoree in the LGBTQ+ Legacy Awards’ five-hear history; the other, Davenport’s Aiden Vasquez, was honored last year for creating the educational podcast TransHaven, and their persistent legal efforts to seek public funds for gender transition care and surgeries.

Hiawatha City Council Member Aime Wichtendahl

Aime Wichtendahl, Iowa’s first-ever openly transgender elected official, just announced she is running for her third term.


Wichtendahl took leadership role this year at Iowa Capitol

Wichtendahl was nominated by Elle Wyant, former candidate for state representative in the Marengo, Ia., area. Morain  said Wichtendahl’s constant presence at the State Capitol this past year caught the attention of the panel. Wichtendahl testified before state House or Senate committees about not only anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, but also abortion rights and education.

Two years ago, Wichtendahl received One Iowa’s revered Donna Red Wing Advocate of the Year award for advocacy, named after the nonprofit’s late founder. Wichtendahl has been covered by, or published several times in, not only The Real Mainstream, but also The Gazette in Cedar Rapids and the Des Moines Register.

“In some ways, her work has been very intentional and explicit, but also, who she is and her willingness and courage to live fully and openly herself set a really powerful example,” Morain said. “She is just the kind of person we hope this award program can celebrate.”

Wichtendahl, who recently announced she is running for a third term on the Hiawatha City Council, said she hopes her career “can give people a different perspective on what it means to be transgender.”

“In a year in which there was so much fear and hate directed at our community, it’s important to show the spark of hope and happiness that exists within the trans community, and I believe that people will see that.”

The other honorees are:

— Des Moines philanthropist and educator Rick Miller, who has donated for years to One Iowa, the First Friday Breakfast Club, and the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus, and also provided memorabilia for the Des Moines Pride Center archives

— Laurie Phelan, of the central Iowa community of Farrar, who founded the nonprofit group iJAG (Iowa Jobs for Iowa Graduates”) and also serves on the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council that facilitates more students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics


— Rich Salas, chief diversity officer and assistant professor for Des Moines University.

— and Scott Valbert, a freelance writer and communications consultant who has helped fundraise for the United Way of Polk County, Iowa Safe Schools, the Human Rights Campaign and more.

Overall, Morain said, a theme among all six nominees was “a ‘big tent’ sense of progress.”

“Several talked about not only LGBTQ rights, but opening up new opportunities for immgirants and people in different marginalized communities. Across the board, this year’s honorees recognize that when there’s progress for one group, it means progress for everybody.”

All six award-winners will be profiled in dsm Magazine’s edition released Wednesday. They’ll also be honored at an awards dinner Sept. 14; get tickets here.

(cover photo features Rich Hendricks in a photo taken by Adam Bouska of the NOH8 Campaign, and Aime Wichtendahl marching in the QC Unity Pride Parade in June)