Carla Hicklin literally became a next-door neighbor of the historic Wallace House in Sherman Hill when she moved to Des Moines three years ago. She noticed that each Wednesday, a steady stream of vehicles would pull up to the front porch of the Wallace House as people picked up fresh produce. She hadn’t heard of the Wallace Centers of Iowa, which operates a variety of community-building programs, among them a community-supported agriculture program that distributes produce. 

“So I wandered over one day and asked, ‘What are you guys all about?’” recalled Hicklin, who subsequently began volunteering with the nonprofit organization. In January, Hicklin, a training and development professional, was hired as Wallace Centers’ coordinator of civility programs. 

She is now developing civility training programs that the Wallace Centers will offer to businesses and nonprofits, with a particular emphasis on serving smaller organizations.  

“Small businesses and nonprofits don’t have enough people to have the cost-benefit of bringing in a trainer,” she said. “So what we’d like to do is have a very affordable training program.” 

Hicklin is also spearheading a youth civility program that will be offered through the Des Moines public schools. 

The Wallace Centers of Iowa, whose locations include the Henry A. Wallace Country Life Center in rural Orient as well as the Wallace House, provides educational programs on three key issues of Henry A. Wallace and the Wallace family: sustainable agriculture, local food systems and civility.  

“One of the things that Henry A. Wallace was committed to was the importance of having conversation. You can talk to anyone and have respect for them, even if you disagree with them,” Hicklin said.

The Wallace Centers added civility training to its menu of educational programs two years ago, after receiving a “Better Together” grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. Since then, the organization has hosted regular “civility luncheons” and has held workshops on the need for civility in politics and in recognizing cultural differences. 

“We are now moving into the development of more in-depth programs that we can take into the workplace on everyday civility,” said Hicklin, who has served in numerous training and development roles over the past 30 years.   

From 2007 to 2010, Hicklin worked for Pella Corp. as the company’s corporate organization development and training specialist. She previously held several planning and training positions with the state of Missouri, including at the Missouri International Training Institute, where she specialized in intercultural communication and program development. 

“My past includes facilitating classes, leadership development, business consulting on communication and conflict management,” she said. Having facilitated programs at Pella Corp. to help teams work together more effectively, Hicklin feels that she has a pretty good handle on what causes workplace conflict. 

“For me, the biggest takeaway is the awareness that different individuals think differently,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re from another country, another culture or you look different; it’s the thinking differently that sometimes causes the friction at work.” 

To support the food aspect of the civility program, the nonprofit is in the midst of a complete remodel of the Wallace House kitchen into a commercial-grade facility so that its chef can prepare meals for regular dinner events.  

“Once we have that done, we’re going to open up and have dinners here on Thursday nights with a program called ‘Food for Thought,’” Hicklin said. The programs initally will focus on local food systems and sustainable agriculture, with civility topics to be added later. “But it’s going to have an overall feeling that it’s going to be a civil conversation,” she said. “This is what the Wallaces were all about. So we’re going to have civil conversations every Thursday night in their home.” 


What’s available now: 

“Everyday Civility,” a two-hour workshop designed to improve civility skills in the workplace, can be delivered on-site at a cost of $350 to $400, depending on the needs of the organization. For more information visit  the website at www.wallace.org or call 515-243-7063. 


Upcoming programs: 

“Food for Thought” dinners will be presented every Thursday evening beginning June 13. There will be no formal program during the dinners, but food experts may visit with the dinner guests to stimulate conversations around food. Menu prices will range from $15 to $20, with entrees inspired by the organic produce grown at the Wallace Centers’ farm near Orient.

This fall, the Wallace Centers will launch “Civil Conversations ... Every Day,” a workshop that will focus on the major methods and techniques for effective communication for planning, problem solving and projects. The organization also plans to offer custom workshops based on clients’ specific needs.