Charity Begins at Home

Marty Stoll is dedicated to providing Iowans with affordable housing

Published in 2019 Great Plains Super Lawyers — April 17, 2019

Marty Stoll’s interest in affordable housing goes back to when she was 6 years old. Her parents divorced, and her stay-at-home mother struggled to support Marty and her brother. Though she entered the workforce and balanced three part-time jobs, she still fell behind on the mortgage.

“My family went through a rough time and, but for the grace of some very kind folks at the local bank who were flexible and willing to work with us, we would have lost our home,” says Stoll, a real estate attorney with Shuttleworth & Ingersoll in Cedar Rapids. “I’ve always been kind of a nerd, so [keeping our home] allowed me to stay close to my school; it allowed me to stay close to the teachers I loved; and it allowed me to stay close to my library where I spent almost every day. It was a key time in my life, and I truly think if we were not able to stay in our home, I’m not sure that I would have ended up practicing law.”

Stoll insists her story isn’t unusual; these kinds of circumstances befall families every day. What makes it a bit more rare, she says, is that someone in the community was there to help. “We were lucky to have a happy ending. Eventually, [mom] got the full-time job, went back to school, started a business and paid off the mortgage early.” Ever since, Stoll has dedicated a large part of her life and career to helping provide affordable housing in Cedar Rapids and beyond.

“To me, a home is the most important foundational thing in someone’s life,” she says. “If you want people to succeed, giving them a safe, stable space to call their own is the first step. I believe in that very strongly. A lot of people struggle, and I want to do whatever I can to help.”

It began with Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity and, subsequently, Habitat for Humanity of Iowa, both of which she served as director. In 2005, she aided with an international build project in El Salvador. “There were teams from Iowa, North Carolina and Canada, and we went together to a village and built multiple homes,” Stoll says. “We got to know the families whose homes we were building a little bit. It was a great experience.”

Stoll helped resolve landlord-tenant issues at the intake desk of Legal Aid for several years, and served on the Cedar Rapids Planning Commission during a time of need. “I was ready to start when we had the flood of 2008 that devastated our city and destroyed a lot of homes,” she says. “That crested on June 13, and I started on July 1. It became a different role than I expected, but I was happy to be there helping the city rebuild. I was also lucky enough to be one of the attorneys to assist Cedar Rapids with the title work and distributing the FEMA funds to buyout the damaged homes for the people who lost them.”

She continues to be involved on a municipal level at the Cedar Rapids Affordable Housing Commission and Linn County Planning and Zoning Commission. As director of organizations such as Affordable Housing Network and Four Oaks Family and Children’s Services, Stoll helps numerous families secure living spaces and overcome difficult circumstances. While she’s proud of her role, it’s what they do that sticks out most: “It’s incredible to see these families take off and succeed.”

As a result of Stoll’s work in the community, she has earned accolades such as the Waypoint Tribute to Women of Achievement in 2017 and, this June, HER Magazine’s Women of Achievement Awards.

“It’s a very important and ongoing issue, and I can’t imagine there being a time when I’m not involved,” Stoll says.

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