Charles E. Lakin was born and raised near Emerson, Iowa. He graduated from Emerson High School, and soon after, married Florence Swoboda of Malvern, Iowa. They raised their four children in Emerson while Charles continued to farm and expand his land holdings. In the early 1960's he owned the largest contiguous farm in Iowa then went to invest in businesses, residential and commercial property in addition to farm land across the Midwest and Arizona. 

In 2006, Charles donated the lead gift to a proposed multi-agency human services campus in Council Bluffs. His initial gift of $10 million encouraged other donors to support the project. But mid-way through the planning, as the site plan took shape, Charles felt the original site was too small. With additional space available Charles contributed an additional $2 million to buy the land adjacent to the original tract, doubling the size of the campus to 15 acres. Charles' vision and commitment to help the people of southwest Iowa led to the funding of the Charles E. Lakin Human Services Campus which became a reality with it's dedication in 2008.