A Celebration 40 Years in the Making!

The Central Community Historical Society was organized in 1977 after DeWitt celebrated its Bicentennial in 1976. There was $2,200 left from the Bicentennial funds and Marvin Doescher, who was the town historian, wanted to start a small museum and historical society in DeWitt. The interested group met at his home and by March, 1977 “The Central Community Historical Society” had its beginning. Ann Soenksen, was elected President, Vice President:  Ed Green, Secretary:  Linda Jasper, Treasurer: Eleanor Arey. Board members : Coral Hesse, Virginia Templeton, Genevieve Endries, and Marvin Doescher.

For the next ten years the Central Community Historical Society held monthly meetings at The DeWitt Community Center. Numerous programs were held during this time including Historical Tours throughout the county for a number of years. Programs on dolls, toys, quilts, aprons, a style show and local artists along with others were presented. The Society also participated in local events in the area. In addition during March the society featured a special “Old Fashioned Day” presentation at the 4-H grounds.

Marvin Doescher passed away in 1983. He had stored all the items that were donated and collected by the Historical Society at his produce business in DeWitt. A year or so after his death the business was sold and the items were taken to the Doescher home and to Floyd and Ann Soenksen’s home. Well the donations kept coming and in 1987 the Society was in dire need of a building as space was running out at the two homes.

Fortunately the Krukow family, who owned the building at 628 6th Ave knew the Historical Society was looking for a building to open as a museum. The society had built up about half the purchase price that the Krukow family was asking for their building. President Ann Soenksen then went to the DeWitt City Council for assistance and got the other half of the purchase price. This was to be received in increments over the next five years.

The Society immediately began restoration of the building which involved many hours and the help of volunteers as there was a great deal of clean-up and hard work to complete the project. The museum doors opened with a dedication on June 14, 1987. Donations kept coming in and soon the original building wasn’t large enough to display all the items. The Society applied for and received a grant from the Gaming Commission and built a metal building to the south of the original museum building

The Society has been the recipient of two estate donations which help tremendously in making it possible for the Society to purchase a third building directly east of the original building and also to allow the building of another metal building to the southeast. The society continues to receive donations and is very grateful to all the donors, members and especially to the volunteers, who have helped to make The Historical Society Museum a great asset to the community of DeWitt and its surrounding area.

I would like to say that spending the last 40 years seeing the Central Community Historical Society grown from $2,200 to the four buildings on a quarter of a city block  museum has been very rewarding. I feel it is very important to save our past for the future generations. To understand how the old phones, cameras, books, toys, clothes, dishes and furniture work and looked like.

My own personal interest in the museum is our genealogy area. I have been doing genealogy since 1963 when my paternal grandmother passed away. I feel that it is very important to know where we came from and the struggles and lives that our ancestors lived. I want to invite everyone to stop in for our open house on Aug. 20th from 1-4 and visit the museum.  We also encourage people who are looking for a volunteer opportunity to let us know.  We can always use help with the many tasks that it takes to keep the museum available for the public to enjoy. Also, think of donating to the Society if you come across things that might be a good fit for our collections and displays.

Ann Soenksen, President: Central Community Historical Society

Fresh Food & Friendly Conversations

At the core of community is the sharing of food.  A farmer’s market is a shared space wherein folks meet face to face and talk about food.  Perhaps this explains why the number of farmer’s markets nationwide have increased from 1755 in 1996 to 8,144 in 2013.  A farmer’s market connects people together.  A farmer’s market provides space for friendly conversations with folks who actually have grown, harvested and prepared food.  Folks at a farmer’s market share not only the food itself, but also information about how the food is grown and prepared.  Shoppers  at a farmer’s market can ask questions and express their preferences in face to face conversations with vendors.

‘Walkable space’ is a term used by city planners and developers to refer to a shared space within community that is accessible on foot.  There’s really nothing new about this concept—in plain English, we call this space a “park”.  Such shared spaces seem to connect people together and enhance the quality of life in a community. Here in DeWitt our farmer’s market is centrally located on the east side of Lincoln Park Thursday afternoons (between 3:30-6:30PM) from May thru October.  Although we struggle from time to time with unpleasant weather, on good days many folks seem to enjoy a walk to the market from their homes.  There is grass, shade, benches, and picnic tables, and a playground nearby.  The DeWitt Farmer’s Market is a relaxing way to get some exercise on a summer afternoon and to visit with neighbors.  It doesn’t cost as much money as some other outdoor entertainment.   It’s truly a nice walk in the park.

John Ivens, Farmers Market Manager

Community Gallery is a Labor of Love

The DeWitt Operahouse Theatre was built in 1876 and underwent a renovation/restoration in 1979-1982.  The DeWitt Theater Company bought the building next door and began the second renovation and expansion that included a larger lobby, handicapped accessibility, main floor restrooms along with gallery space for display of artist’s work.  The project had been a labor of love for the DeWitt Theater Company, many of whose members had been involved in the first renovation.  After 3 years of planning, fundraising, and finally construction, the Operahouse Theater was ready to reopen! Interest in building a gallery based on the John Bloom legacy, the Grant Wood byway corridor, and nationally known DeWitt artist, Ellen Wagner, became a reality.  With the generous contributions and the major sponsor, First Central State Bank, the new First Central Art Gallery resulted.

As former art teachers and members of the DeWitt Area Fine Arts Foundation Gallery Committee, we arrange for area artists to exhibit their work in the gallery.  The goal is to enrich the quality of life in our community by encouraging, supporting and promoting the fine arts.  Our mission is to provide and coordinate fine art exhibits for the community.  The committee acquires lists of artists by attending area art events, visiting specific artist’s exhibits or by recommendations of other artists.  We also communicate with Central DeWitt art teachers to schedule displays of student’s work.  Each exhibit has a 2 month slot in our bi-yearly schedule. Photos and information about the artist is also published in The Observer to help promote the works.

We have been fortunate to show a variety of mediums (watercolor, acrylic/oil on canvas, pastels, pencil drawings, graphics, collages, photographs) and genres (nature, abstract, wildlife, portraits, cityscapes, landscapes, whimsical, and calligraphy).  This year we are including the old American art form of quilting, running between July 3rd and August 1st in the gallery.

We are privileged to use time and talent to serve on the Gallery Committee and encourage everyone to enjoy and support this cultural and educational addition to our great community!

Carol Beck and Elaina Lomsdalen – DeWitt Area Fine Arts Foundation Gallery Committee Members

It’s Not Just A Day Off: The Meaning of Memorial Day

What does Memorial Day mean to you? Brats, burgers, beverages, and time spent with friends and family. We look forward to the long weekend, shorts, and flip flops, but the reason behind the celebration may often be overlooked.

My grandfather would wake up each morning and raise his flag. He would pull on the rope, and the pulley would squeak like a trapped field mouse. His eyes were fixed on Old Glory as the stripes waived, and the stars appeared and disappeared in the gentle breeze. With a few quick flips of his wrist, the hoist rope would be secured to the cleat. Melvin would take two large steps back, and again fix his gaze on our country’s flag. I remember counting in my head just to see how long his stare would last. One one-thousand, two-one thousand, three one-thousand. Often, his mental journey would be cut short when my grandmother’s voice would echo from inside the house soliciting his assistance with breakfast. He’d drop his head, square his shoulders, and return to his husbandly duties.

Melvin Swiderski served in World War II. As an infantryman, he would often tell me comedic stories about waking up intoxicated on a bus bench in Italy, and branding himself with nothing but his field knife and ink pen. My mom would quickly chastise him for filling my head with tales of crazy antics. Melvin would look at her, and then look back at me, and issue a playful wink. He didn’t speak of death, sorrow, loss, and anger, but, if you paid attention, you would catch a glimpse of anchored memories in the corner of his brown eyes.

I’ll never know the details of Melvin’s experience. He passed away in 2008, and was given a funeral with military honors. He was preceded in death by his wife Laura, so I had the privilege of presenting the flag to my Aunt Pat. I was wearing my dress blues, with my own combat ribbons pinned to my chest. She cried. I cried.

I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Because of my service, I now have the privilege of telling my own tales of inebriated pit stops and youthful shenanigans. When the laughter begins to fade, my thoughts always drift toward memories that will forever tattoo my soul with appreciation, and deep-rooted respect for those who offered the ultimate sacrifice.

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for every soldier, airman, seamen, and Marine who has died serving in the American armed forces. My charge to you is to take a moment on May 29th to reflect on the importance of their actions. Memorial Day is to be celebrated, but never let the celebration over shadow the sacrifice.

Written by Andy Sokolovich, Clinton, IA, in honor and remembrance of Melvin Swiderski (Pop-Pop). Birth: 07/02/1920, Death: 09/13/2008, Veteran, United States Army

Salute to Volunteers

Each year, thousands of volunteers in Iowa donate their time and energy to make their communities a better place to live. Thirty-three percent (33%) of Iowans volunteer, ranking Iowa tenth among the 50 states (Source Corporation for National Community Service). These volunteers will be among the millions across the country who will be spotlighted during National Volunteer Week, April 23-29, 2017.

Clinton County and DeWitt volunteers pay it forward by dedicating their time and talents to the next generation – an investment that cycles back into our community while building relationships that nourish future generations.  Look around and you’ll see the impact our volunteers make – through the smiles and successes of our youth.  They are rewarded by sharing their experiences, learning new things, and building partnerships, not to mention the fun and fulfillment that volunteering brings to their life.

One group that relies heavily on volunteer support is the 4-H Youth Development Program. Last year in Clinton County, 112 volunteers serve in many roles including 4-H and Clover Kids club leaders, project leaders, and committee members for the 4-H Youth Development Program. 4-H volunteers serve as caring adults who help young people develop communication, citizenship, and leadership skills through 4-H projects and community service opportunities. Volunteers create safe environments for youth to learn, thrive, and grow.

I am truly impressed by the work of the 4-H Club Leaders, many who have been volunteering for over ten years, some over 40 years!  They meet individually with youth to help them with projects, in addition to providing guidance at monthly club meetings.  It is a requirement that 4-H volunteers who work directly with youth attend annual trainings, to network and learn new skills in positive youth development and risk management.

The 4-H program has helped many youth in Clinton County to achieve goals outside of the classroom, while working with a caring adult.  Volunteers in the 4-H program help youth to become engaged in their community, make new friends, and accomplish their goals, which ultimately can deter at-risk youth from making a bad decision.

With an ever-changing world, the 4-H Youth Development program is adapting and offering more opportunities for youth and volunteers in areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math; Communications and the Arts; Citizenship and Leadership; and Healthy Living. The expanding programming reflects new opportunities for youth and volunteers alike.

The Clinton County Club Show at the fair is a showcase of what projects youth have completed throughout the year  and you will see many animals being showcased during the fair.  Animals are just one of over 150 project areas that youth may participate in.  In every 4-H project you see exhibited at the fair, there is most often an adult volunteer that has mentored the youth along the way with the project — paying it forward to the next generation!

Celebrate National Volunteer Week with us and I encourage you to explore more about Clinton County 4-H Program and volunteer opportunities!

Brianne Johnson – Clinton County 4-H Program Manager with the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach –Clinton County

Found My Way Back to the Farm

In 2002, I graduated from Central DeWitt.  I earned an engineering degree from Iowa State and utilized that degree working at a manufacturer in Central Iowa for 6 years.  After 10 years of being away, I moved back to my hometown of DeWitt with my fiancé, Erin. Our decision to move back was rooted in the value of family and opportunity.

Family…there is no better support than family and friends!  When asked where we wanted to raise a family, the answer was fairly simple, “DeWitt“!  It took some time to get here, but it was easy to say that if we were blessed with being parents,  that DeWitt was where we wanted to raise our children.  For us, DeWitt is within a matter of minutes of parents, grandparents, siblings, and cousins.  Having two children, the proximity to this loving network of family and friends, not to mention last-minute babysitters, is great!

DeWitt is a community that has all of the core pillars we believe in: excellent schools, active churches, great local businesses, these are areas we believe to be important.  Some may have changed face in the last decade, but the solid foundation of people and places still remain.  This is home and this community always feel like family.

Opportunity… I grew up on a family farm a few miles east of DeWitt.  Learning the value of hard Mae and Callie SkySharework was easy to grasp when following in the footsteps of my grandfather, father, and older brother.  I learned a much greater appreciation for this lifestyle after moving away and experiencing another shake of life.  The opportunity for me to be able to come back and be a part of the farm operation is something I do not take for granted.  I am blessed to be able to jump on this fast moving train of row-crop agriculture.  Who am I to pass up on such an opportunity?  It has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life.  Three years of conversation and planning took place before coming back to the family farm.  My wife and I farm our own corn and soybean crops within the Niemann family farming operation.  We also own and manage SkyShare, LLC which is an aerial application business that provides custom application of crop care products via aircraft. My family and I have enjoyed the challenge of it all and I am glad to once again call DeWitt home.

Matthew Niemann, DeWitt Family Farmer & owner of SkyShare, LLC

 

FFA – Growing Leaders, Building Communities!

Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.” A famous quote by George Washington. Often times the importance of agriculture is overlooked or misinterpreted by many who are under informed. To help bridge this gap is the next generation of agriculturists who happen to be sitting in the chairs of high school agriculture education classrooms, like those at Central DeWitt High School.

Only 33% of Iowa’s FFA members live on farms. That means the other 67% live in towns or cities. What an astonishing fact compared to the mere 50 years ago when that statistic in 1967 looked much different! With over 14,700 FFA members in the state representing 232 local chapters, the future of agriculture is in GREAT hands! Stereotypically, some people think FFA is about cows, sows and plows. As those things are extremely important and vital, it is now turning more towards beakers, speakers and job seekers. Statistics show that we are educating kids for careers in laboratories, CEO’s, alternative fuels and even careers that aren’t developed yet! Our FFA chapter currently has 89 active members from grades 8-12 including our out of school members. FFA members are eager to learn and have stepped up to the plate to help promote and advocate for agriculture and FFA; all things they are very passionate about.

The DeWitt Central FFA chapter is celebrating National FFA Week February 18th-25th. The week long tradition started in 1947 when the National Board of Directors designated the week of George Washington’s birthday as National FFA week in recognition of his legacy as an agriculturist and farmer. It also serves as an opportunity for members, alumni and sponsors to promote agriculture education and FFA.   In honor of FFA week, there will be a banner hanging across 11th street, FFA flags flying on 6th Ave. and a billboard on Highway 30 west of Clinton. There will also be many activities going on throughout the week at school for students to participate in.

FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. Find more information about DeWitt Central FFA and FFA week on our website at www.dewittcentralffa.com!

Amy Grantz – FFA Advisor & Skylar Bloom – FFA President

Much to Gain When We Lose

With the turn of the calendar, the majority of us have high hopes and goals for the new year. The top of that list is usually a goal to lose weight, get fit, eat healthier, etc.  Unfortunately these goals are usually short lived.  Fortunately, the DeWitt Fitness Center is offering a solution to the usual fading resolution.  Get Fit DeWitt, part of the Live Healthy Iowa initiative, is a team (consisting of two to ten people) motivated competition of weight loss and activity minutes. Get Fit DeWitt will run from January 23rd – March 31st, 2017.

Get Fit DeWitt can be a great motivator, not only does a team atmosphere encourage accountability, but a little healthy competition can go a long way. Each year for this annual event, I captain a team where many different personalities coming together to reach common goals: to gain health, lose weight and support each other.  I would be lying if I said the competition did not fuel me, I am sort of a competition junkie (for this I blame my dad, Dennis). In all seriousness, this type of atmosphere can really be of benefit when there is a goal to get healthy.

Get Fit DeWitt offers it all, an obtainable timetable, supportive team atmosphere, individual accolades and incentives.  We all have much to gain when we lose!  When we lose weight or get more active the natural result is to gain health.  Blood panel numbers get better, our bodies get leaner and stronger, we have more energy and our moods can even be more positive, it truly is a win-win for everyone.

Taking the first step can be scary; I encourage you to take it any way!  Find a buddy and jump on board.  What do you have to “lose”, not as much as you will gain.  I challenge you all to be part of the 2017 Get Fit DeWitt initiative, let’s make this the biggest and best one yet.  Find out more about the program and register here!

Amy Besst, Certified Personal Trainer

With So Many Choices, Why Look Local First?

No one business can be all things to all people.  And the number of options available to shoppers is greater than ever.  Online vendors, big box stores and franchise businesses offer many advantages. Small Businesses have distinct attributes and advantages as well, and hopefully, give you reasons to Look Local First.

Small Businesses represent community, an interdependence among its residents, neighbors and city leaders.  They offer personalized service and unique finds, but more importantly – a slower pace, and an experience to be enjoyed with family and friends.  They know, enjoy and appreciate their customers, and they cannot exist without local support.

THE CROSSROADS Inspired Living & Garden Cafe opened its doors on June 20, 2011 after a nine month renovation of the former Martha’s Café.  The name recognizes in part, the historical crossroads of two transnational highways 30 & 61 at DeWitt’s downtown intersection of 6th Avenue & 10th Street. DeWitt’s many quality of life amenities along with its nice downtown and music along 6th Avenue, its proximity to the Quad City area and surrounding communities, made it seem like a good location to open a new business.

This was truly a family endeavor and partnership.  As such, it was not only an investment in DeWitt, but a time of making memories and rejuvenation following a period of ill health.  Indeed, it was the beginning of a new and adventuresome journey that still continues to this day.  Having celebrated our 5th Anniversary this past June, we can say that “It is good to be here.” For truly, the best part of this journey so far has been sharing ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Experiences’ with so many people along the way.

That’s what Small Businesses are about:  Personal Connections and integrating what we do into everyday life.  Just one of many reasons to Look Local FirstDo enjoy all that DeWitt has to offer.  Experience Your Hometown….  And Meet Us at THE CROSSROADS.  Be Inspired!

Linda Snyder – Owner of THE CROSSROADS Inspired Living & Garden Cafe 

Get Inspired & Give Locally

 

There are so many ways to give back in the DeWitt community, especially during the holidays! What will inspire you to give or volunteer this season?

Toys For Tots – Three years ago I was asked to help with the Clinton County Toys For Tots Campaign. The Marines needed our help! So, I asked my brothers at the DeWitt Fire Department if they would be willing to assist with this great program for our local kids. Since that time, we have given out almost 1000 toys and served over 90 families in Dewitt alone. This year will be no different, over 45 children will receive 6-7 toys from our 2016 drive. We can’t do this without your help. Help support this program and drop an unwrapped, unopened toy for a child ages 6 months to 12 years at any of the drop off location listed below. The drive will go until December 14th.  Box Locations: IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union & 1ST Gateway Credit Union, First Central State BankDewitt United Methodist Church, Grace Lutheran Church, Dewitt Fire Department, Scott Drug, St. Joseph School, MJ’s East, Ekstrand Elementary, Central DeWitt Intermediate School, DeWitt City Hall, Theisen’s, and Frances Banta Waggoner Library   .

Garey Chrones – Toys For Tots volunteer

The Giving Tree Program  This program is initiated by DeWitt’s Referral Center to help local children receive a gift for Christmas.  The Referral Center prepares ornaments and DeWitt Junior Women picks the ornament tags up and delivers them to be displayed on trees at DeWitt Bank & Trust and First Central State Bank.  There are several tags that have ages of the children, gender, and needed/wanted items on the tags.  You don’t have to purchase each item listed and you can spend as much or as little as you wish. This program is an excellent way to give back to the local community.  I feel this is also a educational opportunity, by involving your children in the giving, it is a great reminder to all what the true meaning of Christmas really is.  Last week, I took my two children to Theisen’s to purchase the Giving Tree gifts and they had a great time picking out gifts for another child.  Next time you are in DeWitt Bank & Trust or First Central State Bank, take a look at the Giving Tree and get  inspired to grab a tag for a local child in need!

Amber Ernst – DeWitt Junior Women

DeWitt Referral Center The Referral Center assists those in need in the Central DeWitt School District. The needs are many and varied including food, housing assistance, clothing, gas for traveling to a job, Christmas toys and more.  The Referral Center is a non-profit organization that is governed by a Board of Directors.

At this time the 2016 Referral Center Holiday Food Box & Gift Drive is underway. Last year 173 children receive gifts, and 145 Families received Holiday Food Boxes. Volunteers are still needed to assist with the drive setup at the DeWitt Community Center on Dec. 12th & 13th between 8am – 5pm and on Dec. 14th from 8am – Noon to distribute items.  Please call the Referral Center at 563-659-9612 if you would like to volunteer and help ensure that this year’s drive will be the best yet!

The Referral Center also operates a resale shop year round that is open to the public,  where individuals may donate or purchase items. Donations of clothing, furnishings, food and cash donations are always appreciated. All donations are tax deductible. 

Michelle Ehlinger – Referral Center Director & Jan Nelson – Referral Center Board Member

From Cover to Cover – We are a non-profit agency co-founded by two graduates of Central DeWitt, Christina Kitchen and Gina Ryan Schlicksup. We began our mission 3 years ago by starting a “Snuggle Up and Read” campaign, to advocate literacy through the donation of homemade fleece tie blankets with a brand new book to at-risk children in the community. To date, there has been over 1,000 blanket sets and 5,000 books donated.

The From Cover to Cover Clinton County chapter was launched in October 2016 and is in the infancy stage. Our first project is one hefty undertaking, but as the chapter chair I know it can be done when living in a community as supportive as DeWitt! The project, “Book Angel Program” is in full-swing. You will see Christmas trees lined with bookmarks at Thiel Motors, Flowers on the Side, First Central State Bank, Snap Fitness and St. Joseph Church. To participate in the program simply visit one of the locations mentioned and choose a bookmark from the tree. The bookmark indicates the reading level and gender of a book you can purchase to be given to local children (ages range from pre-K to 8th Grade). Books, with the bookmark inside, are brought back to the location the bookmark was picked up at and dropped in the donation bins marked “From Cover to Cover”. The goal of the program is to provide every child at Ekstrand Elementary and St. Joe’s Catholic School (that is over 700 students), a brand new book at Christmas time. Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated and donations can be made at First Central State Bank to: From Cover to Cover Clinton County.

Our mission may be to promote literacy, but we have quickly learned that the journey is about so much more. It is about showing kindness and compassion. It is about providing a comforting gift and encouraging the next generation to be the best they can be. There is much work to be done here but with the help of our wonderful community, we can continue to make a difference one book and blanket at a time!

Christina Kitchen, From Cover to Cover co-founder

Shop with a Cop – The DeWitt Police Department is committed to the philosophy of community policing. Our goal is to implement programs that prevent crime and increase the public’s trust in the quality and professionalism of our service, while building lasting relationships in our community. Through a partnership with a group of caring citizens, the DeWitt Police Foundation, a non-profit organization was established to promote crime prevention, public safety, and education to the community. This foundation works to promote the quality of life in DeWitt by providing a charitable organization that can fund public safety initiatives that tax dollars may not always be able to fund.

One example of how the DeWitt Police Department works to accomplish this goal is the “Shop with a Cop” program.  Created five years ago, the program’s initial intent was to address the image officers sometime leave children with after they are forced to take action during certain situations.  For example, an arrest of a parent/guardian in a domestic violence case.  Due to this, the purpose became not only to repair the image of the officer, but to be proactive and build a stronger rapport with the youth in our community before negative situations occurred.

The DeWitt Police Department believes that in order to break the cycle that leads youths to criminal behavior; it requires an active effort from all by being positive role models for our youth.  The “Shop with a Cop” program has helped accomplish this by building trust and friendship while teaching respect and instilling values.  During the event, participating children are paired with a police officer who will give the children a ride in a police car ride to Theisen’s where they will purchase gifts for themselves and their family. After shopping the children are transported by police car to the community center where they are met by Citizen Police Academy (CPA) alumni.  The CPA alumni help the child/officer wrap gifts and many times there is a visit from Santa who bring stockings full of goodies for them. The children have pizza and watch a Christmas movie to finish the day. The smiling faces and positive energy the children display when their parent/guardian picks them up greatly benefits all of the participants and volunteers.

This type of program would not be possible without the kindness and willingness of volunteers and the business community that devote time, energy and economic resources to make this event a successful. For more information about how to become involved in the DeWitt Police Foundation or the Citizen Police Academy please contact the DeWitt Police Department at (563)-659-3145.

Chief David Porter – DeWitt Police Department