Category Archives: DeWitt Delivers

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 

Made in DeWitt

October is National Manufacturing Month and in this month dedicated to manufacturing I encourage people to learn more about manufacturing in DeWitt. I began my career in this field twenty-two years ago. My journey started with an opportunity to work part-time at a company named JRB located in DeWitt’s Industrial Park.  JRB was a manufacturer of construction attachments for John Deere and other Original Equipment Manufacturer’s.  At the time I had no idea where the Crossroads Business Park (DeWitt’s Industrial Park) was, what companies were located in it, nor the goods they produced.  What I did recognize was an opportunity to work outside of the typical part-time high school job.  Like many other high school students, I hadn’t made up my mind what I wanted to do for a career. I did know that I wasn’t looking forward to four years of college and viewed this job as a way to see what else was out there.  

So, I found myself in a completely new environment, where people were welding, operating lathes, burn tables, boring machines and painting.  We were literally taking raw steel and processing it into loader buckets, forks, booms, and couplers.  I grew to love the various processes, people and new opportunities that presented themselves.  I got a deep sense of satisfaction when I saw a bucket on a Deere wheel loader that our team in DeWitt had proudly made, as a matter of fact, the bucket on the City of DeWitt’s 544 was made at the DeWitt facility.  

Just like any industry, construction equipment has its ups and downs.  I saw plant expansion and contraction, selling and acquiring businesses, new product lines and phasing out legacy products.  Through it all, I was able to turn hard work and dedication into opportunities for growth.  I worked my way through different departments and increased roles of responsibility culminating in a leadership role as a plant supervisor.  Unfortunately, in 2009, due to the biggest recession since the great depression, JRB was shuttered and production was moved to sister sites in other states.  I was fortunate to stay on with the company that owned JRB and traveled between Davenport and Dubuque to manage a small division called CustomWorks.

Then three years later in 2012 I saw an article in The Observer that a Canadian company called Black Cat Blades was purchasing the old JRB building in the Industrial Park.  I stopped by the plant one day that October which led to a four month interview process where I was given the opportunity to get to know Black Cat and the culture that is very important to our business model.  A large part of what attracted Black Cat to DeWitt was not just the fact that the Industrial Park was less than 20 minutes north of Deere Davenport Works or 50 minutes south of Deere Dubuque Works, it was the people from the area they were meeting which started with the DCDC and DCDC members.  

The thought has always been that the community of DeWitt was a good fit for Black Cat’s culture and guiding principles, and that continued through the use of local contractors like Jansen ElectricHolst Construction and Dorhman during start up.  We believe in building relationships in the community we operate in and over the last four years I feel we have been successful in becoming part of the community.  We now employee 16 team members and in 2014 we started manufacturing wear blades in addition to our warehousing activities. DeWitt is very fortunate to have a successful Industrial Park and the jobs and opportunities that exist within it.  

So the next time you have a few minutes take a drive through the Crossroads Business Park and you will see all kinds of different manufacturing companies making anything from air fresheners, glass, testing products, wear components, pumps and valves, and ground engaging tools.  These companies come from all around the United States and other countries like Canada, Italy, and Sweden and truly demonstrate that DeWitt is part of a global economy.  

Josh Daniel, Black Cat Blades – DeWitt Plant Manager

See more about how DeWitt Delivers manufacturing and more!

 

 

Our Community, Our Home

I love to volunteer for activities that allow me to interact with kids in my community.  Whether it is at my church, or our community library, it’s rewarding to provide an activity that teach or entertain our community’s youth.  Volunteering at DeWitt’s Autumn Fest is a great opportunity to see the children I may already know from other community events and to meet the rest of their families.  But more importantly, it is an opportunity to build bridges with the next generation.  Someday, they will be the leaders of our community, and if I can help nurture them in some way, I feel that it is time well spent.

DeWitt is a lovely community and a great place to live and to raise children.  I want the children to be exposed to the many great aspects of the community and maybe raise their family here. Hopefully, some of them will become the leaders that help our community stay strong, safe and thriving.

It is important as adults, as parents, as churches, as business owners and as community leaders; to do everything we can to help our children have positive things to do with their time and energy.  Autumn Fest is an event that provides an opportunity to be involved in kid’s lives and to help our community stay strong.  Events like Autumn Fest connect people with their hometown and help them build relationships with one another.  “Home” is a very special place, we should do everything we can to continue to make DeWitt “home” for our kids and their families.

Cindy Nees, Director of Children’s Ministries, DeWitt Evangelical Free Church

Lincoln Park in Bloom

I have always liked DeWitt’s Lincoln Park.  It is a favorite playground of our grandchildren.  We often take a picnic lunch to the park when they visit.  I enjoy the summer community band concerts, Tunes in Town and the Farmers’ Market.  Our family watches parades and races from the shade of the trees in Lincoln Park.

The DeWitt Area Fine Arts Foundation invites you to spend some time in Lincoln Park on Saturday, September 17, at the John Bloom Arts Festival.  This is the 14th annual arts festival.  The foundation started the event to give local artists an opportunity to display and sell their creations.  It is just one of the many projects that the foundation has to promote fine arts activities in DeWitt.

Twenty local vendors will have their creations for sale at the arts festival between 10am- 3pm on the 17th.  All items are hand crafted.  Those creations include art work, yard art, woven baskets, doll clothes, loomed rugs, jewelry and pottery.  The Nite Lions provide lunch and the Central Community Historical Society serves pie.  Andrew Vickers is the musical entertainment throughout the day.  The Central DeWitt art teachers have make-and-take crafts for children.   It is not only an opportunity to see the creativity of others, but to enjoy time in the park and meet your neighbors!

The name of the John Bloom Arts Festival honors artist and native son, John Bloom.  John was a contemporary of Grant Wood, one of my favorite artists.  I think the story of John’s mural located in DeWitt’s City Hall is fascinating.  DeWitt is fortunate to have John Bloom prints on permanent display in the First Central Gallery located in the Operahouse Theatre.  There is also a large collection of John’s work at the Central Historical Society.  John Bloom may have lived in DeWitt many years ago, but the spirit of the town he depicted in his paintings still lives!

Marsha Witte – DeWitt Area Fine Arts Foundation board member

Keeping Fun On The Fourth!

What could be more fun than a Fourth of July parade?

For most people, it means finding a shady spot, parking a lawn chair, and
waiting…and waiting…and waiting, until faint echoes of the band float down the
street and the military color guard appears. The crowd stands respectfully as
the red, white and blue goes by, then settles down for an hour and a half of
wheels and walkers, all decorated for the patriotic holiday.

DeWitt’s Fourth of July Parade offers both the predictable and the unpredictable. The unpredictability is built in because there are very few rules. In fact, there is only one rule: You show up; we tell you where to go. That’s it. We do strongly suggest that your entry be decorated in a patriotic manner. After all, this is not a cruise or a commercial; this is a celebration of America and everything that name conveys. DeWitt has always had a parade for this summer holiday. In the past, a chairman was chosen, invitations were mailed, ads were placed, registrations were solicited and received, each entry was given a number and, on the day of
the parade, lined up in numerical order. At the same time, the committee had
to find judges, a Master of Ceremonies, set up a viewing stand in Lincoln Park,
complete with a microphone and chairs. The judges and MC were supplied
with a list–in numerical order–of all the entries. And, at the end of the event,
prizes were awarded–procured by the committee, of course. As the years went by, it became harder and harder to find someone to chair the event. So a good Samaritan would volunteer, go through the whole rigamarole and decide once was enough.

The Prichards and the Schnepels, decided to take a turn. We wrote and stuffed
and licked and stamped and called –this was before email or cellphones were
common–then figured out where each entry should go, found the judges and
the prizes…it was a lot of work. Someone else took on the project the next year.
But then, when the city was once again looking for someone, Bim and I and
Marvin and Alice decided to host the parade again–and simplify it. Who
needs judges? Who needs prizes? We decided that prizes didn’t add anything
to the festivities, so we abolished them. If you don’t have prizes, you don’t
need judges. If you don’t have judges, you don’t need a Master of Ceremonies.
If you don’t need judges and an MC, you need neither a reviewing stand nor a
microphone, nor a script. Furthermore, since people didn’t care which entry
came first, second, or third, there was no need to assign numbers and no need
to put anybody in any particular order. Hence, our first and only rule: You show
up; we tell you where to go.

In no time at all, we eliminated all the work and kept all the fun. Just to be safe,
though, we meet weekly, just like the staff of the Rose Bowl parade. Saturday
morning breakfast is our traditional meeting time; the place has changed over
the years—Grand Mound, Low Moor, DeWitt, Welton, wherever a good
breakfast and lots of coffee are served. Discussion centers on theme, grand marshall, and parade route. The theme is the result of serendipity. Sometimes the grand marshall is chosen to go with the theme; other times the grand marshall is chosen as a representative of
something great that is happening in our community. The route depends on the
location of that summer’s street repairs. We made ourselves official by purchasing red t-shirts with the words “Parade Staff” stamped on the back. When our children were in college, they would bring their friends home to help direct the entries. Tammy Schnepel and Dawn
Hinrichs have not missed a single year.

We estimate that several thousand people line the streets to watch our parade,
no matter what the weather. We’ve never had to cancel because of rain. We
always have the high school band, we always have tractors, we always have
entries representing a business, a social justice issue, a high school class or a
family. The parade is really a great composite of DeWitt and its sister
communities. We have fire trucks from several counties and if we’re lucky, we
have horses. The last two entries are always the Prichard Pickup and the
Schnepel Golf Cart. By the time we drive the route, candy peppers the
pavement and little kids hold sacks full of sweets, still hoping for one more toss
their way.

We receive our reward as people wave at us and shout “thank you!” Then we
meet for breakfast on the next Saturday and start all over again!

Dianne Prichard – Parade Organizer

Taking The Road Less Traveled To DeWitt

My wife Sandy and I will take any excuse for a road trip that gives us an opportunity to see new parts of the country.  And when we do, we like to get off the main roads to enjoy the real America, not just the “highway America.”  We enjoy the slower pace, the opportunity to see the great beauty and many attractions and curiosities this country offers, and the chance conversations and experiences one can only have if you take the road less traveled.  In all these respects, DeWitt definitely delivered.

Last month, Sandy and I had an opportunity to travel from northern Virginia to Vinton, Iowa to attend our son’s end-of-service ceremony with FEMA Corps, a national service program focused on disaster response and disaster mitigation.  We came up through central Ohio and stopped off to visit friends and family, wound our way through Indiana hill country and Illinois croplands and crossed the Mississippi north of Davenport heading to Vinton.  Thus it was that we found ourselves passing through DeWitt on Route 30 on a fine spring day around lunchtime.  So we stopped off at the Garden Café for some mighty fine soup and sandwiches.

While enjoying the hospitality of the nice folks at the Garden Cafe, we read a bit about native son and noted artist John Bloom and a mural he had painted, “Shucking Corn,” installed in the old DeWitt post office, now City Hall.  With a little time on our hands, and always keen to take advantage of local attractions, we decided to have a peek.  We wandered over to the post office and inquired about the mural and the very helpful postmistress informed us that we had found the new post office, and that the mural was located in the “old post office,” now serving as the City Hall.   Entering City Hall, we were invited by the folks in the front offices to enjoy Bloom’s work located above the Mayor’s office door.  It was well worth the time—a wonderful artistic representation of the American experience we leave the city and highway to enjoy.  The enthusiastic folks there pointed us to some additional Bloom sketches mounted in the Council chambers.  We had an enjoyable conversation about the growth and development around DeWitt.

Heading back to the car we crossed the intersection of 10th Street and 6th Avenue, and we were diverted by a sign identifying the intersection as the crossroads of the old Lincoln Highway and the historic Blues Road.  I’m a great blues fan and it is my ambition on a future road trip to follow the Blues from New Orleans northward.  As we were enjoying that discovery, we turned around to see a thatched roof building in Lincoln Park, something you just don’t see every day in this country!  Further intrigued by the German “Hausbarn” museum sign, we poked our German Hausbarn, DeWitt Iowaheads into the Chamber of Commerce offices to inquire about it.  We met the DCDC staff, who couldn’t have been more gracious representatives of DeWitt—opening up the museum for us and letting us know about the various happenings in the DeWitt environs, including Tunes in Town located in Lincoln Park.  We greatly enjoyed our conversation with them and their willingness to show us the well-organized displays relating to the German migration to America.

As we had an event to get to in Vinton, we reluctantly took our leave of the good folks of DeWitt.  But we have abiding memories of a town with great local attractions and of warm, embracing residents who have an obvious sense of civic pride, and who have a predisposition to offer a helping hand, even to out-of-town folks just passing through.  We look forward with great anticipation to our Blues Road travels in the next year or so, now not just because of the draw of the music, but because it will provide us the opportunity to travel up 6th Avenue on our return to one of our new favorite American towns.

With fond memories – Rob and Sandy Fountain

 

Childhood Experience Sparks Volunteerism

As a 39 year old native of DeWitt,  I grew here doing the same things that kids today do – school and sports.  I think I was 5 or 6 years old when we had a chimney fire at our house one evening.  My sister and I were sent across the street to our neighbor’s house.  I remember watching out the window in amazement at all the fire trucks and firefighters working to put out the fire and making sure things were safe for us again.  Not long after that my father decided to become a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department, where he is still a member of 33 years.

Fast forward to 2006.  My wife Jodee and I had our first girl, Hannah.  It was then that I decided it was time for me to give back to the community that had taken care of me so well.  I became a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department as well in October of 2006.  In addition to Hannah, we have Hailee who is 7 and Jack who is 3.  Our kids love the fact that I am a volunteer firefighter.  They get to do things that a lot of other kids don’t get a chance to do like ride in the fire trucks during parades and going up to the fire station at any time.  Sometimes they want to bring their friends along! Each summer there is a family picnic at Westbrook Park that our kids look forward to just as I did when I was young.

My wife and I have had the pleasure of getting to know a whole new “family” with the fire department.  Most of the people we probably would not have even met and become so close had I not decided to join.

We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Let me put that into perspective; we don’t get a day off.  When that pager goes off, you react and respond.  It may be at night when we are sleeping, during the day while at work or even while attending Church.  We don’t get to choose when it goes off.   I  have missed family dinners, birthday parties, weddings and work.  But it is all worth it.  When you see that look of terror in a stranger’s eye when you show up and the relief when you leave, that’s when it hits you.  We made a difference.  We made a positive impact on that person’s life.

During the first year of membership a new firefighter is required to be FireFighter 1 certified.  That is a 120 hour course and a passing grade on a written and hands on exam to get the certification.  Firefighter 1 teaches the basic firefighting fundamentals that are essential to the job.  The state of Iowa also requires 24 hours of training each year for volunteer firefighters.  Our department has 2 1/2 trainings each month on the 4th Monday of the month.  There are times when it is hard to find that balance of being a good father, husband and have a full time job, but with great support from my wife and kids, we manage.

Being a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department makes me feel like I can give back to my community.  It gives me great pride that I am a small part of our 30 person department.  We all feel like we can be positive roll models for our own kids as well as all the kids in our community.  We are very fortunate to have the support that everyone provides.  We have awesome equipment, a great group of firefighters and the best community around!

I would encourage everyone to not hesitate to volunteer for anything you feel passionate about, whether it be coaching youth sports or a 4H volunteer, there is always room for more volunteers.  Without volunteers our community could not deliver the opportunities that we offer!  If anyone has any interest in becoming part of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department you may talk to me or any of the other 29 members.

Jeff Peters, DeWitt Resident & Proud Volunteer for the DeWitt Fire Department