Tag Archives: DeWitt Iowa

Feeling Blessed and Welcomed this Christmas Season

My family just celebrated our first anniversary as DeWitt residents on Sept 18th.  That was a special day to be finally living in the community where we planted Cornerstone Baptist Church DeWitt three years previously.

It has been a great year.  We are very thankful for the transition our two youngest children have experienced from North Scott to Central DeWitt schools.  Teachers, administration, parents and students went out of their way to welcome our kids and help them to get connected.  That “outreach” has helped our family feel even more accepted and welcome.  We all know that when people bless our kids they are also blessing the parents.   

Going out of our way to welcome new people is really one of the most important things we all can do, whether it be to guests coming to your church for the first time or customers walking into your business or new families moving into the community.  Being good at welcoming others translates into new church members or returning customers or families that will choose to raise their kids and grand-kids here.

My family’s transition wasn’t as difficult as others that move into our community.  Some are coming from out of state.  Some are coming from different socioeconomic situations.  Some are coming from more dangerous environments where it wasn’t safe walking down main street. For some it will take time for them to lower their guard and feel comfortable in this safer environment.  May we continue to excel at welcoming new people into our wonderful community so they can experience all that DeWitt has to offer.  

May you and yours have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed 2018.

Mark Zevenbergen- Campus Pastor, Cornerstone Baptist Church Dewitt

Thankful I “Was Born In a Small Town” with BIG Opportunities

I am a Central DeWitt Alumni double majoring in Marketing and Event Management at Iowa State University. I proudly tout my I <3 DeWitt koozie with me around Ames and I love having my friends visit my hometown. Although DeWitt is a small town, we have so much to offer! After working at various places in DeWitt, and as Marketing and Events Intern at First Central State Bank this summer, I have had the opportunity to experience many different roles within the community.

When I look back, growing up in DeWitt was perfect. I wouldn’t change ANYTHING. I attended St. Joes K-8th and learned so much about community, being a friend, and being a productive student. As a kid, there were so many ways to be active in DeWitt. Although sports weren’t always my thing, in a small community they were a way to learn how to be a team mate and see community members support each other. 4-H taught me how to work hard, apply myself, and give back to my community.

In high school, I found my passion for business. Mr. Petsche encouraged me to join Future Business Leaders of America and enroll in various business courses. He was an amazing mentor and opened my eyes to all the opportunities DeWitt has for young professionals. Once I reached my senior year of high school, I became the Dewitt Chamber and Development Company’s very first intern. The DCDC now hosts an intern each year and continues to give them the tools necessary to be successful.

Although I have been a Cyclone my entire life, it became real the fall of 2015 when I packed up my belongings and made the trip to Ames to embark on my college journey at Iowa State University. I realized how fortunate I was that my hometown school, Central DeWitt Community School District, provided so many amazing duel credit opportunities.   Because of this I began my college career with a plethora of credits and could jump right into my core business classes and continue on pursuing my dreams. Freshmen are typically told it is hard to get an internship, not impossible but uncommon. I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I had seen various Facebook posts about the Ohnward Leadership Program and was eager to apply.  What’s better than being able to come back to your hometown AND have an adult job?

Guess What?  I got the job! The Ohnward Leadership Program helped me find my strengths and nurture my passion for social media marketing, design, and event planning. Learning about community banks only strengthened my dedication to my hometown and my views of pursuing a career within a small community. I was able to attend many different community based committee meetings for the Central DeWitt Performing Arts Center, DeWitt Chamber & Development Company, LincolnWay Foundation of Greater Dubuque and the DeWitt Crossroads Triathlon. Sitting in on these committee meetings gave me a new perspective on community involvement and a great appreciation for everyone who continues to volunteer their time to make our community thrive.

Fast-forward to THIS year! You may have seen me out and about representing First Central State Bank!  Throughout the summer months I served as a Marketing and Events intern. Aside from managing First Central’s various social media platforms, I assist in the planning and implementation of various events that we sponsor throughout the year.  Having the opportunity to donate my time and efforts into making events like the Clinton County Fair successful and exciting, is extremely rewarding. For example, this year I designed and implemented fun Snapchat filters to use at the fair! This was something outside of the box for First Central.  Piloting this idea at First Central and seeing the results was very exciting and rewarding.  First Central State Bank has been receptive to new ideas, continues to offer opportunities to put ones passion, and interests to work.  This in turn continues to benefit our local communities in various ways.

I have determined through the years that, without exceptional teachers, parents, mentors, and employers I would not be the young professional that I am today. My education and these various local opportunities have shaped my knowledge and experience, but my mentors have encouraged my passions and interests. Ultimately, Central DeWitt Community School District, First Central State Bank, Ohnward Bancshares, Inc., Iowa State University, my friends and family and the DeWitt Community provided me with opportunities for growth.  I will be forever thankful that I was born in a SMALL town with BIG opportunities.

Thank you, DeWitt!

Madeleine Blandin –  Central DeWitt Alumni, Class of 2015                                                                 Junior Double Majoring in Marketing and Event Management at Iowa State University

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

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

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

 

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

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

Bridging the Future at Westbrook

The community is buzzing with great reviews regarding the new bridge on the Paul Skeffington Memorial Trail. The bridge now carries walkers, runners, dogs, bikers, disc golfers, mountain bikers and hikers across Silver Creek at Westbrook Park. It is situated east of the old bridge location and at a higher elevation, keeping tree debris from accumulating during floods as it previously was under the 100-year flood elevation.

The new precast concrete construction consists a partial realignment of the bridge approach, a 10’ wide 75’ double tee pedestrian span and a height that reaches 6 to 8 feet higher than the previous bridge.  The width of the bridge allows for easy snow removal which will grant easy access to the trail during the winter months.

The original bid for construction was $240,879.50 from Ritmer Inc. of DeWitt, but the start of the bridge project was initially delayed due to the necessity of a wetland delineation, resolving Indiana Bat Habitat issues, and working to comply with IDNR regulations. In the end, the cost of the project – including legal, administrative fees, engineering and construction – totaled $292,342.24. The bridge project was designed and engineered by IIW Engineers & Surveyors PC.

The new bridge is a tremendous addition to Westbrook Park. Everyone is invited to enjoy the Paul Skeffington Memorial Trail and check it out.  The bridge was made possible by funds from: City of DeWitt, Clinton County Development Association, and Paul Skeffington Memorial Race Committee.

DeWitt Delivers Recreation!