Tag Archives: volunteering

Joseph’s Story

Many of you have probably heard of St. Baldrick’s and think of it as an event where people get their heads shave to raise money to help in the fight against childhood cancer.  However, there is really so much more to this event and some great success stories of kids with cancer, beating cancer and getting healthy, in part from the funds raised from St.Baldrick’s.  My son Joseph is one of those children and here is his story…

In 2011, Joseph was a seemingly healthy 5-year-old who was looking forward to starting Kindergarten that fall.  In mid-July, all that changed when we found out he had an inoperable brain tumor and hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain).   Dreams of kindergarten turned to wishes to see him healthy.  He was unresponsive for a few days and we longed just to see his baby blue eyes and smile again.

That was over 6 years ago, but we still remember going to our first Iowa City appointment and hearing what his chemo regimen would be.  In Chicago, where he was diagnosed, the neurooncologist sat with us and explained that the “best” treatment they have for Joseph’s type of brain tumor is 60% effective.

Wow – as if hearing the words “your child has cancer” wasn’t life changing enough now the best we could hope for was a little more than a 50/50 chance that the chemo would cure his cancer.

Joseph is doing well (5 years off treatment).  He is fairly healthy but we are still watching some issues due to chemo and he is starting to slowly overcome some latent effects of his chemo but we are still getting good reports that his tumor is stable.

Childhood cancer is different in the treatment of it.  Detection alone is an issue as unlike adult cancers, in 80% of kids with cancer it has already spread to other parts of the body by the time it is diagnosed.  Not only are the cancer’s specific to where they occur such as a brain tumor vs leukemia but it also is dependent on their age.  Certain cancers are treated differently based on the age of the child which just adds to the complexity of treating pediatric cancer.   Joseph’s chemo had a 60% chance of working, we were in the lucky 60%.  However even when cancers are 90% curable that still means that 10% of the parents hearing those words “your child has cancer” will lose their child and that’s not ok.

The funding is not there from other sources for childhood cancer research.  The fact is only 4% of federal funding goes to childhood cancer.  About 60% of all funding for drug development in adult cancers come from pharmaceutical companies – yet they fund almost none in childhood cancer because they are not profitable.

While there are treatments for many of the childhood cancers out there, not only are they not 100% effective, they leave lasting effects.  The nurse told us at our first appointment when we were learning all about Joseph’s chemo regimen that the chemo will destroy good, bad cells and it is a poison so it attacks many types of cells not just the cancer cells.  So not only were we just 2 weeks past finding out that our son had a brain tumor but now we were being told that we were going to be giving him poison to make him better.  No one takes their child to the doctor and gets poison to treat an infection – you give them something that is fairly low risk.  This is not ok.  The treatments take a toll on these children’s bodies.  Yes, many go on to live into adulthood but the fact is that through the years into adulthood we will be watching for potential issues caused by Joseph’s chemo which may show up this year or may show up in 5 years or 20 years.  We don’t live our life in fear but this is a reality.  This is a reality of all pediatric cancer survivors.

And even if your child is lucky enough to survive their cancer, statistics show that by the time “they’re 45 years old, more than 95% of survivors will have a chronic health problem and 80% will have severe or life-threatening conditions”.

Great things can come from research and hopefully one day when a parent hears those words “your child has cancer” it will be followed by the words “but we have a cure for that” or “we have a treatment for that and he/she is going to be ok”.  That’s what we dream of – that’s why we participate in St. Baldrick’s and promote it because they are helping to fund the research that will one day lead to a cure.

This year, in addition to the head shaving, there is a new part to the event called “Short Hair, Don’t Care”.  For those people wanting to become heroes for kids with cancer but not ready to brave the shave, we have created a “Short Hair, Don’t Care” part to the event where people can donate 8 or more inches of their hair to an organization that gives wigs to kids affected by cancer.

We are looking for shavees or people to donate inches of hair and barbers for this year’s event.

The annual St. Baldrick’s event will take place on March 24th, 2018 at the Community Center in DeWitt’s Lincoln Park.  There will be food, music, kids’ activities, a bake sale and silent auction.

Those interested in participating can REGISTER HERE!

Click here to stay up-to-date with St. Baldrick’s of Clinton County and like their Facebook page.

Donations can be made at the same website as above. If you want to donate by check or have questions please contact me directly at 563-249-7663 or by email.

Your support of St. Baldrick’s may seem so simple yet it truly means so much to families and kids affected by cancer.

Julie Burken – Mom of Joseph Burken-pediatric cancer survivor and Organizer/Shavee-Clinton County St. Baldricks 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Active Dad = Confident Leader

Eleven years ago, I was living in Detroit with my wife and my newborn son, Sam.  My job kept me traveling internationally most of the time.  We decided to move back home to DeWitt about 18 months later.  My new position would allow me to be home and spend time with my family.  Due to the fact that I missed a lot of Sam’s first year of life, I decided that no matter the activity he wanted to participate in, I would be involved.  I really wanted to be a dad who took an active part in their child’s life.

My first volunteering opportunity came in the form of coaching youth sports through the DeWitt Parks and Recreation Department.   I learned early in my volunteering that all these activities took dedicated people to make these programs successful.  I wanted them to be successful so that my kids and other kids could enjoy and learn from these programs.  I realized that I would have to put in a few more hours to help.  This was especially true with the Cub Scouts.  I was not a Cub Scout growing up but Sam wanted to participate.  This drove me to learn about the organization and try to make it the best program for the scouts in town.

Another reason I have volunteered is that it has helped me to grow.  I am not naturally a social person.  I am not comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people.  Two opportunities presented themselves to help me feel more relaxed and open to public speaking.  I took a chance and volunteered to teach Junior Achievement.  It may not seem intimidating to teach kids, but any teacher will tell you that it is a lot harder than it seems.  It has helped me to be more confident in speaking in front of people.  I also became an ambassador for the DCDC.  This forced me out of my comfort zone by having to meet new people and be a face of the community.

I realized through my volunteering that I didn’t just want the programs for the kids to be successful; I wanted to help make the DeWitt community better.  I love living in DeWitt.  I love raising my family here.  I want other people to want to live in DeWitt.   These are some of the reasons I jumped at the opportunity to serve on the United Way and DeWitt Hospital Foundation boards.  Taking a few hours each month to volunteer with these organizations can make our community a better place to live.

So why volunteer and how would I have enough time to do all these things?  The thing is you don’t need to volunteer for everything.  If more people volunteer, so much more can be accomplished with little time commitment.  Plus, there are so many positives to volunteering: having fun and building relationships with the people you are working with and helping out; refreshing your spirit and mind; the knowledge that what you are doing is benefiting others.  I have personally gone to a practice or a meeting feeling stressed out, but after spending an hour or so with kids having fun, I have come back feeling like a new person.  Of course the biggest reason to volunteer is to help others; no one can do everything on their own.  It takes a committed group of volunteers to make a great community like we have in DeWitt.

Adam Gravert                                                                                                                                                   DeWitt Resident & Volunteer