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EMPLOYERS OF CHOICE

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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

Employers of Choice seen as winners regardless of rank By JIM OFFNER jim.offner@wcfcourier.com

Don’t let the rankings fool you. The Courier’s Employers of Choice are all champions, in the opinion of the workers who nominated them. For the second consecutive year, The Courier employed a format that actively engaged the work force, from which nominations poured in heaping praise on their employers. A panel of representatives from a cross-section of the regional business community sorted through and thoroughly discussed a veritable mountain of nominations to determine the Cedar Valley’s top 20 places to work. The result is the

2009 Employers of Choice Rankings 1. Allen Health Systems 2. CBE Group Inc. 3. DISTek Integration Inc. 4. W.W. Grainger Inc. 5. Waverly Health Center 6. Classic Kitchen & Bath 7. Next Generation Wireless 8. Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare 9. Cedar Valley Hospice 10. Grundy County Memorial Hospital

2009 Employers of Choice. The winners don’t fit any particular category or line of business. Some of the largest employers in the region came away with honors, in categories ranging from health care to financial institutions. A

11. Greenwood Drug 12. Western Home Communities 13. ME&V Advertising & Consulting 14. B&R Quality Meats 15. Tyson Prepared Foods 16. Bill Colwell Ford 17. Exceptional Persons Inc. 18. Bergan, Paulsen & Co. P.C. 19. Hawkeye Valley Area Agency on Aging 20. Landmark Commons

couple of winners qualify as localbased mom-and-pop companies with local clientele. The trait all of these firms share is a strong sense that teamwork, dedication and concern for the well-being of their workers is one

of the most important ingredients in their success. That their employees pick up on that commitment to them was abundantly clear in the nomination essays submitted to The Courier. Last year, nominees were cited for the concern they showed to employees who were affected by the floods of 2008. This year, with a relatively quiet spring and summer, companies continued to show support for their workers. Perhaps that was as telling as anything else about the winners and their attitudes toward their workers. Employees at Allen Health Systems, which took the top position

in this year’s Employers of Choice survey, noted employee recognition and encouragement comes regularly from the top executives. Other employers who made the top 20 in this year’s survey got similar positive marks from their workers, whether the employers arranged flexible, workfrom-home schedules or offered professional-development opportunities. The Courier received nearly 250 nominations for this year’s honor. That’s certainly a testament to the dedication to duty that area companies large and small show not only to the customers they serve but the workers they employ who make that possible.

Allen employees note hospital’s community, patient focus By JIM OFFNER

Allen Health Systems

jim.offner@wcfcourier.com

WATERLOO — A hospital is only as good as the care it provides to its patients. On that count, Allen Health Systems exceeds all expectations, according to Becky Dumler, a registered nurse who has been with Allen Hospital in Waterloo hospital since 1968. The hospital shows a multifaceted commitment to its community, training medical personnel, conducting community outreach programs and focusing on its mission, said Dumler, who was one of 20 Allen employees who nominated the hospital as an Employer of Choice for 2009. “I nominated them because I’m so impressed with the quality of doctors we get here,” Dumler said. “They’re just leaders in their fields.” But, there are other reasons, as well, Dumler said. “I think our nursing program and I think it’s reflective of our school of nursing here,” she said. A number of employees noted that Allen’s management doesn’t overlook its employees. “Allen is a very warm, friendly working environment,” said Sara,

1825 Logan Ave., Waterloo (319) 235-3550 www.allenhospital.org ■ Employees: 997 ■ What the company does: Health care and health care education.

MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Allyson McLaughlin, left, preps David Chilcote for a pharmacologic stress test at Allen Hospital. Janssen, a buyer in the hospital’s gift shop who also coordinates special events for an auxiliary volunteer organization. Janssen noted that even the highest-ranking executives at the hospital are approachable. “A lot of times you’ll see them in the hall asking about how somebody’s kids are,” she said. The other-focused attitude is a tradition that stems from the hospital’s founder, Henry Allen. He and wife Mary moved to Califor-

nia, but he donated 80 acres and $200,000 to the city of Waterloo to establish a hospital in Mary’s name after she died. That focus on the community continues today, said Jim Waterbury, the hospital’s vice president of institutional advancement. “A lot of our employees commute and take that same commitment to those small towns,” he said. “Every time I turn around, I find somebody is involved in something, and we encourage that.”

■ How it stands out in its field: Employees say the hospital has an excellent work atmosphere, shows flexibility, focuses on patient care. ■ Involvement in the community: Junior Achievement, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, People’s Clinic and Phelps Youth Pavilion.

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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

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EMPLOYERS OF CHOICE

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Satisfied workers lead to happy clients for CBE Group By TIM JAMISON tim.jamison@wcfcourier.com

WATERLOO — Senada Sarajlija believes it’s important for employers to understand the needs of their workers. It’s what she found at The CBE Group, a debt collection agency based in Waterloo’s Tower Park office complex . “CBE supports employees who want to experience those special moments that may only happen once — your daughter’s first recital or son’s state wrestling match — with flexibility that best fits our schedule,” said Sarajlija, one of many workers who nominated the company as one of the Cedar Valley’s best places to work. “It’s not just a place where you get a paycheck,” Sarajlija added in her essay. “Rather, an environment where long-lasting

bonds are built, our hard work is appreciated and our knowledge is expanded every single day.” CBE Group workers cited as positives the ability to get training and education through the on-site “CBE University” and the awards and recognition programs offered. “Employees are treated with courtesy and respect,” said Kathy Christensen, a 10-year CBE employee. “CBE is flexible, and recently, when CBE lost a government client, they could have laid people off; however, they did not. They found places for everyone.” CBE President and CEO Tom Penaluna said its all part of the company’s “value service chain” business model. “We believe that if we work very hard a making satisfied employees … they will be loyal to the company and we’ll have less

turnover,” he said. “They will, in turn, have satisfied clients who will be very loyal to us. We don’t lose very many clients.” The company also encourages a commitment to the community. “Last year, during the floods, I was impressed that, even though our building suffered no damage, our company closed its office and suggested that employees help friends, neighbors and family by sandbagging or helping on other ways,” said Jean Merfeld, a 23-year CBE Group employee. Penaluna said major corporate citizens have an obligation to help in times of need “People all across the city helped each other throughout the whole flood situation,” he BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer said. “It wasn’t just CBE, it was people all across this commu- Team lead Kurt Heims works with consolidation specialist Tiffany Jones at CBE Group. nity at the same time.”

CBE Group Inc. 131 Tower Park Drive, Suite 100, Waterloo (319) 234-6686 www.cbegroup.com ■ Employees: 533 ■ What the company does: CBE specializes in third-party debt collections. In addition, CBE has two wholly owned subsidiaries based out of the corporate office in Waterloo: Paragon Solutions, Inc. (PSI) and Student Loan Counseling Service, Inc. (SLCS). ■ How it stands out in its field: CBE’s corporate philosophy is simply “Doing the Right Thing,” focusing on service and respect. ■ Involvement in the community: CBE participates in the United Way campaign each year. In an average month, CBE employees donate over $5,000 to a designated local charity.


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EMPLOYERS OF CHOICE

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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

Grainger ranks for second straight year By MATTHEW WILDE

W.W. Grainger Inc.

matt.wilde@wcfcourier.com

BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

Joe Fuller, standing, teaches a software class at DISTek in Cedar Falls.

DISTek challenges employees By JOHN MOLSEED john.molseed@wcfcourier.com

CEDAR FALLS — A healthy benefits package in a nice community can be incentives to accept a job. However, they don’t necessarily make the job itself more desirable. At DISTek Integration inc. in Cedar Falls, employees say one of the best parts about working there is the job. “There’s a lot of challenging things put in front of us on a daily basis,” said Nicholas Nichols, a DISTek employee. “We demand their creativity,” said Bob Theisen, IT manager. Engineers and software developers thrive in jobs that tax their imagination and creativity, said Jeremy Yoder, vice president of engineering. Although the company itself is small, with about 80 employees, it takes on projects from larger firms. “That provides us access to a lot of neat technologies and stability, but at the same time we’re a small company, and that gives employees a lot of voice,” he said. Employees have tackled unconventional jobs, including designing a drill system for extracting calcium samples from scallop shells for climate research. Some employees spend time on the site of contracting companies. It breaks up daily routine and gives engineers and software developers a chance to see systems they design implemented. “The best part is seeing the soft-

DISTek Integration Inc. 6612 Chancellor Dr., Suite 600 (319) 859-3600 www.distek.com ■ Employees: 80 ■ What the company does: Creates software and automation designs for agricultural, aerospace, and factory automation systems. ■ How it stands out in its field: The company works with large companies but maintains a smallfirm atmosphere. ■ Involvement in the community: Raised money for the Red Cross following an EF5 tornado that struck the Cedar Valley; employees were paid to volunteer during flooding in June 2008.

ware applied and actually seeing the light come on or whatever,” said Josh Droegmiller, who splits his work week between the DISTek office and the John Deere project engineering center. Cindy Luchtenburg joined the company after working with DISTek for years as its insurance representative. Earlier this year, she had used up her sick and vacation days but needed shoulder surgery. Company officials gave her the necessary extra paid time off. The community itself is another aspect that makes the company an enticing workplace, said Ken Baxter, program development engineer. “All these towns in the area are doing a good job in helping us recruit,” he said. “It helps to sit back and point to the trails.”

WATERLOO — Even environmentally friendly vehicles get preferential treatment at W.W. Grainger Inc. Treating the world, employees and, most importantly, customers with respect makes good business sense. The philosophy must be working. Grainger — even during a worldwide recession — increased sales by 6.25 percent in 2008 to $6.8 billion. The Illinois-based industrial equipment and supply company, with a customer service center in Waterloo, is No. 4 in The Courier’s second-annual Employers of Choice survey. Twenty Northeast Iowa business were selected based on employee nominations. Grainger workers say the com-

BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

Customer service supervisor Barb Craddick, right, observes customer service agent Sarah Siebel at the Grainger call center.

827 Fisher Drive, Waterloo (319) 234-0243 www.grainger.com ■ Employees: 200 ■ What the company does: Handles call for technical support from Grainger customers. The company distributes maintenance repair and operational products. ■ How it stands out in its field: Grainger is a Fortune 500 company that did $6.9 billion in sales last year. ■ Involvement in the community: The company recently donated $10,000 to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and thousands for disaster assistance, and employees help others through volunteer projects.

pany does all the right things keep them happy, such as performance-based awards and spots — which goes along with the company’s belief in saving putting family first. Even little things like giving the planet — is appreciated. employees with fuel-efficient, low-emission cars prime parking See GRAINGER, page 6


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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

T

EMPLOYERS OF CHOICE

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f f o r iendsh s e c a f ip he

A family of 220 employees with 1,457 years of experience serving a family of 675 residents

In appreciation of giving your best to make Friendship Village the better place to live. www.friendshipvillage.com

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EMPLOYERS OF CHOICE

Waverly Health Center honors hard work By KAREN HEINSELMAN karen.heinselman@wcfcourier.com

WAVERLY — A simple thank you can go a long way. Management at Waverly Health Center strive to hire individuals that believe in its mission — patient-centered care — and embody its values, including compassion, innovation and excellence. Employees, however, say they appreciate it when the company takes time to acknowledge their hard work. From the Spotlight on Values employee recognition program to the treat-dispensing perk patrol to feel-good appreciation notes, staff appears to go out of their way to catch fellow employees making a difference. In addition to creating happier employees, the philosophy and practice has added benefits, said Michele Schultz, a social worker

at the hospital. Waverly Health Center “If the staff feels great and appreciated for the job they do, 312 Ninth St. SW, Waverly (319) 352-4120 then they pass that along to the www.waverlyhealthcenter.org patients and the families that ■ Employees: 388 they work with,” Schultz said. ■ What the company does: Employees nominating the Provides wide array of health care Waverly Health Center for services to area residents. the Courier’s second-annual ■ How it stands out in its field: Employers of Choice survey Planetree Designated Patient-Cenrepeatedly commended their tered Hospital; leader in patient employer’s grateful and inclusatisfaction at state and national levels. sive attitudes toward all levels ■ Involvement in the community: of staff. Free monthly health education When managers and officials programming, child safety seat need to make a decision or want inspections, community health acinsight about new policies, tivities, Healthy Partners program improvements and procedures, in Waverly elementary schools, a variety of staff members are Bremer County SHIIP sponsor. tapped to offer up opinions and serve on committees and task Employees partnered to help forces. “They involve employees from the Waverly Health Center make throughout the facility,” said improvements needed to receive Adam Hoffman, an emergency a Planetree Patient-Centered preparedness coordinator in the emergency room. See WAVERLY, page 7

times, employees are grateful Grainger didn’t cut or freeze compensation like numerous From page 4 other businesses. Call center manager Tim Cuve“Competitive wages, excellent benefits, a new eco-friendly call center, and a focus on quality customer service is the reason I continue to work here,” said Jonathan Leard on his nomination form. Grainger moved into a new $10 million, 41,000-square-foot call center near the interchange of Ansborough Avenue and U.S. Highway 20 in April. More than 200 full-time employees man the center 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They handle 5,000 to 6,000 calls a day. Employees say the move shows the company is committed to Waterloo and them. “I feel secure in my position and hope to grow in the company as well,” said Staci Groen, a customer service specialist from Grundy Center. “Grainger empowers me to make decisions without going to a supervisor. I enjoy my job.” The company boasts good benefits, like profit-sharing and competitive pay. Even through rough economic

GRAINGER

lier said treating employees well inspires top-notch customer service, which helps the company. “That’s what makes this a great place to work,” he said.

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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009 Social services manager Michele Schultz, right, goes over charts with Alicia Post, a registered nurse, at the Waverly Health Center. BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer


MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

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PAGE 7

Flexibility seen as the key to happiness at Classic Kitchen & Bath By JIM OFFNER

Classic Kitchen & Bath

jim.offner@wcfcourier.com

WATERLOO — The obligations of family and the requirements of business don’t have to clash. In fact,accommodating employees’ family duties can serve to boost their performance at work. At least, that’s the philosophy at Classic Kitchen & Bath, a 6-yearold company that Melissa McKean runs in downtown Waterloo. “What I do, and maybe I spoil them rotten, is offer flex time,” McKean said. “I have mostly women working for me, and that’s part of the nature of what we are. It has tended to be more femaleoriented, and because of that, I cater more to the needs of women. “I don’t mean that in a sexist way,” McKean said. “But our people are allowed to have some flexibility in their hours, due to responsibilities they have at home.” Four of the company’s five employees — the fifth is a newcomer — nominated the firm as an Employer of Choice. All four noted McKean’s eagerness to accommodate their individual circumstances. “I have three kids, and you find

WAVERLY From page 6 Hospital designation earlier this year. Staff also offered insight on touchy topics like parking lot assignments, health insurance and paid time off policies, said Mike Trachta, the health center’s chief executive officer. Involving employees in decision-making leads to more informed actions, increases employee satisfaction, decreases complaints and creates a sense of fairness, Trachta said. Trachta largely attributes employee satisfaction to health center managers and employee relationships with these managers. “That really shows that we’ve done a lot of things here to build a great team,” Trachta said.

220 E. Fourth St., Waterloo (319) 233-8878 www.classickitcheniowa.com ■ Employees: 5 ■ What the company does: Designs kitchens, bathrooms and closets. ■ How it stands out in its field: The company conducts cooking classes,

which owner Melissa McKean says is unique among firms in that marketplace. Professional chefs are brought in to conduct the class in the company showroom’s working kitchen. ■ Involvement in the community: McKean serves as president of Main Street Waterloo and has a seat on the Home Builders Board.

“It makes them feel they have a ean said. “Everybody gets along life and when they come to work, as a team. I try to build a team they’re not dreading it,” McK- atmosphere.”

BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

Kitchen designer Jenny Ferson works on a project at Classic Kitchen & Bath in downtown Waterloo. you need to take them to doctor like Melissa gave me. Melissa let appointments, pick them up when me open the doors of creativity they need to be picked up, and she and just go with it.” works with my schedule at home,” Designer Kelsey Stokesbary has said Jennifer Ferson, a designer been with the company for about who is allowed to do some of her a year. “Being at a small business, I work from home. “There’s flexibility of hours I work in the office, think that it really does kind of and right there is enough to make create a family,” Stokesbary said. McKean said her willingness to her employer of the year.” A “big heart” is the core of McK- work with her employees fosters ean’s flexibility, Ferson said. “I’ve a loyalty that’s crucial to the comnever been given an opportunity pany’s success.


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EMPLOYERS OF CHOICE

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Next Generation Wireless wired for workers newsroom@wcfcourier.com

By EMILY CHRISTENSEN

Provides its associates a balance between work and family and a fun work environment. ■ Involvement in the community: Retail staff is required monthly to volunteer time to local organizations. Company volunteers around 200 hours collectively.

from Bill on special occasions in senior leadership team take an our lives. … Bill and the rest of the active interest in everyone’s lives.”

BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

Eric Charlton, controller at Next Generation Wireless in Cedar Falls, gets some work done at his desk. “We truly care about our associates and want to make certain every associate has a good balance between work and family time. It’s not out of the question for an associate to get the afternoon off to attend their child’s school performance or parent-teacher conference. As a parent, I understand the importance of being involved with your kids and their lives.” Bradford also believes in each associate becoming involved within the community in which they live and work.

Many employees volunteered to help with sandbags during last year’s flooding and went to Parkersburg to aid in cleanup following the tornado. “Each month our retail stores are required to volunteer their time to one of their local organizations,” he said. “The same holds true for the corporate office staff.” Bradford consistently interacts personally with his staff. “Simple things add up, and that means a lot to associates,” Wand said. “We receive a phone call

Wheaton provides personal, professional support emily.christensen@wcfcourier.com

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

Next Generation Wireless 215 Franklin St., Cedar Falls (319) 266-5070 www.ngwtoday.net ■ Employees: 50 ■ What the company does: Offers cellular plans, telephones and wireless accessories. ■ How it stands out in its field:

By NANCY JUSTIS

CEDAR FALLS — In today’s cutthroat corporate world and down economy, it’s rare to find a job where management truly cares for the individual employee and the community in which it does business. Next Generation Wireless is such a company. Kristi Eastman, NGW’s human resources and business manager, said, “When I started with NGW six years ago, it was so I could find a better work/life balance with my growing family. Through my employment, the owner has allowed this to continue and has increasingly looked at ways to offer this choice to all associates.” This is a primary theme throughout all associate comments. “We not only get to live a balanced life of work and personal time, but associates here believe that we have become a family due to the way we work everyday,” said Jennifer Wand.“I would never want to work anywhere else because I am family at Next Generation Wireless.” Owner Bill Bradford works hard at creating such an environment.

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Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare — Iowa

WATERLOO — Working from 3421 W. 9th St., Waterloo home has never kept Jessica Reams (319) 272-2600 from feeling like part of the Wheawww.covhealth.com ton Franciscan Healthcare team. ■ Employees: More than 2,700 For seven years, Reams has been ■ What the company does: Health transcribing medical records for care provider in the Judeo-ChrisCovenant Medical Center from tian tradition. the comfort of her home. This ■ How it stands out in its field: Level II Trauma Center; National year, she will return to school to Center of Excellence for bariatric become a registered nurse. Reams, surgery; Level II Regional Neonatal who is also a full-time mom, said it intensive Care Unit. would have been difficult to reach ■ Involvement in the community: her new goal without the mental The Life-line program for seniors; and financial support of her curthe Nurse On-Call program; the rent employer. Some of her school Care-A-Van program. Wheaton tuition costs will be shouldered by Franciscan Healthcare also provided $33,292,000 in community Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, benefits to the Cedar Valley. an Employer of Choice. “They have allowed me to split my work schedule to accommodate the morning, have class during the my class schedule, so I can type in day and finish up my work when I

get home,” Reams said. More than 15 people nominated the health care system, which includes three hospitals and about 20 clinics, for this honor. Many of them said the administrators care about their employees and live up to the hospital’s mission. “There aren’t any secrets; they treat us as a team so we work like one,” Dawn Henry wrote on a nomination form. Vicki Parsons, vice president of human resources, the system has numerous programs designed to help employees in need. In addition to the tuition assistance, the hospital also offers an employee assistance program that was heavily used during last year’s tornadoes and floods, an activity committee and a vacation donation program.

See WHEATON, page 12

to all our loyal employees for a job well done. Serving Waterloo 87 Years

321 West 18th St. Waterloo

319-233-2669


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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

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Programs extend reach of Cedar Valley Hospice By JENS MANUEL KROGSTAD jens.krogstad@wcfcourier.com

WATERLOO — Earl Smith sat on the edge of his bed expectantly and shrugged his shoulders at the question. Rachel Johnson, a musical therapist with Cedar Valley Hospice, had asked him what song he would like to hear. With no request, she launched into the first chords of Johnny Cash’s classic “I Walk the Line” on guitar. A music therapy program started three years ago at Cedar Valley Hospice with Johnson working a few hours a week. Since then, it has proved so popular that Cedar Valley Hospice now employs two music therapists. “So many things in hospice, you don’t get to be in control. The disease gets to be in control of you,” Johnson said, explaining the power of music therapy. “Any patient that can make choices, especially as a hospice patient,

JENS MANUEL KROGSTAD / Courier Staff Writer

Earl Smith, of Waterloo, listens to music therapist Rachel Johnson sing Johnny Cash’s classic song “I Walk the Line” at Cedar Valley Hospice. they start laughing, raising their many schools in the area, including Waterloo West High School. eyebrows and clapping.” “I used to play one of those,” he As Smith listened to the song, he swayed ever so slightly. He wore a said, pointing to the guitar. Another program that goes white construction hat he recently received as a gift. When he beyond standard hospice care is was younger, Smith helped build the Eucalyptus Tree program. It

began in 1996 with two koalas Cedar Valley Hospice who talk to children about illness, death and grief. 2101 Kimball Ave., Waterloo (319) 272-2002 Stacy Baranowski, program www.cvhospice.org coordinator, said children as old as ■ Employees: 88 10 can have a hard time grasping ■ What the company does: Cedar the permanence of death, making Valley Hospice provides home care a straightforward conversation services, hospice services, grief about death crucial. support services, and case man“Someone will say ‘Grandpa agement services for those living went to heaven,’ or ‘took a long with HIV or AIDS. trip’ or ‘went to sleep forever.’ ■ How it stands out in its field: Cedar Valley Hospice is the oldEven ‘passed away’ can be conest hospice provider in the Cedar fusing,” she said. “Even though Valley. As a nonprofit provider, we don’t like to use some words, persons are admitted regardless of and we think other explanations age, diagnosis or ability to pay. are more comforting, it leads a ■ Involvement in the community: child to not understand.” Employees volunteer in various Baranowski said the program has community organizations and recently expanded into schools, events including the American Cancer Society, the American Heart where volunteers mentor children Association, the Alzheimer’s Assothrough a six-step program. Stuciation and Partners in Education. dents who participate have often suffered sudden loss through a car vices, but they are free to anyone accident, homicide or suicide. She said people often assume in the community. “These are programs we are they must have a loved one in the hospice to receive the grief ser- really proud of,” she said.

Quality more than a catchphrase at Grundy hospital By MARY STEGMEIR mary.stegmeir@wcfcourier.com

GRUNDY CENTER — Employees don’t just welcome patients with a smile at Grundy County Memorial Hospital — it’s how they greet one another. From CEO Pamela Delagardelle on down, associates are on a first-name basis with their colleagues. “It’s almost like a family,” said Jeanie Larson, who works in registration. “We truly care about every patient that walks in the door, and we truly care about each other.” While the recession has forced other businesses to lay off employees or cut staff hours, Grundy County Memorial Hospital has added to its work force. This spring, the facility will unveil a new emergency room/acute care facility. Also in the works is an

office that will boast expanded medical services, including dialysis. “We’re growing and everyone — on every level — is trying to get better every day,” said Becky Dirks, community outreach coordinator. The hospital employs 188 full- and part-time workers and is a partner of Allen Hospital in Waterloo. Midlevel managers participate in quarterly retreats, while the entire staff meets with CEO Delagardelle four times a year. Each employee group, from physicians to the cleaning staff, has distinct goals and strives to improve continuously in those areas. Responsibility fosters ownership, said director of nursing Jennifer Havens. Ownership, in turn, fosters pride. “Working with people who enjoy being here makes all the difference,” said Havens, who

Grundy County Memorial Hospital 201 East J Ave., Grundy Center (319) 824-5421 www.grundycountyhospital.org ■ Employees: 188 ■ What the company does: Health care ■ How it stands out in its field: GCMH is small in size but large in vision, seeking out opportunities to participate in system, state and national initiatives to

joined the hospital in 2008 after spending 20 years working in large medical facilities in Memphis. Following last summer’s EF5 tornado, which struck Parkersburg, New Hartford and Dunkerton, scores of employees gathered at the hospital. “It wasn’t just doctors and nurses; it was everyone,” registration leader Larson said. Larson, who spends the majority of her time in the

challenge employees and provide best practices to patients. ■ Involvement in the community: Partners with area schools and the YMCA to provide education and services, works with local emergency medical services providers, offers health and wellness presentations to area residents and leads support groups.

emergency room, is proud of her department’s quality initiatives. Patients see a doctor or nurse within three minutes of checking in, and visitors are offered food and drink as they wait. The next day, workers phone patients to check on their condition, and ask whether they have any further questions. MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor “I can go home at night and Julie Eddy, top, a physical therapist, works with patient feel good about how I spend Shirlee Ahlberg last month at Grundy County Memorial my day,” Larson said. Hospital.


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Quality flows from the top at Greenwood Drug By CLARA HUDSON newsroom@wcfcourier.com

WATERLOO — “I can’t say enough good about Bob. He is an exceptional man.” A 20-year employee at Greenwood Drug, Dixie Billings gave voice to the admiration and respect Bob Greenwood’s staff feels for him. She is one of the employees who nominated Greenwood for the Courier’s Employers of Choice, citing the sensitive and respectful treatment he gives to clients and employees alike.

“He is a very caring, under- to give time off to employees standing man. He treats his cus- with children in school to attend tomers with the utmost respect,” events. Billings said. “He takes as much time as necessary helping cusSee GREENWOOD, page 12 tomers with their medications and getting them enrolled in the right insurance program.” Employees say they also are privileged to receive the same kind of treatment from Greenwood. “He has helped me with medical issues, giving me time off when needed, counseling me with personal problems and always being available,” Billings said. Greenwood has been known

MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Jill Stegall, left, and Brandi Grovo fill prescriptions at Greenwood Drug. Want to work somewhere great? Join

(319) 232-6671 | www.episervice.org

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Greenwood Drug 224 Byron Ave., Waterloo 50702 (319) 234-1589 ■ Employees: 25 ■ What the company does: Fills prescriptions, makes customized medications and assists with paperwork.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009 ■ How it stands out in its field: A small accessible business; provides delivery; supports education and other civic organizations. ■ Involvement in the community: Supports organizations including West and Columbus High Schools, Cedar Valley Catholic Schools and Optimist Club.


MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

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Thank You Associates! For your support and for recognizing Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare as an Employer of Choice in the Cedar Valley. We are thankful for our associates who provide excellent and compassionate health care for your family and for ours. www.covhealth.com

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EMPLOYERS OF CHOICE

Western Home bosses set tone By JIM OFFNER jim.offner@wcfcourier.com

CEDAR FALLS — Service is a major focus of Western Home Communities, whether the organization’s nearly 500 employees are working with any of its nearly 800 clients or contributing to the community. And, employees say, it all starts at the top. Staffers heap much credit on their bosses, President Jerry Harris and Vice President Kris Hansen, for having instilled a sense of altruism. “Jerry Harris and Kris Hansen are always there for all of the employees; it doesn’t matter the positions,” Kim Schilling, director of human resources, said in the Employer of Choice nomination. “WHC is notorious for sending people on to more school and helping pay for it.” Judy Staff, director of home health for independent living, said management’s obvious care for staffers is transferred to clients. “I believe that’s the case, and we do it every day,” Staff said. “The whole point of being in WHC is, we have different levels of care and are always working with residents to make sure they’re appropriately cared for. It’s a fluid situation, and we’re always there to help.” Harris is an adept planner and organizer, Staff noted.

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GREENWOOD From page 10 Greenwood Drug is a community retail pharmacy that makes customized medications and fills prescriptions for patients. Over-the-counter medications are also available, along with vitamins and other types of pharmacy products. “Greenwood Drug stands out

Western Home Communities 420 E. 11th St., Cedar Falls (319) 277-2141 www.westernhomecommunities.org ■ Employees: 467 ■ What the company does: Western Home Communities has evolved into a continuing care retirement community care. ■ How it stands out in its field: The organization has won numerous national and state awards. ■ Involvement in the community: All senior staff are encouraged to serve on community-focused boards.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009 in the community because of our high level of service — we employ four full-time pharmacists at this store — and we cater to people who are elderly especially those with complicated medicine regimens or who need help assessing which medical programs would be best for them,” Greenwood said. “We have a very professional staff; most of them are college educated.”

RICK TIBBOTT / Courier Staff Photographer

“He likes to think things over and From left, Renee Timion, Pat Neisen make the best choices,” Staff said. and Berniece Williams pet Torbin, Western Home Communities the resident boxer, at the Western encourages professional develop- Home Communities in Cedar Falls. ment, and the organization is there residents bring a variety of needs, to reward the extra education, Har- which the organization services on two Cedar Falls campuses and by ris said. “Even though we have 467 visiting clients in their own homes. “We’re about dignity and employees, we try to get to know each of their first names,” Harris respect,” Harris said. “These are said. “We’re human beings taking some of the toughest jobs you’ll care of human beings. Our philoso- find. They can be, because of the phy is if we aren’t taking care of emotions of residents who are employees through educational or declining and even dying.” Staffers are coaches, mentors, pay grades that are the highest in the Cedar Valley, they’re going to listeners, Harris noted. “Hopefully, have a tough time taking care of our we do a good job of respecting, recognizing and rewarding folks for residents.” Western Home Communities their dedication.”

WHEATON From page 8 Jill Wellborn, a nutrition services supervisor, was the recipient of many donated vacation hours when her twin sons were born three months premature and again when one of the boys needed a liver transplant — from her. Many of the donated hours came from other Covenant employees she had never met, despite working their for 14 years. “I had to call payroll to ask who these people were so I could thank MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor them personally,” she said. Jessica Reams is using Wheaton Franciscan’s tuition reimbursement Parsons said many people program to help defray her tuition costs at Hawkeye Community College. donate hours to other employees they haven’t met, but whose story “I think it speaks to our value of sion of our organization,” she touched them. respect and caring and the mis- said.

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EMPLOYERS OF CHOICE

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ME&V treats enthusiastic employees with family attitude EOC honor. “While I was gone, a couple of the partners gave me a call and reinforced that I didn’t need to worry about work. To have the partners of the firm call, I’d only been here eight months. Dee told me if there’s anything I needed, meals of anything, she’d bring it right over.”

By META HEMENWAY-FORBES meta.hemenway-forbes@wcfcourier.com

CEDAR FALLS — The ME&V volunteer group “Quadro Crew” assembles for a group photo in the lobby. There is playful banter between employees as they jockey for position next to “Quadro Man,” a cartoon sculpture of the company logo, complete with purple sneakers. Partner Dee Vandeventer strolls in. “We have a new client,” she says, slapping a high five to ME&V Advertising & Consulting partner Bryan Earnest. It’s the end of the week and the Friday vibe is strong. But for employees of the marketing and advertising firm, every day at ME&V is like Friday. “This is a building of highenergy, enthusiastic people,” Earnest said. “We look for employees who are looking for the most out of life. We’re a successful company if employees are well-rounded and full of life.” In return for staffers’ energy and talents, ME&V provides an enjoyable work environment and a promise to stay sensitive

ME&V Advertising & Consulting 6711 Chancellor Drive, Cedar Falls (319) 268-9151 www.meandv.com ■ Employees: 50 ■ What the company does: ME&V is a specialized, full-service advertising and fundraising consultancy. ME&V offers a wide spectrum of in-house, creative marketing services. ■ How it stands out in its field: An award-winning agency known for excellence in its specialty divisions: health care marketing, fundraising advisers, nonprofit marketing, education marketing, advertising and consulting. ■ Involvement in the community: ME&V employees serve on more than 40 boards and committees and volunteer more than 2,500 community hours each year. ME&V’s Quadro Crew volunteer team was launched in 2008.

RICK TIBBOTT / Courier Staff Photographer

Jennifer Miller transfers a family photograph to tracing paper at ME&V Advertising & Consulting in Cedar Falls. to employees’ needs outside the office. Regional account executive and new mom Laura Cahalan nominated ME&V for the Employers of Choice honor. “Being a new mom who has just returned to work, ME&V’s flexibility and family-centered focus has made the transition much easier,” she wrote. “ME&V truly is one big family, and the commitment that the partners and the employees all have to their work and each other

makes for a positive and enjoyable place.” When ME&V Web producer Jessica Mortvedt’s husband was diagnosed with cancer, she learned just how dedicated the company is to its staff. Mortvedt took time off to care for her ailing husband as well as their toddler daughter. The ME&V family stepped in to help. “It was straight from top down,” said Mortvedt, who also nominated the company for the

“We have a pledge to do what’s right,” Earnest said. “Employees have to be in the right frame of mind to do their best. If the other challenges in life are taken care of, then they can be on their game here. And on a human level, it’s just the right thing to do.”


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EMPLOYERS OF CHOICE

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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

B&R creates family atmosphere By AMIE STEFFEN amie.steffen@wcfcourier.com

WATERLOO — If you’re not already in the neighborhood and you didn’t know it was there, you might miss it. But you’d be missing something special. Nestled between residences on Park Road near Longfellow Elementary School, B&R Quality Meats has been quietly and steadily processing and supplying beef, pork, poultry, lamb and veal to some of the biggest meat distributors in the area, including Martin Brothers and Iowa Family Farms. They also run a small retail shop, offering those meats and other specialty meat products like seafood, pig’s ears and oxtails — things you might not find at too many places. “We’re making sure we put out a quality product every day — something we would put on our plates — and try to do it for a fair price,” said

Dennis Brennan, the “B” behind B&R. There’s also the casual, familiar work environment B&R’s employees continually boast about that keeps turnover low and employees working there for years. Even part-time employee Austin McGrane, who left to enroll at Kirkwood Community College this fall, worked there for four years. “It’s like a second family,” McGrane said. “Everybody’s real close.” Co-owners Brennan and Mark Ratkovich offer time off for holidays, health insurance and a profit-sharing plan similar to a 401(k). They also provide cakes and gifts on birthdays, fixed Patty Ribble’s lawnmower and filled a gravel driveway for Wendy Foster, who nominated B&R for this honor. Foster and others say they appreciate the owners’ help, as several are single parents. “They know we don’t have anybody to help us out, so they help us out,” said Ribble. “They do take care of us

B&R Quality Meats Inc. 200 Park Road, Waterloo (319) 232-6328 www.b-rqualitymeats.com ■ Employees: 8 ■ What the company does: Meat processor, retailer and wholesaler. ■ How it stands out in its field: Small company lends itself to familiar working atmosphere with low turnover. ■ Involvement in the community: Locally owned and operated since 1980.

in that respect, so we basically do the same back to them. They work just as hard as us.” When someone is gone, the closeknit group helps out, taking over job duties and rallying together. When mistakes happen, they’re dealt with quickly and professionally by management, said Foster. “They’re hard, but yet understanding,” she said. “You’re not scared to go up and ask (Brennan or Ratkovich) a question.”

RICK TIBBOTT / Courier Staff Photographer

Mark Ratkovich, co-owner of B&R Quality Meats, cuts a steak at the store in Waterloo.

A difference you can feel… …a feeling you can see. Waverly Health Center appreciates our staff for providing high quality, patient-focused health care. Thank you for your part in making us an employer of choice!


MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

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PAGE 15

Workers at Tyson Prepared Foods note quality goes beyond work By TINA HINZ tina.hinz@wcfcourier.com

WATERLOO — When Mirala Kajtazovic was visiting her parents in Bosnia, she got homesick for her job. “I missed the people here so much,” said Kajtazovic, a fouryear employee at Tyson Prepared Foods. “We’re laughing all the time.” Her floater position is the fourth and “best job” she’s had since immigrating to the United States five years ago. She quit a year ago to pursue a nursing degree but returned to Tyson about a month later. Like Kajtazovic, nine-year employee Edita Muheljic, who packages pizza toppings, spoke little English when she came to the states from Bosnia. Tyson has a translator to help workers transition and understand their

MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Workers load sausage used for frozen pizza in bins at Tyson Prepared Foods in Waterloo. Many employees start on second duties. “Older ladies, it’s hard for them,” or third shift but can move around she said. “My mom knows some as openings are posted. In her 11 words, but she doesn’t speak like years with the company, Tasha me. I learned a lot of words here Perry has worked every shift to spend time with her daughter. at Tyson.”

Bill Colwell Ford employees are treated like customers By JON ERICSON jonathan.ericson@wcfcourier.com

HUDSON — Bill Colwell holds onto a piece of business advice he received long ago. He no longer recalls the sage that granted him the wisdom, but the lesson remains. “Somebody told me a long time ago, watch how your employees treat each other, that’s how they will treat your customers,” Colwell said. In building his Hudson car dealership, Colwell also has built a family. “I try to treat everybody the same,” he said. “We need to treat customers and each other like we want to be treated back.” Ernie Doeden owned Goodyear stores for 15 years before he decided he wanted to work for someone else and have more time for his family. He looked for a job at Colwell, in part, because he had worked with the company for years. “Most dealerships have a lot of turnover,” said Doeden, who has

Bill Colwell Ford 238 Waterloo Road, Hudson (319) 988-4153 www.billcolwellford.com ■ Employees: 36 ■ What the company does: Ford and Isuzu dealership ■ How it stands out in its field: Retains sales staff and treats employees and customers alike as family. ■ Involvement in the community: Sponsors Bill Colwell Waterloo Open tennis tournament, area tennis, a fall golf outing with proceeds going toward hospice, University of Northern Iowa athletics and Hudson community projects, among other involvements.

now been with the dealership for eight years. “I’ve seen how we don’t have turnover here.” Colwell bought the dealership in 1984, when it had six employees. Now Bill Colwell Ford has 36.

See COLWELL, page 17

“During school time, I had to get on first (shift),” Perry said of her current position on the production line. “Anytime I need vacation or time off, just put in an application and majority of the time they’ll let me have it off.” Employees also have the day off for their birthday. Safety is addressed through weekly and monthly meetings. Each quarter, employees with no safety violations earn $100 each. The plant recently earned outstanding safety achievement for one year with no lost-time accidents, and employees celebrated with a steak dinner. “Sometimes I think maybe it’s a little bit too much, but when it’s safety, it’s safety,” Kajtazovic said. Also at meetings, employees get updates on how the plant is producing, what to expect for the coming weeks and information about new products.

Tyson Prepared Foods Inc. 501 N. Elk Run Road, Waterloo (319) 236-2636 www.tyson.com ■ Employees: 200 ■ What the company does: Tyson is a leader in pork, beef and chicken protein products. ■ How it stands out in its field: Products enhance the quality of dining out and enable households to keep pace with a fast-paced society. ■ Involvement in the community: Team members and the company contribute to many organizations, including United Way, March of Dimes, Northeast Iowa Food Bank, Salvation Army, Feed the Children, schools, churches and other nonprofits.

“They always try to keep so we know ahead before it just dumps in front of us,” said 25-year employee David Schnepf, a forklift operator.


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EMPLOYERS OF CHOICE

THE COURIER

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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

EPI employees say quality-of-life mission extends to them By CLARA HUDSON newsroom@wcfcourier.com

WATERLOO — “EPI feels that everyone is entitled to a high quality of life that is filled with the opportunity to make choices that will allow for success, but what people may not know is that EPI feels this way about its employees as well as its clients,” Melissa Ellis wrote in her nomination for Exceptional Persons Inc.’s inclusion in Employers of Choice. She goes on to compliment EPI’s executive director and his administration for their efforts and feedback. “Our executive director is very approachable and administration provides daily feedback. “There is always someone in administration that is available to talk, and listen, in regard to any family issues or events that unfold. They even have counseling available to all staff if family issues

BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

Judy Townsend works with Travis Larson, left, Luke George and others in the exercise room at the Exceptional Persons facility. become overwhelming.” EPI is a human services organization which has multiple entities. According to the nomination forms sent by many EPI employ-

ees, the company not only provides services to their clients and families but makes it a good place to work as well. Employees cited many aspects of their employ-

ment to support their opinions, Exceptional including training, opportunities for advancement, high standards, Persons Inc. recognition, benefits and job 700 Ansborough Ave., Waterloo security, a feeling of pride in EPI’s (319) 232-6671 presence in the community and www.episervice.org the camaraderie among staff. ■ Employees: 319 Many staff members mentioned ■ What the company does: EPI the benefits but combined that has several missions to help with the appreciation of positive persons with disabilities, enhance feedback, the feeling of being valchild care and strengthen families through residential programs, emued and the feeling of pride they ployment, day habilitation, hourly derive from their work. services and respite. Pamela Craft, a 15-year employ■ How it stands out in its field: It ee said, “We have a great benefit provides many services for perpackage, and have training availsons with disabilities. able that allows for advancement. ■ Involvement in the community: There is an employee recognition It participates in community acprogram where we can earn points tivities like My Waterloo Days and supports families of exceptional for living and sharing our values.” persons so they can be involved in Executive director Chris Sparks their community. expressed appreciation of EPI employees and underscored EPI’s and we are excited that they congoals for the present and future. “Our staff are vital to our success sider us worthy of recognition as as a human service organization, an Employer of Choice.”

We Appreciate Our Team Members! We were Yum(Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell) Supplier of the Year

All 180 employees have given us a stellar year of record volume!!! They have recently completed 1 year with no lost time accidents


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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

Ray Levendusky performs a safety inspection on a vehicle at Bill Colwell Ford in Hudson.

COLWELL From page 15 Three of those original employees are still there. Colwell finds those long-time employees invaluable. “You spend 20 years learning the business, how do you replace that?” Colwell said. Doeden has found the flexibility at Colwell invaluable. “As a salesperson, if your kid is in sports or a band concert at night, Bill supports going to the event and coming back when it’s over if there’s time,” Doeden said. “Bill is very flexible because he believes

family comes first.” That benefit hasn’t always been the case. It’s a sign of the times. “When I started in the car business years ago, they didn’t do this. But things have changed,” Colwell said. “When my kids were growing up I wanted to go to the events, and it occurred to me they would want that, too.” In nominating Colwell for Employers of Choice, Doeden made note of how Colwell has supported employees as they worked through personal problems. “Families all have challenges and trying times, and we do, too,” Colwell said.

“BEST OUTCOME, EVERY PATIENT, EVERY TIME” Thank you to our spectacular team for nominating us for this honor.

You Make Our Vision Possible. We offer a dynamic benefits package that includes: health, dental, vision, disability, life, 401k, paid time off, and more! Apply online at www.grundycountyhospital.org or send a resume to larsonna@ihs.org For more information call (319) 824-5421 ext. 244

GRUNDY COUNTY MEMORIAL HOSPTIAL A PARTNER OF ALLEN HOSPITAL

EMPLOYERS OF CHOICE

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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

Employee-first focus makes Bergan, Paulsen & Co. feel like second home By JOSH NELSON josh.nelson@wcfcourier.com

WATERLOO — Hardships have a way of pulling family closer. That rang true for the employees at Bergan, Paulsen & Co. after the floods in June 2008, when the Cedar River inundated several employees’ homes and corporate offices around the state. The company pooled its resources and helped the victims, like Cori Power, the company’s human resources director, when the Cedar River claimed her Waverly home. “Everyone was really accepting and understood we were living in an RV in our backyard,” Power said. That helping hand has been the norm for Bergan, Paulsen & Co., an accounting and tax consultation firm. Dave Happel, a managing partner, said the company has focused a lot of effort on building a team environment for the 70 employees.

Mike Mikesh

Betsy Haht

Tom King

Laverne Tradel

pel said. The company often will hold wedding showers for employees, encourage staff to be involved in the community or provide fitness training to reduce stress. “We still try to remember the little things that were important to them (employees) when we were smaller,” Happel said. Those small things can matter a lot when the tough times come. Every year, Bergan gets hit hard during the tax season. Stress and workloads spike, but it doesn’t always lead to sour moods, said Carrie Moorman, an audit senior in the Waterloo office. The flexible hours means Moorman and her husband, who also works at Bergan, can still tend to their family and take breaks when needed. TIFFANY RUSHING / Courier Staff Photographer “It works out that we have oppoCori Power, human resources director at Bergan, Paulsen & Co., said her site busy seasons, and we can come employers came to her rescue after floodwaters swamped her home. and go,” Moorman said. That employee-first focus also That includes a flexible schedule open-door philosophy. Inherent in those key points is an tends to reduce the amount of for them, providing plenty of training and support and instituting an effort to keep the staff happy, Hap- turnover. The company tends to

Chris McCulley

Jeff Baker

Ernie Doeden

Chad Du Four

Russ McGlaughlin

Darrell Schipper

Al Shepard

Mike Stark

Thank You

Bergan, Paulsen & Co. 531 Commercial St., Waterloo (319) 234-6885 www.bpccpa.com ■ Employees: 70 ■ What the company does: Certified public accounting and consulting. ■ How it stands out in its field: Family-like atmosphere and close relationships with clients foster good business relationships. ■ Involvement in the community: Company compensates employees for time spent in community organizations as a way to encourage involvement.

find advancement opportunities for employees,which means Power, the human resources director, doesn’t do a lot of exit interviews. She thinks it’s because people feel comfortable at Bergan. “I just want it to feel like another home and that’s what it really is,” she said.

Travis Reid

to all our employees for making Bill Colwell Ford • Isuzu a Cedar Valley Employer of Choice.

Scott Harlan

Dallas Powell

Chuck Adams

Bob Fuller

Great people make great companies!

Carl Lorenz

Chet Vaughn

Craig Sebekow

Dave Engel

Jim Togersen

Joel Petersen

Kim Johnson

Kurt Kienitz

Ray Levendusky

RJ Beyer

Kristine Glass

Dale Knoblock

John Schaefer

Julie Trebon

Rob Burnell

Sherry Harmsen

Terry Reams

Gene Hinders

238 Waterloo Road • Hudson Bill Colwell

A Trusted Name in Automotive For 25 Years!

10 minutes from Waterloo and Cedar Falls

1-800-300-6950 1-319-988-4153

Blake Colwell

www.BillColwellFord.com


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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

EMPLOYERS OF CHOICE

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Care evident at Landmark Commons By BETHANY PINT newsroom@wcfcourier.com

BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer

From left, Heidi Alig, with Hawkeye Valley Agency on Aging, and interpreter Fikret Kudic talk with Ferhat and Cetiba Ferhatovic at their home in Waterloo during a quarterly home visit.

Helping seniors makes job rewarding By JEFF REINITZ jeff.reinitz@wcfcourier.com

WATERLOO — Helping senior citizens maintain independence is a great experience. It is also one of the things that makes working for Hawkeye Valley Area Agency on Aging a joy, according to employees there. “It’s very rewarding, and that’s why we come to work every day, and that’s why we do what we do,” said Patty Esch, associate director for case management for Hawkeye Valley. Esch, who has a nursing background, started working at the agency 21 years ago. She oversees 20-some social workers and nurses who assist seniors coordinate their services in a 10-county area. She’s also in charge of the elder abuse program that helps at-risk seniors. Beyond the mission, management at Hawkeye Valley always lets employees know they are appreciated. “Every two weeks when we get paid, we get thanked for what we do, which I thought was really rare,” said Vicki Hyke, the agency’s communications coordinator, who started there earlier this year. Hyke said the company is also family-friendly, allowing employees to be flexible in the event of illness or other family matters. Esch said one of the reasons she has stayed at Hawkeye Valley for more than two decades is the fact the assignment is always evolving.

“I have that opportunity for creating new programs. There are parameters and guidelines, but we can think outside of our box here, so we are always being creative,” Esch said. For instance, a idea of the case management program Esch is in charge of came from a conference she attended in Minnesota. “At the time, Iowa was only dabbling in case management for the frail elderly. So we wrote a grant, and things just began to move forward,” Esch said. The agency provides nutritional services, case management, transportation, day programing and other assistance.

Hawkeye Valley Area Agency on Aging 2101 Kimball Ave, Waterloo (319) 272-2244 www.hvaaa.org ■ Employees: 53 ■ What the organization does: Hawkeye Valley is a nonprofit corporation serving elders in 10 counties in Northeast Iowa. It coordinates services for people ages 60 and older to maintain the independence they desire. ■ How it stands out in its field: HVAAA keeps customers first and foremost in any decision they make as an agency. ■ Involvement in the community: The company is involved with the Chamber of Commerce and Cedar Valley United Way and has agreements with more than 100 other organizations that provide services to seniors.

WATERLOO — When Martin Vollmer came to the United States in 1968, he was a college student from Germany looking for experience in the culinary industry. He worked in Des Moines and Ames and owned a restaurant in Waverly. When the restaurant closed last year, Vollmer needed to find a job to pay the bills. He answered a help wanted advertisement in The Courier and was hired as a chef at Landmark Commons, a retirement home for men and women 55 years and older. “It is amazing how smooth life — both professional and personal — can be when you’re in a great, productive work environment,” Vollmer wrote in the nomination form. Landmark Commons is home to about 150 residents in its 90 oversized apartment homes. Amber Jedlicka, director at Landmark Commons, said Landmark Commons provides an “environment in which you feel like you can spread your wings.” Dane Anderson, an assistant

Landmark Commons 1400 Maxhelen Blvd., Waterloo (319) 296-7100 www.friendshipvillageiowa.com ■ Employees: 7 ■ What the company does: Landmark Commons provides a safe, secure and worry-free environment for those 55 and older. The facility houses approximately 150 residents in 90 independent-living apartments. ■ How it stands out in its field: Landmark Commons is one of the Cedar Valley’s newest retirement living option for residents 55 years and older. An on-site spa, climate-controlled parking, access to health care and a friendly staff are all perks of residing at Landmark Commons. ■ Involvement in the community: Partners in Education, Alzheimer’s Association fundraising and programming, community groups, organizations and advisory boards.

DAWN J. SAGERT / Courier Staff Photographer

Adela Ademovic, center, serves Jean Stevens, left, and Micki Tarr dinner at Landmark Commons retirement community. chef at Landmark Commons, is going to take advantage of the tuition reimbursement program this fall. “When I told them I came to that decision, they were really supportive of that,” Anderson said. Anderson will commute to Kirkwood Community College to attend classes for a culinary arts degree. “We have a staff out here that works together and cares about each other and looks out for each other,” said Dominick Hudson, facility management and maintenance head for Landmark Commons.

Kelli Manfull, an assistant manager at Landmark Commons, witnessed the caring nature of her co-workers when her home fell victim to last summer’s flooding. Landmark Commons offered Kelli and her husband, Kim, a place to stay. “They didn’t even think twice about it,” Kelli said. The Manfulls moved into Landmark Commons until volunteers, including co-workers, helped remodel their home on Cottage Row. “It’s absolutely amazing, and I enjoy coming to work every single day,” she said.



Employers of Choice