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I T’ S A L L G O O D SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009

Tornados, ooding, the economy, crime. Recent history shows some of the news we are bombarded with can be a bit overwhelming, even right here in the Cedar Valley. Today, we devote a special section to giving you a healthy dose of good news. Enjoy reading these feel-good stories about people and groups in our area that are working to make this a better place to live.


SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009

Waterloo City Councilman Steve Schmitt said it took more than his 11th-hour fund drive to salvage WATERLOO — When My a My Waterloo Days Waterloo Days organizers fireworks display. called off fireworks for lack of a sponsor, they lit a fuse BRANDON POLLOCK / under Steve Schmitt. Courier Staff Photographer The City Council member and telecommunications executive started a fund drive to raise $15,000 and preserve fireworks for this year’s celebration. But Schmitt will be the first to say the production wasn’t a one-man show. “It was a total collaborative effort,” Schmitt said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of time.” Local pyrotechnics expert Ken Samek said he’s never had to put together such a display in such a short amount of time. “But,” he said, “when they said they got the money, I knew we could get it done.” In the space of a couple of weeks, people raised the money and MWD organizers and others worked out the logistics for the display. “I think we significantly brought people down who hard to make that site work. would not have been down It was a new site, and there there” otherwise for the fes- were a lot of things that had tival, Samek said. “And there to happen.” Making sure the Waterloo were people there early, setting up their chairs” spe- Center for the Arts — which cifically for the display. “It was near the fireworks site wasn’t a whole bunch of — wasn’t in use was critipeople who came out of the cal for safety reasons. The (RiverLoop) Expo center and building’s roof was wetted down as a precautionary ran down there.” The Park Avenue bridge measure, Samek said. Fire crews also moniwas packed with people at least 90 minutes prior to the tored the Waterloo Post Office across the river as a fireworks. “Probably the biggest thing precaution. The riverside launch site was everyone came together,” Samek said. “The police itself could have been a department, the fire depart- challenge. “We were really ment, everyone worked very glad it dried out as much By PAT KINNEY

‘Example of hope’ Hawkeye student undergoes unique journey in pursuit of education WATERLOO — Umaru Balde’s life story is one of struggle, adventure and triumph. By boldly pursing an education, the 29-year-old Hawkeye Community College student from Guinea Bissau, West Africa, has found freedom and a passion for helping others. HCC instructor Beth Cox had the opportunity to have Balde in her international relations class this past spring. “Umaru and I first bonded because he is from a Portuguese-speaking country and I speak Portuguese,” Cox said. “ Over time, he told his personal story. “Umaru’s experiences painted a picture of the grim realities that exist in other parts of the world,” Cox said. “It also served as an example of hope; for all of us were able to see what he was able to accomplish given his circumstances.” Balde arrived in the United States in July. He came to Iowa to attend fall classes at HCC, taking liberal arts courses with plans to transfer to the University of Northern Iowa this fall. His story began in 1985, just before he turned 7. His father gave him to a sheikh (a

traditional teacher of Islamic religion), believed to be a holy man. His life became a life of slavery. “All we did was work,” Balde said. “We worked as farmers and slaves doing all kinds of hard work. When I turned 12, I ran back to my parents, but it was hard for my father to accept me for fear that I’d bring bad luck to the family because I ran away from the holy man. So, I went to stay with my uncle. “I wanted to go to an ordinary school but nobody would help me,” Balde recalled. “I started working as a mechanic assistant without payment, but my uncle felt that it was not right to let me go through that again, so he put me in a Catholic school. That was the first time I saw the inside of a classroom. I started to learn how to read and write in Portuguese.” In 1998, a civil war broke out and Balde fled to Senegal and later to Egypt where he attended Al Azhar Islamic University. There he completed his high school education. A series of unfortunate events lead him back home where he again faced more obstacles in pursuit of his education. Traveling to Israel to study, Balde wound up imprisoned by immigration officials. He found favor with a journalist who heard of his plight, re-


RICK CHASE / Courier Staff Photographer


Schmitt: Fireworks show was no solo act

Umaru Balde arrived in the U.S. last summer to attend classes at Hawkeye Community College.


gained his freedom and was set back on course to pursue his education. Enlightened by a friend to study in the U.S., Balde made his way home to say goodbye to his family when a tragic car accident took the life of his father. “My father’s death changed all my plans,” he said. “Now, I’m a student and responsible for my family – my mom and five siblings. I am trying to do my best in school. Nobody helps my mom, who is now unemployed, and all my little brothers are too young and still in school. So, it’s very difficult for me, but I believe that I am in the right place doing the right thing. Even though I can’t help my mom financially, God takes care of her and my little brothers. “I believe that I can change my world by having a higher education,” Balde said. “Education is my life. It’s something that I did not have as a child, and I am doing whatever it takes to achieve the level that I want. “My plan for the future is to get a doctorate degree, and if I can, I’ll make my mom’s dream come true,” Balde said. “Another thing that I hope for is to be able to help children and make sure that no more children will have to go through the difficulties that I went through as a child.”

as it did,” Samek said. “That would have been a really muddy site down on the river. It rained the day before.” Organizers were blessed with ideal wind and weather conditions for the display. KWWL-TV Channel 7 meteorologists were “very helpful” in monitoring atmospheric and wind conditions to determine the correct height and angle of the fireworks. “Jeff Kennedy (chief meteorologist) and those guys were fantastic. “It was fantastic cooperation by everybody,” Samek said.


SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009


Staying strong Family deals with loss of loved one while rebuilding flood-damaged home By TINA HINZ

WATERLOO — Mike Gott was determined to spend his final days at home last June. But the Cedar River was closing in. Gott, losing a three-year battle with pulmonary fibrosis, twice refused firefighters in boats urging residents to evacuate. “We both stayed up in the living room,” said his son, Andy. “He watched the water all night, and I sat in the chair next to him and kind of fell asleep.” As waters rose level with the front porch, filled the basement and crept into the kitchen, Mike was eventually talked into relocating to his brother-in-law’s in Elk Run Heights. He died the following night. “He was a tough Marine,” said his wife, Elizabeth. Mike earned a Bronze Star Medal for valor in leading his men to safety during the Vietnam War. The flood-ravaged home, 4515 Faulk Road, was the last thing on family members’ minds as they organized a funeral and lunch for 150 guests at their temporary home in Elk Run. Daughter Michelle Gott came from Oregon. Cleanup began a day later. Michelle and Andy pitched a tent in the yard and bailed water with buckets to make way for a pump. They rotated 12-hour shifts to keep a generator powered and fend off looters. Family, friends and neigh-

bors pitched in to get the family moved back in in about a month. Flood insurance and assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency helped replace two furnaces, two air conditioners, a hot water heater and other basement contents, totaling $50,000. Some items had been moved to higher ground, including Christmas keepsakes, by Mike’s order. Rolling into the holiday season, Elizabeth found a letter dated Dec. 31, 2007, that Mike had tucked into an ornament box. Mike told the family to keep strong, as he squeezed in his characteristic jokes. “It was perfect because my sister was home,” Andy said. “It was the best Christmas present I’ve ever received in my life. He knew we all needed it.” Since that time, the family has had much to celebrate, Elizabeth said. In April, Michelle gave birth to twin daughters, Grace and Genevieve. The granddaughters have inspired Elizabeth, a hospice nurse, to semi-retire. Around her 60th birthday, she’ll fulfill her late mother’s dream of traveling to Ireland. “We sure miss him, but I think he’d be happy with how we’ve moved on and tried to keep his memory alive and go on with our lives,” Elizabeth said. “We are survivors.”

Elizabeth Gott, with help from her son, Andy, does her best to keep her late husband’s memory alive. Mike Gott, a former Marine who served during the Vietnam War, died in June 2008. RICK CHASE / Courier Staff Photographer



SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009



Liz Dexter, a single mother of five, went back to college following a divorce. She graduated with a teaching degree this spring. RICK CHASE / Courier Staff Photographer

TIFFANY RUSHING / Courier Staff Photographer

Lacey Hobert, a breast-feeding peer counselor at Operation Threshold, holds her two sons, Edan, left, and Elijah.

Young mom turns life around, wants to help others do same By AMIE STEFFEN

Mother of 5 heads back to school for better life By MARY STEGMEIR

CEDAR FALLS — Liz Dexter’s path back to higher education was an uncommon one. Young and in love, she dropped out of college in her early 20s for marriage and family. But in 2006 the Cedar Falls woman and her husband separated, divorcing a year later. With five children to support, Dexter went back to school. She completed her associate degree at Hawkeye Community College in 2007 and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a teaching degree this spring. Was it easy? No. But was it worth it? You bet, said the 44-year-old. “When you need to do it, you do it,” Dexter said. “Before this, I didn’t think it was possible to juggle it all.” But juggle she did. During her three years as a full-time student, Dexter cared for her children — now ages 20 to 7 — and worked part time at Barnes & Noble Booksellers. The kids pitched in, often helping prepare dinner for the family, and many evenings and weekends found the clan hunkered down at the Cedar Falls Public Library. “You need to figure out where you’re going to get your free time to study,” said Dexter, who is applying for teaching positions in the area. “We were at the library constantly. It allowed me to use the Internet and got them out of the house.” Last year, Dexter was the recipient of a

$1,500 grant from the Philanthropic Educational Organization, an international society devoted to promoting academic opportunities for women. Members of the local chapter nominated her for the award and supported Dexter throughout her senior year with phone calls and meetings. The group also delivered monthly gift baskets — one contained books, another cleaning supplies — to reward Dexter’s efforts. “Liz saw education as something that could enrich her own life, and enrich the lives of her children,” said Jo Tefft, a local P.E.O. member. “When she talked about her goals, she talked about improving her own situation, but she also talked about giving back through teaching. We found that inspiring.” Diane Schupbach, an acquaintance of Dexter’s and a P.E.O. member, asked the single mom to apply for the grant. She hopes her friend’s story inspires other women to continue their education. “It can seem impossible,” Schupbach said. “But Liz shows you can do it.” In May, Dexter’s children applauded as she walked across a stage in the UNI-Dome to receive her diploma. The grad thinks her mother, who died in 2006, also would have cheered. “She didn’t get to go to college, and she always wanted different for me,” said Dexter, noting a degree will help her secure a job with benefits. “She always told me: ‘Get an education. Get an education.’ “It took a few years, but I think she’d be proud.”

WATERLOO — Four years ago, Lacey Hobert’s life was barely recognizable. She had grown up watching adults in her life abuse alcohol and drugs, and she had been doing the same. She felt lost and alone. “I felt like I was being a lowlife,” Hobert said. What a difference a few years can make. Today, Hobert and her husband, Daniel, are active in their community with Operation Threshold, Parents Achieving Success with Support and the Family Children’s Council. Lacey Hobert is raising two young sons — Edan, 2, and Elijah, 8 months — and credits a renewed faith in God and a new attitude with her success. “I didn’t want to live that life anymore. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything except hurting myself,” she said.

So she made a decision. “I didn’t want to be in a dead-end job my whole life. I’m going to go back to school, sober up, and I am going to accomplish the things I want to,” Hobert said. So far, so good. Hobert is two years into her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Northern Iowa, has secured a parttime position with Operation Threshold and hasn’t gone back to drugs or alcohol. One of the main things she’s known for at Operation Threshold is being a breastfeeding peer counselor, which means she supports clients in the Women, Infants and Children program. Much like a lactation consultant at a hospital, Hobert helps new mothers with the daily challenges of breastfeeding and provides support they otherwise wouldn’t receive. She has breastfed her own children.

Andrea Magee, the Stork’s Nest coordinator with Operation Threshold, said Hobert is atypical in her level of participation. “She’s very involved, meaning she comes to a lot of our classes, which are optional classes,” Magee said. “She didn’t have the best parental figures setting the best example for her, but she has overcome all of that and is an awesome parent. She and her husband are awesome parents.” Sometimes a client is likely to tune out a person in a better position helping them, said Hobert, but knowing she also was another statistic makes her more approachable. “I want to feel like hopefully I could change one person’s life,” she said. “If I say something to that one person to become a better person, even if I don’t know about it, that’s good enough for me.”


SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009



Couple help make kids’ wishes come true By NANCY JUSTIS Courier Correspondent

“You can never do a wish too soon because you’ll never know how soon it’ll be too late.” — Author unknown WATERLOO — That saying is Elaine Ernst’s favorite quotation. It fits perfectly with her and husband Don’s favorite pastime — volunteering for the Make-AWish Foundation. As “wish granters,” they have helped around 130 children with life-threatening diseases. “Wish granters” personally meet with the families and children in need. “The best part is the wish granting,” Elaine said. “We get to talk with the child. Most of them are 7 or 8 years old. They’re all good kids, and they all deserve something. They go through a lot.” Always eager to volunteer, the Ernsts have been active in the Highland Neighborhood Association. They have lived there 50 years and in their current home since 1960, raising seven children. Eighteen years ago they became involved with Make-A-Wish while seeing a call for volunteers on television. Not long after attending their first meeting, they found out two of their granddaughters were granted wishes. Lindsay has cystic fibrosis. Marci currently is wearing her third pacemaker and recently was diagnosed with melanoma. Now in their early 20s, each traveled to Disney World when they were around 7 years old. Information is faxed from the Des Moines office to Elaine, who coordinates which of about 10 local “granters” makes the home visit. The couple, however, has

Don and Elaine Ernst are volunteer “wish granters” for the Make-AWish foundation in Waterloo. MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

done the majority of visits. “We ask for two wishes, but usually the first is granted,” Elaine said. “If the wish is to travel somewhere, we ask for three available travel dates. We have to make sure that the doctor says it’s a good time for the child to travel.” The majority of travel wishes are to Disney Land or Disney World, Elaine said. One child wanted to

visit family in Idaho, one overseas, one wanted to go to Hawaii. Other wishes granted have included meeting certain celebrities and shopping trips. Hot tubs have been provided, and big TVs. “A 3-year-old wanted a laptop computer,” Elaine said. “We couldn’t figure out how a 3-yearold could want a laptop, but it was purchased and she sat right down

and talked with her sister who lived out of town. You really have to listen to what these kids want.” Numerous room renovations have been done, most recently for 7-year-old Luke Wall of Jesup. Suffering from HLH and autism, he and his sister received a new playroom, including a new floor, paint, window blinds and a corner desk. Living on a farm, one accent

piece included a braided area rug that resembles farm rows where he can move his John Deere toys through the corn. “There are treasures in the Cedar Valley that are known to the residents of the Highland area and to the children and families who are involved with Make-A-Wish — Don and Elaine Ernst,” said cowish granter Elaine Larsen.

Employee finds job success through Exceptional Persons Inc. By SUE WILLETT

WATERLOO — On Aug. 7 Lorraine Parker, 53, will celebrate her twoyear anniversary of working for Comfort Suites in Cedar Falls. For Parker, this really is something to celebrate. Through job training and encouragement from staff at Exceptional Persons Inc. in Waterloo, this is the longest Parker has stayed at a job. She became involved with EPI on Nov. 3, 1997, and entered its employment program in March 2005. “Lorraine’s two-year anniversary is great news considering the average unemployment rate for individuals living with a disability is 76.6 percent,” said Katie Slade, communications and development director for EPI. “Before working and building on her employments skills, Lorraine was not able to maintain a community job for more than six moths at a time. Lorraine recently learned that she was not Lorraine Parker, who is developmentally disabled, will be celebrating her two-year anniversary working at Comfort Suites in Cedar Falls. MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

only getting a raise but that she was getting a new job title with added responsibilities.” When Slade first met Parker in 2005, she was in-between jobs. Parker had been consistently changing and/or leaving jobs about every three months. “Lorraine began working in our enclave program here at EPI and stayed with us in that program for one year before beginning a job search again,” Slade said. “She then obtained employment with Comfort Suites and has been employed with them ever since. “I can truly say that Lorraine is a success story, and I feel very proud and privileged to have had the opportunity to help Lorraine achieve her personal vocational goals,” Slade added. “She is becoming confident, strong and independent and soon will not need the support of a job coach to assist her with her employment at Comfort Suites. She recently gained the power to be her own payee and guardian, which she is very excited about.” According to Slade, Parker’s current job supervisor has nothing but positive feedback regarding her overall job performance. “Lorraine’s supervisor should be commended for her diligence in working with Lorraine,” Slade

said. “She has given her a positive environment in which to work in as well as different work tasks and duties to further assist her in her development. She is always open to any ideas Lorraine has and works with her to help her realize her inner potential. She has stated that she is more than happy to work with Lorraine and has also stated on numerous occasions that Lorraine is one of her hardest workers and she can always count on her rooms being cleaned to the hotel’s standards.” “I have had to over come some personal obstacles in my life,” Parker said. “I’ve had to learn that I could work out in the community, work on stress levels and find coping skills and positive outlets for work stress. “Finding the confidence within myself to know that I am doing a good job and that people recognize that I am doing a good job has been challenging,” said Parker, who has recently been promoted to assistant to the lead housekeeper. “I am very excited about my new position because I get to check my own rooms over and enter into the computer when the rooms are all cleaned,” Parker said. “I like working with all of my co-workers, and I enjoy working with my supervisors. I also like housekeeping.”

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SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009


Pay it forward


Daughter’s experience inspires mom to open shop, help charity


DYSART — Nine-year-old Isabelle Werner was just 11 days old when she had her first open heart surgery. At 6 months, she visited the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for her second surgery. Isabelle went to St. Marys in Rochester, Minn., for her third and final open heart surgery at 3 years old. Diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, surgeons had to reroute Isabelle’s heart, so the right side could compensate for the left side by pumping blood to both the lungs and to the rest of the body. It was through Isabelle’s surgeries that her mom, Robin Werner, was encouraged and inspired to begin her boutique-style quilt and fabric shop in Dysart. “We wanted to give her surgeon a small token of our appreciation, so I made him a quilt and we gave it to him,” Robin said. “And with that he encouraged me to pursue the passion of quilting.” In 2003, Robin opened her quilt shop, Isabelle Originals, on Main Street in Dysart. In 2007, she expanded the shop and added fabric, changing its name to Isabelle Originals and Ivy Threads, after her two daughters. Through her daughter’s heart defect, she became aware of Heart Friends, a nonprofit support group that

RICK CHASE / Courier Staff Photographer

Isabelle Werner, right, and her sister, Ivy, pose in front of a wall of material in their mother’s Dysart store, Isabelle Originals and Ivy Threads. connects families of chil- what you’re going through,” the group to plan and fund practitioner at the University 14, set up a lemonade stand of Iowa Hospitals and Clin- nearly every year to support dren with congenital heart Robin said. “At the time you activities for families. additional causes. “It’s always good for us to ics, said. feel like you’re the only one defects. The lemonade stands have Robin has even added the After opening the shop, in this big world — you have a have additional outside perRobin decided to donate a child that’s being forced to go sonal contributions, because Heart Friends information raised money for the new portion of her profits from through something that you the group funds activities to her business’s Web site, library and pool in Dysart, her commissioned quilts to can’t put a Band-Aid on and for parents and families with, the Ronald McDonald House and St. Marys. After being fix yourself like moms like to children of heart disease and Pierick said. Heart Friends. The family’s generosity granted a trip to Walt Disney so private contributions make “Heart Friends was very, do.” Trudy Pierick, Robin’s con- it possible for us to continue hasn’t stopped at the Heart World through the Make-Avery essential to know that Wish foundation, the girls there were other people out tact for Heart Friends contri- to have our activities that we Friends donations. Isabelle and her sister Ivy, donated money to them, too. there that were going through butions, said donations allow do,” Pierick, a pediatric nurse

Hard to say goodbye After 35 years as foreign exchange students’ mom, retired teacher switching focus to her grandchildren By ANDREW WIND

CEDAR FALLS — Calling Clara Hudson “mom” didn’t come naturally for German foreign exchange student Max Herre. Ten months after she welcomed him into her home, though, the name easily rolls off his tongue. Over the last 35 years, Hudson has become mom to students from around the world through college and high school exchange programs. But Herre will be the last student she hosts — maybe. “I’m really thinking about making it the last year,” said Hudson, “just really because I have grandchildren on the West Coast, and I need to spend time with them.” Hudson, a retired Denver High School teacher, kind of fell into hosting exchange students with her husband, Warren, who died in 2004. They started in 1973 when Hudson was asked by the American Association of University Women chapter at the University of Northern Iowa to host a student from Bogota, Columbia. Hudson was a member of the chapter, which paired foreign UNI students with families for holidays and breaks. In 1979, Hudson and her husband hosted their first high school student — a teenager from Barcelona, Spain. Again, it wasn’t a role that they planned for. “He needed to change homes,” she said of the student, who was attending Denver High School. “He was either going to have to go back or find a home and so I said, ‘Yep, we’ll take you home.’ And after that, it was just fun.” The couple hosted students until 2001, when

“With the high school kids, it’s like raising a teenager without the problems. I can tell them what to do, and I couldn’t always tell my own.”

Hudson said 17-year-old Max has been the “perfect kid.” He left June 22 for his hometown of Kohn, Germany. “I’m going to be weeping Clara Hudson all over the place,” Hudson longtime foreign exchange student host predicted a week before his departure. “That’s the only “It just made my fam- bad part of the program, Warren suffered a stroke. Hudson resumed hosting ily bigger and happier,” said saying goodbye.” students in 2005, a year Hudson, who has six adult after her husband died. children. “With the high COURTESY PHOTO Over the years, Hudson has school kids, it’s like raising a Clara Hudson, left, hosted kept in touch with the stu- teenager without the prob- foreign exchange student Max dents, even visiting some lems. I can tell them what Herre for 10 months. The teen of them in South America, to do, and I couldn’t always returned to his hometown of tell my own.” Russia and Germany. Kohn, Germany, on June 22.



SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009


RICK TIBBOTT / Courier Staff Photographer

Micheal Robinson Sr., founder and president of Heal the Family, center, instructs Corye Johnson, right, on how to make mounds of dirt for squash, cucumbers and other melons as Levi Scott, left, Jacob Randall, second from right, and several others look on. Robinson is using the plot to show troubled youths and their parents why it is important to nurture life and how to connect the garden plot to their own lives.

Counseling center founder helps grow successful youths By JEFF REINITZ

WATERLOO — Micheal Robinson Sr. compares it to growing a plant. “Raising children, you need to cultivate them so they are good and strong,” said the 42-year-old. Too much sunlight or water — too much criticism — can be harmful. Weeds — nega-

tive influences — have to be cut back. The metaphor carries over into a lesson as Robinson and youngsters survey the garden they are planting in a lot off Willow Street. Being a successful farmer leads to having a successful business, and that leads to a successful life, said Corye Johnson, 32, who works with Robinson’s new counseling

center, Heal the Family. Founded in August, Heal the Family specializes in remedial services for children and family counseling. It also offers adult counseling. Johnson, a case manager, said the fact the outfit is run by African-American staff makes it easier to connect with clients. The son of a John Deere employee who ran a small

family farm, Robinson developed an interest in social services because he has worked with people all his life. “It comes down to what my parents instilled in me,” Robinson said. Over the next two decades, he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in psychology from Upper Iowa University and worked with agencies

like Families First, Lutheran Services of Iowa and the Black Hawk County Youth Shelter. Robinson was alarmed by the number of minority families seeking counseling services and surprised by the dearth of minority counselors. Through his work, he heard about Johnson, who worked at the Four Oaks youth cen-

ter. The two got together over a meal and drew up plans for what would become Heal the Family. A year and a half later they launched the agency, which now occupies a few offices at the University of Northern Iowa Regional Business Center, 212 E. Fourth St. It boasts 14 counselors and opened an office in Cedar Rapids in March.


SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009



Encore! Time for municipal bands may be comin’ around again By MELODY PARKER

WATERLOO — Municipal and community bands were once a staple in nearly every town and city across America. Summer concert series in a park or bandshell were beloved mainstays during the early 20th century. Then the tradition began disappearing as fast as a cherry SnoCone melting beneath the noonday sun. The automobile kept us mobile and television sat us on the couch. Mass media and a changing culture scattered audiences, and attendance at good ol’ summertime concerts began to shrink. But what goes around comes around. In the Cedar Valley, the love for live band music outdoors on a warm evening is still evident, and there are signs that communities are once again valuing what groups like the Waterloo and Cedar Falls municipal bands have to offer. “I think there are a few reasons why the bands are still going. One, people like to continue playing the instruments they learned to play in school, and there is a desire for listeners to hear live acoustic music. That’s a huge part of it, and

“People know the music, and it’s a social event. People enjoy getting out and seeing their friends.” Bill Shepherd Waterloo Municipal Band conductor

you’re seeing your friends and neighbors playing in the band,” said Bill Shepherd, who began conducting the Waterloo Municipal Band in 1981. He is a music and conducting professor at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls and a well-known trombonist and leader of Bill Shepherd’s Big Band. “People know the music, and it’s a social event. People enjoy getting out and seeing their friends. The concerts are family events, and we see people of all ages sitting on blankets or in lawn chairs. It’s a nice evening out — and it’s free,” said Dennis Downs, who has conducted the Cedar Falls band since 1983. He joined the band in 1980 as a trombone player. Concerts are filled with patriotic marches, nostalgic big band ballads and dance numbers, show tunes and orchestra pieces. Musicians include students, home-

Upcoming concerts Cedar Falls Municipal Band concerts are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays now through July 28 at Overman Park. The band also will perform a Labor Day Encore Concert at 7 p.m. Sept. 7. The August Ensembles Concert Series will feature Metropolitan Brass, Aug. 4; Washington Street Brass, Aug. 11; The Saints Jazz Band, Aug. 18; and Sugar Daddy’s Jazz Band, Aug. 25; all beginning at 7 p.m. The Waterloo Municipal Band performs its summer concert series in Byrnes Park on Thursdays through July 23. Concerts begin at 7 p.m. Rain location is Petersen Town Hall at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.

makers, business professionals, music teachers, music professors from area colleges and universities and members of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra. Cedar Falls’ band was founded in 1891. Performances take place on Tuesday evenings June through July. Waterloo’s concerts happen at Byrnes Park on Thursday evenings during June and July. The Waterloo Community Concert Band was founded in 1926.

DAWN J. SAGERT / Courier Staff Photographer

Patty Scott poses next to her Mexican fire pit at her home. Scott was among the first people to go on a mission trip through Orchard Hill Church.

Orchard Hill works to connect Cedar Valley churches to world By JOSH NELSON

WATERLOO — A church is the common place for Christians to connect with God, but Cedar Valley churches are teaming up to connect with the world. Several area churches across several denominations have teamed up for a number of years to organize mission trips around the world. One church, Orchard Hill, has operated as a hub for the various organizations. But leaders there say having the other churches involved opens doors for everyone. “It’s just a cool opportunity to partner with a few other churches to give people options,” said Kris Hoskinson, high school youth director for Orchard Hill. The churches send parishioners out on missions during spring break. Around 170 people went on the trips this last year, she said. The majority of people who go on the trips are high school or college students, she said. Hoskinson said the missions taught her that it wasn’t about helping others become more spiritual but learning from others about how to do that. “I think it’s that we have so much to learn,” Hoskinson said. “I have so much to learn from others.” Groups can go abroad to help people in Haiti, Philippines or Jamaica and domestically to San Francisco or stay in the Cedar Valley to help others, Hoskinson said. One of the more popular trips has been going to Mexico, where volunteers

partner with local Mexican churches in Nuevo Progresso, just across the Rio Grande from Texas, to build houses. The trip has been going on for 10 years. Orchard Hill member Patty Scott was among the first people to start going on the trip. Her ex-husband helped organize the original trek down there. Tim Walsten, a youth minister with Orchard Hill, now organizes the trips.

The first year Scott and her ex-husband went on a service mission Mexico it was strange experience. She went into the towns and saw the beggars and the children. Scott said she’s glad she had the experience, though. Since her first trip, she’s gone on missions to Jamaica and elsewhere. “I would have never done this had I not started with Mexico,” Scott said.

RICK CHASE / Courier Staff Photographer

Dennis Downs, left, conductor of the Cedar Falls Municipal Band, and Bill Shepherd, director of the Waterloo Municipal Band, say concertgoers particularly enjoy the rousing marches of John Philip Sousa. Both conductors have marches on playlists for upcoming concerts celebrating America’s Independence Day.



SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009




Survivor doesn’t let challenges get in way By META HEMENWAY-FORBES

CEDAR FALLS — Renee Sands believes in speaking her mind. “If you have something to say, spit it out,� she says. It has served her well over the years as she proved wrong the doctors, professors and the world at large who said she couldn’t do it. The course of Sands’ life changed abruptly at age 4 at the hands of a speeding driver. Headed for a friend’s house across the street, Sands stepped into the roadway and was hit. Her injuries, including a brain injury, were severe. She was in a coma for 10 days. “No hope was given,� Sands said. “Doctors gave me only a 3 percent chance of survival.� Not only did Sands survive, she thrived. With intense daily therapy she learned to walk and talk again, though the brain injury left lasting marks on her speech and gait. Still, in school Sands, now 45, never expected special treatment. “My parents never let me give up. They said you have two choices: You can go on and live or you can die. Why choose the latter? It will come soon enough,� she said. Sands graduated from Cedar Falls High School and from the University of Northern Iowa with a teaching degree. “I had a professor tell me my speech (impairment) would be a major roadblock in the classroom. I said, ‘Show me the statistics.’ He never did. That person put hurdles in my way, but he didn’t know I was a track star,� she said, laughing. Kevin Hosea, Sands’ high school classmate, has gotten to know her well over the last couple of years while helping landscape at the home Sands shares with her husband, Michael. Sands is known in the neighborhood and among friends for being a go-getter. “Her husband calls her a pingpong ball on steroids,� Hosea said. Sands met her husband on a

PLUSEuSses Not Min

Photos by RICK TIBBOTT / Courier Staff Photographer

Renee Sands, right, laughs with her husband, Michael, left, and friend Kevin Hosea, center, on a recent morning at the Sands home. blind date. Their ďŹ rst date was at Village Inn, and Sands arranged for the restaurant manager to call her cell phone mid-date to make sure things were going smoothly. “Hey, a girl can’t be too careful,â€? Sands said, grinning at her husband. Sands spends her days gardening, running errands about town and caring for her “girls,â€? three Cairn terriers. Those who know Sands know to not call them “dogs.â€? “We don’t use the ‘D’ word in this house,â€? she jokes. Sands said she feels a responsibility to live to the fullest, never letting her injuries or challenges limit her. “You rarely get second chances in life. Why not take full advantage of it?â€?

Renee Sands pulls weeds from around hostas at her home in Cedar Falls. Sands, now 45, was given a 3 percent chance of survival after being struck by a car when she was 4 years old.

GOOD News!



Silver Life always consists of some Ups and Downs, but it is more pleasurable and productive to focus on Linings the UPS. View the glass half full, not half empty! There are many GOOD things right here in Waterloo and the Cedar Valley. My Waterloo Days was very good, and the 4th Street Cruise with 4th Street being opened that very day! Many things in Downtown Waterloo – New businesses opening right along, and an active nightlife. The new Riverfront Project and EXPO area keeps progressing. The opening of the 5 Sullivans’ Veterans Museum, the Phelps Youth Pavilion, the re-opening of the Gable Wrestling Museum, the Isle of Capri, the Cattle Congress, and the final developments in Martin Plaza Shopping Center (including Sonic Drive-In (The Good Old Days). Check out Friday Loo in Lincoln Park and BarBQ Loo & Blues Too, July 17 & 18, and the coming soon –Waterloo Bourbon Street and Voo Doo Lounge and the beautiful new (from the old days) Black’s Sky Event Center. Another Good and Positive addition to the Cedar Valley is the new adoption center at the Cedar Bend Humane Society. Many Good things in the Cedar Valley and in IOWA – such as the Iowa 250 Corn Race in Newton held on Father’s Day with “Good� comments from the fans and racers. In the June 23rd edition of USA Today – On the front page, it said “More Americans see sunny skies ahead.� Also a poll showed that the mood is turning optimistic for an economic turn-around and better times. For GOOD Apartments and Rental Houses – Call 236-5000.

“Try to see the Positives in Life – we only go around once.â€? - Buzz Anderson )FMJP$BTUSPOFWFT1PMFQPTJUJPO*PXB$PSO3BDF 8JOOFSPGUIF*OEZBOE8JOOFSPG%BODJOHXJUIUIF4UBST


SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009


IT’S ALL GOOD Groups make Northeast Iowa a great place to live Where would our community be without the time, talent and money given by members of local service organizations? There would be fewer parks with less playground equipment, less support for children at risk, less of an opportunity to enjoy dozens of programs like Boys State, the county fair and much more. This section of It’s All Good profiles several service organizations, but there are dozens of such groups in the Cedar Valley. Here is just a sampling of what some others are accomplishing: ❑ The Cedar Falls Lions Club has raised more than $37,000 for tornado relief aid for Parkersburg and New Hartford, helped with more than $2,000 in food cards for flood aid for North Cedar and donated $4,000 in proceeds from its Sturgis Falls 2008 Pancake Breakfast to North Cedar Elementary School to help with flooded playground renovation. The club has donated more than $8,000 to provide an Emergency Bucket for every school classroom in Cedar Falls. The buckets can be used during school lockdowns or storm emergencies and contain items for first aid and safety.

And the club tests more than 1,000 preschool age children every year in the Cedar Valley for eye disease. This involves volunteer time and equipment to take a picture of the eyes and send the pictures to Iowa City for evaluation. If there is a problem, the parents are notified for further testing. Early detection of eye disease is very important in preventing blindness in children. ❑ The Exchange Club of Waterloo, with a current membership of 102, is known for four areas of service: Prevention of child abuse, youth programs, Americanism and community service. President Don McGriff said Exchange Park in Waterloo gets its name from the club, which supplies funding to maintain and upgrade the park’s facilities. Whether it’s new tables for the Ramada, bleachers at the baseball diamond, park benches, maintenance of the Frisbee golf course or maintaining the new bike and walking trails, the Exchange Club is making a difference. As an example of active involvement in its focus areas, the annual donations to budgeted and nonbudgeted organizations last year totaled more than $68,000, gener-

ated by fundraising activities each year. A few of the many organizations served are Waterloo area schools with students of the year and annual citywide youth basketball team recognition. Also, Salvation Army, the food bank, Boy Scouts, Family & Children’s Council, Waterloo Police, Fire and Rescue departments, Boys & Girl’s Club and a host of other nonprofit organizations benefit from Exchange Club funds annually. Go to www.heartlandexchange html. ❑ The Kiwanis Club of Waterloo annually supports the Mayor’s Olympikids Run and the KiwanisKatoski PeeWee Golf Tournament. Donations for 2009 include the Tibbetts Field — Build Our Ballpark project, Boy Scout “camperships,” Eagle Scout awards, Trolley Kids and the Character Counts Essay Contest for Waterloo fifth-graders. Other recent projects include Kiwanis bears for emergency vehicles to give to children in emergency situations, pediatric medical kits for fire departments, dictionaries for elementary students and

Grout Museum’s Museum School. Club President Barb Miller reports Kiwanis has 65 members and meets at noon Tuesdays at the Elks Club. Go to ❑ The Waterloo Rotary Club is probably best known for helping “the children of the dump” in Chinandega, Nicaragua, a program now in its eighth year. Internationally, Rotary is known for its effort to eradicate polio, having raised more than $500 million and currently working to match grants from the Gates Foundation totaling $255 million. Four area Rotary clubs are sponsoring a concert Nov. 8 at the GallagherBluedorn Performing Arts Center featuring world-famous violinist Itzhak Perlman to help fund their share of the match. In addition to being generally recognized as the premier violinist in the world, Perlman is a polio survivor. A current fundraiser, Hops and Grapes, will raise money for the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, the Winnebago Council of the Boy Scouts and the Boys and Girls Club. A similar event last year raised nearly $9,000. The club also owns the land and helps maintain the Rotary

Reserve north of Cedar Falls. Other activities include an annual awards banquet for the top seniors in six local high schools, recognition banquets for football and volleyball teams, a student-ofthe-month program and an annual one-day fundraiser for the Salvation Army, which raised more than $10,000 last December. The club’s nearly 200 members have long supported a wide range of local projects including the championship soccer field at the soccer complex with two other local Rotary clubs, and its members have contributed more than $442,000 to the Rotary Foundation, which funds scholarships and matching grants. The downtown Rotary club meets at noon Mondays at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center. Go to ❑ Concept by IOWA Hearing Aid Centers, with 20 locations around the state, donated more than $72,000 in inventory to replace the hearing aids of Iowans who lost their aids in the 2008 floods. Additionally, its Gift of Hearing program provided more than $100,000 in free hearing aids to Iowans during the Christmas holiday season.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's all good

Mariel Mugge, right, prepares a squash plant for planting at the community garden on East Eighth and Lafayette streets in Waterlo. • THE COURIER

Photos by RICK TIBBOTT / Courier Staff Photographer

Growing friendships

Community garden in east Waterloo bringing people together By MATTHEW WILDE

WATERLOO — Margaret Ralston is growing more than just vegetables in her community garden plot in the Cedar River Neighborhood — she’s blossoming as well. The 24-year-old was raised in west Waterloo and rarely ventured to the east side of town, except to watch fireworks or maybe visit a retailer. Ralston believed the hype that east Waterloo was a violent area, and she avoided going there for years. Now she knows better. Once a week she tends to her 10-by-10 plot in the community garden near East Eighth and Lafayette streets. The garden was established this spring by Working Families Win, a national advocacy group that fights for improved health care, economic justice and workers rights, and the Black Hawk County Extension Service. Since planting green beans, tomatoes and other plants the first week of May, Ralston said she’s met and made friends with other gardeners from the neighborhood. One plays in a band, and many gathered to watch him perform. “My whole life I was told it’s (east Waterloo) dangerous. Now I make weekly trips, and it’s great,” said Ralston, who now lives in Cedar Falls and is a graduate student in sociology at the University of Northern Iowa. “Everyone I’ve met in the neighborhood is really accepting and nice.” Ralston said she originally wanted to raise fresh vegetables to save money. While that still is a perk, she said the real benefit is growing as a person and making friends. Chris Schwartz, a community organizer with Working Families Win who spearheaded the project, said the garden is doing its job. So far, 23 plots totalling about a half-acre are being worked by people in Waterloo and Cedar Falls. The goal is to help people help themselves, Schwartz said. Soon, gardeners will

be harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables that will become part of a healthier diet. By bringing people together, he hopes pride and stability will endure in the neighborhood. “This small garden will help stimulate that conversation,” said Schwartz, who recently moved to the neighborhood. Anyone can participate, even those with no gardening experience. Experts from Black Hawk County Extension are available to help. “This is great for the community,” said Al Ricks, extension director. Prospective green thumbs can call Schwartz at (319) 429-0133. Michael Ohlenkamp of Elk Run Heights waters a row of cotton at a plot in the community garden. The plots are rented out during the summer.



SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009


Photos by MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

From left, Reshauna Bullock, 7, Cavontae Taylor, 6, Jaden Loveless, 6, and Izabell Burk, 7, eat hot dogs and cookies at the Boys & Girls Club summer kickoff at Gates Park.

Summer of fun Boys & Girls Club kicks off expanded six weeks of programming By JENS MANUEL KROGSTAD

WATERLOO — Hundreds of children filled Gates Park on a hot, muggy June day to scarf down hot dogs, play basketball and splash around in the swimming pool. The Boys & Girls Club of Waterloo had shipped them in from across the Cedar Valley to kick off its summer programming. Izabell Burk, 7, smiled from ear to ear as she imagined the rest of her afternoon. She then offered a frank assessment of her swimming skills. “I can only swim underwater. My brother does the doggie paddle, but I’m working on it,” she said As Boys & Girls Club director Jason Barta walked amid the organized chaos, he expressed a mixture of awe and gratitude as he surveyed the scene. This year the club expanded

its six-week summer programming from Waterloo to Evansdale and Cedar Falls. There will be 80 field trips packed into 45 days — one every morning and afternoon — made possible by a newly purchased 65-passenger bus. “We’re making a concerted effort into fun. We’ll introduce them to bowling, frisbee golf, swimming, skating; the kinds of things that may develop into a lifelong hobby for them,” Barta said. Three years ago, toward the end of Michelle Gholston’s tenure as executive director, only 26 children a month walked through the doors. She and two employees eventually were convicted of theft and credit card fraud. As the club transitioned back to credibility, some longtime parents have witnessed the improvement. Randy Burk of Cedar Falls, Izabell’s father, said he has been bringing his two children for more than

four years. He and his wife kept their children enrolled because he works long hours as a forklift mechanic, and they appreciate the affordable $10 annual fee. “My wife, she wasn’t too happy with some of the stuff going on a few years ago. But it’s had so much improvement lately. It just seems like they’re a lot more engaged with the kids,” he said. Suzette Fraser moved to Waterloo from Cedar Rapids two years ago. She said her only complaint was that no one recommended the club to her when she first arrived. She had no idea the club had developed a poor reputation. “Unlike some day care programs, (club employees) seem to actually want to be there. They know your kids’ names. They play with them, interact with them. It doesn’t seem like they’re just there because they need the money,” she said.

Daequon Wilson, 11, left, smacks the ball in a game of baseball at the Boys & Girls Club’s summer kickoff.


SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009



Photos by MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

From left to right, Jim Boyland, Glenda Wilson, Claudia Davidson, Neil McMahon, Barb McMohon and Doug Jensen share a conversation at a neighborhood porch party in Cedar Falls.

Gathering place Front porch still knits community together knows everyone,” Jansen Jansen remembers her came to town. “It just seemed welcom- recalled. impression of the neighThat hasn’t changed. borhood when they first ing. It seems everyone


CEDAR FALLS — The front porch was once such a common meeting place in the Midwest that the term is now synonymous with a close-knit community. There are companies and newsletters named for the front porch to capitalize on the warm feelings associated with it. Neighborhood groups have adopted the phrase. And in an older section of Cedar Falls, the array of front porches still serves the original purpose. The neighbors get together once a week throughout the summer at one person’s porch or another to get caught up and renew friendships. The neighborhood, roughly bounded by Third Street on the north, Sixth Street to the south, Walnut Street to the east and College Street to the west, is filled with homes with grand old porches. From Memorial Day to Labor Day about 25 people show up weekly for the informal porch nights. “I just think we stay so busy with our lives that this is great. It’s a chance to be with our neighbors and friends,” said Jane Jansen, a member of the group. Jansen and her husband, Mark, moved to the neighborhood 31 years ago. They raised their kids there and have seen the neighborhood transform from an older core to one now filled with many young families. Over the years they’ve often gathered on porches of neighbors, but the current porch night group has been meeting for about six years. Glenda Wilson was sitting in a meeting a couple of weeks ago and was struck by a comment she heard. “Someone was saying I don’t really know our neighbors. I said, ‘We know almost all of them,’” Wilson said. At the beginning of the year the families involved send around a list to see when different homes can host their turn at porch night. When the group started, a sign-up sheet was passed around. Now most of the organization gets done by e-mail. The hosts provide some

Doug Jensen gets a glass of water for his wife, Kathy, at the neighborhood porch party. snacks and beverages and the group convenes to talk about, well, whatever comes to mind. Wilson jokes that politics and religion usually are off limits, or at least people splinter off to separate areas to discuss controversial issues. “You will have as many topics as there are people that are there,” Wilson said. They keep abreast of what children are up to or any number of subjects of everyday life. The group started after some men in the neighborhood discussed the idea. When more of the neighborhood got together one Memorial Day, the idea took off. “We had a sheet and people signed up and off we went,” Wilson said. New families join the group as they move into the neighborhood or just get curious about the gatherings. “As a matter of fact, this year alone we had two new families in the neighborhood,” said Brian Carr, who hosted a recent porch night. The group makes it easy for newcomers to get to know

their neighbors. This year, many sidewalks in the neighborhood needed to be repaired and replaced. Neighbors decided they could tackle the project themselves, as long as they had a little help. The group banded together to start tearing out sidewalks and pour new ones. “It was a lot of fun working together, and we got to know one another better,” Carr said. As the Jansens have dealt with their own empty nest, they enjoy seeing the rest of the neighborhood as children are born or grow up or graduate. “It was a wonderful place to raise our kid,” Jansen said. Porch nights start and end with the traditional holidays that mark the boundaries of summer. In between, they also get together for a Fourth of July potluck. Some in the neighborhood don’t have front porches, or the porches are too small to serve as the event site. They aren’t excluded; a backyard or patio serves the purpose nearly as well.



SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009


Wapsie FFA leader raises good crop of members By DENNIS MAGEE

FAIRBANK — The chapter started in 1977. It got down to business in 1983. The organization was still known as Future Farmers of America when Ellen Doese, a farm girl at heart but a teacher by trade, took over at Wapsie Valley High School. “They were kind of floundering,” she says. With support from the community and school district officials, Doese started to convey her passion for agricultural education. She began with about 30 students. Despite declining enrollment and rural population, the club grew. This year, the Wapsie Valley FFA chapter has 90 members, or roughly 50 percent of the high school student body. Besides demonstrating an ability to attract participants, the Wapsie Valley FFA chapter over time also demonstrated excellence. The program consistently ranks among the top five in Iowa and routinely collects threestar awards, the goal at the national level. Doese’s classroom, a congested little enclave, illustrates the point. Some shelves bear so many trophies and plaques they sag a bit. Much of the available wall space supports awards as well, and ribbons hang in bunches. Most are blue or purple. Doese thanks the community for making agricultural

DENNIS MAGEE / Courier Regional Editor

Ellen Doese, center, helped raise the level of success for the FFA chapter at Wapsie Valley High School. The organization routinely ranks among the top five in Iowa. education and FFA a priority. Her program features a computer lab, greenhouse and 6-acre test plot. Wapsie Valley’s FFA members keep busy. Activities each year include two omelet breakfasts and fruit sales. They also organize concession stands at city celebrations in Fairbank and Readlyn and participate in three county fairs: Bremer, Buchanan and Fayette.

Students think ample recognition of their successful FFA chapter should go to their instructor, too. “A lot of it. All of it. She doesn’t get enough credit for what she does,” Kelsey Watts says. The 15-year-old is a member of the chapter’s parliamentary procedure team, which is preparing for national competition in Indianapolis. To get ready,

the group meets regularly. Recently the young people spent two hours of their summer vacation reviewing minimum affirmative votes, analyzing the difference between debatable and undebatable motions and defining questions of privilege. As the discussion showed, FFA includes far more than cows and corn. “When I started, every

student knew what a steer was. Now I can’t say that’s true,” Doese says. Convention delegates in 1988 acknowledged the shift in members experiences and changed the name to the National FFA Organization. In 2008, the FFA had more than 7,400 chapters nationwide and claimed more than 507,000 members. “There’s so much more. You don’t have to live on

a farm to be in FFA,” says Tarissa Hagenow, 16, chairman of Wapsie Valley’s parliamentary team. She believes FFA and Doese offer lessons about “stuff that affects you in life,” and she credits both with boosting her self-confidence and ability to speak in public. “I want them to be successful citizens. I want them to learn the skills to cope in today’s society,” Doese says.

Kaleidoscope Series brings the arts to area children for a buck By JIM OFFNER

WATERLOO — The idea behind Allen Hospital and Friends of Gallagher-Bluedorn’s Kaleidoscope Series for Youth was to bring the arts alive for area children at a nominal fee — “A Buck a Kid.” The series has brought some iconic dramatic presentations, such as “Old Yeller,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Little Engine that Could” and “The Nutcracker,” to kids from prekindergarten through 12th grade in performances at the University of Northern Iowa’s Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center. But the series also showcases a variety of music and dance performances, such as AXIS Dance Company, Calle Sur and Shakti Dance Company and the Soweto Gospel Choir. About 9,000 students saw performances during the program’s first year.

In the season just ended, the program reached more than 43,000, with 35 performances of 15 different shows. “The value it brings to the children in the area — and it’s ever-expanding — is it gives them the opportunity to view live theater in different forms,” said Cathy Young, chairwoman of Friends of Gallagher-Bluedorn. “It also does a wonderful job of integrating the arts into their regular coursework.” The educational role the program plays should not be underestimated, Young said. “For the children, we know that learning is more effective when multiple senses are involved,” she said. “It’s an experiential learning activity.’ In the last year, the program has gone on the road, traveling to present shows in rural communities. Oelwein and Marshalltown hosted two shows. And

next year, “Allen Hospital’s Kaleidoscope — On the Road” will have stops in Spirit Lake, Red Oak and Fairfield. “It’s important, as a state university, that we work across the state,” said Steve Carignan, UNI’s assistant vice president for educational and sports event center management and the program’s executive director. He noted that next year’s performances already have sold 37,000 advance tickets. Bringing something new each year is important, Carignan said. “We try to pay a lot of attention,” he said. “We look for literature-based stuff.” Students respond enthusiastically, Carignan noted. “Kids like things they’re familiar with,” he said. “Those are the things that sell out first.” COURIER FILE PHOTO For more information, call GBPAC at (319) 273-3660. The arts come alive for area children at Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.


SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009



Coloring their world Main Street merchants add vibrant flowers to downtown Cedar Falls By EMILY CHRISTENSEN

CEDAR FALLS — Some days Amy Rinnels and Julie Shimek enjoy the hour and a half they spend together watering the flowers along the Parkade. The friends and Main Street merchants usually meet for a “Cup of Joe” before hauling out the heavy watering cart for the trek down six blocks of flowerlined street. Other days, they pray for a steady overnight rain to relieve them of their volunteer duties. “It’s our social time ... but on a dry week, we can easily spend 40 hours out there watering the flowers,” said Rinnels, owner of An Elegant Affair by Amy. “And during planting season, it’s even more.” For two years now — since Nancy Ober, a former downtown merchant, moved to Wisconsin — Rinnels and Shimek have spearheaded the beautification operation, a Community Main Street project designed to bring more greenery to an otherwise brick-filled area. The duo has begged for plants and money from other downtown supporters. They have even swiped perennials from their own yards to supplement the small budget provided by Community Main Street. Shimek, an avid gardener, said the project has been a welcome outlet since she sold her home and moved into a downtown loft above one of her downtown businesses, Vintage Iron. She also owns Pursuing Picasso. However, their crazy work schedules have forced the women to seek volunteer reinforcements to round out the watering schedule. MaraBeth Soneson, executive director of Community Main Street, offered to take the Sunday slot. “Flowers and landscape and an ambience are just so important to places where we work, live and play as well. Downtown is no different than that. I’m a gardener, so I’m a little bit biased, but I think flowers are pretty important to the soul as well as the eye,” Soneson said. “The flowers add so much color, a liveliness really, a vibrancy that adds to the environment of downtown. To take on a task like this is no small one.”

Amy Rinnels, left, and Julie Shimek have spearheaded a project to add more greenery to the Parkade in Cedar Falls. RICK CHASE / Courier Staff Photographer

RICK TIBBOTT / Courier Staff Photographer

Dogs and their owners socialize and exercise at the grand opening of the Pat Bowlsby Off-Leash Dog Park in Waterloo on June 12.

Man’s best friend gets room to stretch at Bowlsby park By TIM JAMISON

WATERLOO — Lilly and Koda had their tails wagging and tongues flapping after an afternoon of running around the Pat Bowlsby Off-Leash Dog Park. “They’re out of shape, and now they’re going to be in shape,” said Susan Wirtjes, who brought her golden retrievers to the June 12 opening. Pet owners can let their dogs run without leashes and play with others of their species in the fenced, 5-acre dog park at Ansborough and Campbell avenues. Constructed with more than $48,000 in private donations, the park is the culmination of a six-year effort by supporters and financial contributors who noted

many other communities, including neighboring Cedar Falls, have similar facilities. “This is a lot bigger than Cedar Falls’ park,” Wirtjes said. And the flat terrain, including several shade trees, makes it easier to navigate for those chasing around their dogs. More than 90 people already have purchased $10 annual passes to use the park; those are available at the City Clerk’s Office. A $2 daily fee can be paid on site. Erin Boehmer has been taking Dodger, a black Labrador, and Roscoe, a mystery breed, to the park since before it officially opened. “Before this, we usually would take them to my parents’, because they have a big yard,” she said. “But they like this better, because it’s really big.”

And Boehmer said the dogs know they’re passing the park when she drives by with them in the car, because “they whine.” The park is named for Pat Bowlsby, who lobbied City Council members to approve the location and later began fundraising efforts before she died last October. The Bowlsby family made a contribution in her name to finish paying for the fence. Organizers still are looking to raise more money to install drinking fountains and shelters at the park. Waterloo Mayor Tim Hurley brought his pooches to the grand opening, too, and called the facility “another amenity of Waterloo living.” “I’m just amazed at how well it fits,” he said. “This is a perfect use for what is essentially flood plain.”


it's all good

Sunday, June 28, 2009


UNI, Salvation Army host music program By SUE WILLETT

At a glance

CEDAR FALLS — “It’s all good, and greater things are still to be done in the Cedar Valley,” said University of Northern Iowa education professor Kathy Oakland, about a new summer music program for youths called “People Get Ready.” The program is a partnership between the Salvation Army after-school program, the University of Northern Iowa and volunteers from the Cedar Valley community. It was inspired by musicloving Cedar Falls dentist Ken Budke, who has volunteered at the Salvation Army for years. Oakland has helped Budke make his dream come true: expanding music education for youths. “Dr. Budke’s dream was to have the youth learn how to sing and give a concert on the stage of the GallagherBluedorn Performing Arts Center on the UNI cam-

■ What: “People Get Ready” benefit concert, performed by the Salvation Army after-school program choir and the gospel trio Trin-i-tee 5:7. ■ When: 7 p.m. Aug. 7 ■ Where: Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, UNI campus ■ Tickets: $20

The Salvation Army after-school youth choir performs its first “People Get Ready” summer concert at East High School on June 13. pus,” Oakland said. “Making dreams become realities in the Cedar Valley has become the mission statement for the new summer project:

to challenge the children of the Cedar Valley to embrace music and scholastic pursuits through which goals and dreams can be formed

and achieved. Through a safe environment, here will always be a foundation of the Gospel message of the Salvation Army.”

The youth at the Salvation Army Activity Center have been involved with afterschool activities with the assistance of more than 100 UNI volunteers, from education majors and students to athletic and speakers, and other role models. The children have been working all year with Celeste Bembry of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts from UNI. As part of the summer music program, a youth choir was formed. Rehearsals were held at the Salvation Army on June 10, 11 and 12 under the direction of Sharrie Phillips, a Water-

loo schools administrator, and Dante Marcellous, a UNI student. A free concert was performed June 13 in the East High School Auditorium in Waterloo. The program culminates with a benefit concert by the youth choir and the national award-winning gospel trio group,Trin-i-tee 5:7 on Aug. 7 at the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performiing Arts Center. The concert will combine the youth choir singing its own selections and songs performed with the gospel trio. Special appearances will be made by Dante Marcellous, Brianne Miller, Celeste Bembry and the Rev. Stephen Lien. “This will be an exciting concert that people won’t want to miss,” Oakland said. “Dove award-winning Christian artist Chris Tomlin’s song ‘God Of This City’ states it best: ‘For greater things have yet to come And greater things are still to be done in this city.’”

Ruth Thoren applies spread to a fruit pizza. The recipe is featured in a cookbook put out by Grundy National Bank. Photos by RICK CHASE / Courier Photographer

Grundy bank cookbook highlights local recipes, helps nonprofits meat-and-potatoes-type entrees, though healthier recipes are included, Harken said. Much of the appeal is knowing and respecting the people behind the recipes, she said.


GRUNDY CENTER — An experienced cook, Joy Muller has her favorite recipes but also enjoys discovering ways to prepare food. Lately, the Grundy Center woman has been turning to a compilation of close-to-home recipes. “Local Favorites: A Recipe Collection from the Grundy National Bank Family” offers more than 500 recipes from 70 current and retired bank employees and their families. The cookbook is a fun way to celebrate the bank’s 75th anniversary this year, said Keely Harken, a marketing officer with the bank. The goal is to raise $7,500 through sales for a grant program to benefit agencies that serve the county. “It just seemed like something that would give back to our local nonprofit organizations that really help improve our quality of life in Grundy County,” Harken said. Muller, retired from the bank, submitted her favorite recipes. She is impressed with the final product. Lately, she’s been whipping tasty yet easy-to-make chocolate toffee bars for a kids program at her church.

RICK CHASE / Courier Staff Photographer

Brenda Harris sautes peppers and onions for quesadillas. The recipe for the dish is featured in a cookbook put out by Grundy National Bank. The cookbook features local recipes and proceeds will benefit nonprofit organizations that serve Grundy County. “I think that it’s the most wonderful cookbook that I have ever seen, and believe you me, I have lots of cookbooks,” Muller said. Ruth Thoren, a bank employee and project organizer, thinks the 150 pages of helpful hints provided by the book’s publisher are useful. The advice extends

beyond the kitchen, offering tips on washing windows and infant care. “It’s something for everyone,” Thoren said. Some entries include an icon if it’s considered to be child-friendly or a quick fix, for example. True to the cookbook’s heartland origins, it features plenty of

“People just appreciate knowing if someone took the care to put (a recipe) in the cookbook it’s going to be a tried-and-true recipe,” Harken said. Shelley Westerman, director of the community cen-

ter in Grundy Center, purchased the book for herself and additional copies for family members. Westerman said she hasn’t hit a bad recipe yet. “Every one I’ve tried, that is my favorite,” she said.


SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009


Long-term recovery Committee looks down the road after disasters By JOHN MOLSEED

WATERLOO — Long after the headlines fade, victims of disasters are still picking up the pieces of their lives. Months, even years after emergency needs are met, complications from the disaster can still arise. It’s up to the Black Hawk County Long-Term Recovery Committee to meet those needs. Last year’s floods not only wiped out homes and businesses but many people’s savings and ability to meet other, smaller problems that have crept up long after the river shrank back into its banks. A car repair or medical bill may be enough to send a family over the edge after last year’s flooding and EF5 tornado. “After you’ve spent all your resources, there’s no safety net,” said Donna Harvey, committee member and director of the Hawkeye Valley Area Agency on Aging. Lorie Glover, of the Hawkeye Chapter of the American Red Cross, is chairwoman of the committee. She and repre-

sentatives from more than 50 community, charity and faithbased groups contribute to the committee. Sheila Baird, president of the Cedar Valley United Way, also is one of the leading members of the committee. The wide representation helps the organization find those who need assistance long after disaster upended their lives instead of expecting those in need to come to the committee. “It’s not like individuals have a real history of dealing with this,” said Frank Magsamen, chairman of the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors. Agencies like the Red Cross and Salvation Army are able to meet people affected by the disaster and connect them to the long-term recovery committee. Having representatives from the agencies is key to the committee’s success, Glover said. “We can see what each other has done,” she said. While the committee has donations to fund some of the assistance it provides, it tries to find programs and grants that might

RICK CHASE / Courier Staff Photographer

Frank Magsamen, left,, Donna Harvey and Lorie Glover. match specific needs to make each Camp Noah, weeklong day camps help children deal with their emodollar go as far as it can. The committee has helped doz- tional damage from the disasters ens of families and individuals with last year. While committee members hope various needs from cleanup, housing and transportation to funding the need doesn’t arise again, the

Happy healing

Cedar Valley club uses laughter yoga to relax, energize and heal


CEDAR FALLS — Laughter really can be the best medicine for what ails you. Just ask members of the Cedar Valley Laughter Club. “You can’t be thinking about the future, or worrying about the past when you’re laughing,” said Eliz Guyer, one of five local residents who a year ago trained to be a laughter yoga leader. “It’s a great exercise to get you to slow down, put things in perspective. You laugh at things more. If you can’t control it, you can laugh about it or you can cry about it.” Rick and Bea Koontz first became aware of laughter yoga in 2001 when it was demonstrated at an elderhostel they were attending. Six years later Bea became acquainted with Jen Christianson, a former college friend of the Rev. Laura Gentry of Lansing. Gentry leads the Lansing Laughter Club. She trained under a medical doctor in India who, along with his wife, developed the exercise that combines laughter and deep breathing techniques to maximize the benefits of a workout.

MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Margaret Shay, left, Eliz Guyer, middle, and Bea Koontz, in red, work on a laughing drill at a Cedar Valley Laughter Club meeting in Cedar Falls. In early 2008, the Cedar Falls Library hosted more than 100 people for a demonstration by Gentry. Shortly thereafter, Bea, Christianson, Guyer, Kate Hall and Cyndy Franklin participated in a two-day training session to become laugh-

committee has blazed new ground for interagency cooperation. “We had to write a new book,” said Glover. “Now it will be on the shelf for the future,” Magsamen said.

ter yoga leaders. In June of last year, they held their first session for local enthusiasts. “You know when you go out to eat with friends and you laugh and you know how good you feel afterwards?” said Bea. “It’s not that

people in our group don’t recognize awful things or haven’t gone through awful things. Good and bad things come from that place where you don’t really have words to put around it. Laughter comes out of the same place. It can both heal and energize.” The club holds three 10- to 12week sessions during a year. Participants come from all walks of life. Some come on their lunch break; some come directly from work; some are retired; others work in high-stress jobs. The summer session began June 8 and meets at 12:15 p.m. for a halfhour each Monday at the Sartori Hospital gazebo, weather permitting. The fall session meets September through November and the winter session January through April. At a recent gathering, 15 people were in attendance, including Guyer’s 8-year-old daughter and two first timers who joined regular Ruth Hovelson. Retiree Kate Nimrod has been one of the most consistent members over the last year. “I like to laugh and have a good time,” she said. “It’s helpful. I like being with people.”

The 30 minutes begin with warm-up breathing and stretching exercises; moves into various laughter exercises, including chants, cheers and songs; and concludes with additional calming breathing techniques. Guyer says it can be difficult in the beginning to laugh naturally. “At first it felt fake or forced. It didn’t feel genuine. Your body doesn’t know the difference between fake laughter and real laughter. You get all the same endorphins, lowering of your blood pressure. After awhile it turns into real laughter.” Participants have felt a definite improvement in their daily demeanor. Bea said she is more aware of the present and is enjoying life. “By doing this weekly, it’s that constant reminder to lighten up, to energize. It keeps me aware that there is joy and we should cultivate it.” Rick says he sleeps better. Margaret Shay says laughter yoga is a different kind of exercise. “I feel energized,” she said. “You can do it on a regular basis, feel the benefits of it, meet new people. It’s amazing when you do it for half an hour.”



SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2009


Comfort creatures PET PALS gives care center residents a chance to bond with furry friends By KRISTI PAXTON

WATERLOO — Tiger has been making PET PALS visits to Manor Care for more than five years. Heather McCallum and son Jason have accompanied their cat on his twice monthly Manor Care visits for all of those years, almost half of Jason’s life. Watching the McCallums, the residents and Tiger himself, it is hard to pick out who is reaping the most benefit. Tiger sits still, regally perched atop a wheeled cart. He appears to enjoy his admiration party almost as much as residents enjoy petting and talking to him. “I thought it was something we could do together,” McCallum said of her association with PET PALS, a 26-year-old volunteer service that takes all types of creatures into all types of facilities for the pure enjoyment of clients. “This was something Jason could do for others without expecting anything in return,” she added. She and Jason wear royal blue PET PALS shirts and name badges that tell residents that today they will enjoy a special visit. Tiger wears a matching blue collar. Another volunteer, Gloria Fink, carries a jar of water, home to several fish performing graceful water ballet. After bringing her dog Honey for many years, she sought simpler creatures to share. Perfect conversation starters, the fish receive as much attention as their furry PET PALS counterparts. At a June 3 Manor Care visit, animals stimulate conversation for residents who stroke their fur or just watch. Lillian Eiten, a former Wellsburg teacher, enjoys sharing animal facts with Erin Boehmer, recreational therapist. Tiger evokes fond memories of growing up on a Nebraska farm for one man. “The cats were always in a fight over the mice. They did a good job of keeping the numbers down,” he said with a smile. He recalls how much his mother loved her favorite dog.

I just marvel at how dogs seem to know just what to do in different situations.” Jan Thompsen program coordinator

PET PALS volunteers who don’t own pets can share approved puppies and kittens from Cedar Bend Humane Society. Volunteer animals receive a 30-minute temperament evaluation to see if they are suitable for the program. Their humans submit an application and do an on site observation “to be sure that this is something they think will work for them — and also that their animal is appropriate for the program,” said Jan Thompsen, program coordinator for the last 20 years. Thompsen arranges an extensive volunteer PET PALS schedule for numerous Cedar Valley facilities. She can’t stop singing its praises. “Several years ago, there was a little boy that we would visit at Respite. When we first started visiting him, he was only able to crawl, but eventually used a walker. One day we were visiting and were surprised that he was walking by himself. He was determined to walk my dog Tanner who is quite large at 75 pounds. I put the leash in his hand and off we went down the hall. It sent chills up me as I watched Tanner glance over his shoulder at the little boy and adjust his speed so that he was going at the boy’s pace. I just marvel at how dogs seem to know just what to do in different situations,” Thompsen said. Currently 40 strong, PET PALS needs more volunteers. Serving most area care and assisted living facilities, Hospice Home, all of the hospitals, Respite and Choice, Cedar Valley Childcare and adult day care centers, there is high demand and a long waiting Photo by KRISTI PAXTON / Courier Correspondent list. For more information, call Cedar Bend Tiger takes his owners, Jason and Heather McCallum, to Manor Care twice a month. Humane Society at 232-6887. In this photo, they are preparing to head down the halls for a visit.

A magical ‘Oz’ Disabled actors the North Stars of this show By KRISTI PAXTON

WATERLOO — The curtain lifted. Gallagher Bluedorn’s stage was professionally set and lit. Actors told the well-known story of Dorothy, Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man, but more than 700 audience members agreed they’d never seen a more memorable show. So what was different about this May 20 performance? Almost every character on the stage — including nine munchkins, six flying monkeys and the little dog, Toto — scaled a physical or mental hurdle on their quest to the stage, their personal journey to Oz. North Star Community Services presented a cast of disabled clients, and for one night their abilities, not their disabilities, took center stage. Volunteer line coaches dressed in black and stood behind munchkins, witches or flying monkeys. At least one supporter played the part of a tree, and several became munchkins, all ready to help clients with lines. It was a special second cast, willing to be invisible performers, letting other stars shine and enjoy enthusiastic applause.

Appropriately, North Star’s logo depicts a person with both arms outstretched, reaching for a star. It takes only a brief visit to North Star Community Services at 3420 University Ave. to see that enthusiasm is in the air every day, not just for theater events. Mark Witmer, executive director since 1992, sums up the North Star mission: “We try to empower our clients to realize their potential, pursue their dreams and enjoy their lives.” Witmer likes to tell the story of Chase LeClaire, an autistic client who made a surprise request to North Star staff a while back. Quiet and shy, Chase surprised his supervisor when he asked her how he could be involved in North Star’s 2008 production of “Alice—The Musical.” Encouraged that Chase had the courage to communicate his goals, his support team made every effort to help him explore and expand his options. Chase vowed to work on speaking clearly and loudly. Shortly after, Chase and his team revised his goals to include his dream of acting in a play. LeClaire’s dream came true May 20 when he played Lion in the North Star’s May production at Gallagher-Bluedorn.

Photo submitted

The Cowardly Lion (Chase LeClaire) meets Dorothy (Amber Weston ), Scarecrow (Chad Hackenmiller) and Tin Man (Eric Bolden) in the middle of the forest. Witmer praises his staff and several hundred volunteers for their gargantuan effort to honor such dreams. As for Oz, he credits volunteer Greg Holt, director, with “pulling it all together.” The generosity of GallagherBluedorn allowed the audience to double from last year’s production and North Star staff topped it off. “Our artist Pat Moreland is a wonderful asset,” Witmer said.

North Star serves elders with age-related disabilities, adults and youth with a full range of developmental and other physical and mental disabilities, including traumatic brain injury. Services are available in the Waterloo area, Waverly, Vinton, New Hampton, Charles City, Mason City and Marshalltown. Day programs run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Supported living is 24 hours per day, seven days per week.


Sunday, June 28, 2009 • THE COURIER

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