2020 a year of resilience
In this space last week I noted that Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s funding effort that helped create COVID-19 vaccines in a matter of months rather than years, was a bright spot in the dark year of 2020.
There were others as well.
To focus at the local level, the new state-of-the-art Greene County High School/Career Academy and the repurposed Greene County Middle School (in the former high school building) opened their doors in the fall of 2020. The big day culminated the determined efforts by a great many people and organizations, some public, some private.
Philanthropy played a key role in the school project.
Dick Finch donated $100,000 to the new building, and Landus Cooperative contributed $50,000. Their donations joined investments of $4.5 million from Grow Greene County Gaming Corp. and $5 million from the Greene County board of supervisors.
The Grow Greene funds went for the new gym and performing arts theater in the new high school, and the supervisors’ contribution targeted the career academy building.
What’s more, Iowa Central Community College provided $1.5 million in new equipment for the Career Academy, which the college leases and staffs.
The voters of the Greene County School District passed the $20.5 million bond issue by better than 2-1. Their property taxes for the project for the next 20 years certainly should be described as philanthropy as well.
Speaking of philanthropy, in 2020 the estate of Vivian Autenreith, retired longtime Jefferson teacher, left more than $1.2 million to the Greene County community in the form of the Rory Autenreith Trust, named in honor of her deceased son. The gifts went to the Greene County Community Center (more than $800,000) and the Greene County Medical Center (more than $400,000).
Housing has been a top priority for local community leaders for several years, and 2020 saw significant accomplishments in that department.
Building permits for four new single-family homes were issued last year in Jefferson, but many times that much new housing was completed during the year.
A 12-plex apartment complex was completed in the northeast part of town, and is now filled with renters and their families. Near the complex are four new single-family homes, two of them already sold. Other homes are under construction in the community as well.
The developer of the 12-plex is underway with a four-plex apartment building plan in Scranton, and has other apartment construction plans elsewhere in the county as well.
The former Greene County Middle School appears on the way to conversion into 25 upscale rental apartments, through the efforts of a developer who has successfully converted former school buildings elsewhere in Iowa. The developer met several times with the Greene County school board in 2020 to discuss potential details.
Another former apartment building south of the Square in Jefferson has been purchased by a seasoned developer who intends to renovate it into a number of comfortable rental apartments.
The former Fieldhouse strength conditioning and exercise facility south of the Square was purchased by a widely-known wrestling club operator whose young wrestlers come to the community from across the state several times a month. Downtown businesses report enhanced income from the youngsters’ parents who regularly visit stores and restaurants on the Square.
Election Year 2020 turned out a record 150 million American voters in huge numbers. Greene County saw similar large voter turnout, and the election, with significant early voting and large numbers at the polls on Election Day, went off without a hitch, thanks to expert management by the Greene County Auditor’s Office and long hours put in by local poll workers.
No tribute to good work in 2020 can ignore the employees who did their jobs side by side and across the counter from hundreds of people, any of whom could have been infected with the coronavirus.
That goes for health care workers, other public employees, store clerks, school staff, anyone who works with people. It’s impossible to list everyone who stepped up to serve the public, and who continue to do so.
And for Iowa State football fans, 2020 will forever be remembered as a very special year, even though they were usually unable to watch in person in Jack Trice Stadium.
Plenty of distressing things happened in 2020. But resilience was the response that prevailed.
There’s every reason to expect continuing resilience through 2021 as well, and less of the distressing stuff.