The year of the volunteer in Greene County
The year 2018 proved the power of volunteers for local projects in the Greene County community.
Among the many successes of the year here were four that stand out in my memory, and will continue to do so.
Back in April, the patrons of the Greene County Community School District approved a school improvement bond issue of $21.5 million by a comfortable vote of about two to one, blasting through the required 60 percent majority requirement.
Two earlier bond issue attempts had been defeated in the previous 12-month period, the first garnering only about 40 percent approval and the second about 53 percent.
The successful effort in April involved an enhanced project.
In addition to a bond issue for building a new high school and renovating the current high school building as the new home of the middle school, the entire project includes construction of a regional career academy, a sizable high school gymnasium and affiliated athletic accommodations, and a large performing arts center.
The entire project cost is $35.5 million.
Funding beyond the bond issue includes $5 million from the Greene County board of supervisors from tax increment financing (TIF) for the regional academy, $4.5 million from the Grow Greene County Gaming Corp. for the athletic facility and performing arts center, and $5 million from the school district itself through special funding sources already approved by the voters.
Richard and Delores Finch also pledged $100,000 and Landus Cooperative $50,000 for the project.
Adding to the efforts’ desirability for the voters was the announcement by Pillar Technology that it would open a software development branch office in Jefferson if the bond issue and the regional center were to become a reality.
The success of the bond issue election triggered the Pillar project, and the remodeling of a downtown building here is now underway for that purpose.
The entire effort was a true public-private undertaking, with lots and lots of volunteer help.
Keys to the deal were the Grow Greene County funds (private), the Greene County supervisor TIF funds (public), Chris Deal’s working relationship with Linc Kroeger, manager of the Des Moines Pillar branch, and the dogged hard work of the 92-member bond issue committee volunteers.
The committee, composed primarily of young couples from around the county, organized a publicity campaign, called telephone lists, walked door-to-door and masterfully followed up with identified “yes” voters on Election Day.
It was a professionally organized operation carried through entirely by volunteers.
A coda to the Pillar component, organized by Kroeger, was the December visit by major-league movers and shakers from California’s Silicon Valley to Jefferson to celebrate the potential of software technology creation in rural America.
Kroeger worked through Congressman Ro Khanna of the Silicon Valley region to bring the technology corporation representatives here. Khanna himself spoke enthusiastically about the possibilities of “ruralizing” software development during a conclave of the tech reps at a reception at History Boy Theatre in Jefferson.
The tech event was organized by Kroeger and a planning committee of 11 local volunteers, with another 18 involved in one way or another. The effort has generated publicity in major news outlets nationwide, and sparked high interest in the potential for software education at the new regional career academy.
The school improvement project and the Pillar branch development alone would have made for an enviable year of local achievement. But there was more.
In July, more than 20,000 bicyclists and their support groups descended on Greene County for an overnight RAGBRAI stop in Jefferson.
RAGBRAI’s sponsor and organizer, the Des Moines Register, reported afterward that the event here was highly successful, both in their minds and from followup evaluations by the riders themselves.
That didn’t happen by chance.
Some 500 local volunteers were organized by the local RAGBRAI committee, in addition to church groups and nonprofits who helped meet the needs of the huge cycling contingent.
It is gratifying to still be getting compliments from folks around the state for how the community handled the huge crowd.
But wait, there’s more.
The Smithsonian Institution, which operates the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C., brought its traveling “Hometown Teams” exhibit to Jefferson in the fall, one of six such showings around Iowa last year.
A group of 120 volunteers combined their time and talents for a successful multi-week display at the Greene County Historical Museum, rounding up memorabilia from around the county to accentuate the sports-based theme of the exhibit.
Some of the volunteers devoted many hours to help guide visitors through the exhibit. It was another admirable example of competence and dedication for the benefit of the entire community.
There were other examples throughout the year, of course, all of them worthy of applause. But you get the picture. Not much can get accomplished without dedicated input from volunteers, and a whole lot gets done when that input takes place.
Congratulations to the hundreds of local folks who stepped up to make 2018 a year to remember in these parts.