[Source: INEDA, 09.2016 | Keywords: Volunteer, Philanthropy, Community]
Equipment dealerships and their employees have long been fixtures in the communities they serve. For many, this involves “giving back” to their community outside of work. Whether volunteering with a local non-profit, serving on a committee or donating to a capital project, many dealers and their employees are making a positive impact on their communities each and every day.
Following is a look at some dealership employees who have taken volunteerism to a new level.
Marty Spies | Kunau Implement
For nearly a quarter of a century, Marty Spies has assisted customers in the parts department at Kunau Implement in DeWitt, Iowa. When he isn’t working at the dealership, he can usually be found volunteering in the community.
“Volunteering is my way of making the world a better place not only for my kids, but my family, friends and community, too,” exclaimed Spies, who served as leader of the DeWitt Hustlers 4-H club for 14 years. “My motto with the group was, ‘This club is the car and you guys are the gas. It won’t run without you.’ These kids are what kept me going for 14 years.”
The group experienced tremendous growth under his leadership. “When I first started, there were 26 kids (4th through 12th graders) in the group. When I retired last year, there were 50,” reflected Spies, who shared his strong sense of volunteerism with the 4-H youth by getting them involved in community service projects, such as putting up and taking down the city’s Christmas lights, a tradition that continues today.
“Anyone who meets Marty would say he’s a breath of fresh air,” said Todd Kunau, owner of Kunau Implement. “He’s such a positive force in our company. His willingness to help our customers and those in the community is an inspiration to all of us and his excitement to be involved is contagious.”
Spies also spent eight summers working with Clinton County 4-H youth training dogs for showmanship, obedience and agility classes at the fair, and coached elementary basketball for four years and softball for three. “Initially, I started coaching because my kids were involved and no one else would step up to help,” explained Spies. “Over time, I came to realize that what makes the world work is everyone doing their part. I don’t feel that I do any more than the next person.”
In addition, he can be found flying around in his Challenger ultralight plane to capture aerial photos of events for the local newspaper and to assist with search and rescue efforts for the Sheriff’s department.
According to Spies, the family-friendly atmosphere at Kunau Implement makes it possible for him to volunteer. “The management team at Kunau supports my community involvement and provides me with the flexibility to take a few hours off now and then to volunteer,” he reflected. “That’s one of many reasons why I have continued working at Kunau for 24 years.”
Now that Spies’ kids are both in college, he has cut back a bit on his volunteer hours. “When I finally get to the point where I retire from here (Kunau), I’ll probably find myself back volunteering in the food stands at the baseball parks,” said Spies with a laugh.
He continued, “While the pay (for volunteering) is horrible, the reward is awesome. Fifteen years ago, a 10-year old girl I used to coach came up and hugged me. That little girl’s hug and a simple ‘thank you’ is all it takes to make every hour I volunteer worth it.”
Staff | Alliance Tractor & Implement Company
Alliance Tractor & Implement Company has been a constant fixture in Alliance, Nebraska for 65 years. Throughout that time, dealership employees have remained visible in the community as well, volunteering for a variety of local charities and groups.
“Our philosophy at Alliance has always been to treat our employees like we would treat our own family. Part of that philosophy means being involved in the community and allowing our employees to give back to the community,” said Tim Garwood, dealer principal.
Garwood serves on the Heartland Expressway board of directors and is actively involved in the Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee. “Part of enjoying life is not only working, but balancing work with outside activities you enjoy,” he reflected. “At Alliance Tractor, we feel this is important so we work with our staff to make volunteering fit into their work schedules.”
Over the last 45 years, service technician Duane Dobson has touched the lives of hundreds of young men as a volunteer assistant wrestling coach for Alliance High School. “When I wrestled back in high school a man gave of his time to help me and I never forgot that,” explained Dobson. “I was born and raised in Alliance and want to help my hometown wrestling program succeed, just like we did so many years ago.” This involves clocking out of work to attend daily wrestling practices and taking vacation time to attend out-of-town meets.
The former state champion has helped coach three state championship teams and 24 individual state champions. “Some former state champions now have sons on the team and are helping us coach, which is wonderful,” said Dobson.
In addition to coaching wrestling, Dobson served on the Alliance Airport Authority for 20 years; the Camp Fire Board for several years; as well as the YMCA board of directors. He also was a founding member of the Alliance High Booster Club, where he served as its first president and is currently serving his tenth year on the Alliance School Board. “My parents taught me to give back to others at an early age,” reflected Dobson.
In July, Dobson was recognized for his volunteer work and was named Grand Marshal of the Heritage Days parade. “While honors like that are wonderful, I don’t coach wresting for the recognition,” said Dobson. “I do it for the kids.”
Dobson and Garwood aren’t the only employees at Alliance Tractor who give of their time to the community: Mark Placek is a member of the Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee and volunteers on the Men’s Club Golf Association; Keegan Kaiser was recently recruited to become the defensive coordinator for the Alliance High School football team; Dave Redden serves on the board of both the Chadron FFA Alumni Association and the Old West Trail Rodeo in Crawford; Tim Kollars is serving his 3rd term on the Alliance School Board (the last two as president of the board); and Kyle Meradith spends many hours volunteering his cooking capabilities at the local Eagles organization.
Ed & Betty Wilcox | Ernie Williams Ltd
A new Performing Arts Center will be coming soon to Algona High School thanks to a generous donation by Ed and Betty Wilcox of Ernie Williams Ltd. The couple was looking for a way to give back to the community when they heard that Algona Community School District’s superintendent, Marty Fonley, had been dreaming about building a Performing Arts Center for quite some time.
“We were at a point in our lives where we were able to make a sizeable donation to the community,” said Ed Wilcox. “After meeting with Superintendent Fonley and learning more about his plans, we decided this was the perfect project to support for the community.” In the end, the couple gave $5 million to the Algona Community School District to construct the Ed and Betty Wilcox Performing Arts Center and to establish a $1 million endowment fund for maintenance of the facility.
Wilcox’s former boss, Ernie Williams, inspired him to make the sizeable donation. “A few years ago, the Algona community raised money to build a YMCA and Ernie was a major financial contributor to that project,” said Wilcox. “When I later heard that the YMCA was one of the main reasons why a certain doctor or business chose to come to Algona, I realized how important it was to have things (like the YMCA) in our town to attract and keep people here. This auditorium will be another gem in our community.”
Three local organizations also donated $500,000 to the project, while another group raised money to purchase a Steinway grand piano for use at the facility. Additional funds were also raised selling $250 nameplates for each seat in the auditorium, securing an extra $200,000 to go toward the facility.
Wilcox feels there is a real need for a performing arts center throughout the community. “School band and choir concerts are currently held in the high school gymnasium and Algona’s annual community concert series is without a home after its performance venue was sold to a construction company,” said Wilcox. “This community definitely needs an auditorium.” The new auditorium will not only be used by the Algona Community School District, but the Algona community and the Bishop Garrigan schools as well. “I look forward to attending a variety of concerts and performances in the new auditorium,” he added.
Staff | Vetter Equipment Co.
Storm Lake, Iowa
The Storm Lake crew of Vetter Equipment Co. is always busy giving back to their communities. Along with church activities, they volunteer at fire departments, help with 4-H, FFA, city and county functions, in addition to helping friends. The employees also take ownership of certain activities, such as the Albert City Threshermen & Collectors Show held every August, where the dealership has a board member and two volunteers, all who give a better part of a week’s vacation to help at the show. Wood, Wine & Blues sees employees helping chainsaw artists carve their way to fame, while the 4-H pumpkin patch has employees driving goblins around to scary places. The county fair also sees employees cleaning up the barns after the show, putting in new fences,
and working very hard to prepare the track for the tractor pull, with eight employees donating their time in the pits all night.
“All of this local entertainment could not happen without the help of many hands, so I greatly appreciate all that this crew does for their communities and neighbors,” said Kevin Heisterkamp, general manager at Vetter Equipment Co. “When my wife and I were raising kids, we could only afford to go to free activities. I thank all of those who made life better for my children at the expense of their time and energy. God bless them!”
The new auditorium will feature seating for 863 and a design that complements the Algona High School building. A new parking lot adjacent to the structure contains 250 additional parking spaces.
The Algona Community School District will serve as administrator of the performing arts center, responsible for scheduling and coordinating events. The first event planned for the new auditorium is a combined Algona High School and Bishop Garrigan High School combined band concert. “The music teachers are anxiously awaiting the completion of this new facility,” said Wilcox. The auditorium is on target to be completed in November.
Wilcox looks forward to watching his grandchildren perform in the new auditorium. “I’m tickled that two of my grandchildren will get to use the auditorium before they graduate.”
He added, “Algona is a nice, progressive community. I am hopeful that adding new venues like the performing arts center will help it stay that way for many years to come.”