Allison Grier and Liz Dodd were both smiling from ear to ear on Wednesday afternoon. In front of them stood a sea of students and volunteers wearing lime colored T-shirts, eating hot dogs, and buying drinks from rival lemonade stands at Newton Senior High School.
While all of this took place Grier and Dodd just kept smiling, after all the 5th Annual Red Pride Community Service Day turned out to be the biggest and best one yet, and they were there from the beginning.
“(It turned out) great, we are getting better every year, “Grier said. “We are getting more and more organized. We had a record number of projects, we had 50. A couple of people called at the last minute to get on the list, so we added a few. We also had the most private residences we have ever hard.”
“I think the ethic of community service is becoming more embedded in the students and they feel like this is a part of our daily business at the school,” Grier said.
Grier said that between 800-850 students participated in the service day, which had been postponed from its original date of May 1.
“I feel it’s great. We waited for a nice day and we got a beautiful day, thank you Lord for that,” Dodd said. “The kids seem to enjoy this, Newton people should be proud that these kids do such a nice job. Go Newton.”
Newton was overrun with students and school buses, as the kids were spread out all over town to help out. From the Newton Arboretum to the Jasper County Fairgrounds no weed was safe and liter had met its match.
McCann Village was one of the 50 sites that got some TLC from the students.
“We are digging up weeds and maybe replanting some flowers, yard work,” NHS student Leah Johnson said. “I am happy to help out. It’s nice to help out the community.”
One of the ladies the group was helping was Susan Huetter a resident of McCann Village.
“I think it’s great,” Huetter said. “It’s helping us out and them too, gives them something positive to work on.”
Iowa Speedway exit at Interstate 80
“The Iowa Speedway Foundation sponsors the garbage pickup at exit 168,” ISF Director Debb Smith said. “For the last three years I’ve requested some help on Red Pride Day.” They have graciously sent out three bus loads of kids this year.”
Smith also said that Iowa Speedway staff members helped clean the exit alongside the students.
“We are picking up trash and we think it’s a great idea and want to get the place looking good before race season starts,” Smith said.
The students seemed to be having fun with the pickup and wore vests that were actually brighter than their T-shirts. Both sides of I-80 were littered with workers as the kids actually bragged amongst themselves about the amount of trash they picked up.
“It’s pretty interesting, you never know what you will find out here,” NHS student Cody Kellogg said as he participated in his first service day.
“It feels good, just helping out and cleaning stuff up,” NHS student Nick Geerlings said. “If you look around it’s so much better than it was. It just brings a smile to your face.”
Former KFC parking lot on West 18th Street S. and Jasper County Museum Historical Museum
The former home of KFC in Newton has seen better days. Trash was everywhere and weeds had taken over the parking lot leaving the place looking finger-licking-bad. The group of students dispatched here had their work cut out for them, but made drastic improvements to the area.
“We are cleaning up the parking lot, picking up trash and taking care of weeds, because of the NHS service day” NHS student Samantha Bailey said. “This is my third year. It’s a great project for the community and it’s nice to get kids who may not be involved in things to see that it’s nice to help others.”
Just down the street from the former KFC, another group of students were helping out the Jasper County Historical Museum. The students’ scraped paint on the “1875 Barn,” picked up trash and dusted the agriculture building. Director Audrey Rex appreciated the help and used it as an educational opportunity.
“They’ve always been real helpful,” Rex said of the students. “They enjoy learning about the history, when the building was built, things about some of the artifacts. I don’t think they realized they were living in a National Heritage Area. This whole part of the state is a National Heritage Area.”
The students were rewarded for their hard work with a block party in front of the high school. There NHS Class President and graduating senior Tim Stammeyer reflected on his final Red Pride Community Service Day as a student.
“It’s one my favorite days, for sure,” Stammeyer said. “It’s kind of cool to see everybody come out from the high school getting and involved in something like this. I think it’s an opportunity that a lot of students don’t get and this gives everyone a chance to help out.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.