BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – A local community leadership program put a bow on another class year with eleven graduates on Tuesday in Montrose.
The ceremony for the graduates of the Lee County Leadership Academy held at the Montrose Riverfront Landing recognized individuals from county businesses and industries that wanted to learn more about the processes of volunteerism and taking leadership roles in their groups.
As part of the ceremony Tuesday, the participants gave brief descriptions of three community service projects taken on by three different groups of the class.
Kira Kruszynski of Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce, Melissa Derr of Larry Kelch-Edward Jones in Fort Madison, and Jacob Cook of Independent Can presented on the Friends and Family Fun Day, an awareness campaign put on for the Fort Madison Public Library. The group helped organize a two-hour event at the library where children and adults were shown the programs available at the library for people of all ages. They also aimed to help create awareness of the Friends of the Library program with the hopes of getting more community members to serve on the board. A bookmark contest was also a part of the program and local residents designed bookmarks given out at the library.
Cook said the academy opened him up to many people and exposed him to a wide range of new tools.
“Everyone had their own specialties and there was a wide array of networking associated with this, with a wide arrange of capabilities,” he said. “And the trip to Des Moines was really informative. You really get to see how those folks work up there.”
Derr said she was happy with the academy and felt it was a worthwhile experience.
“Larry and I talked about it and we thought it would be a good idea to get out there and try it so I signed up,” she said.
Derr said the Des Moines trip was very interesting and informative and opened her eyes to the work done at the state legislature. As part of the academy, the group traveled to the Southeast Iowa Region Days in Des Moines.
Maggie Guzman of Fort Madison Partners, Douglas Ewing of Doug Ewing Photography in Keokuk, Mark Bousselot of the City of Keokuk and Shandra McWhorter of The Kensington worked with Keokuk’s K-Play program to help raise funds for a new Bentley’s playground in Tolmie Park. The group held a kickball tournament and raised close to $3,000 for the park improvements.
Elsa Pietscher of the United Way Great River Region, J.P. Stewart of Climax Molybdenum, Nikki Sugars of Lee County, and Jared McCarty of Pinnacle Foods worked on a project to help create awareness for the Southeastern Community College’s evening classes program SCC Night Hawks. The four visited with industry and school leaders in the county to determine skills gaps and help bring awareness to the school’s night programs and potentially identify worker needs in the area.
Dr. Steven E. Titus, President, Iowa Wesleyan University gave the keynote address the close to 60 people in attendance, before Emily Benjamin introduced the graduates.
Instructors for the event included Benjamin, Alex Merk of ISU Extension and Outreach, and Shelley Oltmans of ISU Extension and Keokuk Chamber.