Five years ago, Bruce Showalter wanted to do something to help clean up Newton.
The then-chairman of Renew Newton got Dodd’s Trash Hauling & Recycling owner Liz Dodd involved as well, but they still lacked a work force. The solution to their problem came from Newton Senior High School teacher Alison Grier.
“Alison came to us,” Showalter said. “(She) said that they had the high school kids, through their positive behavior program, (that), one day a year, they could get the kids out and work on projects. We combined forces, the kids provided the labor, and now we are in our fifth year.”
“She took the lead and a thousand kids have been going out in the community ever since and doing a good cause,” Dodd said.
Just like that, Red Pride Community Service Day was born. Each year, NHS students scatter around the community and perform everything from yard work to painting murals. This year, they have more than 40 projects slated.
“We pulled it together for the first year, and it’s just gotten bigger and bigger every year,” Grier said. “Every year, we’ve gotten more projects and added more things.”
Grier gives some of the credit for the day’s growing success to T-shirts, of all things.
“The T-shirts were donated the first year by Maxim Advertising. It was their idea,” Grier said. “It was a last-minute thing, and that’s really what’s been one of the keys to our success is the shirts. We solicit donations from businesses and that pays for the shirts so that they are free to the students and the volunteers.”
Some of the prominent projects scheduled this year include maintaining flower beds downtown, removing trash from the Iowa Speedway highway exit, painting murals at Sunset Park and on the south side of the Capitol II Theater, cleaning up the fairgrounds and doing yard work at homes in the community.
As the project has grown, more organizations have gotten involved.
“The United Waygot involved to inspire adults to help and team up with the high school students,” United Way of Jasper County Executive Director Travis Padget said. “My job is to coordinate adults and get them out to the areas where they can make a difference.”
Of course the day wouldn’t have as much success without the kids themselves. Freshman Duncan Lee seemed excited to participate in his first service day. His advisory group will be working at the Capitol II.
“I saw some stuff in the paper and a lot of people had Red Pride shirts that they put on,” Lee said. “It sounded like it went pretty well last year. I think it will be good this year. Obviously, there is some stuff around the community that we can help out with. There is always stuff to do.”
Andrew Baldwin is a junior and service day veteran.
“(Last year) we did the highway by the speedway,” Baldwin said. “You could tell that it was truckers (trash). We (also) found a couple of dead animals, but we got it pretty clean and a news crew actually came out last year.”
“It’s a nice day to go out and help the community,”NHS student Madeline Wellik said.
Grier said the kids efforts on Red Pride community day help instill hometown pride within the kids and she want’s that feeling to become contagious.
“We keep hoping this becomes a big catalyst for the community,” Grier said.
Red Pride Community Service Day takes place May 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. all over Newton.
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121, Ext. 426, or email@example.com