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Local Editorials

Branching Out: OPEN-Newton keeps building up

So, as I noted last week, the first 10 years of OPEN-Newton, of which I am a board member, were anything but dull. And, with 10 years under its belt, the organization really got rolling in the 21st century.

For instance, in early 2000, OPEN-Newton supported the purchase of blankets for the nursery at the Smila Regional Hospital. And, in response to that, as well as projects like OPEN Cares, the Ukrainian Orthodox choir Blahovist performed in Newton with members of the Ukrainian communities in Minneapolis and Chicago visiting, as well.

Later that year, Marvin Campbell traveled back to the Ukraine — one of many trips he’s made over the years — in support of the Iowa-Ukraine Junior Duck Stamp design competition. He brought back a number of Ukrainian submissions, all of which were displayed at the Neal Smith Wildlife Prairie Learning Center, as well as the Iowa State Fair.

But even when OPEN-Newton wasn’t spearheading efforts to help Newton’s sister cities, its principles were being picked up by others in the community.

For instance, in June of 2000, the Pioneer Clubs at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church held the first of three car washes with the hope of raising $500 for the Children’s Home, a.k.a. the Boys’ Orphanage, in Smila — they met that goal.

There have been educational components to OPEN-Newton’s efforts, as well. In 2000, the organization led a successful effort to make DMACC’s international year be “The Year of Ukraine” for the 2001-02 school year. OPEN-Newton also purchased 200 English language textbooks and workbooks for Smila’s secondary school.

In 2001, OPEN-Newton voted to provide financial aid to Smila’s secondary school for math and science to help with roof repairs. It also voted to provide aid to the Smila Regional Hospital’s OB/GYN department to supplement a gift from the Newton Noon Kiwanis Club.

2001 also was a big year for the IRIS mentoring program, which OPEN-Newton supported a great deal. IRIS — or Iowa Resource for International Service — was the brainchild of former Iowa Lt. Gov. Bob Anderson, and was headquartered in Kellogg.

I’ll let former long-time OPEN-Newton “PR guy” Barry Hurto explain it (from the archives of the Daily News):

“Once established in their Jasper County headquarters, Anderson, his wife Judy and their staff were able to start bringing contingents of aspiring young entrepreneurs to Jasper County from former Soviet Republics besides Ukraine (Russia, Armenia and Georgia) and former Soviet bloc countries (Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia), South Korea and several African nations.

“The county was very generous in coming forward with willing host businesses and families, matching visitors with skills in everything from auto mechanics and service station ownership to computer repair, agricultural sales and grocery and floral business management.

“Not only did the mentoring include on-site training, but tours of Newton and Iowa governmental departments and graduation ceremonies to certify success. Several of the participants have remained in touch since their initial contacts.

“A number of contingents of broadcast and newspaper journalists and educators have been included in the programs, too, over the years and, in the 1990s, Katarina Serebryakova from Smila (Newton’s sister city), Nikita Seliverstov from Cherkasy, Ukraine, and Aleksandr Zhabskiy from Volgodonsk, Russia have interned with the Newton Daily News.

“Typical of these success stories were the warm relationships with the representatives from Georgia — that former Soviet Black Sea port where the wine is arguably the best in Europe and the people experience a joie de vivre that is not even matched Paris.”

In 2002, an effort was led by OPEN-Newton to collect computers that would be sent to Ukraine. Earlier that year, contact was made with the secondary school in Smila via email. And, despite the new challenges presented by the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the student exchange programs with Newton’s sister cities, as well as the IRIS program, continued to flourish.

In 2003, we even sent one of our own teachers, Tori Reynolds (who is still an OPEN-Newton board member herself) to the secondary school in Smila for a month. In the U.S., we call them high schools, but in much of Europe, they are called “lyceums,” or something similar. There’s not a whole lot of difference between the two.

Over the years, Marvin Campbell also became an official observer for elections in the Ukraine. So, he was on hand to see the “Orange Revolution” of 2004 as it happened, and also witnessed the new election that followed in 2005.

It’s one thing to see a history-making event like that unfold on television. It’s quite another to be living it as it happens.

Also in 2005, the government in Smila published a booklet titled “Day of the City,” to which OPEN-Newton contributed material, which was translated by Vladimir Bassis. The organization also provided $350 to assist with printing costs.

The cost of hosting exchange students continued to increase in the second 10 years of OPEN-Newton’s existence. In 2001, the cost per student was $550. By 2005, it had nearly sextupled to $3,000; that didn’t include the $50 a month the organization paid for each student’s lunches at Newton Senior High School.

This past school year, it cost more than $4,000 to host Ukrainian student Dmytro Oliinyk. Dmytro’s family was required to pay $1,000 — a practice instituted in 2005 — to help defray some of that expense. Donations to OPEN-Newton help offset the expense further.

In more recent years, the organization’s board of directors has worked to plan for the future of OPEN-Newton, and its impact on the community. That’s what I plan to share with you next week.

• • •

If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading this in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

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