Powerful words were said, tears shed, laughter shared and encouraging news announced during the 120th Annual Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce Dinner on Thursday. Hosted at the Maytag Events Center, members of the chamber of commerce came together to conduct a little business, award deserving individuals and hear from enthusiastic key note speaker Raygun founder Mike Draper.
Chamber executive director Amanda Price started the evening with a warm welcome and the announcement of several events and programs that will be a part of the chamber in the coming year. The events include the return of the Unwind at Five social June through October and the introduction of lunch and learn programs. The chamber is also starting an ambassador mentorship program and will be launching a new website.
“There has been growth in our chamber as well, which is exciting,” Price said. “We saw a major increase in ribbon cuttings this year. It is a great way to gauge how we’re doing as a community when it comes to new businesses opening and we also had several businesses that are growing so much that they had to move to bigger places.”
Updates on progress throughout the city, including housing growth, changes within city government and economic development was presented by Newton Mayor Mike Hansen while U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack talked about how he’s working to represent the Midwest in Washington, D.C.
The awards portion of the evening started with the presentation of the Key Award to Discover Hope 517. Founders Aaron Groves and Robbie Robinson were on hand to accept the award for the faith-based organization dedicated to providing recovery and restoration for those struggling with addiction.
“God called and led me here for a specific reason,” Robinson said. “I want to thank the community of Newton for accepting me just for who I am. Culturally, faith, they just welcomed me in. I never in my life have received anything for doing good, never. My heart for this community, this county is beyond measure.”
Former city councilwoman Lin Chapé was awarded the Community Service Award for her many years of involvement in various organizations throughout Newton. Along with serving on city council, Chapé is on the board of Newton Main Street, volunteered at Skiff Medical Center and is very involved in the downtown farmers’ market.
In her speech, Chapé encouraged citizens to continue to be “restlessly dissatisfied” and keep pushing the community further into the future. She said from the time she came to Newton more than a decade ago for her career, to her decision to stay in the community, Newton has become a place she proud to call home.
The evening also saw six Newton Community School District employees honored with Excellence in Education awards. Megan Machin, a kindergarten teacher at Emerson Hough Elementary School; Todd Lucas, a industrial technology teacher at Newton Senior High School; Paula Lureman, a third grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School; Brian Springer, a business and special education teacher at WEST Academy and Kristi Peters, a first grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School were all selected for going the extra mile in their work and making Newton school’s a great place for students to learn.
The sixth surprise recipient of the Above and Beyond Award was Thomas Jefferson custodian Denny Klingensmith. Klingensmith believed he was at the building to do some work superintendent Bob Callaghan and was given a jar full of comments and compliments from teachers, students, administration, athletes and fans from the district for his generous work.
The evening ended with Draper giving a comical look into how a guy from Des Moines started a business with “words on a shirt.” From his beginnings in Van Meter to his time at the University of Pennsylvania and the decision to move back home to start his business, Draper gave a colorful and honest portrayal of the hard work, unexpected events and fun that has gone into making Raygun “the greatest store in the universe.”
“A lot of younger kids will ask me, ‘what is the secret?’ and it is always disappointing when I say ‘reply to your emails,’” Draper said. “Of the 10 things you need to exceed, talent and experience is maybe number 10. One through nine is all dependability. I was not the best screen printer, the best designer or the best retailer but I am like the LeBron James of showing up regularly.”
Draper said from 2004 to present day is a long time, about 5,000 days of words on things and a lot of hard work along the way. He said being present, like all of those at the chamber dinner, is what make communities keep growing.
Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or firstname.lastname@example.org