My View

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Volunteers are life blood

I once heard someone define an expert as anyone who lives more than 200 miles away who is willing to charge you an exorbitant amount of money to tell you what you already know.

Experts aside, I think we have a lot to be proud of here in our area.

I'm just thinking of a few of the events that have happened over the last month or so. The Threshermen's show, the annual Hanover threshing bee, annual celebrations in Alta and Sioux Rapids and Newell, the Fonda Labor Day celebration, the Knights of Columbus fundraiser for the disabled, and the granddaddy of them all, Project AWAYSIS. The one thing they all have in common is a whole lot of pretty darned good homegrown talent.

I had the pleasure of seeing my first tractor pull Labor Day at Fonda. That might sound kind of funny, that here I am, living in Iowa, and that's just the first one I've seen. I guess I've sort of been putting it off since it didn't sound all that interesting at first. But then I finally saw what it was all about.

Watching those 1,000-horse funny cars thinly disguised as tractors was pretty fun. The way that black smoke belched as the engines roared and the front ends lifted off the ground, it was great. If you haven't seen one yet, whatever you do, don't put it off as long as I did.

What was really remarkable though was how quickly and efficiently the many volunteers cleared the track after each run. They were good, and you can bet they weren't worried about how much they were getting paid an hour. They were helping out with something they loved, and the Fonda Town and Country Boosters deserve a pat on the back for a great job.

And then Wednesday I had the pleasure of traveling to Des Moines with Project AWAYSIS boosters who went to the Vision Iowa meeting. As I sat in that room, the thought crossed my mind of how much it would cost to hire the volunteer brain power that has gone into Project AWAYSIS. If you consider the countless hours of volunteer time, compared to the wages that financial experts, attorneys, architects, and designers might charge, the value would be staggering. I only hope that the Vision Iowa board can start to conceive of that effort and realize that it must be rewarded.

The questions by the Vision Iowa board seemed to be both somewhat on and somewhat off the mark. I thought the questions regarding the financial package were pretty good, and the answers were pretty good as well. Some of the questions, quite frankly, were very inappropriate.

"Have you thought of marketing?" was one of the questions. This question was asked, mind you, when about 20 poster-sized architect-grade renderings were splashed around the room filled with Storm Lake's brain trust.

I think the answer to that question was quite obvious before it was even asked.

Another question was "Why didn't you come to us earlier?" Project AWAYSIS is asking for $9 million at the same time that Cedar Rapids is asking for $14 million, and there is just $7.5 million left to be available.

I think the answer was far more appropriate than the question. "Because we wanted to do it right."

Is the implication then that Vision Iowa would rather hand out lots of money to ill-conceived plans? I would hope not. Let's take the AWAYSIS/oasis analogy one step further. If a person were thirsting to death and there was only a cup of water, should the person turn the water down since it is less than what the person wants?

The backers of Project AWAYSIS are right on target. Like other volunteers in our area, they have done their job and they have done it extremely well. I only hope that those who are in a position to help determine Iowa's future can act with equal dedication.

It is now Vision Iowa's job to do the responsible thing and reward those who have in turn conducted themselves responsibly.