Rev. Duane and Donna Queen have made a difference in countless lives. Duane has been pastor at Lakeside Presbyterian Church for 29 years, serving his community in many roles. Wife Donna has been working with children for the past 20 years, and played an important role in bringing Storm Lake after-school education to life.
The Queens are retiring from their positions, but what they have shared with others will not be forgotten. They reflect on their careers.
Duane grew up on a farm near South Sioux City. He first thought of being a farmer, as the rural life had appealed to him. As he left for the University of Nebraska, however, he couldn't forget words of encouragement he had heard earlier in life from adults he respected. "You should be a minister," he was told.
Deep talks shared with a dormitory counselor at college, who was a pre-theological student, helped to convince Duane to pursue the ministry. He transferred to Buena Vista College, one of the few Presbyterian colleges, then Dubuque Theological Seminary, and the rest is history.
He is thankful he took the road the Lord led him down, and says he is grateful for the opportunities that have been shared with him in Storm Lake. His first 10 years were served as an associate pastor in Hastings, Neb. An internship in Fort Dodge brings his career in the ministry to 40 years.
"I was blessed to have served the churches I was called to serve. This is a great congregation and this is a good community," he said.
The ministry has changed greatly in the years he has been a pastor.
"It used to be the only concern you had was to get the sermon done for Sunday. Now there is so much programming required. People are consumers and they look for churches that will offer the most programs."
So more programs are offered, throughout the week. When Sunday rolls around, the traditional day of worship, Duane said, there seems to be less and less people in the pews.
"Church has less priority in the lives of people. We are so mobile so more and more things are scheduled for Sunday mornings. We have a great competition on outside forces."
Another change, he said, is that church go'ers come and "expect to be entertained." The days of sitting and listening to the minister are over. "This is a 'make-me-feel-good-society' and they want to be entertained." The traditional services are replaced by "devices" to help fulfill those needs - such as projection screens.
But Duane has gone along with the changes and is thrilled to share the word of Christ anyway he has to.
Mission work, he said, has always been important to him. He went on many youth trips from Maine to Alaska and Texas to Montana through the years. It has also been important to the church to support mission fields.
"The world is so small today," he said. "We need to be doing much more for others."
He has seen the population in Storm Lake change and diversify, as well, and is thrilled about what it has done for the community.
"The mission has come to us. That diversity has helped our children, the youth of Storm Lake, recognize that's the way the world is. We've been able to learn about cultures we never imagined. the diversity has broadened our lives."
The church has seen $1 million in physical changes in the past 29 years which includes the installation of a new pipe organ and the remodeling of the chancel area for it to be installed, the installation of an elevator, the gutting of the basement for a new dining room to be constructed and an energy efficient heating and cooling system.
"In these 40 years, I have to say it's been fun. I'd do it all again. I will miss the youth and I will miss all the special times - the weddings and funerals. It is fun to be able to unite two people in love and instill in them that they can have the kind of marital relationship as Donna and I have," he said, adding that the ministry he shares at a funeral is equally as important. The adjustment of emotions - from happy to sad - is often a challenge for a minister who sometimes goes from one occasion to the next, sometimes in the same day.
"You can only do those things knowing you're not alone."
Donna grew up in Indiana and met Duane at the University of Dubuque where she received a degree in medical technology. When the couple first moved to Storm Lake, she worked at the Family Health Center.
It was in the school year of 1987-88 that she became a substitute teacher at AEA, providing assistance where she could, and in the spring she was asked to be a part of the school district to fill a Chapter I Reading position. She loved working with kids and was a familiar face in all of the elementary buildings as well as St. Mary's.
She helped organize the first ESL program in the school and enjoyed that greatly, too, and helped get a grant for the language program the fall of 1990.
The after school program in the middle school - Tornado Learning Club - was brought to life in 1998.
"We had no direction," she admitted. "I was given a desk and a telephone. The first night we had 84 kids and we didn't know what we were doing." The program has since received funding well over $1 million - and all for the love of children.
She and Duane visited an after school program in Sioux Falls, SD and patterned the SL program after it. Activities such as ping pong, foosball and basketball were offered as activities to keep the targeted at-risk students in a safe place when school is done and parents are still at work.
There have been some years that the program has struggled along and would perhaps have had to be discontinued when grant monies ran out but Donna kept the program afloat by securing funds from businesses; Monsanto donated $80,000 in four years and Midwest Cellular was another great supporter which she is grateful for. She never lost hope fror the program; she saw first hand the difference it was making to the kids.
The program has grown and offered the students many opportunities to aid in their academic and learn lifelong skills.
Study time comes first before the activities, Donna ensures. Tutors are available to help students who need help in math and reading. Donna has heard from many teachers how that extra boost has made a difference in the students' grades and even attitudes.
Donna's ideas for programs to participate in have been overwhelmingly accepted by the students. One such program called Young Eagles has given the students the opportunity to learn about airplanes and then actually have a chance to ride in an airplane with a pilot registered with the Experimental Aviation Association Young Eagles organization. The students have also done community-service projects and raised funds for hurricane victims and participated with BVU students in a special Martin Luther King learning session.
"This is a club-like atmosphere," Donna said, adding there is a 1:7 ratio of teachers to students.
Teachers, parents and BVU students have all given their time to make the program the success it is - and she can't say enough about what the students have put into the program in return. "The highlight of my day is 3 to 5:30 p.m.," Donna said, in reference to her time with the kids. "Sitting at the computer is not what I enjoy the most."
She admitted that being the director of TLC is a challenge but it is so worthwhile.
"There is something special about every single one of those middle school kids," she said.
The Queens will remain in Storm Lake in retirement and enjoy doing many of the things they have not had the time to do - traveling, fishing, spending time on the family farm, quilting, brushing up on photography - and they will continue to be involved by volunteering their time where they are needed.
"We have been so blessed. There comes a time to let others come in and enjoy what we have been doing for so many years," the pastor and educator say.
Pastor Queen's last day at the pulpit will be Sunday, April 20. A farewell reception for the Queens will be held that afternoon in the dining room of Lakeside Presbyterian Church from 2-4. Everyone is invited.