Little Free Libraries intention is to ‘take a book, leave a book’

Chris “C.J.” Flynn is a man of his word.

Chris and Jim Flynn install a Little Free Library in Hiawatha's Guthridge Park April 22. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)
Chris and Jim Flynn install a Little Free Library in Hiawatha’s Guthridge Park April 22. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

The Hiawatha man spent the past year working on a plan to promote reading and literacy in the Hiawatha community. His hard work and determination is paying off.

A Little Free Library (LFL) is a wooden box that is filled with books. Members of the community can stop by and pick up a book to read. All that is asked is that they bring it back when they are done and perhaps place one in the box they would like to share.

Flynn said he first got the idea a few years ago when he was in Iowa City.

“I did some research and the more I learned about the LFL movement, the more passionate I became about wanting them here (in Hiawatha),” said Flynn.

Flynn said he sought the support of the Hiawatha Library Board and the Friends of the Hiawatha Library.  The idea was then submitted to the Hiawatha City Council and was approved to build fourLFLs.

The Little Free Library is ready to go.  (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)
The Little Free Library is ready to go. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

Creating them was solved through the generosity of the Makers at Makerspace, as well as a Hiawatha art teacher, who agreed to have a group of her 5th graders paint one, said Flynn.

“The director at the Artisans Sanctuary in Czech Village offered to have three of their local artists, Jennifer Ocken, Mary Swanson, and Carissa Starleaf, decorate the others and the whole project became a beneficial collaboration.”

The LFLs were installed April 22. Two were placed in Gutheridge Park; one near the 7th Ave. parking lot and the other near the 10th Ave. parking lot.  The third one was installed at Tucker Park near the parking lot by the splash pad.

Flynn said the fourth’s location has yet to be installed, and will be announced at a later date.

“I’ve been really excited about bringing LFLs to Hiawatha and I hope Hiawatha residents will enjoy them,” he said.  “Patrons at the Hiawatha Public Library have been asking when they will be available, so I think there are book lovers out there that are awaiting their arrival.”

Flynn said the Friends of the Hiawatha Library will initially supply the books and check the libraries periodically, but we hope the LFLs will eventually become self-sustaining and people will honor the “Take a book, leave a book” philosophy.

“Our LFLs will be registered with the national organization and will be added to a database and be accessible on their website,” said Flynn. “Hiawatha just might get a few more tourists looking for an LFL destination location.”

Flynn said up to 50 books can be stored in the LFL, depending on the size of the library.

The idea was first conceptualized by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisc., who built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former schoolteacher, who loved reading.

According to, Bol filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard.  His neighbors and friends loved it.  He built several more and gave them away.  Each one had a sign that said “Free Books.”

Cedar Rapids and Marion already have LFLs in several locations, including NewBo Market and Lowe Park.

“I hope these LFLs enrich the lives of Hiawatha residents and visitors for years to come,” said Flynn

For more information about LFLs, go to

Hiawatha Today


Hiawatha Lions Club says good-bye to Hog Wild Days

Hiawatha Lions Club members have decided to call it quits on Hog Wild Days, a four-day event held every June since 1983.

Hiawatha Hog Wild Days was an annual event sponsored by the Hiawatha Lions Club. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)
Hiawatha Hog Wild Days was an annual event sponsored by the Hiawatha Lions Club. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

Carnival rides, Bingo sponsored by the Hiawatha American Legion, a beer tent, flea market, games, and free entertainment stole the show every June for the past 31 years.

According to Larry Sheppard, one of the organizers for the event, said the construction
of the new pavilion in the park was probably the biggest obstacle that led to the organization’s decision to let it go.

He said the design of the drainage system didn’t fit the needs of vendors, as well as the planned activities, and though the people involved talked about it at length, they could make it work.

“We’re sorry to see something like this go,” he said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t come up with a solution that fit the needs of all parties.”

He added that the annual event will be missed, not only by the residents and the businesses, but also by those who made the trek to Hiawatha annually just for the parade and the fireworks.

“I have people come up and tell me they’re disappointed the rides and games won’t be available this year, but it’s the parade and fireworks that most people will miss,” he said. “Those two things were the highlight of the event for most people.”

Sheppard added there were other issues besides the drainage problem, such as the rise in expenses over the years.

“The proceeds from the event, which were only a couple thousand dollars when all was said and done, was given to other organizations in the community, as well as to help with the Kids Sight program,” he said. “We received so many donations for the events, including prizes for the games, and we had some really great prizes, but everything was so expensive. We were lucky we made anything at all. But we really did it more for the community, so they could have a good time every summer.”

Hog Wild Days began as a cooperative effort between the Otter Creek Lions Club and the Lions Club of Hiawatha, according to Lions Club member, Craig Clark.

“Our intention was to bring a community fundraising event to Hiawatha that would promote the Lions Club and the city, and to provide a fun-filled pleasant evening with a beverage tent, Bingo, and free local stage entertainment,” said Clark.

The following year, according to Clark, the Otter Creek Lions decided to bow out and Hiawatha Lions Club took the entire event on as their own.

According to Lions Club member, Bart Sheppard, Hog Wild Days was an event that many people looked forward to every year.

“This event was administered and organized solely by our club,” he said. “What seems to be the next best secret is that Hog Wild Days was completely nonprofit … that means every dollar spent was basically a dollar given back to the community. One of the reasons we continued it for 31 years was because of the joy, service, and happiness we all receive from volunteering. In our society today, we feel it is important to remember and support our local communities in which we live.”

The younger Sheppard said that though they will no longer hold the event, the members will continue to volunteer and raise money for the needs in the local community.

“That is after all, the heart of the Lions Club. To create and foster a spirit of understanding among the people of the world, to promote the principles of good citizenship, to take an active interest in the social and moral welfare of the community, to provide a forum for open discussion of all matters of public interest, to encourage service-minded people to serve their community, without personal financial reward.”

Echoing the sentiments of the members of the Hiawatha Lions Club, Clark stated, “After 31 years, we can say generations have participated in and enjoyed the four days in June called the ‘Hiawatha Hog Wild Days’.”

“We had a lot of fun,” said the elder Sheppard. “And it’s not like the Lions Club is going anywhere.  We’ll be around, doing what we can to help out in the community. Like so many, we’re just sorry to see such a fun celebration go.”

Hiawatha Today


Crossfit2.2 a goal-oriented fitness program

Crossfit2.2 isn’t your typical training facility.

A member works out at Crossfit 2.2 in Hiawatha. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)
A member works out at Crossfit 2.2 in Hiawatha. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

According to Josh Dunnick, sales representative and coach, CrossFit optimizes fitness through the traditional fitness workouts, such as weightlifting, gymnastics, and running. However, it’s the personal style that makes Crossfit2.2 unique.

“We have our own business model and mission statement,” said Dunnick. “We are our own community and support and members encourage each other to reach their goals.

Dunnick said coaches encourage quantifiable goals, not subjective goals. “It means we teach you how to become more fitness indeed, which naturally makes you look and feel better,” he said. “We don’t want people to look at the reflection in the mirror. We want them to set realistic goals. By obtaining those goals, you’ll feel better about yourself.”

Dunnick said those interested in joining Crossfit 2.2 can come in for a free informational meeting to talk about available programs,  do a simple workout,  and ask any questions . If they want to pursue it further, they attend three 1-hour classes to show them how to use the equipment and to the fitness routines. They will also figure out a schedule that works for them.

“It’s about attitude,” said Dunnick. “What you get out of it depends on how serious you take your goals and what you want to achieve.”

Unlike other body building or shaping facilities, coaches from Crossfit 2.2 do not push you to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing, but instead encourage you to complete the goals you set for yourself.

“It’s important to set goals, but we try to stress the importance of the journey rather than the end product.”

Dunnick said members of the community that has formed at Crossfit 2.2 also support and encourage each other, which gives those struggling motivation to keep going.

“Someone is always here, happy to help,” said Dunnick.

For more information got to Crossfit2.2’s website at or call them at (319) 462-7888.

Hiawatha Today

REM Iowa offers variety of services to the disabled community

REM IowaMost people know REM Iowa for its assisted living residential services, but according to Lisa Pakkebier, REM Iowa’s executive director, the services the company provides touches lives in ways that were once thought of as impossible.

“Education and awareness of individuals with disabilities has helped the community become more accepting than it once was, “she said. “We continue the move towards community-based living, which allows those with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities to spend more time in the community through employment, community activities, and volunteer opportunities.”

REM Iowa began services in 1979 and opened its first Hiawatha home in 1989.  It now offers a variety of residential services, as well as day and vocational programs.

Staff members work with the individuals in their own homes to teach them how to complete everyday tasks such as housecleaning, laundry, shopping, and cooking. While most individuals need someone to stay with them 24/7, some may only need help with shopping or just to make sure they are taking care of themselves properly.

The individuals are provided residential services through Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) or Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID).

A team of people, including the individual receiving services, family members, guardians, day program staff, REM residential staff, and other professionals involved in the life of the individual, meet to establish person centered planning.  This includes goals that will help the individual become more independent.

Sara Drish, area director for REM Iowa, said the day habilitation program is another option for individuals to develop skills that will allow them to become more independent.

Drish added that individuals who choose to spend time in the community also have the option to choose their peer group and facilitate their social activities they are involved in, as well as volunteering. .

“Individuals who are not employed, but interested in obtaining a job have the option of participating in the prevocational and job development program, which helps them build skills necessary to obtain a job,” she said.

The prevocational and job development program includes teaching individuals problem solving, following directions, punctuality, safety, customer service, as well as how to participate in an interview.

Drish said they are also taught how to use a computer to facilitate their job search, if that is their desire. “It’s all about what the individual wants to do,” she said. “They want the same things as everyone else- a job, a nice place to live, and a purpose in life. We do our best to help them obtain that.”

Drish said staff members work with individuals to figure out what kind of work is best suited for them through a discovery process.

“We work with a lot of different local organizations and offer our services to many in the community, not just the ones who utilize our residential services,” said Drish. “Some individuals live with their parents or on their own.”

REM Iowa has programs throughout Iowa, including Mount Vernon and Vinton, and recently began services in Blackhawk county.

Pakkebier said it is an important part of REM to give back to the community.  Last year they participated in National Volunteer Day and invited many associated with REM to help clean up Guthridge Park and Tucker Park.

“We are going to do it again this year, on April 25,” said Drish. “We thought it would be a good way to give back to the community and hope to see a greater turn-out this year.”

Pakkebier, who has been with REM for over 20 years, said she has learned so much from the individuals they serve.

“Not only do we help them, but we learn from them, too,” she said. “It is human nature to take what we have for granted … we should be more appreciative. The individuals we support often remind us of that.  We are blessed in many ways to be a part of their lives and their extended family.”

Drish agreed with Pakkebier. “Spending time in the community gives people a sense of purpose and strong self-esteem, adding value to their lives,” she said.  “Everyone needs to know they are valuable to the community and to the lives of others.”

For more information, visit

Camp Bow Wow offers dual services

Pet owners no longer have to stress if their pets don’t adapt to the services regular pet boarding provides.  Staff members at Camp Bow Wow, 860 N. 20th Ave., Hiawatha, will take care of pets in the comfort of their own homes.

Mackenzie Appleby, Manager of Camp Bow Wow, Hiawatha. Photo by Cynthia Petersen
Mackenzie Appleby, Manager of Camp Bow Wow, Hiawatha. Photo by Cynthia Petersen

Mackenzie Appleby, manager of Camp Bow Wow, said Home Buddies is a great alternative for dogs who are not very social or get too stressed being around other dogs.

“Staff members will come to your house and take care of all kinds of pets, as well as bring in the paper and water plants.”

Camp Bow Wow is locally owned by Shawn Mercer. The facility was opened eight years ago and provides around-the-clock daycare for dogs.

Monitors throughout the facility keep tabs on the dogs in their “cabins,” as well as the play yards.  Owners can access the monitors on their personal computers, iPads, and phones.

According to Appleby, their customers like seeing the dogs anytime they want.

“I think it comforts them to know that their pets are being well-cared for.”

There are 12 “camp counselors” at Camp Bow Wow, who take care of the dogs and provide other services, such as bathing and de-shedding treatments.

“It’s similar to human day care,” said Appleby. “We have to follow similar regulations and have periodic inspections.”

The dogs have their own cabins, which includes a favorite blanket and toys. They are taken into the play yard several times a day to socialize with the other dogs and play.

“We have a motto,” said Appleby. “’All day play, snooze the night away.’ We keep them active as much as we can during the day and then before we put them to bed at night, we give them a campfire snack, usually a frozen ‘Kong’ filled with peanut butter.”

The dogs and their owners go through a process when they first join, with an initial free in-home consultation. If all goes well, a meet and greet is held at the facility, where the dogs are introduced to one or two dogs of similar size. The dogs are put together in the play yard to see how well they get along before introducing them slowly to the other dogs.

“We want to make it a pleasant experience for the dogs,” said Appleby. “If we see that it is just too difficult for the dogs, we usually recommend the in-home care.”

Two foster dogs are also cared at the facility. Cap Bow Wow is working with Dogs Forever  to help make the dogs more adoptable by training them and caring for them until someone adopts them.

“We try to help when we can,” said Appleby, and added that Camp Bow Wow will be holding an adoption event March 20 at the facility, in conjunction with Dogs Forever.

“And later this year, probably in June, we will be kicking off the summer with a family-oriented adoption event,” she continued. “We will be working with Dogs Forever to raise funds for the Cedar Valley Humane Society. There will be a bouncy house and face painting, plus a lot of other fun activities.”

Camp Bow Wow takes care of up to 60 dogs in their facility a day, but Appleby said it’s hard to approximate because it changes all the time.  “It’s kind of slow right now, but it will be a lot busier in the summer when people go on vacation.”

Appleby, who started at Camp Bow Wow as a camp counselor four years ago, said the staff members take care of the dogs as they would their own.

“It’s a fun place to work,” she said. “I’ve heard it said that if you love your job, you never have to work a day in your life. That’s how I feel. I love my job.”


Area life coaches hold one-stop workshop

We have all had to deal with life changes in one form or another during our lifetimes. We get married, have kids, get a divorce, or lose our jobs and have to start all over.

The workshop will be held March 19 at the Cedar Rapids Public Library.
The workshop will be held March 19 at the Cedar Rapids Public Library.

Luke Gordon of Hiawatha knows all about life changes. He makes it his business to know. Gordon is a life coach, who has joined forces with four other area life coaches to form the Cedar Rapids Coaches Collective.

Gordon met Louis Collins, Stephanie Merrick Mitchell, Berlinda Owens, and Jennifer Murphy after reaching out to them for advice and support last year while he was training to become a life coach.

“We all experience changes and sometimes those changes can cause us to get stuck,” he said. “Life coaches can help you get ‘unstuck.’”

The CRCC will hold a workshop March 19 from 9:30 to 2:30 at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. According to Gordon, “Unleash your Inner Hero” will feature the five life coaches, with each presenting their perspective on how to deal with life changes.

Gordon said they all have different ways of doing things, but they share a common goal-to help others deal with the changes in their lives.

Louis Collins, from Cedar Rapids, is a photographer and piano teacher, as well as a life coach. He said he became a life coach because he wanted to help people reach inside and find their identities and emerge a better person.

Collins said he loved the idea of getting together and collaborating on a seminar that would offer the best of all their talents.

“I like the theme of the workshop because I try to help my clients search for the hero within, to realize their true potential. We grow and we learn, but I believe the starting point is within ourselves. We are taught to look for the answers outside ourselves, but the real answers are inside of us already.”

Stephanie Merrick Mitchell, who is from Cedar Rapids, said the reason she got involved in the collective is because it demonstrates an important element of coaching-supporting each other.
“Not only do we help our clients, but we help each other, too.”

Mitchell said she became a coach to help people who are stuck and need encouragement to step outside their comfort zone. “Maybe they would be happier in a different job or they maybe they feel like they should be doing something else,” she said. “ I help them redefine what they want to do.”

Mitchell said it’s opposite of what we learned when we are little. “We are taught not to question and we become comfortable where we are. But then we wake up one day and we aren’t anymore. I work with clients to try to turn that kind of thinking around and look at the possibilities. Most people just need to know that there is someone out there who supports them and believes in them and their dreams.”

According to Mitchell, a coach is an ally, not a fixer. “We work together to come up with a solution. That’s the great thing about the workshop. Those attending will get five different perspectives on life and the changes it brings.”

Gordon said he will focus on life’s transitions at the workshop. “Getting a new job, getting married, having a child, losing a job …. these changes can be traumatic. I help individuals feel better prepared when life changes occur so they don’t look back and wish they would have done something different.”

Berlinda Owens, who lives in Hiawatha, said her niche is to help people work through grief.
“I lost my mother last year and I realized that I could help people go through the same thing I had gone through. It’s really hard when you lose someone you love. It helps to have someone close to you who can help you through it.”

Owens said she tends to look at people going through life as either a chicken or an eagle.
“Chickens stay in their yards and are happy just pecking at the ground, but eagles are made to fly high and soar above everything. You have to ask yourself, do you want to go through life as a chicken, or an eagle? Don’t be afraid to soar.”

Jennifer Murphy, Cedar Rapids, is a writer, an artist, and a coach, and helps her clients step outside of their chaotic lives and look at what is most important.

“They have a chance to see a vision of what they really want to do with their lives,” she said. “I encourage them to ask themselves what’s most important in their lives. We surf through our lives and don’t take the time to stop and enjoy it. We need to give ourselves permission to take the time to enjoy life.”

Murphy said a lot of people avoid conflict because they don’t like the way it feels. “But growth comes from conflict and change is necessary. We do our best to help make it a little less traumatic.”

“We often forget to take care of ourselves,” added Owens. “Knowing how to take care of yourself makes us better parents, better spouses, better employees, and better people in general.”

This is not therapy,” said Murphy. “Therapy deals with resolving the past and we help people in the present, about what is going on right now so we can figure out what the next step is.”

The cost for the event is $47 if you register before March 1. After March 1, the cost goes up to $97.

The cost of registration includes a catered lunch.

Click on this link to register.


Hiawatha to host RAGBRAI riders

The city of Hiawatha is looking for volunteers to help out when the community plays host to approximately 15,000 RAGBRAI riders July 23.

Hiawatha will host RAGBRAI riders July 23.
Hiawatha will host RAGBRAI riders July 23.

The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa held its first ride in 1973, when a challenge was initiated by Des Moines Register writer/copy editor, John Karras, and columnist Don Kaul.

People liked the idea so much they held another the following year and it has since become one of the biggest Iowa events of the year. Bicycle riders come from all over the world for the chance to participate in RAGBRAI.

Hiawatha last hosted RAGBRAI riders in 2004.

The ride will begin July 19 in Sioux City and end July 25 when riders reach Davenport and dip their tires in the Mississippi River.

Stops along the way include Storm Lake, Fort Dodge, Eldora, and Cedar Falls, and Coralville.

City Administrator, Kim Downs, and Parks and Recreation Director, Kelly Friedl attended the RAGBRAI announcement Jan. 24 in Des Moines.

“We are very excited about RAGBRAI’s overnight stay in our community and want to make it the best night ever,” said Friedl, Hiawatha. “This will be an opportunity for us to show them why Hiawatha is a great place to live, work, and play.”