That’s what friends are for

“Friends are the flowers in the garden of life,” is an old proverb that remains true today. We couldn’t get along without our friends to pitch in and help out from time to time.hiawathapic

Hiawatha residents know this, which is why the Friends of the Hiawatha Park and Friends of the Hiawatha Library groups were established.

Friends of the Library

The Friends of the Hiawatha Public Library is a volunteer organization dedicated to the support of the community’s library. Members include women and men who care about our community, provide access to information and technology, and encourage early childhood literacy

According to the Diana Flander, president of the Friends of the Library, the group raises funds for library activities not ordinarily covered under the library’s operating budget, such as child and adult programs

“Mary Mockler is our vice-president,” said Flander.  “Board members are Cindy Saur, Deb Leaming, Phyllis Jones, Erin Thomas, Jan Woods, and Nancy Anton-Jenson. Mary Mocklar serves as vice-president, Nina Lai is the treasurer, and Delaine Gall is the secretary.”

Flander said the main fundraiser is the group is the book sales.

“Phyllis Jones is in charge of the book sale room, where patrons can buy used books at inexpensive prices,” she said. “She has been doing an amazing job with the fundraising efforts,” said Flander.

Flander said she became involved with the Friends organization when Phyllis became sick.

“I could not believe all of the dedication she put into the upkeep and organization of not only books in the room, but also the books she sells online on our Friends Facebook page,” said Flander. “One of her finds was a Truman Capote signed 1st edition of “In Cold Blood” that generated over $400 in funds for the library.”

Some of the money raised by the Friends group goes to adult and children programs at the library, as well as library equipment, such as shelving and other items the board deems necessary.

“The librarians come to us with requests and the board votes how to spend the funds.”

The Friends of the Hiawatha Library will hold a fundraiser June 7 from 5-8 p.m. at Planet X, 4444 1st Ave NE, Cedar Rapids, next to Lindale Mall.

For $10, you have access to unlimited pizza and pop, mini golf, bumper cars, rock climbing, space ball, jumpshot, and an indoor playground. We will have balloon art, caricatures and face painting. And best of all, $5 of the ticket goes directly to the Hiawatha Library.

“Even if you do not have any little ones this is a good time to support the library and meet the board members,” said Flander. “We would love to meet you and listen to any ideas that you would like to see implemented at the library.”

Friends of the Hiawatha Library meets every third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m., which is always open to the public.

“We are always looking for new board members and volunteers to help out with sales. Most of the board members have been on the board for many years now. I am very impressed with their level of dedication to this very important part of our community.”

Friends of the Park

The Friends of the Hiawatha Parks and Recreation’s main function is to raise funds to support the needs of the Hiawatha Park and Recreation Department, “above and beyond what the city budget can provide,” according to vice chair, Liz Neff.

“Funds for this group originated through the net proceeds generated during the 2004 Hiawatha RAGBRAI stop,” said Neff, who is the former recreation coordinator for Hiawatha and remains a volunteer with Friends of the Park.

“These funds continued to grow throughout the years with the creation of a much smaller version of RAGBRAI, called HiBRAI (Hiawatha Bike Ride Around Iowa), a 2-3 day bike ride across Iowa. In 2008, the Park and Recreation Director thought there would be a better way for these funds to support the department, and the idea of establishing a ‘Friends group’ or foundation was explored.”

Neff said in 2011, bylaws and articles of incorporation were submitted for the “Friends of Hiawatha Park and Recreation.”

“This started the process of becoming an incorporated nonprofit organization. It was at this time that an independent board was created, to make determinations regarding the support of the Hiawatha Park and Recreation department.”

Friends of the Park has grown to 20-25 members, but the group often asks for additional volunteers throughout the year for different events, according to Neff.

“You don’t have to be resident of Hiawatha…anyone can become a member.  If anyone is interested in being a member of this group, please contact the Hiawatha Park and Recreation department. Being a member of the group is a great way to be a part in providing support to your community.”

The group supports the Memorial Day Bike Rodeo, the 2015 Hiawatha RAGBRAI stop, HiBRAI, Movies in the Square, and Playing for Keeps, the group’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

“The purpose of Playing for Keeps is to raise funds for a new summer camp concept, called Adventure Camp,” said Neff. “This camp offered summer activities for children ages 5 – 12. This camp fills a need in the community for families at an affordable rate, and offers children the ability to do community service, go on field trips, and be active in the summer months. Since this program would not fit in the city budget, it was decided the camp would be fully supported by this external fund. It was at that point the funds had a reason to have an official designation.”

This is the 6th year for the fundraiser, which will be held at the Hiawatha Community Center Saturday, Oct. 24 from 6-9 p.m., and include food, music, and a silent auction.

“It has been very rewarding for me to see this group grow to what it is today.”



Woman’s desire to help others driven by own experiences

Losing a loved one can be one of the most difficult things anyone will ever have to go through. It may take months, even years, to fully come to terms with the loss.

Berlinda Owens is a Life Coach from Hiawatha, Iowa. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)
Berlinda Owens is a Life Coach from Hiawatha, Iowa. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

However, there is someone who can help you turn that grief back into joy.

Berlinda Owens of Hiawatha, is a life coach, who specializes in helping people work through their loss, whether it is a loss of a relationship, career, or the death of a loved one, so they re-engage live with joy, a more meaningful life.

After graduating from Mount Mercy University in 2010 with a B.A. in Psychology, Berlinda said she realized she wanted to help others deal with the challenges of everyday life by becoming a life coach. She enrolled in The Life Purpose Institute and received her certifications in life and career coaching.

“People ask me all the time, what does a life coach do? Here in Iowa the profession is not well known, but in big cities like Chicago, the profession has become a household name.”

Berlinda said her desire to help people comes from the influence of the good and caring women in her life.

“I was born in a little town in Alabama, Panola, which was later changed to Aliceville,” she said. “We moved in with my grandparents after my parents divorced when I was 2, so my grandmother practically raised me. She was so kind and hospitable, that she would invite anyone in and put a plate of food in front of them. She had a love for God and a love for people. She was my rock.”

When Berlinda was 9, her mother remarried and moved to Cedar Rapids. Her stepfather was the assistant pastor of Gospel Tabernacle Church. She and her sisters grew up singing in the church, and when they weren’t in church, they were singing around the dinner table with their stepfather.

“My mother and I had a strained relationship when I was growing up,” she said. “I was short and overweight. I remember my mother saying, ‘Why can’t be more like your sisters?’ I felt like I had to be perfect.”

Though their relationship was sometimes difficult, Berlinda said her mother was a good woman, a replica of her grandmother.

“My mother was just like my grandmother, she loved people, too and had a powerful energy and lit up every room she walked into.”

Berlinda said her mom was very involved in the church, and would invite the college kids to their house on the weekend if they didn’t have any place to go.

“She would feed them, washed and pressed their hair, let them do their laundry. I was a little put-out because I felt like they were intruding, but I finally realized that she was caring for these kids. I still have people come up to me today and tell me how good my mom’s cooking was.”

Her mother also ran a daycare in their home, Stevens Daycare. “Her tagline was, ‘Rock around the clock’ because she would watch kids all around the clock, day and night. She would feed the parents and give the kids a bath, too, so all the parents had to do was take them home and put them to bed.”

Berlinda said her mom had suffered with health problems for quite a while, but it was extremely difficult for the whole family when she passed away last year.

“During the last six months of her life, I walked away from coaching, but I have no regrets,” she said. “I was able to spend quality, meaningful time with my mother and enjoy the time we had together.”

After she passed away, Berlinda went through a period of grief that had an effect on her own health. “I started trying to eat my pain away,” said Berlinda. “I was just eating to eat. I gained over 10 pounds, and finally went to the doctor for a check-up. My blood pressure had gotten high so that she wanted to put me on blood pressure medicine. I asked her what the alternative was, and told me to lose weight and reduce my sodium intake. I thought about my mother, and what she had gone through with her own health issues, what she would say. I became determined to lose the weight again, and I did. Three months later, I had lost enough that I didn’t have to take medicine.”

It was then that Berlinda realized that everyone who loses a relationship or a career grieves, and that everyone grieves in their own way. However, some people become stuck and need a little help. That’s where Berlinda comes in.

“When people grieve, they disengage themselves from their lives and are swallowed by their grief. I connect with them by sharing my own grief journey, giving them the skills and tools to help them move forward through their grief and find joy again.”

Berlinda said sometimes people just need a little help re-engaging their lives. She knows this from experience. Berlinda’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer when she was very young, and seven years ago, she and her husband, Ken, lost their jobs within two weeks of each other.  And if that wasn’t enough, her daughter, Jennelle was severely injured in a car accident a year before, and Berlinda underwent neurosurgery for a rupture disc between C5 & C6 six months prior to her mother died.

However, the painful experiences she has gone through has only made the desire to help others stronger.

“I’m building on what my grandmother and mother started,” she said.

Berlinda and Ken also have a son, Zach and two grandchildren.

When she isn’t busy with Life Coaching and spending time with her family and catering business with her retired husband, Berlinda serves as the Spiritual Care Director and Vice-president on the Board of Directors for His Hands Free Medical Clinic. She is the co-facilitator Grief Share at the New Covenant Bible Church, as well as a member of the Downtowners Watts of Talk, Toastmasters, and the International Coaching Federation.

“After my mother died, I remember feeling like I was only existing. It’s like I woke up. For the first time, I feel like I am really living.”

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.”