Power of Community Propels Ames and Story County
Forget 2020. This region sheds tumultuous year for greener pastures ahead.
Like most communities across the country, Ames and Story County were hit hard by COVID-19, forcing businesses and organizations to quickly change their practices and services to stay afloat amid massive economic disruption.
But the region’s mettle was further tested in August of 2020 when a derecho, a weather phenomenon causing intense winds, similar to that of a hurricane, hit the Midwest, causing widespread damage and power outages.
Despite these challenges, Ames and Story County pulled through, thanks to an inherent resiliency and strong community spirit.
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Weathering the Storms in Ames, IA
“The entire City of Ames responded to the derecho, which created conditions most residents had never experienced before,” says Public Information Officer for the City of Ames, Susan Gwiasda.
While city employees staffed neighborhood information centers, installed charging stations for cellphones and small electronics, and provided residents in need with essentials, neighbors also came through for one another.
“They helped each other clear broken trees and drag debris to curbsides,” Gwiasda says. “They shared tools, supplies and food while they patiently waited for crews to restore power to homes.”
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Gwiasda says Ames’ strong foundation of community collaboration has helped keep the region’s economy not only stable but growing. During COVID-19, many companies in the region took a different approach to operating their business so they could stay viable.
Some examples: Moorman Clothiers, a full-service clothing store in Ames, IA, began delivering style boxes. SUCCESS Gymnastics hosted virtual classes. The Octagon Center for the Arts sold take-home DIY projects.
Little Woods Herbs & Teas, a specialty tea shop in downtown Ames, sold tea subscription boxes and hosted a virtual anniversary party to celebrate with customers.
“Up until mid-April we were just holding on trying to get through each day,” says Owner of Little Woods Herbs & Teas Kristin Roach.
“But then came our four-year anniversary. We wanted to do something special, so, on a whim, I whipped up a box featuring our teas, Chocolaterie Stam chocolates and napkins from Nook & Nest to celebrate online together. It was a hit!
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Since then, we’ve done tea party boxes for the Ames Public Library, the Waukee Public Library, and hosted several live herbalism and tea blending classes for organizations around town.”
Roach says she is grateful for her customers’ response to the store’s changes and the community resources she was able to tap into.
“We all struggled to figure out how to stay open in some form or another. The local organizations, community members, and state and federal government all played a part,” she says. “We’ve deepened our relationships and connections to our neighbors through working together toward a common goal. We’ve collaborated all year long.”
Connecting Through Compassion
When the Boys & Girls Clubs of Story County was forced to close due to COVID-19 restrictions, staying connected to its 100-plus children was top of mind for CEO Erika Peterson.
“Our club mission is to inspire the kids who need us the most. That means building great adult relationships with our kids by providing daily healthy meals and snacks, outstanding academic programming as well as sports and recreation. When we closed, we wanted to make sure that our kids still had access to those resources,” Peterson says.
As schools worked to provide children with breakfast and lunch, Peterson says a main goal of the club was to provide an evening meal, something the children were accustomed to at the club.
“In partnership with our local food bank, we were able to provide our families with grab-and-go meals, nonperishable food, as well as fresh produce, eggs and milk.”
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In addition to food distribution, the club’s staff created non-virtual arts, crafts and STEM activities kids could do at home.
Like Gwiasda and Roach, Peterson attributes the club’s ability to weather the proverbial storms of 2020 to community support.
“This is a community of possibility and generosity,” Peterson reflected. “(During 2020), there was this sense of ‘we can do this together.’ We rolled up our sleeves to help each other out.”
Want to learn more about Ames and Story County? Check out the latest edition of Livability Ames/Story County, Iowa.