Driven by their commitment to community, the Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives of Iowa held their third-annual Shine the Light contest in June to celebrate local volunteers. Employees and member-consumers of Iowa’s locally owned electric cooperatives were invited to nominate someone who makes a positive difference in their community.
The judging committee reviewed essays from 126 outstanding nominations and selected three winners.
Congratulations to Erica Lindaman, who is recognized for her generous efforts through Gift of Giving; Betty Throndson, who is recognized for restoring hope for families through Project Flo; and Heather Weers, who is recognized for her compassion for children through Sleep in Heavenly Peace. These three winners have been awarded a $2,500 donation to their charity.
Learn more at www.IowaShineTheLight.com.
GIFT OF GIVING
ERICA LINDAMAN’S PASSION FOR GIVING DOESN’T GO UNNOTICED
BY RYAN CORNELIUSErica Lindaman is presented with a check for her Gift of Giving charity.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Erica Lindaman saw a need and acted. The Clarion teacher started Gift of Giving 501c3 nonprofit organization to help collect Christmas gifts for children.
“We saw a need based on people not working as much,” Lindaman explains. “Hours were cut because people had to stay home.”
A mission grows
Gift of Giving could have stayed with just meeting Christmastime needs, but that wasn’t in Lindaman’s plans.
Since that first Christmas, the program has grown exponentially. The organization now assists with everything from food insecurity to bedding and furniture.
“It has grown into this massive entity,” she says. “We are trying to get people in Wright County to keep their clothing and pieces here rather than take them to a different county to donate.”
Emily Bernhardt, one of Lindaman’s many nominators, has known her for 13 years. “I think Erica has seen a need in the community through her background being a teacher and working with students on a daily basis,” Bernhardt says. “She just stepped in to fulfill that need. I know she spends a lot of her personal time and effort working with Gift of Giving. Her whole family has become involved and quite dedicated.”
For Lindaman, it has almost become a full-time job – and one that she loves.
“I literally get between 20 and 30 texts, emails and Facebook messages saying, ‘I need this,’ or ‘How can you help me with this,’” she says. “We have extended where we are helping to pay for electric bills and water bills. We have provided gas cards for people who are having health problems. We are just here to give.”
A heart for giving
That tenacity shines through for all to see, even when she may not want the credit.
“Erica has a huge heart,” Bernhardt says. “She may be quiet sometimes and likes to be in the background. But she has a huge heart and huge passion for the youth and families in the community.”
Today, Lindaman and Gift of Giving accept any items in Wright County. Those are stored in a temporary warehouse, where you can meet with Lindaman by appointment or visit one of the organization’s “pop-up” events.
“If you have a need, and you come to me, or you come to my mother or my father, or anyone who is involved in the organization, we’re going to find you a resource or the right person to help you,” she says.
Learn more about Gift of Giving at www.facebook.com/groups/134251198297192.
Article contributed by Ryan Cornelius, vice president of corporate relations, Corn Belt Power Cooperative.
BETTY THRONDSON CONTINUES HER MOTHER’S LEGACY OF STEWARDSHIP
BY ERIN CAMPBELLBetty Throndson is pictured in the front row, far right, along with her parents (mom Flo) and siblings.
The Project Flo Association works to build hope in the Chickasaw County area by restoring homes. And it all started with a mother’s love for her community.
Betty Throndson of New Hampton was nominated for Shine the Light by her sister, Shirley Hoffman, a member-consumer of Butler County Rural Electric Cooperative in Ionia. In her essay, Hoffman shared that she and Throndson come from a family of 15 children, and they established Project Flo in 2011 after the passing of their mother, Florence “Flo” Throndson. Their mother was known in the New Hampton area for her positive spirit of volunteerism and her children have made it their mission to keep her spirit alive through community service.
Throndson has served as president of Project Flo for more than 11 years and is responsible for gathering family, friends and neighbors once a year in June to offer needed home repairs in the Chickasaw County region. These essential repairs help local families take control of their homes and help restore their faith in humanity. Often, the homes would be deemed unsafe and homeowners’ insurance could be jeopardized if the repairs weren’t made. Hoffman says, “The impact Betty has made on the residents, neighborhoods and businesses in Chickasaw County is immeasurable. Her dedication and leadership have significantly improved the lives of many individuals in need.”
A widespread impact
Project Flo coordinated 80 volunteers working on six projects in 2023, including home repairs for a disabled veteran, a young family of five, a single mother of three, a low-income couple with a disability, and a retired man who is disabled. The volunteer group of carpenters, plumbers, electricians and masonry professionals use their vast skills to repair steps and sidewalks, install flooring, paint, perform landscaping, remove debris, repair bathrooms, and replace doors and windows.
Since Project Flo began, Throndson’s organization has assisted more than 30 homes in addition to helping with repairs at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and St. Joseph Community School in New Hampton. Throndson takes charge of coordinating the grant and fundraising endeavors for Project Flo. She then conducts a thorough assessment of the tasks needed for each project and prioritizes them. During June each year, Throndson shifts into project mode and reaches out to local businesses to coordinate supplies and services.
Throndson also coordinates volunteer assistance to ensure each home project has the right crew ready to work. Hoffman says, “When Betty visits a work site, her infectious energy fills the air with jubilation, laughter and camaraderie. Volunteers of all ages are thrilled to see Betty, recognizing her as the glue that holds the family and project together.”
The $2,500 Shine the Light donation will be invested to purchase much-needed renovation equipment and supplies for Project Flo.
Learn more about Project Flo at www.throndson.com.
Article submitted by Erin Campbell, director of communications for Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.
SLEEP IN HEAVENLY PEACE
HEATHER WEERS WORKS TO PROVIDE BEDS FOR CHILDREN IN NEED
BY CHRISTIE REMLEYHeather Weers (right) is the president of the Jones County Chapter for Sleep in Heavenly Peace. She is pictured with MVEC employee and member Megan Ruley, who nominated Weers for the honor.
Heather Weers of Center Junction has dedicated her professional and personal life to improving the lives of Jones County children and residents alike.
By day, she works for the Jones County Community Partnership for Protecting Children, which aims to improve the child welfare process. And on her own time, she is the president of the Jones County Chapter for Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a non-profit dedicated to providing beds for children who would otherwise not have them. While the national organization’s mission is “No Kid Sleeps on the Floor in Our Town®,” Weers likes to say, “No kid sleeps on the floor in Jones County.”
Addressing a community need
When the Jones County Community Partnership for Protecting Children received a $1,600 grant to buy beds for children, Weers was shocked to learn how great the need was in her community. While researching ways to help, Weers discovered the national organization Sleep in Heavenly Peace and pursued starting a local chapter. She established the Jones County chapter in 2019 and has delivered more than 320 beds to local children since then.
Weers is humble and attributes the impact of Sleep in Heavenly Peace Jones County to the local volunteers who help build the beds and donate materials.
“It’s not about me; it’s about what the community comes together to do to give children a comfortable place to sleep,” she says. Weers hopes to inspire others to make their own impact. “I want others to know that you can help people with the simplest gestures – sometimes it’s just a thank you note or a letter that can profoundly impact another person’s life,” says Weers.
Dedication to community shines
Weers was nominated for Shine the Light by Megan Ruley, a member and employee at Maquoketa Valley Electric Cooperative (MVEC).
“When I learned about the Shine the Light contest, the first person who came to mind was Heather,” Ruley says. “Her work with Sleep in Heavenly Peace is heartwarming, and I admire her dedication to improving the lives of our Jones County residents. The work outlined here doesn’t even begin to encompass all of Heather’s impact in our community as she seems to be behind many initiatives to make Jones County a better place now and into the future.”
“Maquoketa Valley is thrilled to recognize Heather’s dedication to making Jones County a better place. Heather embodies the co-op principle, ‘Concern for Community’ by recognizing unmet needs and then rolling up her sleeves to meet those needs,” says Jeremy Richert, MVEC CEO.
The $2,500 award will help the Sleep in Heavenly Peace chapter purchase materials, tools, bedding and mattresses. With the vision of no Jones County child sleeping on the floor, Weers is seeing to that goal one bed at a time. For more information, visit shpbeds.org/chapter/ia-jones-co.
Article contributed by Christie Remley, manager of communications and public relations for Maquoketa Valley Electric Cooperative.