January, 2014

Thanks to donations from people throughout the community, in 2013, we were able to distribute almost 100 sweaters to veterans and ship 280 pounds worth of care packages to soldiers serving overseas. It was our second year of sponsoring both Sweaters for Veterans and Stockings for Soldiers, and we were once again humbled by how much the community pulled together and so many gave what they could to support our servicemen and women of both yesterday and today.

Last year we also sponsored our first annual Operation Valentine, which we are proud to continue this year.

Operation Valentine serves as a unique morale boost to soldiers serving overseas, to those rehabilitating in hospitals, and as a warm hello to veteran’s living in facilities across the nation. Individuals, students, school and church groups and other organizations, simply write or make a Valentine card that we will then distribute to Veteran’s homes and military hospitals across the country, and send to servicemen and women across the globe. It’s just a simple message that lets them know once again, that their service is appreciated and not forgotten. It is an especially great program to involve children in by providing a great opportunity to talk with them about some of the sacrifices made for our country and to teach them how important it is to give back whenever we can.

Since they are not part of care packages, cards for this program cannot include food or candy, and because some will be distributed in hospitals and veteran’s homes, they also cannot include glitter since it can work its way into bandages and bedding. But there are many fun ways to personalize a handmade card that will brighten their day and send a meaningful message.

Valentine cards may be dropped off at our business office at 917 Blondeau Street now thru January 31st between 9am and 5pm. We will then see that the greetings are sent in time for Valentine’s Day.

In addition to continuing these and other of our favorite programs last year, such as our third annual Memorial Day Balloon Release, we also began two new traditions to honor our loved ones and our community.


Memorial Day Balloon Release, Keokuk National Cemetery, May 26th, 2013

In June, we held a Memorial Butterfly Release at Rand Park. Though the weather was not on our side, many people joined us for a special service focusing on transforming grief of what has been lost into hope for what is yet to come followed by the release of live butterflies.

Butterfly Release, Rand Park, June 23, 2013

In October, as part of efforts to replace dead and dying trees in the area, we sponsored the planting of a Jane Magnolia tree near the Rand Park pond and held a dedication service for it on October 20. It was approximated earlier in the year that there are 60 trees in Rand Park alone that are dead or dying. Having been able to appreciate trees in Rand Park while we have lived in Keokuk, practically our whole lives we wanted to be part of ensuring that future generations can do the same. So we decide to use it as an opportunity to say thank you to all the families who have placed their trust in us over the years by dedicating the tree in honor of them and their loss.

Terry & Dirk DeJong, Rand Park tree dedication, October 20, 2013

We would like to once again thank everyone who contributed to and participated in these programs with us last year. We look forward to continuing these traditions in 2014.