Statewide Iowa — The pandemic is being particularly difficult on non-profit groups which rely on volunteers to operate, and the American Red Cross is asking Iowans for help in order to help other Iowans in need.

Emily Holley, spokeswoman for the agency’s Nebraska-Iowa region, says people who give freely of their time make the charity’s humanitarian mission possible.

(As above) “One of the things that COVID has affected is that folks are less likely to go to public places and volunteer,” Holley says. “That is harmful to us because we’re an organization where volunteers represent more than 90% of our Red Cross work force.” 

Red Cross offices across Iowa where blood is drawn are always looking for blood donor ambassadors. They do things like welcoming visitors and taking their temperatures before entering agency facilities and blood drives. There is also a high-priority need for transportation specialists to help deliver blood from Red Cross facilities to local hospitals.

(As above) “Another option is disaster response volunteers,” Holley says. “Most of the disasters in the U.S. that the Red Cross responds to — every eight minutes — are home fires. Especially during the wintertime, there are more home fires. We need folks who are willing to respond to those home fires.”

In some cases, disaster response volunteers can connect with families by video or phone to provide emotional support, emergency financial assistance and information to help families begin to recover.

(As above) “We have so many virtual positions available to help folks,” Holley says. “You don’t even have to leave your house. You can sit in a comfy chair and help out folks affected by disasters.”

For Iowans who are still hesitant to get close to others, she says there’s a wide range of other virtual volunteer opportunities. For more information, visit the Red Cross Volunteers website.

January 16, 2021 - 7:37 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — The Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation is again offering grants to schools to replace drinking fountains with stations that have touchless water bottle fillers.

Foundation executive director, Suzanne Heckenlaible says there’s a continued need for the modern stations as schools adapt to the pandemic.

(As above) “Working with the schools, what we’ve found is they’ve shut down the water fountains –but left the water bottle stations open. So the opportunity for us to provide this assistance is even more important,” Heckenlaible says.  

They have been working with schools for several years and had restricted the grants to schools that did not have the new water bottle station. She says they are now opening it up to schools that already have one.

(As above) “On average, they cost between $2500 to $3500 to replace with the water bottle filling. But we have some old school across the state…old school buildings, I should say…so those can be significant costs. We have committed, as a foundation, that we will continue to work with those schools.”

The program is called “Rethink Your Drink,” and Heckenlaible says the goal is to get kids to drink water over other less healthy options.

(As above) “Also, it’s an activity…it’s a habit, and so it becomes what you do on a daily basis, to have a bottle of water right by your desk.”

Heckenlaible says they hope once the water-drinking habit is established it will stay with the students all their lives. The foundation is taking grant applications through February 5th. Schools can apply by visiting:

The program, “Rethink Your Drink” is supported by the Iowa Department of Public Health Bureau of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Iowa Public Health Association, Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Healthiest State Initiative and In-Depth Marketing.

January 16, 2021 - 7:09 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — We’re more than two weeks into 2021 now and the experts say about eight in ten New Year’s resolutions are broken by the second week in February.

One popular vow is to lose weight. Nutritionist Heather Rasmussen says for Iowans who’ve already cheated, that’s perfectly fine but now, get back on course to getting healthy.

(As above) “It should be done all year ‘round but the new year gives people an opportunity to reevaluate what they’re doing both diet-wise and physical activity,” Rasmussen says, “and maybe to change their mindset and create some goals surrounding their health including diet and exercise.”

Just because you didn’t stick with your resolution doesn’t mean the exercise was worthless. She says anytime you form a goal, it allows you a chance to pause, look over your situation and make changes to your lifestyle, even if the change is temporary. Rasmussen says permanently changing dietary habits is extremely difficult, so for those trying to stay on the wagon, a slow-and-steady approach may be ideal.

(As above) “People get overwhelmed and say, ‘Okay, I’m never going to eat pizza again in my entire life,’ and then they just don’t do it because it’s too much,” Rasmussen says. “Thinking about my patients, what are your short-term goals? I know you want to lose 50 pounds but what do you want to do for this month, or this week?” 

If you find yourself slipping on your nutritional mission, it might help to scale back long-term goals in favor of more short-term ones. Good habits, especially ones drastically different from typical lifestyles, are hard to start and even harder to keep. Research shows that on average, it takes about 66 days for a habit to become automatic.

Statewide Iowa —  Local, state and federal law enforcement officials say they are monitoring potential threats in Iowa leading up to inauguration day.

Following the violence at the U.S. Capitol, the FBI has warned of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitols. Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens.

(As above) “Currently we are not seeing any concrete threats that would cause us any grave concerns,” Bayens says. “However, we always prepare for the worst and expect the best.”

Bayens says more officers are patrolling the statehouse as a precaution.

(As above) “We’ve increased both our uniform and non-uniform presence up at the capitol,” he says. “Additionally, the Iowa Department of Public Safety has a division of intelligence and so we have a fleet of analysts that are constantly examining social media, are working with federal and local partners.” 

The FBI’s Omaha field office is asking those with information about potential violence at upcoming protests or events to call 402-493-8688.

January 16, 2021 - 3:08 pm - Posted in News

Northwest, Iowa — Five additional COVID-related deaths in the four-county area were included in Saturday’s report from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

All five reported deaths were residents of Sioux County, raising that county’s COVID death toll to fifty-six since the pandemic began. COVID mortality numbers from the other area counties include: fifty-four in O’Brien County; thirty two in Lyon County; and twenty-nine in Osceola County, for a four-county total of 151 since the pandemic began.

Eight additional positive COVID test results were reported Saturday; five in O’Brien County and three in Lyon County. The Iowa Department of Public Health reported thirty-seven fewer total COVID cases in Lyon County Saturday than twenty-four hours earlier, but provided no explanation for the reduction in case numbers.

Of the 1681 O’Brien County residents to test positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, 1504 have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 89%.

634 Osceola County residents have tested positive with 596 having recovered, for a rate of about 94%

Of the 1335 Lyon County residents who tested positive, 1178 have recovered, for a rate of about 88%.

Of the 4532 Sioux County residents who tested positive for COVID-19, 4153 have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 92%.

Numbers from some other counties in the area include:
Plymouth County, which held steady at 3486 cases
Cherokee County was up 49 cases at 1380
Buena Vista County reported 9 additional cases at 3911
Clay County reported an increase of 3 cases to bring their total number to 1657
Dickinson County added 4 new cases, taking their total to 1837

The above numbers cover the 24-hour period from noon Friday, January 15th to noon Saturday, January 16th.

Orange City, Iowa — A program designed to assist a certain type of student at a northwest Iowa institution of higher learning has been approved by the federal government.

College officials tell us Northwestern NEXT, Northwestern College’s two-year program for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities, has been approved as a comprehensive transition and postsecondary program (CTP) by the U.S. Department of Education. The designation enables students to be eligible for federal financial aid.

Only one other Iowa college or university has a CTP. There are only five other CTP programs among members of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. As of Dec. 31, the Department of Education recognized 129 CTP programs across the country.

John Menning, Northwestern NEXT coordinator says that being named a comprehensive transition and postsecondary program means Northwestern has established certain standards that are acceptable to the U.S. Department of Education. He says that having this stamp of approval lets parents know Northwestern would be a great option for their son or daughter with a disability.

Northwestern officials tell us CTP programs are designed to support students with intellectual disabilities who want to continue academic, career, and independent living instruction to prepare for gainful employment. They include academic advising, a structured curriculum, and internships or work-based training.

Because of Northwestern’s CTP approval, NEXT students may complete the FAFSA and qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant and/or federally funded work-study position.

Northwestern NEXT was begun in 2016 and currently has 10 students enrolled. Officials tell us the program offers students the opportunity to live in a residence hall with a specially selected roommate/peer mentor; participate in campus activities and social events; take specialized classes in life skills, including practical academics, independent living, social competence, interpersonal relationships, and career readiness; and audit up to nine credits per semester of pre-approved courses from the college catalog.

Rock Valley / Spencer, Iowa — A Rock Valley-based provider of services to persons with disabilities has received a large donation.

Hope Haven officials tell us they are pleased to announce they have received a generous donation from Sunshine Services of Spencer, Iowa in the form of a commercial real estate property. They tell us the building consists of a large office and program space that will be utilized by Hope Haven for services and activities that empower individuals with disabilities.

Hope Haven officials tell us they are thankful to Sunshine Services and Board President Ron Feucht for the significant contribution.

Hope Haven marketing director Brooke Kooima tells us about it.

(as said:)”We’re so grateful for them for that donation. We will use that for our programming and services in the Spencer area for the individuals with disabilities that we serve. So it’s a really impactful donation and one that we will definitely utilize well into the future.”

Kooima says when Hope Haven came to Spencer in 2015, they took over some services that Sunshine Services had been providing.

Hope Haven CEO Matt Buley says that this is “amongst the most impactful donations Hope Haven has received in our history.” He says they are proud to be part of the Spencer area, and to “support so many wonderful individuals.” He says that the Sunshine Board’s gift is a springboard for years of continued impact.

Hope Haven provides services for people with disabilities in Northwest Iowa and Southwest Minnesota, including Community Living; Employment Services; Day Habilitation; Mental Health and Recovery; and Religious Services and International Ministries. For more information you can visit

Washington, D.C. — After ten U.S. House Republicans joined Democrats in impeaching President Trump on Wednesday, some Republicans in the U.S. Senate are now considering voting to convict Trump in a looming trial there.

When asked Thursday, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, said he’s not sure there should even be a Senate trial, given the timeline, as it wouldn’t likely take place until Trump is already out of office.

(As above) “It’s a big constitutional question about impeaching a private citizen,” Grassley says. “That’s a major thing you’ve gotta’ think about, should Congress, under the Constitution, even do it?” 

Congresswoman Cindy Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines, voted for impeachment, calling the president the rhetorical “ring leader” of last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, while Iowa’s three Republican House members opposed impeachment. President-elect Biden’s inauguration is scheduled for next Wednesday and Grassley says he’s focused on looking ahead, not back.

(As above) “We’re just six days away from a new president,” Grassley says. “I’ve been spending all of my time, as I hope all of my colleagues are, on working with the Biden administration to unify the country and it seems to me, that’s not an action that unifies the country, it further divides.”

If there should be a Senate trial, Grassley would not commit in advance to how he’d vote, as senators would be sitting as jurors.

(As above) “We ought to listen to all of the evidence that’s presented and the defense that’s presented before we make a decision,” Grassley says. “I haven’t even read the indictment that comes from the grand jury-like action that the House took yesterday.” 

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is quoted as saying he won’t stand in the way of an impeachment trial in the Senate, adding that he is “done” with Trump.

Hull, Iowa — Sioux County authorities are seeking information into the theft of a manure hose reel near Hull.

According to Sioux County authorities, they took a report Thursday of the theft of a 2019 Bazooka Farmstar 1810 manure hose reel, from Automated Waste Systems, which is located one-and-a-half miles west of Hull. Deputies say the missing equipment has the wording, “Bazooka Farmstar” in red lettering on both sides and is valued at approximately $55,000.

According to authorities, the reel is believed to have been stolen sometime in the fall of 2020.

If you have any information about this crime you are asked to contact the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office at 712-737-2280.

Northwest Iowa — Sixteen additional cases of COVID-19 were reported in the four-county area in Friday’s report from the Iowa Department of Public Health, but there were also 18 fewer active cases.

Lyon County’s total was up four cases. Seven residents of Sioux County, two from O’Brien County, and three from Osceola County were reported to have tested positive. About one in eight northwest Iowans have tested positive for COVID since March 2020.

The death toll for the area remains at 146 since the pandemic began. The death totals since the pandemic started are 54 in O’Brien County, 51 in Sioux County, 32 in Lyon County, and nine in Osceola County.

Out of the 1,372 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 1173 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 85%.
Out of the 4,529 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 4137 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 91%.
Out of the 1,676 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 1500 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 89%.
Out of the 634 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 596 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 94%.

Osceola County currently has 29 active cases, up three from yesterday. There were 122 in O’Brien County, which is down 4. Sioux County has 341 active cases, down twelve. Lyon County has 167 active cases, which is down five.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report:

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 3,486 , up 7
Cherokee 1,331 , up 1
Buena Vista 3,902 , up 11
Clay 1,654 , up 3
Dickinson 1,833 , up 3