Posted on September 14, 2021 at 4:41 PM by Kevin Jenison
Six members of the 11-person shift that arrived to battle a late night house fire on a cool September night remain on active duty with the Muscatine Fire Department. Four have retired or moved on. One remains the only Muscatine firefighter to die in the line of duty. Read the blog at https://bit.ly/3k8rx2D
Posted on August 26, 2021 at 3:51 PM by Kevin Jenison
MUSCATINE, Iowa – Conversations on making Muscatine a better place to live, work, or operate a business begin with community leaders reaching out to community members to learn about what opportunities residents see for solutions and improvements to the quality of life in Muscatine.
Those conversations are at the core of the Muscatine Community Heart & Soul initiative. The Muscatine program will involve all residents in conversations to improve the community in ways residents want to see through building on the valued strengths.
“We are eager to hear from our community members concerning the various projects the City is working on as well as to gather information that will help guide our next Comprehensive Plan Revision,” Jodi Royal-Goodwin, Director of Community Development, said. “Asking what residents like about Muscatine and what they want to see more of is a crucial part of working to improving Muscatine together.”
The City of Muscatine was awarded a $10,000 seed grant from the national Community Heart & Soul organization to support of the Muscatine Community Heart & Soul program. The program seeks to gather resident feedback that will help drive positive change in our community by determining what matters most to residents. The feedback will be used to identify the action steps that will be integrated into the upcoming revision of the City Comprehensive Plan.
One of the ways that the forces behind the local initiative will use to collect feedback from residents is a survey that is available online. The short survey is also being distributed at community events so more residents can be involved.
The project’s leadership team is comprised of community members and is being directed through the City of Muscatine Department of Community Development. To be successful, however, the project needs YOUR voice. Residents can share their thoughts and feelings about Muscatine by completing the Heart & Soul survey at Heart & Soul Survey. Separate surveys are available for adults and youth, and are available in English and Spanish.
Your feedback today can spark change for the future of our community.
Meghan Custis was an intern with the Department of Community Development this past summer and specialized in piloting the Heart & Soul program.
“Heart & Soul offers true promise for our community and, I believe, will help connect residents across the board,” Custis said. “I’ve spent a lot of time getting advice from other communities that have completed the Heart & Soul process, and it gives me such hope for Muscatine. Great things are already happening in our community, this is an opportunity for residents to speak up and tell the City what should come next.”
Community Heart & Soul is a national model designed for small communities to uncover what residents collectively value and identify action steps based on core values. It has been field-tested in 90 communities across the country and shows proven results.
The Muscatine Heart & Soul project will be completed in three phases with the first phase concentrating in the South End area (Hershey Avenue south to the City limits), phase two the middle section of Muscatine (Hershey Avenue north to Mulberry Avenue), and phase three the east section of Muscatine (Mulberry Avenue north to University Avenue).
In each phase, the Heart & Soul team will dedicate efforts to gathering resident stories and experience through events, community forums, engagement at community gatherings, and survey distribution. This strategy will allow all residents to share their thoughts and perspectives on their neighborhoods as well as the overall community.
The project is estimated to take between 18 and 24 months.
“I grew up in the South End, and I know how the community looks at that part of town,” Kindra Petersen, a member of the Heart & Soul Leadership Team said. “The South End has so much to offer the community: bike paths, a skate park, easy access to the riverfront, Deep Lakes Park, a mini-soccer area, the soccer complex, Kent Stein, a beautiful dog park, and more.”
Petersen pointed out that there is more to the South End than just the amenities available.
“There are also tons of local businesses in the South End that are often overlooked because the big factories tend to overshadow the location,” Petersen said. “I’m hoping we can bring to light the vast opportunities South End has to offer our community.”
The newly launched Muscatine Community Heart & Soul website houses additional information, updates about the initiative, how to become a part of the team, and links to the surveys. Visit the website to see our progress and stay up to date on our efforts! As a resident-driven process, the involvement of community members to steward the Heart & Soul efforts is essential to this project.
Community Heart & Soul is a tested community-development model that has been used in over 90 small cities and towns across America. It focuses on three key principles including involving everyone and focusing on what matters. The third principle is playing the long game to uncover areas of improvement while building lasting relationships across the various communities, organizations, and neighborhoods. Heart & Soul uses an inclusive, affirming approach to strengthening communities. The focus is on building upon what is working and valued in the community while ensuring all voices are incorporated into solutions.
The local Heart & Soul project was announced in February and begins in the South End, an area that Royal-Goodwin noted has suffered from a lack of significant investment.
“The Grandview Avenue area is a neighborhood made up of residents and businesses on the southern end of Muscatine,” Royal-Goodwin said. “We have already received feedback from residents in this area and we are hoping for more. We are looking to work with residents and businesses to reinvigorate and revitalize this important area of Muscatine.”
The main focus of Heart & Soul will be improving the quality of life and economic development of Muscatine and beginning in the South End. That focus has been broken down into five pillars including street revitalization, economic development, recreation, business support, and residential support.
The City of Muscatine’s Grandview Avenue Reconstruction Project fits into the street revitalization pillar and will improve the drivability of the corridor with new pavement, improve the walkability of the corridor with new sidewalks, and improve the aesthetics of the corridor with landscaping.
Information on Muscatine Community Heart & Soul can be found at https://www.muscatineheartandsoul.org/, or on the City of Muscatine web site at Heart & Soul.
Posted on July 20, 2021 at 4:44 PM by Kevin Jenison
MUSCATINE, Iowa – Developing leadership skills for use now and in the future is the goal of the FBI Youth Leadership Program (YLP) that was attended by 59 students from around the United States including the son of a current member of the Muscatine Police Department.
Abram Jirak, the son of Jeff and Alissa Jirak, was one of the 59 students selected to participate in the program that is designed to benefit young people and future leaders. It was his father, a Muscatine police officer, who planted the seed that led to Abrams participation in the program.
“When I was 14 my dad said ‘Hey, there is this cool leadership academy from the FBI, are you interested?’,” Abram said. “I said that it actually sounded pretty cool.”
His father is a 2007 graduate of the FBI National Academy, a professional development course for U.S. and international law enforcement leaders, and that is where he first learned of the Youth Leadership Program.
“I thought it might be of interest to him but the final decision was his,” Jeff Jirak said.
Abram first applied for the program through the Iowa Chapter of the FBI National Academy Associates when he was 14-years-old, completing an essay and going through an interview process.
“I actually tied for first that year but the other person was older (16) so the chapter decided that the older person, based on seniority, would get a chance to go before the other people,” Abram said. “But my name was still in the ring. I applied at 15 but COVID hit so they cancelled the program, and I applied this year and got it.”
The FBI National Academy Associates and its 48 Chapters in cooperation with the FBI National Academy, Society of Former Special Agents, and FBI-LEEDA, hosted the 22nd Youth Leadership Program in June at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA.
“It was awesome,” Abram said. “It was a once in a lifetime event that I would do a 100 times over again. You get out there and meet people from around the country. Normally they would allow international people but this year they did not because of the restrictions on international travel. There were still 60 people from everywhere and I made friends with people from Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Maine.”
“The whole point of the academy is to provide special skills in leadership to the leaders of the next generation,” Abram said. “This is a prestigious academy built all around leadership and expanding that knowledge to the youth.”
Over the course of the week, participants focused on core subject matter which included Leadership, Ethics, Values and Choices, Juvenile Crime, Character Matters, Goal Setting, Bullying, Ethical Decision Making, Accountability, Social Media, and Financial Responsibility. These students also traveled to Washington, DC, to visit several museums and memorials, including Arlington National Ceremony.
The eight-day program culminated with graduation ceremonies.
“Where the FBI National Academy Program is the crown jewel of the FBI, the Youth Leadership Program is the crown jewel of the FBI National Academy Associates,” said FBINAA Executive Director Howard M. Cook. “We look forward to seeing where the journey of these impressive young leaders takes them in the future.”
Abram said that he just cannot say enough good things about the program.
“The training and classes were just amazing,” Abrams said. “I learned quite a lot about leadership, and about social skills and interactions with other people.”
Abram is not sure where his future lies but knows that the leadership tools he learned YLP will be a part of future.
“I get asked about my future a lot because I went to an FBI academy,” Abram said. “The program is based more on leadership than work in law enforcement. That is something you can take with you no matter what career you choose and just be a leader in that career and be a leader in your community.”
Abram is not necessarily looking at law enforcement as a future career but if he did it would probably be in federal service (FBI or DEA). He is keeping his options open, however, and is also looking at a trade school or the potential of military service where he could earn something like a trade certificate.
“Then coming back and maybe starting my own company or joining a company while using my leadership skills in that position,” Abram said.
“We are blessed and extremely pleased with what Abram has accomplished with grades, National Honor Society, and U.S. Community Service for silver cord hours, and definitely looking forward to his senior year to see what he can do,” Jeff said.
LINK TO SESSION 22 YOUTH LEADERSHIP PROGRAM VIDEO
LINK TO FBINAA PRESS RELEASE