The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

January 6, 2014

Rescuing the coldest Ottumwans

OTTUMWA — Most cars weren't warm, Wapello County commuters noticed Monday morning. Imagine having spent the night there, with no money for gas.

"I can't see people dying under the bridge, not in a town this size," said Mary Margaret Butler, one of the founding members of a local faith-based group, Whatsoever You Do. "I am not going to watch someone die. There's no excuse for that."

Their Facebook page has received a lot of traffic as word of the coldest day in years started circulating. She and other members have been finding people living on the street — or in one couple's case, in a car — and found them someplace warm for a few nights.

Make no mistake, said a former community action official: You may not notice them, but there are people in danger of freezing to death within 15 minutes of your house. A local leader within the pastoral community agreed.

"There are homeless people in Ottumwa," confirmed Pastor Ron Barnett at St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Last year, Ottumwa's only homeless shelter for men closed.

"It's not always a case of people sleeping out on the street. There are people staying temporarily on a friend's couch," said the pastor before clarifying that "there are also people living in their car."

Brandon Holstrom, American Red Cross disaster support manager, said if there were to be a major power outage, the Red Cross and local emergency management coordinator would work to find a warm place.

"It's all about where the power outage is located and the scale," he said. "We have agreements [with places] all around Ottumwa. But they don't always get used. Traditionally in Iowa, people find other places to stay — family, friends. But we like to have that option available to them."

Text Only
Local News
  • 0417 OTT Earth day color photo 1 -T -M Cargill celebrates Earth Day by educating ALBIA — In honor of Earth Day on Tuesday, April 22, employees from Cargill Eddyville and Cargill Pork are visiting with students at Grant Elementary and Lincoln Center in Albia all this week. On Wednesday the Courier caught up with them as they went

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • 0417 OTT Saving Center color photo -T -L -M Hedrick building has friends HEDRICK — The community wants a civic center, and they've been willing to work for it. "I'd say we have 15 to 25 volunteers each time," Tommy Smith of Hedrick said. "These are all good people." Smith was volunteering his services at the Easter Brunch

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Southern Iowa farmers preparing for planting OTTUMWA — Even though the winter seemed to linger like Iowa was going through an ice age and cold and wet weather has highlighted the early spring, farmers are starting to get out to their fields to put down fertilizer and get fields ready for planti

    April 16, 2014

  • 0417 OTT Camp Wapello fence photo -T -M -L Good fence irritates good neighbor DRAKESVILLE — For 82 years, Camp Wapello’s iconic entryway has welcomed people to peacefully coexist with nature. Now there’s a 400-foot barbed wire fence down the middle of the road. In February, Davis County Supervisors approved vacating of portion

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Carrying bookbags a balancing act OTTUMWA — Permission slips. Notes from teachers. School activity announcements, birthday invitations, report cards and homework to sign. Kids bring home a lot of stuff. But is it done fairly? The school board this week was asked by ranking members of

    April 16, 2014

  • Van Buren supervisors deny hog confinement permit application KEOSAUQUA — A proposed swine building in Chequest Township didn’t receive a seal of approval from Van Buren County Board of Supervisors. Supervisors voted Monday to recommend to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to deny the permit. Supervisor

    April 16, 2014

  • 0417 OTT Beth Howard bw cover -L -T -M 'Ms. American Pie' tours with her new book ELDON — With many hours and countless miles on her RV "The Beast," Eldon's pie lady, Beth Howard, is celebrating the release of her new book with a tour of southwestern states. Howard's second book, "Ms. American Pie: Buttery Good Pie Recipes and Bol

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Van Buren to share FFA with Harmony KEOSAUQUA — Van Buren Community School Board approved a recommendation from its administration to share the ag program with Harmony for the 2014-15 school year. The decision means that Van Buren students would travel to Harmony to receive ag instruct

    April 16, 2014

  • Attorney withdraws after client disappears OTTUMWA — Authorities are still looking for an Ottumwa man who didn’t show up for court proceedings. When they find him, he’ll need a new attorney. Jacob Nordyke faces charges of interference with official acts and possession of drug paraphernalia. H

    April 16, 2014

  • Waste Management wants to stay in Keosauqua KEOSAUQUA — Waste Management told the city of Keosauqua that it was not interested in ending the contract it has for solid waste and recycling services it provides to the city. A representative told the city mayor that it intends to fulfill the contr

    April 16, 2014

Photo reprints