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Giving thanks

Posted November 06, 2013 in Urbandale

With Thanksgiving Day just around the corner, it is commonplace to reflect upon the things for which we are thankful. Keep that in mind before you dig into the turkey, stuffing and trimmings, then plop yourself down on the couch to watch a football game or take a tryptophan-induced nap.

Better yet, make it a daily practice. Why wait for the holiday? Because while it is true Thanksgiving Day only comes but once a year, we should actually celebrate thanks each and every day. It’s just a matter of learning to live with a spirit of gratitude.

To gain a better understanding of that spirit, we polled a handful of local residents, including a businessman and his family, the mayor, an elementary school principal and a tireless volunteer. Though their answers varied, each one of them embraced the gratitude of the season and thanked others for impacting his or her life in a positive way.

The King family
The Kings of Urbandale, who grace the cover of this issue donning their Iowa State Cyclones gear, embody that spirit by counting their blessings year-round. Colin King, co-owner of K&V Homes, and his wife, Carrie, are the proud parents of two young children, 11-year-old Thomas and 6-year-old Emily.

Carrie and Colin King with their children, Thomas and Emily, are thankful for many things including being together as a family.

Carrie and Colin King with their children, Thomas and Emily, are thankful for many things including being together as a family.

“I’m thankful for my wife, my son and my daughter all of the time,” says Colin. “I’m also thankful for having a job which I am in control of and thankful for the contractors that help make my business what it is, as well as the people who have chosen us to work on their home projects, because without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

At the top of the list for the family’s matriarch are things like family, good health and a job.

“Those are very important,” says Carrie.

Thomas says, “I’m thankful for my mom and dad and my sister. I’m also thankful for food, water, shelter, toys and the opportunity to play baseball.”

Finally, leave it to the family’s youngest member, Emily, to remind us of the gamut of possibilities for things to be thankful.

“I’m thankful for my mom, dad and brother and my American Girl Dolls. I’m also thankful for my preschool teacher who died in a car accident. She was nice,” Emily says,

Bob Andeweg,
Mayor of Urbandale
Urbandale Mayor Bob Andeweg is thankful for a great community.

“We have so many residents who give of their time, talents and resources to help those residents who may not be as fortunate,” he says. “We have many residents who have lost jobs. Others have weathered pay cuts, furloughs and changes to benefit plans. Still others have faced catastrophic medical issues.

“We are truly ‘Uniquely Urbandale.’ As I speak to residents, I hear them extol the values and the quality of life we have in our city. We are a community that helps others who are less fortunate. For this Thanksgiving season, please consider helping those not as fortunate as you. There are two tremendous opportunities to do so.

Urbandale Mayor Bob Andeweg

Urbandale Mayor Bob Andeweg

Andeweg says another gem within the community is The Urbandale Food Pantry, a collaborative community effort that provides food assistance to those in need. The service is located at 7611 Douglas Ave., Suites 34-35, and is open Monday (10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.) and Wednesday and Thursday (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.).

“Volunteers are vital to the effective operation of the Urbandale Food Pantry,” Andeweg says. “Volunteers are needed to greet clients, bag groceries and personal items, re-stock shelves and many other tasks.”

For more information, visit

The Urbandale Community Action Network (UCAN) is a nonprofit organization citizen group providing leadership and ongoing support for comprehensive community-based action to improve the quality of life in Urbandale, Andeweg says.

“Among its many important missions, UCAN helps those less fortunate by organizing spring and fall Clean Up Days,” he says. “It also organizes drivers for those in our community who may need a ride to an appointment. UCAN provides many opportunities to get connected and be involved in Urbandale.”

For more information, visit”

Lara Justmann
Principal, Karen Acres Elementary School
“Being able to reflect on those things for which I am thankful has allowed me to pause and come to realize how fortunate I am,” says Lara Justmann, principal of Karen Acres Elementary School.

Lara Justmann

Lara Justmann

“First, I’m thankful for the profession I’ve chosen, which gives me the opportunity to impact the lives of children each day during their formative years of education. Walking into classrooms is my favorite part of the day because I’m able to witness firsthand the joy and curiosity they display. The staff that cultivates that joy and curiosity provides me with a sense of pride and humbleness due to their relentless commitment to the success of students. It goes without saying how important parental support is in the educational process. They send their most precious possessions to us and trust that we’ll provide a safe and nurturing environment for learning. Our work could not be done without their partnership.

“Secondly, I’m thankful for the outreach that has been provided by our community.  Countless opportunities and resources have been provided to our students and their families over the years such as Whiz Kids, Backpack Buddies, Girls’ Group, MAC Camp, free health and immunization clinics, vision screening equipment, tutoring, monetary donations and countless volunteer hours are just a few examples of how the entire community has reached out and made education a priority for not only those from Karen Acres, but from all of those attending Urbandale schools.

“Lastly, I’m thankful for my family — my husband, Cary, a high school principal, and daughter, Hannah, a high school student. They are the driving force behind everything I do and enable me to be the best I can be each day. They help me to keep things in perspective and remain focused on what really matters.”

Bruce Bernard
2013 Urbandale Citizen of the Year and volunteer
“As I think of what I am thankful for this year, a number of thoughts run through my mind,” says Bruce Bernard, 2013 Urbandale City of the Year and volunteer. “First, I’m thankful for my immediate family — wife, daughter, brother and sister, and then my extended family, including my mother-in-law who passed away in September. Her kind, gentle spirit is always with me. She gave meaning to the phrase ‘Leading by example.’

Bruce Bernaerd says he is thankful for his family and a diverse community.

Bruce Bernaerd says he is thankful for his family and a diverse community.

“I am fortunate to be a part of an organization, the Urbandale Community Action Network (UCAN), which is dedicated to being a catalyst for positive community action and spirit in our community. Daily, volunteers give of their time, talents and resources to make Urbandale a better place to live. I have found my niche with these people and receive far more from being in their midst than I have given in return.

“I am also thankful for our local elected and appointed officials, civic, religious and community leaders who work hard to address the needs of the community. They routinely put the community’s best interests ahead of their own.

“I’m thankful for the increasing diversity in Urbandale and for people that are reaching out to embrace that diversity. Our community has a much different look from when I moved here in 1984 — a look reflective of our changing world.

“From a metro perspective, I am thankful that our ‘rush hour’ lasts less than 30 minutes, and I can get anywhere I want to go in that same amount of time. We have major league entertainment, cultural and athletic opportunities at minor league prices and a variety and quality of cuisine that compares very favorably with much larger cities. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the rebirth of downtown and the many contributors to that rebirth in the past 35 years. Good work, everyone. Thank you for your efforts.”

So as you prepare for your Thanksgiving celebration in coming weeks, take time to stop and count your blessings — they will be many.

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