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Monday, May 2, 2016

Pella, Iowa: Where the Dutch settled in the USA And the Tulips and History live on today

Pella, Iowa, has a lot of what I think about to keep me going during a cold, long winter—Tulips! Their return each year in our yard symbolizes so much to me about faith, hope, God’s, love, and my Dutch heritage.

In route to celebrate a special occasion for my dad’s side of the family in Oskaloosa, Iowa, we had the good fortune to pass through Pella about a week or so after their annual Tulip Festival while rows upon rows of vibrant tulips still lined the streets and park. A relative living in Oskaloosa told me on a visit that they always assure that tulips will be at their peak during the festival no matter what it takes. We strolled through the park taking in the beautiful hues of the tulips on what I recall as a quiet and peaceful viewing. We also admired the charm of the downtown business district where all buildings had Dutch architecture.

I think it was after I had been to Pella, Iowa, that I realized that I had more family roots in this area on my mom’s side of the family. I had grown up believing that my Dutch line in America began when my great-grandmother whose maiden name was Eva Van Eperen came to American as a girl with her parents in 1888.

As an adult, I read a hardbound family history book that helped me piece together the fact that I had a skip in my direct line coming to America as my great- great-great grandparents did not make the voyage to America. However, I had great-great-great-great grandparents along with some of their children who immigrated to America. Well, I know that is a lot of greats and I sure hope I get them right! In reading the book, I found out that some of the relatives had settled and farmed in the Pella, Iowa, area. I feel drawn to this place where my relatives made their mark on the land and communities.

I have not made it to any of the 80 annual Tulip Time Festivals during the first full weekend in May, but I almost have a sense that the 81st festivities to be held May 5th, 6th, and 7th in 2016 have come to me.

Custom Costumes of Pella, Iowa
I have seen the 2016 Queen and her court pictures in both traditional Dutch Costumes and in formal gowns. Recently, I received a copy of “Dutch Costumes-A Look into the Past.”

Written by Jacki Craver & Phyllis Zylstra and photographed by Desha Bruxvoot. I am learning that there is so much more to traditional Dutch attire than the lace cap on the top of the head and the carved wooden shoes adorning the feet. I had no idea that there were so many styles of Dutch clothing and caps that varied from region to region and also changed over the four centuries represented in the book. I cherish the vibrant photos of people modeling Dutch attire against scenic Dutch backdrops. The book shows the intricacies of the clothing as well as the histories of the areas. Their handiwork with meticulous detail has been worn by the honorary Dutch courts during the annual Tulip Festival. One can see more of their work at their facebook page Custom Costumes, a local business in Pella, Iowa.

From my correspondence with Phyllis, I know that authenticity is very important to them as they sew period clothing. They have patterns available for those wanting to sew Dutch attire. At times, they have special limited edition items such as the 2016 Tulip Time Royalty Clutches that are handcrafted with fabrics bearing floral motifs.

Jaarsma, a Bakery in Pella, Iowa
Through a Dutch sampler that I ordered for my family from Jaarsma, a bakery in Pella, Iowa, we were able to taste Holland inspired goodness. They rush their shipments out so the items arrived bakery fresh. I will not itemize every highlight, but everything was beyond what I can adequately describe delicious. I do not speak the tongue of my Dutch ancestors, but I am thinking the double a’s in Jaarsma must stand for something like A+ amazing. My mother said of their almond butter cake that it was one of the best pastries that she ever had. Then, there were the Dutch Letters…. There is a reason why they are famous!
Duth Letters from Jaarsma Bakery.

Kristi Jaarsma Balk, the 4th generation to own the bakery, explains how her bakery and town are true to Dutch tradition. She explained to me:

“My great grandfather, Harmon Jaarsma started the bakery in 1898. He was an immigrant from the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. He brought with him many recipes from the Netherlands, which we still use today. We carry out the traditions he began over 100 years ago. All of our products are made from scratch as always. We specialize in traditionally Dutch pastries and have added some American favorites over the years. We love to travel to the Netherlands to look for new recipes to try here. Our most recent visit, inspired us to make stroopwafles, which are waffle cookies with a syrupy center. Our most popular Dutch pastries would include, Dutch Letters, Banket, Almond Filled Butter Cookie (gevulde koek), St. Nick cookies (speculaas) and Dutch Apple Bread. We are famous for our Dutch Letters.”

She expressed how there is a lot of Dutch pride in the Pella community. On her families visits to the Netherlands they feel like they are at home because according to her that Pella looks very Dutch.

Thistles, a Flower Shop in Pella, Iowa 
I have a place in my heart for neighborhood and small town florists and I communicated with Thistles located in Pella, Iowa to learn about their services. In the city that celebrates blooms, they give personal attention to their arrangements.

The owner, Lois Vermeer shared with me:

“Thistles proudly serves the Pella area. We are family-owned and operated. We are committed to offering only the finest floral arrangements and gifts, backed by service that is friendly and prompt. Because all of our customers are important, our professional staff is dedicated to making your experience a pleasant one. That is why we always go the extra mile to make your floral gift perfect.

The Thistles difference is our flower preparation so flowers look their best, unique designs, and desire to say it with flowers for our customers.”
Vermeer Mill courtesy of Pella Historical Society.
The shop has a wide array of flowers for every occasion. A recent caption on Thistles social media page begins Tis the Season and invites people to procure fresh and silk tulips for all their tulip time preparations. The tulips pictured were the lovely two-toned red and white variety.

After vicariously watching people on reality family history shows transformation as they sought to get in touch with their roots by visiting historical museums, I would love to visit the Pella Historical Society and Museum someday. Of course, it is not the same as an in person guided tour, but I did enjoy the information and pictures on the web site and social media of the town and historical village.

I learned how the Vermeer Mill, the tallest functional mill in the USA, has parts from the Netherlands and was assembled in Pella by Dutch craftsman. Wind power still grinds wheat into flower to this day.

A fun addition to the village that is aimed for children of all ages is the Doll Exhibit and Puppet Theater. There are toy exhibits, coloring pages, puppets, and costumes.

I am intrigued by the miniature display of Dutch architecture, clothing, and daily life as I have collected miniatures for years.

From my correspondence with the Pella Historical Society, I know that they are dedicated to preserving and honoring the past. For those with Pella roots, they will do research for a fee. This society is instrumental at Tulip Time and activities throughout the year celebrating Dutch life.

By the time the tulip festival takes place, many of tulips that we awaited and enjoyed their short season will have lost all their petals. As mine were blooming, Pella’s were budding and will be at their Zenith when the community comes together for their fun-filled event.

-population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan
© 2016 population-we, LLC 
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Monday, April 25, 2016

Scatter Joy Acres Offers Animal Assisted Therapy In The City

The rescued animals at Scatter Joy Acres (SJA) with the assistance of Joy Bartling make some of the best therapists. During her years at the ranch, Joy who has a certification in Animal Assisted Therapy has witnessed animals boosting moods and healing hearts and minds. Animal assisted therapy is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment. Since opening the refuge 10 years ago, she expressed, “There are countless stories and as I sit back and think about them at times I am amazed in the last ten years how many people I have been blessed to be part of their life struggles and how together with my animals we were and are overcoming.”

Ashely and Lou saying hello.
She has seen how children and others who have experienced trauma or struggles respond to the stories of the animals at Scatter Joy Acres. She explained, “As they learn to trust the animals they learn that the animals are no different than they are and they too overcome obstacles and together the companionship helps to work on the issues.”

Most of the animals that reside at SJA have experienced trauma or neglect according to Joy. She shared the story of one of their horses named Jack who is 100 percent blind.

“… (Before) he came to SJA he was stuck in a stall most of his day (because) his owner didn't think he could get around in the paddock due to being blind. Upon arriving at SJA Jack was put out in the paddock with our donkey's and mini horses (where) he found a pasture mate name Lucky and she took it upon herself to show Jack around the paddock. I also took some time and hung out with Jack leading him around, as I spend time with Jack he has taught me to close my eyes and use my hearing and smell. It is amazing to close your eyes and take in the world as Jack does. Our eyes are windows to the ugly that goes on in this world, but if we take time to stop and just listen to the small still voice, we are never led astray.”

One of Joy’s chores growing up on her family farm was milking the cows. There were times when she felt dejected and the cows took their heads and wrapped her in their neck. She realized what comfort animals can be at this time.

Joy believes that the animals can help do God’s work. She feels that animals are so trusting and want to be hugged and petted by us. She compares their type of love to the unconditional love that Jesus gives us. She respects people’s choice of religion and welcomes people of different creeds to SJA. She does not push her faith on others. She does share some Biblical stories sometimes relating to the animals

Participants in my questionnaire marveled at having an animal refuge in the middle of an urban area in Omaha, Neb. SJC has served many groups over the year and has hosted groups from across the United States. SJC has programs for all ages, all levels of school, youth groups, assisted living homes and people with disabilities or critical health problems. It is also available for parties and corporate events.

Volunteers Needed
Scatter Joy Acres appreciates those who volunteer. Giving time and energy is one of the best ways for youth and adults to experience nature and the animals. There are a variety of ways to be of service and possibly learn new skills.

Volunteer: Teela Mickels Founder/CEO of Compassion In Action Inc./R.A.W. D.A.W.G.S. Youth Corps Gang Prevention Program
Hugs are welcome.
Omaha’s first and only gang prevention program, R.A.W. D.A.W.G.S and leader Teela Mickels have volunteered to work the land and help with the animals. The first trip involved relocating the ranch from one location to another. Teela feels that the youth are learning to give back, which adds value to their lives and builds character. They are learning hard work and the importance of planning according to Teela. She added that most of them have not been exposed to birds, pigs, chickens, ducks, and goats. She said, “Therefore, their time with the animals was better than any zoo because they were able to touch them and ride the horses. For many of the boys, it was the very first time they had seen or touched animals. So, yes, it was very positive.”

The youth have also visited just to have fun being on the land and to play with and pet the animals.

Teela has also made trips to the ranch with her grandchildren. The big shaggy dog was beloved by them and one grandchild would not leave the dog’s side. Purring cats, peacocks and goats were highlights of the day. One grandson bonded with the goats and kept petting them. All of them loved the gentle horses as they came up to the fence for petting.

Teela is an ordained minister and has worked with incarcerated individuals and their families for 30 years. She believes that Scatter Joy Acres is a miracle and that Joy is an instrument in the hand of God. I have known Teela for at least 40 years. I credit Teela with my introduction to Joy and Scatter Joy Acres as she shared pictures with her friends on social media. I thank her so much for this blessing in my life! Regarding Joy, she feels that she is a person full of compassion despite her many obstacles. She shared,” Her love for people is genuine and overflows from her love for God and respect for His creatures. I have a long history with Joy of more than 25 years and I have witnessed the sacrifices, the struggles and the strength of her faith and character to press in and give to others much more than she ever received for herself…”

Volunteer: Carrie Pease, OMNI Behavioral Health
Carrie Pease enjoyed the one on one interaction that her group was able to have with the animals while they volunteer at the ranch. They gained from these exchanges with the animals while learning skills. She said, “We are able to learn how to take care of the animals and help with other maintenance on the farm. It helps our organization give back to the community and we love the animals.”

Volunteer: Amy Prochaska
Rescued farm animals at Scatter Joy Acres.
Amy Prochaska has visited the ranch to volunteer and to attend a party. She recalled, “I was able to spend time outdoors with my friends helping prepare the farm for opening. We were around a number of animals and it just felt good to feel like we were out of the city and to help a great cause. The animals are always amazing to be around.” She is touched by the measures that Joy takes in rescuing animals. In addition, she feels the ranch is a very welcoming place. She relates, “It is a place where anyone can come and feel at home. It gives people who may never have chances to get out of the city the opportunity to feel truly free. Plus Paladin is awesome.” As a member of a family who adopted a grown Great Pyrenees like Paladin, I can attest to how wonderful those gentle giants.

Community Outreach
Joy takes the animals from the ranch out into the community. Whether it is a local homeless shelter or a nursing home or other setting, the animals are touching lives of people who may not have an opportunity to visit the ranch in person.

Community Outreach: Sabra Mackey, Recreation Therapy Coordinator with Douglas County Health Center
Joy visits Douglas County Health Center once a month accompanied by one or more of the animals. She typically visits 30 to 60 people that evening. Sabra Mackey told me that sheltering formerly abused animals and turning them into healthy and happy animals is only a portion of the story. She sad, “The Farm is also a healing place for people.”

During Joy’s visits with the animals to the center, Sabra has witnessed the positive interactions with the residents. “People who don't smile normally - will have their faces light up. People who don't normally talk, will initiate conversation,” according to Sabra.

Sabra has seen Joy’s love in action. She revealed, “It is definitely Joy that makes Scatter Joy Acres special. She has so much love for people as well as animals and she brings that love to so many people through her ministry. “

Sabra believes that SJC is a worthy cause to support. She added, “If you are looking for a place to support with your time, talent or treasure. Scatter Joy Acres is a wonderful investment in people and animal's lives."

Volunteer / Community Outreach: Sheryl Gehrls CFCI Omaha Base Director/ Urban Plunge Christ For the City International
Sabrina and Cinnamon having a moment.
I witnessed the work of the many hands from Urban Plunge at the ranch through pictures on social media. Sheryl Gehrls informed me that she has known Joy for several years and meets with her regularly as Urban Plunge partners with Scatter Joy Acres. She said this partnership allows Urban Plunge volunteers to have experiences with animals in ways that may be new to them. In addition to working on the ranch, they assist Joy as they travel off site to petting zoos, live nativities, assisted living homes and parades. She said, “They learn that animals can truly be a means of real blessing and healing to many less fortunate than themselves. It's also unique to find a totally farm setting in the middle of a large urban area! They've been a great ministry partner for us, as we seek to explore ministry possibilities for our Plunge participants.”

Care of the Animals and Need for Donations
Sheltering and providing proper care for the llamas, pigs, horses, cows, goats, peacocks, dogs, chickens, and cats etc. costs on average from #3000 to $4000 a month. SCJ relies on donations to fed, vet, and rehabilitate the animals. Joy said that the ranch would like to add some of the following animals in the future: “, a kangaroo, zebra, reindeer and another camel for Balthazar to hang out with.”

Joy and the animals at SJC have been instruments of positive change. Reflecting on what she likes best about SJC, Joy said,” I love seeing people change, the moments of peace that goes through them. I love being an instrument through my own struggles in life and being able to help people see that they are worth a million bucks even thou life maybe throwing arrows at them.”

Scatter Joy Acres is a place that animals that were formerly neglected and hungry are given tender loving care because those involved recognize that animals are a gift.

(Editor's note: All photographs courtesy of Scatter Joy Acres).
-population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan
© 2016 population-we, LLC 
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