Iowans of the Day

September 27, 2023
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The Blue Ribbon Foundation has been celebrating the hard work of volunteers across our state since 1997. Volunteering is an integral part of Iowans' lives. Volunteers have the ideas, knowledge and expertise needed to keep our communities moving forward. The Foundation proudly honors outstanding state-wide volunteers with the “Iowan of the Day” award during the Iowa State Fair. 

With the help of Cookies Food Products, the Foundation honored 10 Iowans with a special day of recognition. The winners were celebrated during a presentation on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage and received $200 cash, use of a golf cart for the day, VIP parking, gate admission for four, hotel accommodations at the Des Moines Downtown Marriott, and four tickets to the evening Grandstand show.

Arilyan Steenblock – Panora 
As a junior in high school, Arilyan did her part to help with an issue many young women encounter at some point, finding themselves in need of a feminine hygiene product but not having one on hand. To help solve this issue, she started “Blessing Boxes”. These boxes are stocked with needed products in the girl’s bathroom at her school. Between using some of her own money to keep these boxes filled, and soliciting donations, Arilyan is determined to help with this on-going issue.

LaVerne Quass - Ankeny 
LaVerne is committed to giving back to his community. This is evident from his 20 years of volunteering for Life Serve Blood Center. LaVerne has transported blood to hospitals all over Iowa and into Nebraska as a volunteer driver. He continues to volunteer 25 hours a week at the age of 86.   He is also highly involved in his church. LaVerne is a loyal and helpful friend, graciously aiding his friends with their appointments and outings. 


Nelda Bartels – Lytton 
Nelda is known as the “energizer bunny”. She leads the designing of the face of her town; including the welcome signs as well as the plants she maintains each summer. Nelda continually volunteers to take photos for the annual Lytton Gala Days Celebration. She can be found attending local sporting events as one of the biggest fans. Nelda coordinates activities each year for the Sunday school kids. It’s safe to say that she loves her small town and the great state of Iowa.

John Keeney - Carlisle 
John has been the treasurer for the Warren County Agricultural Association for 15 years as well as a member of the Board of Directors. He has also served as the vice president on the Warren County Fair Association for 15 years. John is a member of the VFW and American Legion. He was a 4-H leader for 16 years along with his 18 years of serving on the Extension Council and Youth Committee. John is an inspiration for his service and dedication to many different organizations in his community. 

De Heaton – Corning 
De averages more than 30 hours a week serving her community through her work at the Corning Opera House as the Executive Director. She oversees maintenance of the building, writes grants and makes sure that entertainment is family friendly. De is a strong advocate for music education and experience. She facilitates many youth activities such as the children’s musical, “Tea Parties”, the annual Polar Express Celebration as well as planning educational activities for students on “early out” days. 

Emma Miller - Goodell 
At ten years old, Emma was with her grandmother at the local cemetery paying their respects to family and close friends by decorating headstones. Emma noticed there was a large tree limb on one of the gravestones. She called her grandpa and he brought tools to help her clean up and make repairs to the area. Emma took initiative and decided to continue this as a community service project. Throughout the last two years she can be found decorating, repairing or cleaning old grave sites in the cemetery. 

Ron Stutsman – Riverside   
Ron is the face of his community. He has served as Chairman of the Board for the Sharon Center United Methodist Church, President of the Iowa 4-H Foundation, and President of the Agribusiness Association of Iowa. Ron makes himself (as well as his resources) available whenever needed to his community. He has served on the Hills Bank and Trust Board of Directors, President of Goodwill Industries of SE Iowa and is a member of the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce Board. 

Arleen Starman – Burlington 
After losing her husband when he was in hospice care, Arleen was called to help others going through the same thing. She understood what the families were feeling allowing her to help them in a way nobody else could. Arleen healed others as she healed herself through her 3,247 hours of volunteering with hospice over fifteen years. Arleen is well known and loved around her community because of her 27 years of being the middle school secretary. She makes it a point in her life to make everyone feel special.

Bev Michael - Cedar Falls 
Since 1994, the Sartori Memorial Hospital has recorded 6,250 volunteer hours that Bev has contributed. She has managed the gift shop, coordinated blood drives and chaired the teen volunteer committee. Bev has served as the president of the Hospital Auxiliary, held a seat on the Iowa Hospital Auxiliary Board and co-chaired the Sartori Festival of Trees fundraiser for a number of years. She volunteers with the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, Cedar Falls Visitors and Tourism Bureau, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Waterloo Center of the Arts, and Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Elsie Van Beek – Maurice 
As a 15 year old, Elsie has a strong passion for recognizing and thanking veterans. She successfully raised $85,000 through selling cupcakes and soliciting donations to sponsor 83 veterans on an Honor Flight. The veterans had the opportunity to see Arlington National Cemetery along with other special memorials: a day they will never forget. Elsie volunteers with Wreaths across America, Midwest Honor Flight, Key Club (community service organization), Maurice Youth Group and is a junior member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit.

It's never too early to nominate a deserving person for next year's Iowan of the Day Award

Nominees must be residents of Iowa. Each nomination is evaluated on a number of things - including community involvement, volunteerism, personal achievements, and involvement with youth. Nominators should provide us with supplemental materials that emphasize these areas such as testimonials, photos, newspaper articles and letters of recommendation. Any information that shows our judges the greatness of your nominee is welcomed! 

Congratulations again to the 2023 Iowan of the Day winners!