West Bend, IA is a town of less than 900 people. It is my hometown and I can’t think of a more beautiful place. This tiny town is home to the “Grotto of the Redemption” — a large (like. city-block large), beautiful shrine that tells the life story of Christ in stone. Perhaps it is this religious symbol that inspires the people who live there to live a life of “nice.” Whether it’s how they treat the stranger passing through town or the retired farmer who has lived there his whole life, you will not find a group of people more willing to go out of their way to support others. And that support doesn’t end when you move away. I left West Bend 14 years ago and I still feel the love and support from its residents.
The nicest thing about the people in West Bend is their willingness to work hard. This community puts on a fabulous 4th of July celebration each summer. There is something for everyone, with a parade, carnival games, street dance, food stands, water fights with local fire departments and so much more. The best part is the fireworks display that puts many larger towns to shame. This is all made possible because of the hours of work and monetary donations that people put in. I now live three hours away but my family always comes back for the celebration.
My mother passed away on October 29, 2015. My father passed away just six weeks later on December 14, 2015. Each had a short battle with cancer. The way this community rallied around my parents and my seven siblings and I was nothing short of amazing. The counter tops and refrigerator was loaded with food and paper products. A steady stream of visitors came through the door, both before and after they died. Over 800 people turned out for my mother’s wake and the church was packed for each of their funerals.
No one wants to see anything fail in this community. When the town lumber yard was in danger of closing, people banded together to turn it into a corporation, sold shares and and it is now a highly successful business. When the local school district ran into a financial crisis, community members donated money to get it out of the red. From that crisis, the Achievement Foundation was born. This organization continues raise money to supply the school with whatever it needs. When the town decided that it needed a motel, residents again banded together to raise money to make it happen.
Community members feel the support from others and because of this they are willing to step out on a limb. That’s the case with a business called Country Maid which is located in West Bend. From the basement of a struggling farm family, this braided pastry has taken the fundraising world by storm. The owners, Ken and Marlene, are committed to helping nonprofit groups raise money, support humanitarian efforts, and run their business with a faith-based philosophy. They epitomize what the community of West Bend is all about. Other businesses flourish in this small town because of the support the residents are willing to give them.