Oct 12, 2023 | Jan Ooms

Hazleton, Iowa, a community with a long history of doing community together. Established in 1853 and named ‘Hazleton’ because the town was founded in a hazelnut grove, this town in what many call ‘fly-over’ country, is an amazing place.

Hazleton has a rich history of being ‘in it’ together. Founded around 1853 with one store, the small town soon began to grow and flourish. However, in 1873, the railroads were expanding westward. That was great for commerce and trade but not so great for Hazleton. You see, Hazleton was a mile off ‘the tracks.’ At the time, this spelled a death knell of the small town as the train, passengers, and trade would be literally ‘passing them by.’ So, the community of Hazleton came together and moved the town a mile west to where it sits to this day. The entire town moved their places of business, tore down buildings and rebuilt them a mile west for the town to survive, and survive and thrive they did. Business grew, several churches were built, with the later addition of a ‘modern’ school in 1914.

Before the school came to be, the town had suffered another devastating blow. On May 3, 1899, early in the morning, a fire broke out and only four buildings were saved. This was a devastating blow to the community. Yet, true to form, the community came together and began to rebuild once again.

It was in this amazing community that Impact Cares had the opportunity to come and played a small part in making this a great place to live as well and even better.

During our time there, we experienced some of the community spirit. We had volunteers come from several churches, the residents themselves, some staff, the local fire department, the Sheriff, and even the mayor came out to express his appreciation for what was being accomplished. Let me share a few stories from our time there.

One lady, struggling with MS, found her ‘traffic lane’ a challenge to navigate. To get out of her home, not being able to walk much, she would have to leave her vehicle (wheelchair), scoot down the steps and then get back in her vehicle to continue, obviously way less than ideal. Impact Cares was able, along with our great volunteers, to build her a ramp in which she could easily get in and out of her home. Knowing her physical challenges, then hearing her story of losing both a son and her husband in recent years, we were amazed by her perseverance and her encouragement to us and everyone around. She made sure to speak to everyone who helped and had Christian worship music playing as we worked. We were humbled and awed by her amazing faith.

Another lady, who had recently moved in, had an ‘I can do it’ attitude as well. Moving into a home that needed some ‘T.L.C.’ she noted that ‘YouTube is my friend!’ Whatever task she was going to attack next, she would get on YouTube to figure out how to do it. It is great to be in a community with folks who have a ‘can-do’ outlook on life – it is infectious in the best way possible!

On the day we held our community dinner, we had 58 residents come out to join us. This was really encouraging as there was a total of 54 of the lots that were occupied! Coming to small communities like Hazleton is always great and challenging. Because they are small and because they know what it means to be a community together, the challenge is often finding enough things to do for the volunteers who come out to help.

The year is now 2023 and Hazleton continues to be a small community, one that encourages each other, looks out for one another and is willing to jump in and help as needs arise. Impact Cares was blessed to be a part of this community in helping this community to continue doing just that.

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