Contact: Jodie Muller
North Star Community Services
Phone#: 236-0901, ext. 304

Summer News 2017

North Star seeking a new Executive Director

In 47 years of service, North Star Community Service has had only 4 executive directors! After nearly 25 years, our current Executive Director, Mark Witmer, has decided to retire. In his announcement letter, he shares that "North Star lives its ideals every day by keeping the people we serve at the heart of everything we do. We respect the value, worth and dignity of each and every person associated with North Star, and we recognize that nothing positive can happen without great staff members. And North Star has great staff members!"

To read Mark's letter in its entirety [Click Here]

And so we begin the search for a new leader; someone who can fill the shoes of the past leaders and continue to move the agency forward. We are hoping to have that person transitioned to take the lead by June 2018.

North Star's "Entertainment Awards" Feel Good Hit!

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017 nearly 190 friends, family, and community members gathered at St. Mary Church to enjoy North Star’s annual fall program.

Giving the performers an opportunity to dress up and show-off their talents, this year’s program was loosely based on the Country Music Awards, and was titled, “The North Star Entertainment Awards.” Everyone who attends day programming at North Star’s Waverly Center had the opportunity to have a role in the show, either as a presenter, performer, or greeter.

Featured vocalists were Cody Adams, Jeremy Kluiter, Sonya Foutch, Chad Olson, Alice McGovern, Nick Jentz, Duane “Slim” Scoles, Heather Hendricks, Dean Shonka, Brent Westmeyer, and two duets: Dakota Bushman with Courtney Tharp and Lynn Taylor with Koni Wee. The performers chose a few personal favorite musical numbers, and an eclectic variety of music was represented, including: “I Swear” (All-4-One), “Anymore” (Travis Tritt), “Baby I’m-a Want You” (Bread), “Harper Valley PTA” (Jeannie C. Riley), “Let it Go” (“Frozen” theme, Idina Menzel), “Hound Dog” (Elvis), and “Rainbow Connection” (“Muppet Movie,” Kermit the Frog) and more. The final number was a touching rendition of “The Old Rugged Cross” sung by Brent Westmeyer with a little assistance from staff member and show director, Ray Dixon.

Other highlights included Travis Moeller playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on keyboard, “Kumbaya” by North Star’s bell choir, and a rousing dance performance to Meghan Trainor’s “It’s all about the Bass.”

Acting as host for the event was Haleigh Swick with assistance from staff member, Lois Rosol. Presenting awards were: Jay Billington, Dean Shonka, Lacie Vorthman, Holly Forest, Tim Gallmeyer, Darren Tiedt, Danielle Jensen, Russell Lalk, Koni Wee, Joel Brase, Jim Neelans, Hope Eickhoff, and McKenna Hart. Other participants included: Laney Beadle, Sierra Pleas, Alison Cusick, Janet Schwerin, and April Gilbert.

Special thanks to St. Mary Church, Janesville United Methodist Church-Rebecca Circle, Jim Stout, Duane Schwickerath, Linda Schnabel, and Rita Ruth. Special thanks to Cheryl Forest for making all of the fun Kermit the Frog puppets used in the production, and as always; thank you to our dedicated volunteers, families, and staff.

"My Son Pinocchio" was outstanding success!!

On Wednesday, June 7, 2017 the stage at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls came alive with fun hijinks as Pinocchio (Brittany Kinscherf), Geppetto (David Stamp), the Blue Fairy (Chelsey Linza), a Fox (Russell Hamilton), a Cat (Tim Cunningham), Stromboli (Amy Powell), a dancing Cricket (Charlie Harkrider), and 79 other lively characters took the audience on an entertaining journey with, “My Son Pinocchio.”

CLICK HERE to see the playbill, including the entire cast list!

In a re-telling of the classic Disney story, “Pinocchio,” theatre-goers were quickly drawn in as five “fairies-in-training” gather to celebrate another perfectly granted wish by the Blue Fairy. Their celebration is interrupted by Geppetto, who complains that Pinocchio, the wooden puppet she brought to life as his son is “defective.”

To uncover the truth, the Blue Fairy took the audience back in time to the day Geppetto’s wish came true. Struggling to make Pinocchio the “perfect boy,” the new father quickly discovered that being a father is full of challenges. After all, his son told lies, making his nose grow; got himself get tangled up with some shady characters, narrowly misses being turned into a donkey, and then ends up in a giant whale’s belly! But, it is only after Geppetto is faced with the prospect of never seeing Pinocchio again that Geppetto discovers the true meaning of family and the joy of being a father.

Directed by Mr. Greg Holt, North Star Community Services’ inclusive community theatre production, “My Son Pinocchio,” was the sixth for the agency and featured an ensemble cast of 84 actors with a wide range of abilities. Nearly 2,100 people of all ages attended one of two shows, and by all indications a great time was had by all!

Stage manager for this show was Joy Thorson, and the production coordinator was Haley Krall. The sets were designed by Mr. Bill Close. The scenery was amazing, and included Geppetto’s toy shop, Stromboli’s wagon and puppet show stage, and, more. Also created by Close was the audience’s favorite: a huge, 27-foot long whale, which was lit by black lights! Coordinating sets and props was Allie Noble. Most of the 86 costumes were sewn by Diane Fineran and Haley Krall.

North Star had some wonderful supporters and sponsors for this theatrical production. Special thanks for grants from the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, the Iowa Arts Council (a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts), the Waterloo Community Foundation, and U.S. Bank. We are grateful for the generosity of these sponsors: John Deere, PDCM Insurance, Quota Club of Waterloo, Joint Volunteers of the Cedar Valley Arc, Designer Genes Down Syndrome Group, Greenwood Pharmacy, Home Instead Senior Care, University of Iowa Community Credit Union, and Van Meter. Additional thanks go to Chad’s Pizza, Memory Maker’s Photography by Eileen Crotty, and the Rotary of the Cedar Valley.

North Star’s inclusive community theatre project was first created in 2008 as a special opportunity for people with disabilities and community volunteers to learn and work together in a collaborative effort to produce a wonderful, full-scale musical production for the public, while showcasing the talents of many different actors. These productions have allowed everyone who has been involved to use the process as a meaningful form of self-expression and personal growth. And, nearly 10 years later, the project continues to create a community presence for both North Star and its participants, build relationships among community members, and serve as a fun, inclusive experience for the public.

Did you know Waverly Center has a bell choir?

Several participants from North Star's Waverly Center perform bell choir concerts around the Bremer County area. A new fun facet to the shows is the addition of an "iPad Band," in which participants use the iPad to play different instrumental sounds. They are led by North Star staff member, Ray Dixon. The Bell Choir/iPad Band typically perform at different Christmas events, and also visit a few nursing homes throughout the year. If you are interested, you can schedule the Bell Choir to perform for your program at any time during the year. Contact the Waverly Center at 319-352-1425 for more information, or to schedule a performance.

If you haven't visited North Star's blog, you should check it out today!

North Star’s blog is entitled “See Through our Eyes.” [click here to see it]

This blog is different, because it is being written (or dictated) by the men and women with disabilities who participate in programs at North Star. Each entry is about anything the person wants to share with others.

Since disability is really just another part of the human experience, it is our hope that through these postings you will be able to step outside of your own world, and perhaps learn a little bit about someone else’s life. What you discover may surprise you!

In a quote taken from a song by rap artist, DMX, “Look through my eyes, see what I do, be what I be, walk in my shoes.” That is what we hope that this project will accomplish – allowing other people to see things from a new point of view and demonstrating that no matter what our abilities, we are really more alike than we are different.