If the holiday party is any indication, the turbulent times of Jerusalem Township are coming to an end.
Two years ago, one could not attend a trustees meeting without listening to hours of bickering among government officials and residents.
Earlier this month, 175 residents showed up at a holiday party hosted by the township trustees. All involved say the three-and-a-half hour event was a huge success. Trustee Ron Sheahan emceed the event and announced door prizes.
“I talked to people who were there and everyone was so excited about it they are ready for another one next year,” trustee David Bench said.
Residents were asked to donate clothing. Township fiscal officer Julie Van Nest says they received 52 pairs of gloves, 31 pairs of stockings, scarves, and other clothing.
“We just had an amazing response. Those are going to go to the underprivileged children at Wynn and Jerusalem because they are in our township,” Van Nest. “The cub scouts participated — they brought in the flags and sang some carols, and we all did pledge of allegiance and we had the reading of the birth of Christ. That was part of our presentation. It was amazing.”
|Bob Marquette and Isaac Gallaher is Santa
Claus and child at the Jerusalem Township
holiday party. (Photo by Maggie Dandar)
Donations went far beyond clothing.
“We had everything donated right down to the sloppy Joes, volunteers — we had some amazing prizes. We had some kids do some community work at Clay and Genoa High School. It was such a super, super program,” Van Nest said.
Trustee Joe Kiss added, “We had lots of gloves, lots of hats. Area business people donated lots. Wal Mart donated lots. Myself, David, Ron all donated things. They dispersed them with little drawings and prizes and little games that kids won. Everybody got stuff. It was great.
“There were several little girls that made comments that it was a great party for the people of the area and that it was really cool. The hour that I was there it was a lot better than what I think most people expected,” Kiss added.
The party was rescheduled because of poor weather, but no one expected such a large turnout.
“After rescheduling it we didn’t think we were going to get much of anything because we had bad weather and dangerous road conditions,” Van Nest said. “So we rescheduled it for the following afternoon at the fire station because we actually had the hall rented and we had to do something.
“It’s the first time we’ve had one in about three years. It kind of went to the wayside and then we just decided that with the new trustees and the way things were looking so positive that we wanted to do something for the community. All of the people who attended said that it was the best thing that the community could have even offered and even done,” Van Nest added.
“It was just for the township. It was not paid for by the township — it was all paid for by community donations. There was not a penny spent from the township,” the fiscal officer continued.
Bench played his part by letting children decorate him as Santa Claus.
“(Bench) volunteered to participate in one of our games, which was to create a Santa Claus out of items that we gave the kids — like red ribbons and stuff, and he was just a real trooper. Just to show that there was participation from the trustees,” Van Nest said.
Bench added, “There were two of us standing there and we got decorated as Santa Claus. One time, my son stood with me, and the second time Dick Wilson stood with me, and then the kids decorated us as in a box with white paper or red paper and then some big pieces of cotton for our beard. The kids decorated us, and then we had applause and whoever got the best (applause), they won, and the kids got these great big cookies that Julie had for them, and I had fun, too.”
Township officials say the bickering in trustee meetings has settled down, also.
“It’s like night and day. You know, we’re laughing. The audience is laughing and participating. I mean, we’re getting our business taken care of but there is not that tension. Oh, it was just horrible,” Van Nest said.
Kiss said, “The last two years have just been total opposite and so productive. We’ve gotten the contract bid and saved tons of money on the garbage. We’ve gotten tons of stuff done at the cemetery — trees, a flagpole. We’ve gotten a new complete parking lot put in at the township and restriped, and a helicopter landing pad. The recycling station has been moved to a more efficient location and we are getting ready to finish that up.
“We had a great tire recycling tire day where the township picked up half the tire recycling. If you had one or 100 tires in your backyard, the township would pay half for you to bring them up and you paid half, and we recycled almost 1,000 tires which was just phenomenal. We got the recreation department moving forward with getting some diamonds and some draining at the future rec site,” Kiss continued.
“It’s just been one productive two years. These two new trustees and I have made a commitment to work together versus work against each other and that has just been a wonderful experience from me. I don’t need to go back to where I was my first two years, but I think everybody knows how that was. It was brutal.”