‘This is for everyone’Jean Wehr says governor’s volunteer award is for all members of Main Street Washington
When she first learned that she was to receive a Governor’s Volunteer Award this year, Jean Wehr, the past president of Main Street Washington, said that the award was really to everyone in the program who worked hard to make it a success.
Having been with the Main Street Washington program since its inception, Wehr said that she has watched the program grow into what it is today. Wehr was serving with the Washington Chamber of Commerce when the concept was being discussed. Wehr found that she loved the idea of a group that encourages people to get excited about their community and to visit the downtown, as well as aid building owners with renovations. When the Chamber said someone needed to be on the committee, she was quick to volunteer.
“It goes without saying that this is for everyone,” Wehr said. “No one person did this whole thing.”
She said her first reaction when she learned of the award was disbelief, saying that she didn’t understand why she was singled out when there are so many other people working on the program as well.
Wehr said that Tom Guzman of the Iowa Department of Economic Development nominated her for the award.
Born and raised in Washington, Wehr said that when she was in high school, she ignored extracurricular sports to join Future Business Leaders with the goal of one day earning an accounting degree. She said when she was attending Washington High School there were no programs to encourage volunteerism. She went on to get that accounting degree from Kirkwood Community College. Out of high school she worked at Capital Savings and Loan for several years. After she was married and had children, she worked at a fertilizer plant in Brighton as a bookkeeper. She moved to the Washington Community Y as a bookkeeper before getting her job at West Chester Savings Bank. She is now the vice president of the bank.
Wehr said her first volunteerism came when her daughters — now Nicole Stoutner and Erin McGuire — were in school. She volunteered to help in the classrooms and with the Parent Teacher groups. She was also part of an investment group in Washington.
“It was not a conscious effort,” she said. “If a person asks me to help and I think I can do it, I do.”
She was asked to join the Chamber of Commerce. She agreed to serve for a three-year term beginning in 2005. It was during that time that an exploratory group was being formed to determine whether the Main Street program would suit Washington. When Wehr found out that the chamber was looking for a member to be part of the group, she volunteered.
Since Main Street Washington formed, she has served as a board member, vice president, president, and now past president. She said that being president was time-consuming, but not as much as the time that was spent when Washington was applying to become a Main Street community. It took three years of working with Main Street Iowa before Washington got its charter to become a Main Street community.
“You can put in as much or as little time as you want,” Wehr said. “If you just volunteer to help with a certain project, it may only take a couple of hours a week. If you are the chair of a committee, it will take more time. It all depends on what your interests are.”
She said that she belongs to Main Street Washington because she wants to see the City of Washington succeed. She said that she wants there to be a reason for families to want to move to town and raise their children in Washington. She believes that there needs to be a good base for Washington to grow on, and she believes the downtown area is that base.
Since being on Main Street Washington, she said that she is surprised at how many different people from different walks of life are coming together for the common goal of helping to make Washington a better place. She said having many people with different experiences helps when planning events.
Currently, Wehr is hard at work helping to plan Celebrate Washington, which is being held Aug. 3. She said that there is always something going on in Main Street Washington.
“I want to see the program continue and see more people volunteer,” she said. “If there are too few people, it is easy to burn out. The more people who help, the less burden there is on one person.”