10.10.2008 | printed in the Fall 2008 issue of VITAL magazine
Mark your calendars
POET Biorefining – Marion, Ohio, will open its doors Oct. 24 as POET’s 26th plant in operation and the seventh to open in the past two years. The grand opening celebration will be held at the facility and will include public tours, keynote speakers and lunch. POET Biorefining – North Manchester, Ind., and POET Biorefining – Fostoria, Ohio, celebrated their grand openings Sept. 11 and Sept. 30, respectively. Check out poet.com/news for event coverage.
An award-winning year
POET Biorefining – Ashton, Iowa, was awarded a 2007 Union Pacific Railroad Promontory Award for achieving 100-percent waybill accuracy and zero Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) violations for the year. The plant also received a 2008 EPA ENERGY STAR Combined Heat and Energy Award at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo held in Nashville in June. The award recognized the plant’s efforts to reduce pollution and increase energy efficiency.POET Biorefining – Gowrie employees rally around former co-worker and his family
When the unthinkable occurs, it takes the support of an entire community to find the strength and hope to persevere. When now 4-year-old Coleman Larson was first diagnosed with a brain tumor in late 2006, POET Biorefining – Gowrie, Iowa, employees, along with the entire Gowrie community, rallied to show support. Coleman’s father Scott is a former Plant Operator at POET Biorefining – Gowrie, and his mother Peggy is a former teacher at Duncombe Elementary School in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Shortly after the diagnosis, the Larson family—along with Coleman’s twin brother Caden—constantly had to make the fourhour drive to Iowa City for treatment. “When Scott eventually ran out of vacation days, plant employees donated their own vacation days to help out,” says Rita Carlson, Administrative Assistant at the Gowrie plant. Most recently, the plant donated some of the profits from its golf outing to the Larson family, with the plant matching the funds raised through the event.
Duncombe Elementary, with the help of community members, has lent a hand, as well. Following Coleman’s diagnosis, the school organized a lunch complete with a silent and live auction and children’s activities that raised funds to help with medical expenses. For its part, the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) assisted the effort by donating IndyCar items, such as a replica car, to be auctioned off. Gowrie plant employees also donated items. In total, the school raised more than $28,000 in one night.
“People I didn’t even contact about the event were calling in to ask how they could help,” says Mandy Maulsby, a teacher at Duncombe. “People were overwhelmingly generous.”
The Larson family’s church, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Callender, Iowa, also stepped in. It held a dinner fundraiser, two coffee fundraisers and a benefit auction. Donations for the auction ranged from a local woman’s prized antiques to Iowa State and University of Iowa football tickets to an entire Iowa hog. The Gowrie plant has supported the church’s efforts by donating food for such events and postage for the fliers notifying neighboring towns of the efforts. “Every time something came in, I was blessed and overwhelmed,” says Rebecca Wallace, wife of Kent Wallace, Pastor of Our Saviour’s. “At first, things came in slowly, then as time got near, whoosh! It literally exploded. As some said, ‘It developed a life of its own.’”
In August, the Larson family traveled to New York where doctors performed an MRI of Coleman’s brain and spine. As of press time, the results of the brain MRI came back as “stable.”
POET Biorefining – Chancellor partners with local second grade class
Each year, POET Biorefining – Chancellor, S.D., sponsors Rebecca Kuyper’s second grade class in the Lennox School District through a program called “Business Buddies.” The plant gives the school a monetary donation and serves a mentoring role for the students. “The program is successful because all of us involved from both the school and the businesses try very hard to stay in contact and work together to make sure our students have quality experiences year after year,” Kuyper says.
Adds Shelley DeJong, Administrative Assistant at the plant, “The whole class comes here to the plant for a tour with Rick [Serie, General Manager at the Chancellor plant]—hard hats and all—and cookies and juice. In turn, they supply us with artwork throughout the year to hang on our Christmas tree and around the office.”
Scholarship program keeps alive the memory of former POET Board member
Wally Krause, who passed away four years ago, was a big believer in the ethanol industry, in POET and in the importance of educating the nation’s youth. So it was only fitting that a scholarship program for local high school students be created in his name.
For the past four years, the Krause family has donated funds through the Southwest Minnesota Agrifuels Cooperative (SMAC), of which Krause was a founding member. Those dollars are then matched by POET Biorefining – Bingham Lake, Minn., for a total of $1,000 each year. This year’s recipient is Eric Hodnefield, a student at Jackson County Central High School.
“Back in 1994, when they formed SMAC, the [Bingham Lake] ethanol plant was a dream of [Wally’s] and other members,” says Dan Kelly, Bingham Lake, Minn.-based Manager of SMAC. “He was really instrumental in getting it going and wanted area graduates to choose a career in agriculture and return to the rural area after college or trade school. That’s why the family was interested in putting this scholarship program in place.”
Team member at POET Biorefining – Glenville revives local historic cemetery
Ron Schrader, Mill Operator at POET Biorefining – Glenville, Minn., is giving back to his community in a very unique way: For the past 24 years, he has worked to revive the 130-year-old Our Savior’s Danish Lutheran Cemetery outside of neighboring town Myrtle.
When Schrader began his volunteer work in 1984, the cemetery was neglected and the landscape overrun with weeds. He first worked to clear out the landscape and then moved on to restoring broken tombstones.
Eventually, a board was organized to care for the cemetery going forward. Schrader, fittingly, was named Board President.
Those who know Schrader recognize his efforts. In fact, in June, local newspaper the Albert Lea Tribune, published a story about his commendable volunteer work, complete with photos. “In today’s world, volunteers seem harder to come by, but hearing Ron’s story renews my faith in our society,” says Rick Mummert, Plant Manager at POET Biorefining – Glenville. “Championing POET in the community is simply part of the job at Glenville East. People like Ron make our community the quality place it is to raise our families.”
But Schrader downplays his good deeds. He told the Albert Lea Tribune, “I just like history and have a lot of respect for the dead. Besides, someone had to do this job.”
Mummert adds that Schrader has inspired many of his team members to participate in their own volunteer activities. “Recently, the Glenville team hosted a successful food drive, and they participated in a Relay For Life benefit for cancer Aug. 8,” he says.
SnapshotIn June, POET Biorefining – Jewell, Iowa, participated in Jewell Jubilee 2008. For the annual parade, plant team members built and rode on a float depicting the ethanol plant.
Other Stories in this collection:
Renew: Fall 2008
By Michelle Bowles