“I don’t want the kid that hits all the home runs or the all-star football player,” Joe Anson said. “I want the kid that’s caring and compassionate and shows kindness.”
Wednesday, Anson started his kid of the week recognition program with Piper and Anthony Neubauer for their lemonade stand they run to raise money for an autism service dog.
This idea of recognizing people started several years earlier when Anson was trying to find a way to recognize local veterans.
In 2018, Anson began to feature one veteran each week at the VFW field on Fridays by letting them throw the ceremonial first pitch.
This idea quickly took off, and Anson said he liked that it got kids and veterans together so kids could understand what a veteran is and what they represent.
When COVID hit, Anson had to get creative. “We didn’t play baseball that year, but we had to do something,” he said. “That’s when we started going to the houses with a banner.”
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the veteran of the week banner and two American flags can be seen bounced from house to house as each veteran is recognized.
Anson wasn’t satisfied with just a banner - he wanted to get the community involved. “I went to the VFW meeting, told them what I wanted to do with that and the veteran wall. They backed me on both things,” he said. “I went to the police station, the fire station and the EMTs. Having them there shows the veteran that it’s not just the veterans that appreciate them, but also the civic workers in town.”
For older veterans, Anson said the recognition means a little more. “It’s heartwarming to them,” he said. “When a lot of them came back, they weren’t appreciated at all.”
Creston isn’t the only place that does veteran of the week - he got the program started in his home town, Muscatine. “I’ve got a gentleman down there that runs it for me,” he said. “We did his ceremony about a month ago. It was a surprise to him. It’s fun when it’s a surprise to the veteran.”
Anson’s long term goal is for all 99 counties in Iowa to adopt a veteran of the week recognition program. “I’ve got a few other towns i’ve been talking with to try to get it going.”
In the past, Anson has also done person of the week, but after recognizing about 40 people, the program is on pause.
Kid of the week is the newest venture, seeking to recognize kids for their kindness. “I saw where kids were doing a lemonade stand to raise money for this or that. I thought, let’s recognize a kid and make them feel good,” Anson said.
The recognized child will receive a custom plaque as well as a banner in their yard for the week. As a surprise to the first week’s kids, Anson organized for the Panthers mascot to show up in support of the kids.
The community can help by coming out to support kid of the week at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and veteran of the week at 5 p.m. on Fridays. Weekly information can be found on the Facebook groups veteran of the week and inspired by this kid of the week.
This week’s veteran, Ronald Jackson, will be honored between 5 and 5:30 p.m., Friday, July 22 at 510 N. Cherry St. All are welcome.
The other way to get involved is to nominate a veteran or a kid to Anson on Facebook or at 515-720-4727. He estimates they need five or six more veterans to get to Labor Day, and he plans to run kid of the week year-round.
“I don’t care if they’re 4 or 5 or a senior in high school,” he said. “If more kids see this going on, maybe that will push more kindness instead of all the hate in the world.”