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The Merrill Hotel will be partnering with the Sauk Valley Pink Heals to spread awareness, love and support

MUSCATINE — Last month, the color pink was found throughout Muscatine to help show support for people battling breast cancer. This month, the Merrill Hotel is going to take that support a step further — and they’re taking that step in pink heels, or rather Pink Heals.

On Friday, Nov. 15, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Merrill Hotel will be welcoming the Sauk Valley, Illinois, Chapter of the Pink Heals to Muscatine with an open house event. This will be a free event for the public. During the event, the Merrill will also be presenting the Pink Heals with a check for all the funds raised during the hotel’s Pink Out Day as well as a portion of the proceeds from the Pink Ta-Ta Tini specialty cocktail, which is featured at Maxwell’s, the Merrill’s restaurant and bar.

Back in October, when Muscatine had its Pink Out Day on the 23rd where the community was encouraged to wear pink in support for the cause, the employees (or artists) at the Merrill were left with a bit of a problem. “Most of the artists at the Merrill wear uniforms,” explained Ann Brumback, the Sales Coordinator at the Merrill. “So we created a committee, and wanted to take it one step further.”

With the permission of upper management, artists at the hotel were able to make a donation to the cause, as well as wear jeans and either a pink shirt or a cancer support shirt.

After the event, the Merrill committee decided to give their donations to a nonprofit. “While researching, we decided that Pink Heals was the closest nonprofit to the cause,” Brumback said. “They also serve the citizens of Muscatine and its surrounding communities, keeping the donations local.”

While the Sauk Valley Chapter of the Pink Heals was started about three years ago, Pink Heals Inc. has been going for over a decade now.

The Pink Heals was started by retired fireman Dave Graybill, with its mission being to serve members of the surrounding communities with a message of love, hope and hugs while also raising awareness. Accompanied by ambulances and police cars, the Pink Heals infamous pink fire trucks travel around the communities to offer home visits, hugs and "personalized support at grass roots levels" to provide a boost for those who are suffering from illness and to show that they aren’t alone in their fight.

The group also uses the color pink to represent love and families, and doesn’t just focus on breast cancer but all illnesses and struggles that people endure — and that a community can support. “The Pink Heals Tour is about our community, our family, our neighbors and our leaders and how it will bring us back together to focus on one another,” Graybill said.

The Pink Heals operates on merchandise sales, gifts, local sponsorship and kind donations, making events like this one all the more important.

Muscatine residents who attend the open house event at the Merrill, 119 West Mississippi Drive, will have the opportunity to take pictures with as well as sign the Sauk Valley Chapter’s pink fire truck.

“We are excited to welcome the Pink Heals Sauk Valley Chapter to Muscatine,” said Lee Belfield, the general manager at the Merrill, who will be the one presenting the check to the Pink Heals during the event. 

Can mussels clean the Mississippi in Muscatine? A talk at the National Pearl Button Museum will discuss it

MUSCATINE – The gold rush of the Midwest did not involve gold, National Pearl Button Museum director Terry Eagle said. Instead it involved several kinds of bivalve mollusks used for food and for creating pearl buttons.

The waterborne creatures, commonly called mussels, were a source of food and one of the driving forces that led Muscatine to become the pearl button capital of the world. Now the same creatures may be the answer to common problems, such as polluted waterways. From 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, in the museum, Eagle and a panel of experts from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Nature Conservancy will hold an educational event to teach the public how mussels play an important role in water quality and how Muscatine locals want to bring back mussels to the Mississippi River for conservation purposes. The event is free and open to the public.

“The truth is we overfished the United States for these animals to the point where a lot of species disappeared,” Eagle said. “The growth of America was hard on the environment.”

In the Midwest, mussels played a larger role than just food. The shells were used in the making of pearl buttons. In his research of the animal as part of the button industry, Eagle learned the animals are also filters. He said the resurgence of mussels in the Great Lakes has led to the Great Lakes being cleaner than they have been in decades. Since then, his mission has become to champion mussels.

Eagle spoke of the opportunity to bring tourism to the area with the nature. He said the goal is to propagate mussels at the Fairport Fish Hatchery again and put them back into waterways in Iowa. He said along with buffer zones farmers use on fields, he believes the mussels will filter nitrates from water runoff into the Mississippi.

He said during the 1890s, mussels were so common to the area they were considered navigational nuisances. But they were filtering the water. Presently the Pearl Button Museum is showing the history of the buttons, including mussels’ contribution.

Eagle believes the promotion of the system of filtration will bring eco-tourism to the area, as well as funding to the hatchery for the propagation of mussels.

"A simple thank you goes a long way." Veterans Day programs planned for Muscatine

MUSCATINE — A year after the end of the First World War, Nov. 11, 1919, was officially declared Veterans Day.

Now 100 years later, Muscatine veterans continued to be thanked and appreciated with two different events this upcoming Monday.

First, at 8:30 a.m. St. Mary and Mathias Catholic School, 2407 Cedar St., will host an assembly and continental breakfast for veterans in the school gym. This will be the school’s second time running a Veteran’s Day program like this, according to teacher Debra Dunsmore. “The last time we did this program, all the veterans there seemed very touched by it.”

The middle school band, first- to third-graders and fourth- to seventh-graders will perform. Kindergarten students will hand out homemade Veterans Day cards made to the veterans in attendance. The program will also include the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, which will be led by Korean War Veteran Paul Fywassink. Dunsmore said that about 38 veterans are expected to attend. The program will also honor Norma Morrison, wife of the late Bob Morrison, the creator of the Honor Flights of the Quad Cities program, and a former teacher at St. Mary and Mathias.

At 11 a.m., the American Legion, 110 South Houser Street, will host a free program and light luncheon open to the public. The Edward H. Bitzer American Legion Post 27 is one of nearly 14,000 American Legion Posts and is home to 700 members including Post 27, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 27 and the Sons of the American Legion.

Joe Reike, who is running this event, said there will be a 10-12 minute program, featuring Command Sergeant Major Ned Fry, who served in the Iowa National Guard for 32 years.  .

“Every year, we seem to have less people attending and fewer veterans,” said Reike, “We’ve had longer programs before with several speakers, but as we’ve gotten older and we’ve had less people to help, it’s just gotten shorter each year.”

Reike and the Legion are determined to celebrate the day and show their appreciation to other veterans. 

“We don’t know what’s gonna happen or how many people are going to come, but at 11 o’clock, we’re just gonna do what we’re gonna do.”

Reike said Veterans Day is meant to honor the living and deceased and should be taken as a day to let vets know they are appreciated. Beyond the programs and the parades, sometimes just saying thanks can still mean the most.

“A simple thank you goes a long way for them. It means more than a free meal or free cup of coffee, and it really just makes them feel good," he said.

Muscatine Journal file photo  

VFW Post 1565 Commander Jim Schriver welcomes veterans and guests at a past Veterans Day ceremony at the VFW Post home on Grandview Avenue.