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Peyton's Pantry celebrates a year filled with giving back to the community

MUSCATINE – In December 2020, Peyton Story, 10, decided to use his birthday money to help people in need in his community. Nearly one year later, Peyton is still doing all he can to help.

Located at his mother’s laundromat, Park Avenue Laundry on 2102 Park Avenue, is “Peyton’s Pantry”, a small food pantry filled with non-perishables such as canned food and cereal for anyone to take with no questions asked.

“The pantry has been doing really good," Peyton said of the last year. "We’ve been getting a lot of donations overall, and it makes me feel pretty good and like I’ve accomplished my goal.”

With the opening of the pantry also came the start of the Peyton’s Pantry GoFundMe page. It has raised $2,130 so far.

“Most of (the money) came from last season, and all of it went to families in need,” Tabbi explained. “So we just kept it open in case anyone wanted to donate and help with it.”

But while financial donations have slowed down, Peyton does all he can to keep his pantry running, restocking at least twice a week. With this determination, however, has come support.

At McKinley Elementary School, where Peyton goes to school, each class chooses a charitable community project for the month of November. Peyton’s class chose his pantry for the project, and he has been able to collect non-perishables outside before school, each Monday this month. He said it has been a huge boost to his pantry’s stock.

“It feels really good to be supported,” he said.

Peyton would like to expand. He is collecting hats and gloves, and his goal is to set up pantries in local churches and food shelters to help out those who may not live near Park Avenue.

Tabbi said they keep a close eye on various charity pages on Facebook. “If someone says they need something, and it’s something we’re capable of doing, then we’ll help.”

The most recent example was Peyton’s donation of books to a local child who needed them. For Peyton, acts of kindness and charity aren’t just part of his life, but something he loves to do.

“I learned that charity can be quite rewarding,” he said, adding he hoped he could keep his pantry open for many years so that he could continue helping others.

Tabbi said she didn't expect the pantry to last a whole year, and she is amazed by how her son’s efforts have grown in that time.

“Sometimes kids get tired of doing something, but he’s just kept at it and he just amazes me with his kindness,” Tabbi said. “I’m just so proud, and I couldn’t have asked for a better son.”

To make a donation to Peyton’s Pantry, go to or bring a physical check to Park Avenue Laundry.

Muscatine artist gives Salvation Army kettles a new coat of paint

MUSCATINE — Muscatine artist Chris Anderson has distinguished himself through murals and community projects. This holiday season he isn’t just spreading creativity — he’s also spreading what he sees as hope.

The Salvation Army’s red kettle has become an iconic symbol of both Christmas and charity. But after so many years, some of these kettles are showing their age. Lt. Greg Bock of the Muscatine County Salvation Army came up with a way to give these kettles new life.

“I was excited to hear from him,” Anderson said about Bock contacting him him with the idea, “I like what he does. (Bock) is a great person, and he really goes above and beyond to get his campaigns going with the Salvation Army.”

When Bock first asked him to paint a few of the Salvation Army’s kettles, it didn’t take much for Anderson to say yes. According to Anderson, Bock approached him because of his artistic skills and because he heard Anderson’s story.

“Personally, I’ve struggled through life, and there have been times where I’ve called on (the Salvation Army) for help, and I know that the money that they generate in these red kettles helps people with homelessness, food and even Christmas gifts,” he said. “I can relate with all of that in a very personal way, because I’ve received their help before.”

For his first kettle, Anderson took a creative approach. Along with a neon design, Anderson attached painted clamshells to the sides of the kettle, which he and Bock dug up together.

“I thought it would make for a good talking point, and it also showed how you can take something from the dirt, wash it up and make art out of it,” Anderson said, “I think it turned out really cool.”

At the top of the kettle, Anderson painted this year’s slogan, “Hope Marches On.” This kettle is at Hy-Vee at 2400 2nd Ave. Anderson said he was inspired by Bob Ross for the second kettle. It has a more traditional winter background on it.

Although he was originally only going to paint two, Anderson said he quickly decided to paint two more for this year’s kettle campaign, including the kettle that belongs to the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office.

Anderson said he plans to paint more kettles next year, and said it may become a tradition. He considers working (and painting) with the Salvation Army to be a privilege.

“I really hope these kettles catch people’s eye, and maybe encourage them to donate,” Anderson said. “Just having it be a different color than the usual red color will make someone stop and be like ‘whoa, what’s this?’, and maybe at the same time that they’re doing that, maybe they’ll throw some change in there.”

This year’s kettle campaign goal for Muscatine County is $190,000. Residents can visit and search for Muscatine to sign up for a bell-ringing time or to start a virtual kettle. To ask about spending time in Muscatine's giant red kettle, residents can call the Salvation Army of Muscatine County at 563-263-8272.

Fruitland community comes together to honor veterans
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FRUITLAND — When Bill Brockert first decided to clean up around the veterans memorial in Island Cemetery, he thought it would be a simple one day job, but it turned into a complete renovation of the memorial with plenty of help from the Fruitland community.

The new memorial is complete with standing images of soldiers cut from steel, flags honoring all the services, a stone plaque, and a sign honoring several organizations that helped make the new and improved memorial a reality. The whole thing began when Brockert was working in the cemetery and decided the existing memorial needed some touch up work.

“I was working around there one day and I thought to myself that this thing needs to be repainted and it needs boards fixed on it,” he said. “I just started from there.”

After a quick trip to Menards, where he got paint and supplies at a greatly discounted rate after he told them it was for a memorial, the work began. Brockert said the original memorial had boards which needed to be painted every year. Where a stone plaque now stands was previously a piece of tin held up by two boards. Brockert said the memorial had been looking very “weathered.”

As he began working, Brockert found that there were plenty of people in the community that wanted to come and help. He thanked all the people who came out to assist in making the memorial something the town could be proud of.

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As the memorial was beginning to return to life, Brockert found Lewis industrial Services making metal plaques that servicemen could show inside their vehicles. He asked supervisor Ken Carpenter if they had a laser cutter to cut out what are now the silhouettes of soldiers standing guard over the memorial. He asked if the display could be life sized – about six feet tall. Carpenter said they did and that he would donate the steel for the project, as well as a stand for the stone. The powder coating was done at Tully Industrial in Davenport free of charge.

Brockert said that he soon realized a concrete pad was needed to hold the new features. He contacted Hahn Ready Mix, who likewise said they would provide whatever was needed.

With the memorial taking shape, Brockert realized what was needed to top everything off was a new flagpole. He said the existing cast iron pipe required mechanical assistance to fly a flag, as well as having been painted several times. He went to American Legion Post 27 to discuss the project. During a meeting that week, the Legion, the Sons of the American Legion and the Legion Ladies Auxiliary got together to replace the flagpole.

As the memorial was almost completed, Brockert thought the only thing left was to remove the sod around the site, which would make the memorial almost maintenance free. He contacted CR Landscape, which put a border of stone and matting and white marble rock on the inside.

Not a veteran himself, Brockert said that he has the upmost respect for all veterans.

“They have done so much for our country,” he said. “Our country is what it is today because of veterans.”

Warning signs for Grassley in recent poll results, Iowa pollster says
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JOHNSTON — Chuck Grassley has run seven U.S. Senate campaigns and won each, by a staggering average margin of 35 percentage points.

But Grassley’s eighth Senate campaign, in 2022, may be different, J. Ann Selzer said Tuesday while analyzing recent polling data for this weekend’s episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS.

In the latest batch of results from Selzer’s gold-standard Iowa Poll, which is published in the Des Moines Register, Grassley’s job approval rating is a net positive, with 45% of Iowa voters saying they approve of his job performance and 41% saying they disapprove.

But that 45% approval is Grassley’s lowest in the Iowa Poll since his first U.S. Senate term in 1982, Selzer said. She said that could portend a more challenging reelection bid next year than Grassley is accustomed to.

Grassley has twice won reelection by 42 points, his smallest margin of reelection was 24 points in 2016, and Selzer said his Iowa Poll approval rating has in the past surged into the 80s.

“Here is a Senator who has had stratospheric approval numbers ... so for him to have fallen — and the last several polls he has been under 50% approval — it suggests that there is some weakness there,” Selzer said.

Grassley faces a challenge in the Republican primary from Sioux City attorney and state lawmaker Jim Carlin. The Democrats running in Iowa’s 2022 U.S. Senate race are former Congresswoman and state lawmaker Abby Finkenauer of Cedar Rapids, U.S. Navy veteran Mike Franken of Sioux City, physician Glenn Hurst of Minden and activist and veterans advocate Bob Krause of Burlington.

Partially holding down Grassley’s overall approval number is his rating among Iowa Republicans. Grassley’s approval was at 71% in the latest Iowa Poll, which was conducted earlier this month, while fellow Iowa Republicans were in the 80s: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst was at 80% and Gov. Kim Reynolds at 88%.

“For Chuck Grassley to not only be in the 70s but the low 70s, it seems to me that there is a story there. There is something going on in terms of Iowans’ support for Sen. Grassley,” Selzer said.

Selzer said some of that erosion of Republican support could be happening in former President Donald Trump’s base. While Trump has endorsed Grassley, and a dozen of former Trump administration officials from Iowa did likewise this week, Grassley received a smattering of boos when introduced at Trump’s rally in October at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

“Because President Trump is still very popular in Iowa, that is not much of a leap to suggest that there is something going on there,” Selzer said.

Reynolds was the only Iowa politician whose approval rating surpassed 50% in the most recent Iowa Poll. The Republican governor earned a majority of support for her overall job performance as well as on issues like her management of the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reynolds’ term ends next year, and while she has not yet made it official, she is widely expected to run for reelection.

Some factors that may help explain Reynolds’ approval numbers lie in other recent Iowa Poll results: Majorities of Iowans support two new COVID-related laws signed by Reynolds — one that widely expanded the ability for Iowans’ to claim an exemption from COVID vaccine requirements (52% of Iowa Poll respondents support the law and 39% oppose), and another that prohibits schools from enacting face mask requirements for staff and teachers (51% support and 45% oppose). The latter has been temporarily halted while it is tried in the courts.

Both poll results are widely separated along partisan lines: Republicans support the expanded vaccine mandate exemptions, while Democrats oppose them, and Republicans support the ban on mask requirements in schools while Democrats oppose the ban.

State lawmaker Ras Smith of Waterloo and Deidre DeJear, a Des Moines businesswoman and former state secretary of state candidate, are among the Democrats vying for their party’s nomination and the opportunity to face Reynolds in the 2022 general election.

“Iowa Press” airs on Iowa PBS at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and noon Sundays. The show can be viewed online at