THE CITY OF THE LAKE — “We earn our living by what we receive, but we earn our living by what we give” said Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of Great Britain. Josh McChesney, a Central School Preservation volunteer in Lake City, embodies that spirit.
Homemakers Furniture in Urbandale recently named him a 2022 Community Champion and awarded him a $1,000 Homemakers gift card to celebrate his contributions to the Lake City Museum and Cultural Center.
“Thank you for going above and beyond to help strengthen your communities and make a positive impact during such a difficult year,” said Homemakers Furniture in its price announcement.
McChesney was one of eight Iowa Community Champions to earn this honor for 2022.
“We are so grateful for all the great work that Josh and his family have done for Central School,” said Darcy Maulsby, Chairman of CSP’s Board of Directors. “We knew the competition would be tough for this award, which was also awarded to an outstanding firefighter, nurse and other volunteers. We’re thrilled that others are recognizing Josh as an outstanding community champion, just like us.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the app Maulsby wrote to name McChesney:
Question 1: What makes your nominee a community champion?
Small town museums rarely have many young volunteers, but Josh McChesney is helping buck that trend in Lake City. Josh and his fiancée, Presley, both in their twenties, are strong supporters of Central School Preservation, a former 1884 schoolhouse turned museum and cultural center in Lake City. They step in whenever there’s work to be done and they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty, literally, doing jobs that many others shy away from, including painting.
I first met Josh when he and Presley brought their two young children to the museum’s open house during Lake City’s annual Western Days celebration. Josh seemed particularly interested in the vintage photographs and other exhibits at the museum. When I asked if he would ever be interested in volunteering here, he said yes. Before he and his family left the museum, he said: “I expect you to call me.” I was surprised, but followed when we had a major painting project to undertake in August 2021.
We have a playground on Central School property, with three large metal slides, a few swings, and a vintage merry-go-round. All were in desperate need of primer and paint. Several of our board members were willing to help paint, but we needed more help getting the job done. We asked some local civic groups and other potential volunteers, but they all declined.
Then I thought of Josh. A few minutes after I texted him, he replied with a yes. (I really appreciated that, since Josh has a full-time job at Bowie International in Lake City, and his kids keep him busy when he’s not at work.) The whole painting project took a few weeks and several painting sessions totaling more than 90 hours of volunteer work. Josh and Presley put in many hours helping paint the playground equipment and never complained about the August heat or the task at hand. We couldn’t have done it without them.
Josh is also involved in other projects inside the museum. He is happy to volunteer when we need someone young and strong to help climb ladders to hang large banners (the ones that hung in the high school gymnasium honoring the accomplishments of various sports teams) for the displays. Josh has also helped us create other exhibits sharing local history, from sports uniforms to prom waiter costumes. Josh grew up in this community, cares about CSP and is willing to volunteer his time to preserve local history.
Question 2: Why does your nominee deserve recognition?
Josh is one of those quiet guys who doesn’t seek the limelight, but he has a heart to serve and makes our community a better place to live. He leads by example and gets the job done.
Josh also helped out at a critical time in CSP’s history, although he didn’t realize it at the time. In 2019, the Chairman of the Board of CSP passed away after a long illness. Later, two long-serving board members retired. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, few new board candidates and volunteers came forward to help.
At one point, someone suggested that it might be time to lock the doors forever and shut down Central School for good. The other board members disagreed and got to work, looking for ways to raise more money and recruit new volunteers and board members.
Josh was a godsend to Central School at a time when we needed that support the most. We are so grateful that he is always ready to help and involves his family as well. It’s fun to have that youthful energy at Central School. It motivates and inspires us to keep finding new ways to connect with the community, especially the younger generations.
Josh is the third generation in his family to support Central School. His grandparents, Harold and Bonnie McChesney of Lake City, worked and volunteered at the museum in the 1980s and 1990s. His mother, Becky, is one of Central School’s financial donors and enjoys bringing her little ones -children (Josh’s young son and daughter) at museum events.
Josh understands the importance of passing on his values to his children and instilling in them a sense of family heritage and community service. He and his family are a real asset to the community.