Building community

Pirie initiated drive to develop the Moorland Community Center

-Messenger file photo by Deanna Meyer
The Moorland Community Center, formerly a school gymnasium, can now be rented for birthday parties, reunions, weddings and more.

Editor’s note: This feature first ran in a special publication called Hometown Pride, published June 26, 2021, featuring people and organizations from Fort Dodge and the surrounding area who are making a difference in their communities.

MOORLAND — Never underestimate the power of a Moorland Park Board woman — especially if that woman’s name is Jody Pirie.

If a volunteer is needed in the Moorland community, or even one nearby, Pirie is likely to be one of the first to show up.

That was the case about nine years ago when Pirie took notice of a vacant brick building in town, formerly the school gymnasium. Built in 1954, the building had not been used since 1974.

-Messenger file photo by Deanna Meyer
T-shirts with the slogan, "Never underestimate the power of a Moorland Park Board woman," were created when Pirie and others were working to raise awareness of their efforts to create a community center.

Located near the center of town, it had a steel roof and a few broken windows, but Pirie thought, “It’s got a good foundation, why aren’t we utilizing this?”

So PIrie sought out Delia Hoffman, a town council member, and between the two of them, they got the ball rolling to fix up the building and turn it into a community center.

“We had a lot of naysayers who said we should knock the building down; it’s not worth it,” Pirie said.

But she and others persisted.

Soon they formed the Moorland Park Board, a five-member committee that adopted the slogan, “Never underestimate the power of a Moorland Park Board woman.”

-Messenger file photo by Deanna Meyer
Jody Pirie, a member of the Moorland Park Board stands inside the kitchen at the Moorland Community Center looking out over the spacious community room in the background. Pirie was key in garnering community support to renovate the building, which was formerly a school gymnasium.

At the time, the board consisted of five women, though a man would eventually serve on the board.

The group organized several fundraisers, including street dances, a chili cookoff and Oktoberfest, where for a freewill donation kids could come and play games, then pick one of the pumpkins planted in the former baseball field.

Street dances made the most money, Pirie said, drawing crowds of about 300 each time, with the bands donating their time and talent.

Though PIrie currently lives on an acreage near Burnside, she is fully invested in the Moorland community. A graduate of Prairie Community School, she previously lived in Moorland eight years and has operated The Headquarters beauty salon there for the last 38 years.

In spite of running her salon full time, Pirie is not one to sit still. She has also helped with fundraisers for the Fort Dodge Jaycees and the Lehigh Fire Department.

“If you need a volunteer, just ask me,” Pirie said, “because I can’t say no.”

Her local background and her many connections within the community gave her a wide area from which to garner aid for the community center. “I know everybody, so I begged, borrowed and bartered equipment and labor,” she said.

Others on the park board did the same.

“Ninety percent of the sweat equity was the Park Board,” Pirie said.

Pirie and others put in a lot of leg work, going door to door for donations. Several Fort Dodge businesses donated items for silent auctions and raffles, with many individuals stepping up as well.

Pirie also solicited help from those who had moved away.

“The alma mater of this town is really good at supporting this town,” she said, “even the ones that don’t live here. I could call them up and say, ‘Hey, you didn’t come to our street dance. What are you going to do (to help)?'”

The town council also got behind the effort, paying for members of the board to take a grant-writing class at Iowa Central. The Park Board received eight or nine grants, including $5,000 from New Co-op and paint from Sherwyn-Williams.

Within the first two to three years, the board had raised enough to begin working on the building.

New windows came first, then insulation. The floor was epoxied, and new air conditioning and furnaces installed. The original bar from the Moorland tap was installed along one wall.

“Mike Pearson was a great help. He did the spray foam insulation for cost,” she said. “We’d borrow any equipment we needed to borrow.”

“We even had the Rockwell City prison (inmates) come over,” she said.

North Central Correctional Facility inmates helped clean up the trees along the fence line of the former ball park near the community center.

In total, PIrie estimated that around $40,000 has been raised since the board’s inception.

Now the Moorland Community Center can be rented for weddings, reunions, birthday parties and more. The spacious main room is decorated with white lights, ready for its next event. A kitchen off to the side is available for use as well.

Fittingly, Pirie’s daughter’s wedding reception was set to be held at the Moorland Community Center in late summer.

Today, the Moorland Park Board continues to hold fundraisers for ongoing improvements, after a yearlong break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group planned to use money raised from RAGBRAI passing through town in July to fund new playground equipment near the center.

How long does the Park Board plan to keep going?

“Until we get too tired,” Pirie said.


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