FORT DODGE: Pleasant Valley Awareness Committee

Building for the next generation

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Some members of the Pleasant Valley Awareness Committee pose underneath the Kenyon Road Bridge. Pictured from left are Jameel Hameed, Terry Moehnke, Roger Porter, Sherry Washington, Helen Gully and Merrill Leffler.The committee is working to have a mural painted on the bridge columns.

From the playground equipment at H.C. Meriwether Park to the name itself, the Pleasant Valley Awareness Committee has made its mark in that segment of the Fort Dodge community.

The park, located on 10th Avenue Southwest between Eighth and Ninth streets in Pleasant Valley, used to be known as the Mini Park.

But Sherry Washington, president of the committee, said after some negative events that took place in the neighborhood, the committee felt it was time for a change.

A formal dedication of H.C. Meriwether Park was held in June 2018.

The committee has also installed new swings and other equipment for children to enjoy at the park.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Terry Moehnke, at right, holds boxes of cookies as volunteers with the Pleasant Valley Awareness prepare to pack gifts for the Holiday Happiness - Santa in the Park event. Jessica Moffitt to the left, Helen Gully, Sherry Washington, and Merrill Leffler, are the other helpers pictured here.

The committee formed in 2015.

“It was after a spree of random incidents throughout Fort Dodge,” Washington recalled. “Although most folks involved in the incidents did not live in Pleasant Valley, the incidents seemingly flowed over into the Pleasant Valley neighborhood, magnifying increasing negativity in the community.”

One final incident was a cause for change, she said.

“Folks everywhere talked about the increasing incidents, but little action to address the issues,” Washington said. “The last straw was a car chase through Pleasant Valley which could have ended much worst than it did. After that we knew awareness was much needed and long overdue.”

Washington reached out to Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich to set up a meeting with city officials.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Robert Presswood, a Fort Dodge native, right, stands with his aunt, Helen Gully, underneath the Kenyon Road Bridge in Pleasant Valley Thursday evening. Presswood is an artist who will be painting the bridge beams and walls in an effort to add more public art in Fort Dodge.

“The meeting was successful and out of it began Pleasant Valley Awareness,” Washington said.

The first meeting was held at the Fort Dodge Public Library. The turnout was pretty good, Washington said.

“As time progressed others joined in the meetings,” Washington said. “Some of the first conversations were about safety, reaching into the neighborhood to address concerns, better street lighting, street conditions, the old staircase on 14th Street Hill, street flooding, and community dinners.”

The current members of the committee are Jameel Hameed, Helen Gully, Charles Mosley, Terry Moenkhe, Merrill Leffler, Jessica Moffitt, Lori Branderhorst, Cameron Nelson, Ann Meyer, Brent Nelson, Roger Porter, Bill Douglas, Dessie Amerison, and Washington

“Community is important for Pleasant Valley Awareness,” Washington said. “We have a great group of folks. Laughter is a must. Although our backgrounds are very diverse, our community goals are the same. The diversity also adds many great outlooks for our events.”

Washington said in 2018, Leffler introduced the Crawfish Boil to Juneteenth, which is also known as Freedom Day.

“It was a the first for many,” Washington said. “Folks are still talking about it. Everyone brings their own unique spin to the group — and it works.”

She added, “It is a blessing to be a part of this group. Years later and we’re still planning and working together for the present and the future.”

Some of committee’s planned projects include a mural under the Kenyon Road Bridge, more park updates, and a community clean up.

Washington said she’s been so grateful for the members of the committee.

She was complimentary of Fort Dodge City Councilman Terry Moehnke.

“Councilman Terry Moenkhe is one in a million,” she said. “We’re unsure how he finds time to do it all, but he does. He is also an original member from Day One.”

Washington credited the city’s parks, recreation and forestry director for her help with H.C. Meriwether Park.

“She worked overtime on the park, the renaming and events,” Washington said. “She’s a hard worker and always has a lending hand.”

Washington said Jessica Moffitt and her father, Merrill Leffler, make a good team.

“Jessica and Merrill are always there for anything,” she said. “You don’t have to say it twice — they put in their best effort to make it work. Coming early, leaving late.”

She appreciates community members Helen Gully, Charles Mosley, Jameel Hameed, Dessie Amerison and Bill Douglas.

“They are all rooted in Pleasant Valley,” she said. “It is very important to each one of them to see the community grow. Each one works extra hard for their families and go the extra mile for the community. Happy to have them as part of Pleasant Valley Awareness, always there to volunteer for anything needed. Very passionate people with a heart for the community.”

Washington said Brent Nelson, the head coach for the Triton rugby team, is a nice fit on the committee.

“He is dedicated,” Washington said. “Cleaning up the community streets and yards with rugby team, anything to help. He is a great team player, hard worker, always looking to improve or help any way needed.”

According to Washington, Cameron Nelson is the funniest person on the committee.

“He can find humor in anything,” Washington said. “Cameron has a heart for helping people. Whether it’s standing in freezing weather giving gifts to the children or emceeing a program, whatever it takes.”

Washington credits state Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, for her continued support.

“She takes time to listen to everyone,” Washington said. “Always in attendance and willing to help where needed. She is a great addition to the committee.”

Washington is happy to have Fort Dodge Police Chief Roger Porter on the committee.

“Chief Roger Porter is a wonderful person,” she said. “He would like to see the community in a better place. He is optimistic and always there with a helping hand.”

As the committee looks to tackle new projects, Washington said she’s all ears on how to improve the community.

“We want to work with the community,” she said. “Hearing the comments and suggestions on how to improve the neighborhood. Building for the next generation.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today