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Little Brown Church revival underway with new pastor

WATERLOO -- If walls could talk, the Little Brown Church in the Vale would belt out in song. Songs from more than a century ago are the foundation of the church that was built more than a century ago, and a pair of singers have arrived to continue its tradition.

The Rev. Drew McHolm and his wife, Cedar Falls native Jesse Boatright, have left their parsonage in Austin, Texas, to lead the congregation that sits at 2730 Cheyenne Ave., just outside of Nashua.

"So many people have told me about Midwest folks, and it's all true," McHolm said. "We've been really blessed and made to feel totally welcome from not only the folks in the church, but the community in Nashua has been really great."

The Scottish-born minister is stepping in for the church's full-time pastor, John Granchie, while he is on sabbatical. McHolm leads the congregation each Sunday with services at 10:30 a.m., preceded by an old-fashioned sing-along at 10:15 a.m.

Boatright, a Cedar Falls native and featured singer with the Sentimental Journey Orchestra out of San Antonio, is pushing the historic church into modern times with a Facebook page and website. 

"People don't realize it's an actual operating church," she said. "We just want people to realize that this church could die like any other church if it's not supported. We want to bring people in that will understand the importance of the historical value of the church that rings true across the Midwest."


Drew McHolm and his wife Jesse Boatright sit inside the Little Brown Church in Nashua on Nov. 20.

The rural church features a 50-person congregation along with organ music and old hymns of the faith, which contrasts with the urban churches with contemporary music -- drums, bass, guitar -- McHolm has been a part of.

"I'm loving it. It's taking me back to my past," he said. "It's the people that make the place. You can have a big congregation but if the people are not friendly, what's the point? The people are incredibly friendly here."

Built in 1864, the church was made famous by the poem, "Church in the Wildwood," which was written about the Nashua site before the church was even built. The poem was turned into a song and has been sung by well-known artists including Andy Griffith, Dolly Parton and the Statler Brothers.

To date there have been more than 75,000 marriage vows performed at the church.

McHolm and Boatright, both talented musicians, perform old-folk and country tunes together at the church and other locations around the Cedar Valley, including Cliff's Place in Horton, the Hide-A-Way Lounge in Ionia and NewAldaya Lifescapes in Cedar Falls.

The couple will perform at the Hide-A-Way on Dec. 7 and will host a country Christmas special at Cliff's Place Dec. 22.

The couple plan to offer a DVD of the Old-Fashioned Christmas service this year. Some dress in Victorian-style clothes, with hats and mufflers. There will be traditional carols and guest musicians.

"The congregation wants to see it remain a historic place, but they don't want to see it fade into history," McHolm said.

Downtown Waterloo building slated for major renovation

WATERLOO — A $2.5 million renovation of the downtown Webberking Building received a boost from a state historic preservation tax credit program.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority announced this week at JSA Development was awarded nearly $726,000 in tax credits to help revitalize the building at 612-616 Mulberry St. with street-level storefronts and high-end apartments.

It was one of seven projects receiving a combined $23 million this month through the statewide program. It was the only Waterloo recipient.

“When we rejuvenate old buildings, we rejuvenate our communities,” Debi Durham, IEDA director, said. “From hotels, to educational museums and new residences, these projects turn buildings that could be blights in our communities into points of pride instead.”

Peters Construction, JSA Development’s contractor, is already working on what has been called the Mulberry Street Apartments, which is expected to be finished next fall.

The rehabilitation will create two-first floor commercial spaces on Mulberry Street; three one-bedroom apartments on the first floor; and four open loft spaces on the second and third floors.

“These projects would not be possible without a well functioning and adequately funded federal and historic tax credit program,” said JSA Development’s David Deeds. “The building is being prepared to be useful for the next 100 years of its life.”

The three-story brick building was constructed by Ernest Webberking in 1917 to house an automotive sales company, college and apartments. It was remodeled in 1923 by the Lichty Real Estate Co. using noted architect Mortimer Cleveland. A barber shop has occupied one of the commercial storefronts since 1941.

Deeds said this marks the 20th downtown building rehabilitation undertaken since 2008 by JSA Development, a company founded by Jim Walsh, with 17 of those being historic renovations. Other projects are in the planning stages.

“These projects makes sense for Waterloo and Iowa because they are environmentally friendly and utilize existing infrastructure,” Deeds said. “They use existing streets, sewers, police and fire and other services already being provided while increasing the tax base.”


People get a look at the Webberking building under renovation during Tour De 'Loo on Oct. 4 in Waterloo.

Deere earnings surge, but miss expectations amid trade dispute

MOLINE, ILL. — Deere & Co. posted higher profits in the fourth quarter, driven by a surge in construction equipment sales. But Wall Street analysts were disappointed by the results, citing global trade disputes and rising costs.

The Moline-based agriculture and construction equipment manufacturer reported net income of $784.8 million for the final quarter of the year, which ended Oct. 28. On a per-share basis, the company had profit of $2.42. Earnings, adjusted for pretax gains, were $2.30 per share.

The fourth-quarter results compare to net income of $510.3 million, or $1.57 per share, for the same quarter last year. The company boasted fourth-quarter earnings increased 54 percent, and net sales rose 18 percent, to $8.3 billion.

“John Deere has concluded another solid year in which the company benefited from a further improvement in market conditions and a favorable customer response to its lineup of advanced products,” Deere CEO and chairman Samuel Allen said in the report.

But, the earnings results missed Wall Street expectations, with analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research estimating, on average, earnings of $2.44 per share.

The agricultural equipment manufacturer posted revenue of $9.42 billion, a 17 percent over-the-year increase, with adjusted revenue reported at $8.34 billion, which also fell short of forecasts.

For the fiscal year, Deere reported profit of $2.37 billion, or $7.24 per share. Net sales were reported as $33.35 billion.

Despite Deere posting strong equipment sales and demand uncertainty regarding global trade and rising costs has caused stock market volatility, said Mark Gyrwacheski, investment adviser with Quad-Cities Investment Group.

“There’s a broader theme we’re seeing with concern in the market right now, not just with Deere, but we’ve seen it with Caterpillar and others in the sector,” Grywacheski said. “Deere has had some very good quarters this past year. But instead of focusing on this, the concern is on the rising inflation, rising interest rates, trade disputes and a weakening global economy. They worry that will start to impact future corporate revenues and profits.”

Deere, and others in the agriculture and manufacturing sector, have been hit this year with new tariffs on steel and aluminum, leading to higher raw material costs.

“For the past few quarters, a way for Deere to counter these high costs is they are implementing cost-cutting measures, and they’ve been raising prices and passing on higher costs to consumers,” Grywacheski said. “Consumer demand remains strong but higher costs are hurting profitability and causing them to miss their earnings per share mark.”

During its Wednesday earnings call with shareholders, Investor Relations Director Josh Jepsen said Deere expects higher steel prices to continue into next year.

“We see a bigger impact in 2018 than we do in 2019,” he said. “In the fourth quarter we saw a higher level of steel pricing, and it was actually what we forecast as we look into 2019, an elevated steel level. As it comes down from the forecast, that would be beneficial.”

Deere executives said increased demand for replacement equipment and new precision agriculture technology drove sales growth in the fourth quarter.

“It is still a replacement market, and that’s because the fleet age has reached its highest point since 2013,” said John Lagemann, senior vice president of agriculture and turf sales. “And we see evidence that replacement demand is amplified by the latest precision technology.”

Agriculture and turf sales rose 3 percent for the quarter and 15 percent for the year, due to higher shipment volumes and prices. Construction and forestry sales surged 65 percent for the quarter and 78 percent for the year.

Construction sales were boosted by the acquisition of Wirtgen Group, the world’s largest manufacturer of road construction equipment, according to the report.

Deere employs 68,000 people worldwide, and operates facilities in Waterloo and the Quad-City region.

Fire evacuees do their best on a sad Thanksgiving

CHICO, Calif. — Patty Rough lost her Paradise home and most of her belongings in the Camp Fire, and she had no place to cook a family meal on Thanksgiving.

But she and her husband are safe, and she was still able to spend the holiday with her children over plates of turkey, cranberry sauce and pie at a feast for thousands of people put on by volunteers.

She's sad about everything she lost but realizes that others have far less.

"Today we're grateful; I don't know about happy," she said, tearing up as she sat next to her son and across from her daughter. " 'Happy' Thanksgiving is kind of a weird thing at the moment."

Rough is among the thousands of people whose homes burned down when the deadly wildfire ripped through Paradise and surrounding communities. At least 84 people died, and more than 13,000 homes were destroyed.

The blaze was 95 percent contained Thursday, two weeks after it began. Rain that fell Wednesday night and started again Thursday afternoon aided the firefight but complicated the search for human remains in the debris left by the blaze.

Wet, windy, cold conditions were making it hard for workers to see and move.

It wasn't a normal Thanksgiving for any of the evacuees or workers.

Matt Berger, a member of a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue team from Orange County, said he and his colleagues are trying not to "get too wrapped up in the fact that we're not at home for the holidays."

"It's just another work day for us — trying to bring some closure to some of the families that are missing their loved ones," he said, standing in the cold outside a Paradise store that didn't burn down.

Volunteers tried to bring a dose of normalcy to the difficult time. The Washington-based nonprofit World Central Kitchen cooked 15,000 meals, teaming up with Chico-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., the local university and the town of Paradise to serve them.

Celebrity chefs Jose Andres, who started World Central Kitchen, and Guy Fieri cooked and stopped for selfies with fans while reflecting on the tragedy that brought them there.

"This is going to be a year we're never going to forget," Andres said.

Eduardo Garcia was happy for a warm meal and a place to spend the day. He sat alone at a long table but said he enjoyed the sense of company the gathering in an auditorium at California State University, Chico provided. Years ago, Garcia helped build the auditorium, plastering the outside walls.

He lost the Paradise home where he lived, and his immediate family is in Hawaii. For now, he's living with a friend in Chico.

"I don't have anywhere else to go," he said. "Even though I'm not with my family, you can feel good around other people who are in the same situation."

Outside the Paradise area, scores of people opened their houses to strangers to provide a more intimate Thanksgiving.

Rachael Anderson hosted a displaced mom and daughter at her home in Redding, about an hour and a half from Paradise. Anderson knows what it's like to live in a community devastated by flames: A massive wildfire swept through Redding last summer.

She didn't lose her home, and she now wants to share it for the day with Athenia Dunham and her 15-year-old daughter, Natalie.

"They've lost their home, their traditions, whatever it is that they do. I just want to give them a little piece of home," Anderson said. "That's what Thanksgiving's about; it's not just about your blood family — it's about giving thanks and helping each other."

Faun and Danny O'Neel were hosting three families at their home in the Sacramento-area city of Folsom.

Faun O'Neel's parents and grandparents lost their homes in a Calaveras County fire several years ago, so she said opening hers to others was a "no-brainer."

Thanksgiving at a stranger's house may not be what her guests initially expected, but O'Neel hopes it can provide some calm in a trying time.

"A few hours of normalcy," she said. "Where they can laugh and enjoy other peoples' company without thinking about what they just lived through and what is in front of them."