North honored as ‘a selfless volunteer’

Impact Award presentation Sunday
Jim North

Jim North was honored with the Greene County Impact Award at a ceremony Sunday afternoon in the courthouse rotunda. More than 100 persons attended to honor North and the Webb House. It was 20 years ago that North, with help from middle school students, established the Webb House as a safe and supervised social center for middle schoolers.

Jerry Roberts served as emcee. He referred to the Impact Award ad “an award for people who see the county as their community,” and as “an honor for someone with a large footprint.”

North was nominated by Dianne Blackmer, Jane Sorenson and Lois Clark. None of them have children who attended the Webb House. Their nomination called North “the personification of the selfless volunteer, setting an example for all of us and positively impacting the lives of literally thousands of Greene County young people,” they wrote. “Our community and our county are better places because of him.”

The Webb House is owned by the First United Methodist Church and has operated in an ecumenical spirit with the approval of the church trustees.

The Rev Julie Poulsen, pastor of the church, said North is “an exceptional man of deep faith, unlimited energy, devoted to kids… Jim uses the gifts and talents and the time God gave him to make the world a better place, starting with our youth,” she said.

Bryan Steussy, MD

Bryan Steussy, a 2001 Jefferson-Scranton graduate and now a pediatrician in Sioux City, was one of the students 20 years ago who worked with North on the Webb House. He spoke at the award ceremony, telling of moving furniture into the basement and painting it to make it feel less like a cistern.

“I’m really grateful to the community for supporting the Webb House. As Jim would say, it wasn’t him alone. It took all sorts of groups and all sorts of fundraising to make it what it is today,” Steussy said.

“What has made Mr North so successful as a spearhead of the Webb House is his ability to facilitate it. Some people get bogged down with their own ideas of where the project should go, or get lost in the details, but Mr North has always empowered people to bring their own ideas to the Webb House and make it what it is,” he said. “Mr North has this uncanny ability to work seamlessly with multiple classes of students and student leaders as well as community leaders to make the Webb House a success. The success is a testimony to his character and his perseverance.”

Sam Harding

Sam Harding, a long-time trustee of the Methodist Church, also shared early history. He explained that when the original Webb House had grown so much as a youth center with 100 or more teens there on a Friday night, the old house was literally breaking. Harding drew up plans for a new building, with North insisting he had to use input from students.

North said raising the $200,000 needed for the new house went quickly, and he thanked Rick Morain and the Bee & Herald for keeping the Webb House in the public’s mind as the fundraising was being done.

When it came time for construction, North insisted again that youth be involved, and a handful of high school students who had frequented the old Webb House, put in uncounted hours.

Harding said North has been a mentor for kids, showing them “what a real Christian does.” “He’s one of the most fantastic servants of the Lord I’ve ever been blessed to know. There’s no doubt that his impact on the county will be felt long after he’s gone…. Greene County is truly blessed to have Jim and Karen North and the Webb House,” Harding said.

John Muir speaking at the Impact Award program. | photo by Sean Sebourn

John Muir, chair of the county board of supervisors, presented North with a framed copy of the resolution passed by the supervisors naming May 7 as Jim North Day in Greene County.

After the award was presented, North thanked many individuals for their help over the years. He thanked the late John Clark and the Jefferson Kiwanis Club for building a deck on the new house, with help from 50 middle school students. He told of it being built in one Saturday in December, the day before 8 inches of snow fell.

He thanked Beta Tau Delta and the Jefferson Rotary Club for financial support, local churches that provide Friday night chaperones, the Presbyterian Church for the gift of a cotton candy machine, and several individuals he relies on for fix-it help. He thanked Webb House board members Wendy Pittman, Eloise Friday, Glenn Childs, Sue Richardson, Rod St Clair, Curt Nelson and Jim Funcke for their help and support.

North noted that over the years, dances held at the Webb House have raised $20,000 for charitable causes and various church youth trips.

He finished his remarks showing pictures from a scrapbook compiled by his wife Karen over the years, and inviting people to visit the Webb House for an open house after the awards program.

The United Methodist youth choir under the direction of Jenny Wills sang three songs during the program.

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