Impact Award presented to Jerry Roberts

For the past nine years Jerry Roberts has served as emcee and presenter of the Greene County Impact Award. Sunday it was Roberts’ turn to listen and then stand up to receive the 2019 Impact Award from stand-in emcee Chuck Offenburger.

Chuck Offenburger (left) reads the citation as Jerry Roberts looks on.

The Impact Award was initiated to honor someone for his or her volunteer efforts that have touched the entire Greene County community.

After a brief intro, Nicole Friess Schilling led the audience in a sing-along of Kate Smith’s version of “God Bless America.” The song was requested by Roberts.

Carla Offenburger

Carla Offenburger, co-emcee with Chuck, then read one of Roberts’ published, original poems, “Greene County Coffee Talk.” The poem lists topics of discussion at a typical morning coffee, and finishes “The one thing they agreed upon, They like their county, Greene.”

Chuck Offenburger read Roberts’ nomination for the award. “Jerry Roberts gets things done,” the letter stated. “He’s never too busy to listen. He has a contemplated response that’s delivered with a smile and a contagious enthusiasm.”

Roberts, a Perry native, served four years in the U.S. Air Force, is a graduate of the University of Iowa, and worked in radio for 50 years, nine months and 18 days. He broadcast at stations in Perry, Grinnell, Iowa City, Air Force Radio, and Creston. The last 15 years of his broadcast career were at KDLS in Jefferson. He estimates he broadcast between 4,500 and 5,000 athletic events.

“While Jerry is not receiving the Impact Award for his job in radio, it’s important to note this: that his employment in broadcasting and public service led him to many activities and organizations where he did the volunteer work for which he’s being honored today,” Offenburger said.

Pat Graney of KDLS Radio

Roberts’ career started at KDLS in Perry. His first day on the air was KDLS’s first day on the air. He was a senior in high school.

Pat Graney of KDLS in Perry worked with Roberts there. He told of Roberts once being snowed in at the station and staying on the air for two days, and of the conversations that got longer and longer as Tom Quinlan passed the mic off to Roberts for the “Jefferson Hour” from 1 to 2 pm. The conversations stretched as long as a half hour. “I really think that was the most listened to half hour we had each day,” Graney said.

Les Fister

Les Fister spoke on behalf of the Elks. Roberts followed a family tradition and joined the Perry Elks lodge in 1964. He transferred his membership to the Jefferson lodge in 1994. He served as exalted ruler in 2009-10 and was Elks northwest district vice president the next year. He was district deputy for the grand exalted ruler for 2012-13.

He was the local and district Elk of the Year in 2013 and the local Elk of the Year in 2014.

Roberts has written countless grants for the Elks for funds not only for the lodge, but for local projects including the mold board plow at Thomas Jefferson Gardens and technology equipment for the children’s side of the Jefferson public library.

“To say that Jerry has been a dedicated Elk and has made an impact on the community is an understatement,” Fister said.

Roberts was named Friend of the Year by the Jefferson Friends of the Library in 2003. Children’s librarian Terry Clark told of Roberts’ volunteer work in the Guest Reader program at the elementary school, his willingness to help with children’s programs, and his successful Elks grants on behalf of the library.

Terry Clark

“His commitment to the children of Greene County is truly valuable. Sometimes it only takes one person to make a difference in another person’s life. Jerry offers his time and his talents to show the children that he cares and he’s there to make a difference,” Clark said.
“He’s a true advocate for libraries by encouraging children to enjoy reading,” she added.

Carla Offenburger then read another Roberts’ poem, “A Day at the Circus,” about reading a circus story to a classroom.

Roberts has also volunteered for the Historical Society of Greene County. One of his larger tasks was researching a writing a musical program about Eva Leonard of Grand Junction, who built a career in New York City with the Ziegfeld Follies. Friess Shilling then sang “Me and My Shadow,” which was one of the songs Roberts used in his docu-musical “Eva”.

Roberts was a county supervisor from 2006-10. His term overlapped with the first term of John Muir, who is now chair of the board of supervisors. Before reading a proclamation naming June 2, 2019, as “Jerry Roberts Day” in the county, Muir spoke about his time at the supervisors’ table with Roberts.

John Muir

Muir said he learned from Roberts that even when people disagree, “there’s a place in the middle where you can listen to everybody.” Even when there’s disagreement “you can respect each other’s opinions,” Muir said.

He said Roberts demonstrated responsibility as he attended every meeting he was asked or expected to attend. “Jerry always stepped up. He never backed away from responsibility,” Muir recalled.

“I know that I’m a better person for working with him,” he said.

Offenburger read the citation on the certificate and then presented the award to Roberts.

Jerry Roberts

In response, Roberts said he was more involved in extra-curricular activities than schoolwork in high school. “Extra-curricular activities formed who I was and what I did, and the radio gave me the opportunity to do that,” he said. “It gave me the opportunity to extend the time I had in school and those wonderful extra-curricular activities to other students’ extra-curricular activities. I got to vicariously live through great athletes and kids who were in plays and music presentations and drama and theatre and concerts. I got to go to all those and experience those activities.

“As you did that, and you saw the young people who really appreciated you being there, you realize we all could be there. It was just my way of extending extra-curricular activities. That’s why my job was such a joy, to be able to participate in all of those along the way and share in those moments,” he said.

He said he’s learned that no matter how small an act or effort for someone else is, “if you continue through the years, pretty soon, you’ve made a difference. That’s about all I can ask for.”

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