He knows when something is amiss. He’s often the man who spots what is out of place and fixes it.
So, when Ted Strait was asked to attend the annual Jackson County Historical Society Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon last week, he figured something was up.
His intuition was correct.
Strait received the 21st Grace Tubbs Memorial Summit Award Thursday from the family of the late Grace Tubbs. The family presented the award during the luncheon, which is meant as a thank-you to JCHS volunteers and is held annually during National Volunteer Appreciation Week.
The Tubbs family typically surprises the award recipient, but Strait learned a couple days in advance that he was receiving the award.
Although he prefers to stand in the shadows, Strait’s numerous volunteer endeavors placed him directly in the spotlight.
“One of the things we always look for is someone with a long history of service to the Maquoketa area,” said Steve Tubbs, Grace Tubbs’ son and Thursday’s award presenter. “Well, Ted’s history of volunteering in the Maquoketa area is exactly as long as he has been in the Maquoketa area.”
That’s 14 years.
Strait grew up in Cedar Rapids. Through college and different career pursuits, he spent much time with IBM in New York and Connecticut with his wife, Diana. They agreed they’d move back to Iowa upon their retirement, the only question was to where?
After subscribing to a bunch of Iowa newspapers, the Straits saw various improvements happening in Maquoketa — a library expansion and renovation, the Hurstville Interpretive Center being built, funding for the Maquoketa ARC (now the YMCA), and more.
They moved to Maquoketa in 2005 and quickly joined various groups and projects.
Getting involved is fairly easy, Strait told fellow volunteers Thursday.
“You just show up,” he said. “… When you see a need, you just show up.”
Strait organized and operated the Maquoketa Optimist Flag Program for five years. Maquoketans can pay a subscription to have an American flag flown in their yard five times per year. The money helps to fund youth scholarships and other charitable deeds.
He completed the courses and volunteer requirements to become a Jackson County Master Gardener, which eventually led to him managing the Maquoketa Farmers Market. Through the annual May-October farmers market, Strait established a voucher program to get healthy, fresh foods into the hands of locals in need.
Last year the Maquoketa Community Cupboard’s Feed the Need campaign committee recruited him to help raise money to buy the former Movies America building and start an endowment fund.
Strait last year assisted with the Maqtoberfest event in the downtown. He helps with the city’s Summer Concert Series, provides technical support for the Maquoketa Area Chamber of Commerce and Maquoketa Art Experience, and writes grants.
Strait even repairs sewing machines, donating his time and talents to area groups who sew for charitable purposes.
“He can do anything,” Tubbs said.
He’s now investing a lot of time and know-how on the upper floor of the MAE and Chamber, space which soon will be converted into upper-story housing thanks to a grant, the city, and owner Bob Osterhaus.
“Somehow my hand got raised [to work with engineers and contractors on the upper-story housing project]. I didn’t raise my hand, my hand got raised,” Strait said, laughing. But he quickly added that he does know how to say “no.”
That barely begins to cover the projects and clubs with which Strait is involved.
He thanked Osterhaus for giving him the chance to work on projects at MAE and now the upper-story. He also thanked his “lovely bride of many decades” Diana for allowing him to be gone so much, he said, chuckling again.
Strait received an engraved clock and a $500 charitable donation to give to the entity of his choice. He selected the Maquoketa Farmers Market.
The late Edward Tubbs founded the Grace Tubbs Memorial Summit Award in memory of his wife, who died in November 1998. She was an active volunteer in many organizations and activities such as Maquoketa Public Library, United Church of Christ and fine arts and activities.
The public nominates people for the award. The winner is selected by an award committee consisting of Glenn Bartelt, Carol Breuch, Dean Engel, Chris Hoover and Steve Tubbs.
Nominees are judged by the positive impact they have made on the community, the diversity of service, influence as role models, degree of personal involvement and ways that the service has been demonstrated.
Applicants who were not selected are considered in subsequent years.
“We get enough nominations to make the decision difficult,” Steve Tubbs said.