Family committed to Iola’s future

Register Reporter

Register/Anne Kazmierczak
Terry, Sandy and Brett Zornes with their cat, Rocky Balboa. “Sandy names pets after people I like so I have to keep them,” Terry joked. Rocky was photographed as an abandoned kitten last year; the family adopted him after learning of his fate. The photograph became a poster for Allen County Animal Rescue Facility.

Iola couldn’t ask for bigger — or more honest — fans than Terry and Sandy Zornes. The Zorneses, married 19 years, have consciously made Iola their home.
“I feel like I’m living the American Dream,” said Terry. “Beautiful wife, great sons, and I’m self-employed.”
Terry and Sandy run Homeville Vending. They supply vending machines and products as well as concessions, paper goods and service items.
“Because of the loyalty (of local people), our little business is growing and prospering,” Terry said.
The Zorneses have three sons.
Their eldest, Landon, is in the process of becoming an insurance agent in Kansas City. Their middle son, Travis, helps with the family business. Travis left Iola for college, returning after being married. His wife Ardena grew up in a large city and says she loves Iola’s small town charms.
Brett, the youngest son, just graduated from Iola High School.
He intends to go to Washburn University and double major in economics and finance in fall of 2010, but for the coming year will attend Allen County Community College.
“He wants to pay off his Jeep,” Sandy said. “He’s got a job he likes and can save money by living at home this year.”
Brett doesn’t see himself moving back to Iola once he departs. His parents accept that the town they love probably can’t provide for his future once his schooling is complete.
“In years past, there were always more jobs than people,” said Terry, who was born and raised here. “It’s not that way right now.”
But it’s not just a lack of jobs that causes the next generation to leave, the Zorneses said.
Sandy said if the city wants to recruit young adults, “they need to be open to the progress of what’s happening in the bigger cities.” Those in elected office “need to be open to new ideas,” she said.
“There’s good things about being a small town, but you don’t need to be small-town minded.”
Sandy said although it is easy to criticize those in public office, they were elected by the people. But, she said, “those who are voted into office need to listen — not just hear — but LISTEN to what people want to see changed in Iola.”
Brett thinks there’s more to it.
“We need to get some younger people elected,” Brett said. “Bill Shirley and Craig Abbott are from a different generation.
“The dominant figures in the town are pushing it in the wrong direction,” he continued. “The same people have been in office so long, they put their needs in front of ours.”
Brett said there is a chasm between the priorities held by the generations. But, “We are the future and they need to put our needs first.”
Until that happens, the Zorneses acknowledge many of Iola’s youth will move on.
“It’s a rather old community. The kids don’t feel a part of it,” Brett said. “A few years ago I saw myself coming back here, and now I don’t, because of all the changes that need to happen but haven’t.”

ALTHOUGH they recognize its flaws, Terry and Sandy admit they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
“This is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere,” Sandy said.
Sandy moved to Iola in 1988, when her then-husband became manager of the new Wal-Mart. The couple and their two sons had moved frequently as part of his job. After a year, he left. She and the boys stayed.
“Both my boys were tired of moving,” she said. Her sons, 8 and 9 at the time, had made good friends in the community, she added. “I felt I wanted to stay here, too.”
Over the years, Sandy has become involved with a number of community groups, including Iola Community Food Pantry, Iola Area Ministerial Alliance, Iola Housing Authority and Allen Country Animal Rescue Facility.
Unlike Sandy, who lived in eight communities before Iola, Terry said, “I’ve lived in Iola all my life. I always thought I would move away.”
After high school, he began college and “I had a job I really enjoyed, so I bought a house and decided to stay a little longer,” he said. “A few years later, I met Sandy.”
The two married, Terry assuming they’d go elsewhere. “But Sandy and the boys had moved around so much, they weren’t quite ready to move again.” Then Brett was born, and Terry realized “I didn’t want to move at all because ... I liked this peaceful, small community.”

TERRY recalled how as a youngster he would bike all over and would play throughout town with friends. There has been a cultural shift about what today’s kids do for fun, he said. “All the kids nowadays just stay home and play video games.”
“If there were more to do, the kids would be out there doing it, I’m sure,” Sandy replied.
Having run a day care for 28 years, Sandy is very conscious of activities available — or lacking — for children and their families. Because she has lived in numerous communities, she knows Iola’s offerings are limited.
“What draws people are things to do,” Sandy said. “In Carthage, Mo., we had a park with miniature golf course and a train the kids could ride on.”
Amenities the Zorneses would like to see in Iola include offerings for people with pets. “I have wanted a dog park forever,” Sandy said. “It’s nice to walk your dogs, but you need a place to just let them run. You need a place that’s fenced off so they can get their exercise. Not everybody has a farm.”
Iola once had a roller skating rink, but that’s closed down. She would love to see one reopen.
“We do have a drive-in — that’s rare these days,” Brett said. And the renovated pool is nice, he said, but “The public pool was small enough before the flood — it was always overcrowded. Now it’s half the size.”
Iola’s best feature, quipped both Terry and Brett, is its food.
“For a small town, it has a nice restaurant selection,” Brett said. Terry favors Chinese food.
Sandy said what she likes best about Iola is its people.
“When I first moved here, I was told, this is the fishbowl and I was the fish,” Sandy said of Iola’s somewhat-closed community. “But if something goes on, people are there to help.
“You might not see your neighbors for a while, but if you need them, they’ll be there. I think that’s a strength. It’s a family feeling.”