Family and farming heritage is benefiting the Johnson County Historical Society (JCHS).
Rural Johnson County residents, Steve and Jan Weeber, who represent the fifth generation to own the family's 120-acre farm, made a generous $300,000 gift to provide a solid foundation for the JCHS capital campaign. Steve's German ancestors were among the first to settle the area in southwest Johnson County in 1847.
Recently, the JCHS announced a $1.5 million capital campaign in part to create a permanent endowment for the 41-year-old history organization. In 2008, the quiet phase of the campaign, which raised $750,000 for the campaign, was launched.
The couple's stately farm and splendid home near Sharon Center has been the site of the JCHS annual membership meeting and a series of friend-raising meetings where members and visitors learned about the historical society's campaign efforts, strategic plan and operating budget.
Steve, the JCHS board and fund-raising chair for the nonprofit history organization, says the JCHS has a great opportunity with an easily-accessed, central location and a marvelously well-educated staff. "They have brought a whole new level of energy to the organization which has created a lot of enthusiasm and financial support from contributors for future programming."
Shaner Magalhaes, JCHS executive director, says the JCHS capital campaign, "Building Our Future by Saving Our Past," will provide necessary funding for ongoing operating costs of a growing museum as well as a permanent endowment fund. "Our programs are well received and our attendance continues to grow. We are very pleased with fund-raising support from our Johnson County Historical Society members and area residents."
The Community Foundation of Johnson County will become the designated manager of the donor-advised endowment fund.
Former JCHS executive director Margaret Weiting recognized Steve and Jan's fund-raising and relationship-building abilities and invited them to use their skills to create a funding stream and recognition for JCHS members and contributors. Steve says the goal for the society is to care for members like alums. He says, "We want people to come and stay forever."
Steve Weeber's rural roots run deep.
Growing up on a family farm in southwest Johnson County, Steve attended Maple Grove Country School near Sharon Center, Central Junior High and graduated from City High. Throughout his high school years, Steve farmed the home place with his uncles while his father worked in town.
Steve met his wife Jan at Simpson College where he majored in science and she in English. After they married, the Iowa farm boy went on to earn a master's degree in biochemistry from Illinois Institute of Technology before launching a lifetime career with Nalco Chemical Company.
The retired, former vice chair of the board of directors helped expand Nalco sales from $60 million to $2.6 billion and add many new business services. Nalco encouraged Steve to use his talents to help his alma mater where he served as a trustee and chaired the college's board of directors.
Nalco provided treatment for boilers before expanding into waste water treatment and chemical processes. Steve, who retired in 1999, also helped Nalco acquire 47 companies worldwide.
In 1999, the couple started building their new retirement home for their "Grant Woodesque" homestead place. The beautiful home and farm buildings are magnificently situated overlooking a five-acre pond and rolling Iowa farmland. One wing of the 2,200-square-foot house was dedicated to his 96-year-old father who now lives in a care facility in Kalona.
The Johnson County Historical Society has hosted several meetings in the Weeber Pavilion.