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Tom and Rita Dunn dazzle the audience with a disco number during the ninth annual Dancing for the Dream at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. The couple won the contest in 2017.

NIVC fundraiser Dancing for the Dream returns to Clear Lake for 11th year

CLEAR LAKE | Six couples will take the dance floor and compete for the Crystal Ball Trophy during the 11th annual Dancing for the Dream fundraiser for the North Iowa Vocational Center on March 30.

The event, which raises money to support job training and placement for people with disabilities in North Iowa, is from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. It features a silent auction, live auction, music and the dance contest.

“People with disabilities have the same hopes and dreams as the rest of us, so helping them have stable housing and employment is what it’s all about,” said Sherry Becker, NIVC Services executive director.

Since the event started in 2009, it’s raised more than $325,000 for NIVC. Last year, Dancing for the Dream met its $75,000 goal with more than 500 people attending.

“It’s just amazing really,” she said. “That would equate to 6,000 hours of job coaching ... That’s a lot of support to people in their jobs.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of NIVC, a nonprofit organization with offices and businesses located throughout North Iowa, including Affordables Marketplace, JobLink, Affordables and Java Works Coffee Shop in Mason City.

In celebration of its anniversary, NIVC will accept $50 donations during the event.

“The money’s really important, but the awareness and education of what we do is invaluable to what we do,” Becker said.

This year’s North Iowa “celebrity” dancers and their partners are:

  • Roger Brock, Confluence Academy of St. Louis, with Laura Studer Brock, EAGLE College Preparatory School of St. Louis and 1982 Mason City High School graduate.
  • Roger Pollock, Four Oaks, with Misty Gomez, Dental Center of North Iowa.
  • Jeff Kellogg, Cambrex of Charles City, with Katie Kellogg, homeschool teacher.
  • Tom Kirby, Mason City Schools, with Betsy Kirby, Mason City Schools.
  • Jeff Rosenberg, Castwell Products LLC, with Megan Rosenberg, Cady Rosenberg Law.
  • Terry Wisner, Titan Pro, with Brenda Wisner, Rodan & Fields.

Aaron Anderson, Dalena Barz, Riley Galvin, Rich Piscopo and Gary Wattnem will be at the judges’ table scoring the performances, but the audience and supporters will vote with donations before and during the event. The dancers who raise the most money are deemed the winner. Last year’s winners were Rita, Meredith and Tom Dunn.

Appetizers, silent auction and music by Nonsemble will be available after doors open at 6 p.m. The dance contest and the live auction will be intermingled from 7 to 9 p.m.

Some of the live auction items are:

  • Iowa State University sky box football seats
  • International-themed dinners for eight.
  • Air Choice One tickets

During the event, Becker said the organization, which is merging with North Iowa Transition Center, will unveil its new name.

“There’s always more people than money and always more need than funded for, so this helps us with our gap,” Becker said.

Tickets are available at Affordable and Affordables Marketplace, or by texting D4D to 41444. Tables for eight can be reserved by calling 641-423-3301.

Contact Becker at 641-423-3301 or for more information.

Photos: Past Dancing for the Dream competitions

Photos: Past Dancing for the Dream competitions

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Renewable energy rail project would run from Mason City to Chicago

MASON CITY | By 2024, the Mason City-area could see a first-of-its-kind underground transmission line for renewable wind and solar energy that would run 349 miles to the Chicago area.

That's according to Sarah Lukan, a spokeswoman for the SOO Green Renewable Rail project.

Lukan said that the $2.5 billion plan is in the development phase but SOO Green officials are hopeful about having the development, government regulations, construction and operation sewn up within the next five-plus years.

Officials from the Direct Connect Development Company (DC DevCo), which is acting as the developer on the project, bill the SOO Green Renewable Rail as a connection between "two of the largest electric power markets" in the United States.

According to the American Wind Energy Association: 36 percent of Iowa's electrical production in 2016 was powered by wind and that number is expected to hit 40 percent by 2020.

DC DevCo argues that the project would bring "clean energy from the resource rich Midwest to satisfy the growing demand in Illinois and other eastern markets."

The high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line would be the first long-range underground HVDC line and run along rail owned by Canadian Pacific in order to "limit impacts" to the environment and endangered species. 

This graphic shows where the proposed 349-mile underground transmission line could run from northwest Iowa to the Chicago area. 

In terms of more material benefits, DC DevCo estimates that "construction of the project will directly create more than 600 temporary jobs in Iowa and Illinois" as well as "indirectly creating more than 200 permanent jobs to maintain and operate the wind farms and the transmission line post-construction."

Lukan added that counties that the line goes through will receive a payment "for each mile of line."

The DC DevCo is working on the project with investors from Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, Jingoli Power and Siemens Financial Services.

Siemens will also be responsible for "overall system design, engineering, manufacture, civil works, installation" and helping build converter stations to power the 2,100 megawatt transmission line.

SOO Green's website states that the high voltage direct current (HVDC) line would be superior to an alternating current (AC) line because it would have lower energy costs and a smaller environmental footprint. 

But according to a 2011 piece about HVDC cables versus HVAC cables from NewEnergyUpdate, which does independent analysis of and for the renewable energy community, "costs and losses of DC converters are significantly higher than AC transformers."

This graphic shows where the proposed 349-mile underground transmission line could run from northwest Iowa to the Chicago area. 

'AK-47 bandit' pleads guilty to Nebraska bank robbery; won't stand trial for Mason City hold-up (with video, photos)

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Montana man dubbed the AK-47 bandit for the assault rifle he's accused of using to hold up banks has pleaded guilty to robbing a bank in Nebraska.

The "AK-47 Bandit" is also believed to have entered the Iowa Heartland Credit Union on South Monroe Avenue in Mason City on July 28, 2015, armed with an AK-47 rifle with a high-capacity magazine.

Richard Gathercole, 40, could face up to 35 years in prison after admitting Monday in federal court that he used an AK-47 assault rifle to steal more than $90,000 from a Nebraska City bank in 2014. He also pleaded guilty to a 2017 carjacking that led to his arrest.

AK-47 bandit strikes

Gathercole is scheduled for sentencing in June.

The FBI has been looking for years for the man they called the "AK-47 Bandit," who typically wore a balaclava and carried an assault rifle with a drum magazine during the robberies. Investigators believe Gathercole's first robbery was on Feb. 29, 2012, in Chino, California.

Gathercole is also a suspect in the shooting of a Kansas state trooper in 2017 and bank robberies in California, Idaho, Iowa and Washington state, but the plea deal stipulates he won't be prosecuted for violent crimes in other jurisdictions, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Woods said.

Some of the crimes had passed the five-year federal statute of limitations.

Federal agents also found homemade bombs , guns and ammunition in Gathercole's home in Roundup, Montana, authorities said. A jailhouse phone call transcript showed Gathercole asked his mother to clear his home of guns after his arrest.

Agents also found sheriff's badges and patches, a sheriff's vest, an ammunition vest, a military style helmet, an organic chemistry book and material to make identification badges.

AK-47 bandit strikes