Cedar Rapids man's resolution to do good goes beyond new year

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Zach Cloe is proof that New Year’s resolutions can stick, and do good in the community.

Each year during the holiday season Cloe’s employer, NextEra Energy Duane Arnold, puts up a giving tree so that employees can purchase gifts for children in need at their partner organization, Four Oaks.

Each year, Cloe gives a gift.

But in 2012 he resolved to do more.

Cloe, 30 of Cedar Rapids, who works as an engineer at Duane Arnold, decided as a new year’s resolution that he’d like to get more involved in the community. So he figured he’d start by volunteering with the kids who benefit from the giving tree project during the holidays.

“I’ve always liked to work with kids and I like to teach and mentor,” he says.

So he connected with the North Oaks, a Psychiatric Medical Institution for Children between the ages of 11 and 16 operated by Four Oaks. “We provide a cooperative based, engaging environment for the kids to heal and learn safe ways to have their needs met,” explains Jody Unsen, a Day Worker at North Oaks. “The kids live in our program for approximately six months to a year and we teach skills they can use to help them be successful in society.”

For the past year, Cloe has visited every Monday afternoon for about an hour and half. He says he enjoys just playing games with the kids and helping them with their homework.

“Those are good times and it reminds me of being a kid,” he says. “I just love making the kids happy. They are separated from their family and friends and I just try to make them smile. I get fulfillment from that.”

Unsen says the boys and girls in the North Oaks program get just as much fulfillment.

“The kids are really excited to see Zach every time he comes,” she says. “Both the kids and our staff have a high regard for Zach and the values he brings into the program with him. He is patient and kind to the kids and staff and is always happy to be here.”

His commitment over the past year makes him one of the program’s longest volunteers.

“These volunteers provide opportunities for the kids to meet and build healthy relationships with stable, consistent adults,” says Unsen. “Zach not only helps our kids build positive self esteem but he also is a relief for the staff often times in high stress situations.”

His volunteer is sure to have lasting effects.

“The long term impact that Zach has on the kids of North Oaks shows them there are adults in this world that you can count on and who are safe. Zach shows them by the way he treats them that they are worth something, and can feel good about themselves.”

Renee Nelson, Manager of Communications and Public Affairs at NextEra Energy Duane Arnold says she is also impressed with Cloe’s initiative.

“We are so excited to have established a program with Four Oaks where we provide gifts each holiday season, but to have Zach see that and take his own initiative and further it is really what we hope for from our community outreach efforts,” she says. “You can give a one time gift, but the follow through of your employees is how you can really make a difference in the community.”

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