Small town, Big future pt.2: Elma Community Complex

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(ABC 6 NEWS) – The small town of Elma, Iowa may only have a population of about 500, but the community is working on a $1.2 million project. After years of work, they are getting closer to the finish line.

"It’s just a matter of we gotta get her done," Elma Community Complex Volunteer Erin Ludwig said.

In the Spring of 2020, the old school building was torn down. The gym stayed up to keep the daycare running and get ready for some renovations.

The next big step was the medical clinic. It was set to be inside the gym, but things didn’t go as planned.

"We ran into some barriers and issues with some flood issues and some zoning and different things like that," Regional Health Services of Howard County Vice President of Ancillary Services Kyle Teeling said.

Due to the issues, the clinic was moved down the road. It was built in 2020 and officially started accepting patients at the start of 2021.

"We can provide a lot of local service and services we can’t provide for example lab we can draw here and then we can courier those specimens back to our main lab and avoid the patient having to travel," Teeling said.

This is the first time in more than 20 years that Elma has had a clinic.

"Well-child visits, annual physicals, as well as acute sick visits and that sort of thing is all kind of within our domain of what we offer here so really in a full range," Family Nurse Practitioner, Rebecca Mischel said.

It is helping to fill a big gap in the community.

"It doesn’t take a ton of gas and a ton of time out of their day to come in is great," Mischel said.

"There is also a Mennonite population in the area so having more local and more accessible services is certainly important," Teeling said.

Less driving means more people can stay healthy.

"The farther people have to drive to get healthcare the harder it is to get in for appointments and visits, being able to offer vaccines and all of that is going to keep everyone happy and healthy and really be good for the community," Mischel said.

Across town, the daycare is another service being kept alive. It opened in 2008 thanks to a USDA grant.

"We knew that we needed a daycare if we were gonna have any chance of having our community stay stable or grow," Elma Community Complex Committee Member, Bruce Weigel said.

They are now working on expanding the baby room, which will allow them to have up to 16 babies and take more off the waiting list.

"It’s going to allow us to continue to keep and attract young families. And to me, that is the life, blood of a community," said Weigel.

And with kids comes books, the new library will be right down the hall.

"The current library that we are in is 2200 square feet and we are packed in there wall to wall books," Elma Library Director, Renee Burke said.

The new library is 2900 square feet and the community room will allow for more programming by the library.

The volunteers have put in countless hours to get where they are today.

" The motto is a great place to visit but a better place to live which you know that is what we are living out, that is what we wanna do that is what we wanna make happen," Burke said.

And they hope very soon they will meet their fundraising goal and everything can be finished and ready for use.

"We keep saying that we will have a big bash once we get done and we can’t for that day to come," Weigel said.

One way the group has tried to keep costs down is by installing solar panels.

An investor stepped in to help and the panels have been up and running since summer 2021. This will help keep costs low when operating the complex.

Right now they still need about $200,00 to finish the project.

There are about eight committee volunteers, but they say without the donations from the community this could have never been possible.

In addition to the complex, the town completed the splash pad this year and they are working on bringing an ambulance service to the town.

You can learn more about the Elma Community Complex here.