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Special Community Celebration on MLK Day in West Des Moines at the MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex

MLK Day Celebration

By Richard Salas, Editorial Intern | West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce

The MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex located in West Des Moines, Iowa is continuing to grow and thrive. This fall will mark the two-year anniversary of the complex’s opening. The first of its kind, the complex is used to engage the community and families in sporting programs, events, camps, leagues, and much more. The RecPlex contains 2 full-size indoor ice arenas, four full-size basketball/eight volleyball courts, a full size, 90,000 square-foot indoor turf field, pickleball courts, batting cages, an individual multipurpose court for volley/pickleball, a 5,000 square-foot turf multipurpose field, a 3,500 square foot Esports center, CanPlay adaptive sports zone and a full Des Moines University Physical Therapy facility. The RecPlex also contains multiple community spaces with the capacity to accommodate large gatherings of up to 250 people. Such facilities have just been made for greater community use in West Des Moines. The community has noticed, and the RecPlex has been put to great use so far. Developing and maintaining a year-round recreational facility in West Des Moines that is open to the public is huge in continuing to pave the way forward in being inclusive for all community members and families.

The new facility has expanded the City’s capacity to host community events and bring people together. One example was this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day event, which took place at the MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex. The community came out to reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through song, stories, words of wisdom, and the celebration of up-and-coming youth with the MLK Youth Scholarship and community awards.

Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion of West Des Moines Schools Dr. Dau Jok joined the event as its keynote speaker. Jok spoke to the community about his personal experiences with the teachings of MLK Jr. and how it has helped shape his life. Dr. Jok not only went into detail covering the teachings of MLK Jr., but how we can continue to carry the torch forward for future generations. Jok emphasized our modern social norms, values, and areas that any individual can impact daily. “We can celebrate AND demand more from our society. I can love America, especially as a captain, AND put it on trial. That’s why I served… I can be grateful AND demand that my dignity and humanity are respected.”

Jok ended his keynote with a remembrance and call to action for the West Des Moines community. “We have to remember our brilliance and what makes us, us. It’s our commitment to truth-telling, unvarnished truth because that is the only way we get to know each other more, share our humanity with others, and see people for who they really are.”

West Des Moines Councilwoman Renee Hardman shared with the community her experience, one of the first times she knocked on doors for her campaign. She was met by a man who told her, “West Des Moines did not elect colored people to the city council.” After leaving the house, Hardman told her mom about the experience and had doubts about wanting to continue her campaign. She shared what her mother had to say. “She told me there is no exit strategy; You are going to go out there and walk that pavement, cause your ancestors fought for you to knock on that door. They were hosed down, beaten, lynched and mobbed so that you could walk and knock on those doors. You are going to go out there and knock on 25 more doors, and you are going to try and make a difference.” Councilwoman Hardman’s story touched the very hearts of the community she represents. She finished her statement with a quote by MLK Jr. infused with her own call to action. “Dr. King gave us a moral and political direction, hope, courage, and inspiration. He told us darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. He gave us so much, now we just have to unwrap that gift and use it.”

The beauty of community and growth in days like the MLK Jr. event really begins to show when after only the second year at the RecPlex, the same statement is made at the end, “We are going to need a bigger room next year.” With a facility of this magnitude, it will be no problem. 

With the addition of the MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex, the City of West Des Moines is expanding daily. Through love, respect, and the determination of its leaders, West Des Moines is becoming one of the prime examples of developing cities in the nation.

Click here for more information about the MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex.

The MLK Jr. Day event is in partnership with the City of West Des Moines, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the West Des Moines Human Rights Commission, West Des Moines Schools, West Des Moines Historical Society, Des Moines University, Polk County, Taste of the Junction, Meals from the Heartland and the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce. 

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