Tom Manley has proven that you don't have to travel too far from home to have a big impact on the world you live in.
He did cross over county lines, from O'Brien to Clay, to make his living and raise a family, but at heart, Tom Manley represents the best of small town values; of looking out for your neighbor, doing what you can to make life better for others, and being a cheerful giver.
Those attributes have led Manley on a decades-long journey of giving back, and have resulted in his selection as this year's Spencer Citizen of the Year.
In their letter of nomination for Manley, Bob and Kayleen Rose noted his rural background in explaining his commitment to service others.
"Growing up on a farm instilled in Tom the commitment of service to neighbors and friends. Tom learned from his parents that helping a neighbor would be reciprocated and the benefits would far outweigh the effort put forth."
Those efforts put forth by Manley have involved service to a wide range of programs, in Spencer and throughout the region. He serves as past chairman and board of director member of the Spencer Area Activity Center, is past chairman and board member of Sunshine Services, Inc., is on the board of the Boy Scouts of America, is a member of the Masons, the Spencer Rotary Club and the Shayla Bee Foundation.
"Tom has assisted Sunshine Services Inc. in the development and procurement of many business contracts for our workshop. He is a wonderful person, someone who genuinely cares about people," said Ann Vandehaar, executive director of Sunshine Services, Inc. "He is a friend to all and goes out of his way to lend a helping hand. Honoring him with this award is a wonderful way for the citizens of Spencer to show Tom how much we appreciate him."
The Iowa Lakes Community College Foundation also benefits from Manley's support, as he works to promote the college and as a board member of the Foundation he raises funds for scholarships to allow students the opportunity to make a college education a reality.
In addition, he was honored in 2011 with induction into the Clay County 4-H Hall of Fame, and recognized at ceremonies at both the Iowa State Fair and the Clay County Fair for his decades of service to the Clay County 4-H program. His work with 4-H ranges from serving as a ring man for the 4-H/FFA district beef show, assisting with weigh-ins, and helping to coordinate the efforts of the Blue Ribbon and Auction committees.
"Tom's contribution to Clay County 4-H is widely felt," said Bonnie Dalager, ISU Extension Clay County program director. "Tom serves as a great example for 4-H youth in our area. As an advocate for the 4-H program and through his work on the Blue Ribbon Committee, Tom has worked to enhance the acknowledgement that goes toward the 4-H members, to encourage them to continue reaching higher with their life goals and to achieve their full potential in everything that they do."
The list of volunteer efforts goes on. Manley is a longtime volunteer for the University of Okoboji Marathon, serving as the official course marker and traffic control officer for the marathon. He's also the official Tee Box Starter for the Northwest Amateur Golf Tournament and is an active member of the Spencer Chamber of Commerce, its Ambassadors and was an original board member of the Spencer Main Street Company.
Most recently, Manley received the Spirit of Volunteerism Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve on April 14 of this year. He has served as a volunteer with the program for 24 years, most recently as Area Chair for Area 3 of the state program.
"Tom Manley has been a volunteer with ESGR since 1988. With 24 years as a volunteer, his leadership and commitment to our ESGR mission and those who serve our country are unrivaled," said Rebecca Coady, MIL, NG, IA, ARNG, executive director of the Iowa ESGR. "He embodies the spirit of volunteerism, takes pride in his service to ESGR and sets an outstanding example to all."
Coady noted that the Spirit of Volunteerism award presented to Manley is awarded to volunteers who have displayed the highest level of volunteer service. Prior to his receiving the award, it was last presented in 2007, as the group is very selective in presenting the prestigious honor.
Annually, Manley helps to make Christmas more special for area families in need. He is a volunteer delivery person for the Holiday Family Adoption Program, making the trek to homes in rural Clay County, delivering gifts in all types of weather.
"Tom's drive and determination to make this project a part of his Christmas - to deliver gifts in any awful weather - for the chance to play Santa, really shows me his character," said Anita Jorgenson, executive director of Upper Des Moines Opportunity, Inc., which helps to coordinate the Holiday Adoption Program. "This is his gift to himself at Christmas. He gets so much out of it."
Growing up on the family farm south of Hartley, Manley knew what he wanted, even as a teen. With his eye on Karen Denny, whose family farmed north of Hartley, he knew her parents had set a restriction against their daughter dating before she turned 16. That important birthday was on January 20. He asked his future wife out on their first date on January 21. They've been together ever since.
He and Karen moved to Spencer in 1969, and Manley went to work at Ralston-Purenia. He later began a long career in the insurance business, before moving into banking, where he has been ever since. He is currently the promotions and marketing director at Community State Bank.
Karen and Tom have two daughters, Teresa Cauwels, who lives in Sioux Falls, S.D.. with her husband,Jeremy and three children; and Lisa Mart, who lives in Graettinger with her two daughters. Tom and Karen are active members of First Congregational Church in Spencer, serving on various church committees.
Karen said being active in the community is just what her husband does.
"That's what he likes. He likes to be with people and be on the go," she said. "That's just his nature."
Join in honoring Spencer's newest Citizen of the Year, Tom Manley, at a reception today at Iowa Lakes Community College's Spencer Campus at Gateway North in north Spencer.
The reception will be held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Thursday, with a program slated for 5:30 p.m.