Garnavillo businessman doesn't “balk” when it comes to giving

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Garnavillo Mill owner Roger Balk is pictured with a wooden art piece made for him by the late Dean Priem. Roger shares his pride in school, community and country. (Press photo by Ellen Johnson)

Contributed by Ellen Johnson

When Clayton Ridge School was in the complicated process of moving grade levels to different campuses, Roger Balk, a 1976 graduate of Garnavillo High School, not only stepped up to the plate, but he did so without even being asked. 

This summer, his assistance to the school saved the district much money and time. Preschool and grades kindergarten through third joined grades fourth and fifth at the Garnavillo school building.  Sixth and seventh grades were moved to join eighth grade and the high school in Guttenberg. Transportation and short-term storage of furniture and other classroom items could have created a huge problem. However, thanks to Roger, the transition went smoothly. 

“When we were beginning to relocate classrooms, Roger called me,” explained Shane Wahls, Clayton Ridge Superintendent and Elementary Principal. “He offered the use of his semi trucks when we moved furniture and materials. He even let us keep the things in the trucks until we were prepared to move into each building.”

“It was so nice to have a community business, Garnavillo Mill, helping during the busy time. Roger was so accommodating. We had the items stored in his semi trailers for six weeks to two months,” continued Wahls. “We were very appreciative of his generosity.” 

Not only did Roger provide the vehicles, he or some of his employees delivered the semis and picked them up when they were loaded.

Roger offered again when it was time for the new playground to be installed for the elementary in Garnavillo. He provided the forklift and tractor to move the equipment. 

“The new equipment was delivered to the bus barn in Garnavillo and kept there until we were ready to have it installed,” explained Wahls. “As soon as we needed it at the school, Roger and his workers used his forklift to load it on his trailer and brought it to the elementary.”

Roger not only delivered items, he also helped get rid of scrap steel that was not needed anymore. 

“We had quite a lot of recyclable steel, including old lockers, and Roger had it hauled to Clayton County Recycling in Luana,” said Wahls. 

When asked about the delivery and the money that the old steel brought, Roger matter-of-factly shrugged, “Well, I gave the money back to Clayton Ridge. It was the school’s.”

Roger not only gives of his time and equipment for school use. He recently donated $1,500 toward a new sound system for the theater department. 

“I’m hard of hearing,” he joked. “I hope others come forward to help the school.”

Roger also gave of his time to the school district by serving for many years on the school board.

“I wanted to see if I could make a difference,” he said. “People in Garnavillo and Guttenberg are proud of their communities and need to support  them and their school.”

Roger isn’t the only one in his family who serves Clayton Ridge. His wife of 40 years, Shirley, has helped run the Garnavillo school office for a great while. When not working, the Balks can be found spending time with their two children, who both went through the local school system, and grandchildren.

Daughter Stephanie is married to Courtney Bochmann. They live in Clarksville with Sydney, a seventh grader and Graham, who is in fifth grade. Courtney is a doctor and Stephanie is a school guidance counselor, so the Balk connection to school continues. Both work in Waverly. 

Son Derek and his wife, Amanda, the former Amanda Lincoln of Colesburg, live in Ankeny. He followed in his father’s footsteps by working in agriculture. He is marketing and business manager at Flint Hills Resources, and Amanda is a special education teacher. Their two children are Hailey, a kindergartener, and Emma, a three-year-old who is in preschool.

Walking into the Garnavillo Mill, it is obvious that its owner also has a love of his country. There is a metal sculptured flag hanging in plain sight on a wall in the outer office. On the merchandise shelves are stacks of boxed United States flags in different sizes. In his office is a lovely art piece of the USA fashioned with different kinds of wood. That patriotism carries through to his giving to community and school.

The Garnavillo American Legion uses one of Roger’s buildings to store their supplies. Roger has also given, and continues to supply, American flags for many school classrooms. 

Asked when his support of the school first began, Roger thought a minute and then answered, “You know, I can’t even remember.” 

Obviously, it has been for many, many years.

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