Dinner to honor former commissioner

Published 10:00 am Thursday, February 5, 2009

As far as Jim Goudy is concerned, it’s personal.

Len Miller was his friend and despite his passing, the friendship between the two men remains alive today.

“The dinner will be a celebration of Len Miller’s life,” Goudy said of the Feb. 14 event. “He was a voice for the voiceless.”

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Miller died a year ago in February 2008. Soon afterward, Goudy organized a Czech dinner — a part-memorial and part-fundraiser.

Local veterans organizations were attempting to raise money to purchase a new Mower County veterans’ van in 2008.

The van was needed to replace another aging vehicle used to transport veterans free of charge to medical appointments outside Austin.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 1216 organized a successful raffle and large donations came from veterans organizations, businesses and individuals all over Mower County that pushed the fundraising effort over its goal.

A new veterans van was ordered, and Mower County is presently awaiting its arrival.

The fact the veterans organizations’ fundraising efforts were successful a year ago was made even more remarkable by the decline in charitable gambling profits at various clubs.

In recent years, local veterans service organizations have lost its fundraising power since the opening of Diamond Jo’s Casino at Northwood, Iowa and a declining appetite among veterans and guests for pull tabs.

The situation grows more desperate each year for the non-profit organizations, who seek to raise funds for their multitude of community service — particularly youth sports — projects.

Organizing a new fundraiser — the Czech dinner — could help, in this case, the Mower County Veterans Council, position itself to make an impact when the next van project comes along.

According to Goudy, a past-commander of Post No. 91, “We need to prepare for the next time we will be asked to raise money for another van.”

The second annual Czech dinner will be served from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14 at American Legion Post No. 91.

It’s being called the Len Miller Memorial Dinner, and Goudy hopes it will continue to be an annual fundraiser for veterans as well as a memorial to his friend.

Miller served on the Mower County Board of Commissioners 1995 to 2002.

During his seven years on the county board, Miller was an outspoken representative of the Fourth District.

Tax increment financing, human services funding, Semcac leadership, an ice arena on the Mower County Fairgrounds, power plants, changing the county’s long-standing in-drive policy and more all were debated with the stamp of Miller upon them.

Dick Lang ousted the incumbent Miller and then beat him a second time, when Miller sought to return to the county board.

He also made an unsuccessful bid for a state House seat in 2002.

“I think this would be a fitting memorial to Lenny if we can raise money to build a fund to take care of the veterans van always,” Goudy said.

The fundraiser dinner menu will include roast pork, sauerkraut, bread dumplings, potatoes and kolaches.

Tickets are $7.50 each or $5 for children under the age of 12.

The tickets will be sold only at the door Feb. 14.

All the proceeds will benefit the Mower County veterans’ van project, according to Goudy.

“That was something he certainly believed in as well as all other projects to benefit veterans,” Goudy said.

The organizer has assembled a crew of 10 to 15 volunteers to help with the Feb. 14 event.

Donations have come from Hormel Foods Corp., Hy-Vee and Jim’s Super Fresh Bakery and Produce.

Goudy hopes to grow the list of sponsors this year to reduce expenses and increase proceeds.

Of course, Post No. 91 will also assist wherever it can.

A year ago, the first Len Miller Memorial Dinner attracted more than 200 people.