Bridenbaugh receives skid steer - Putnam Sentinel
Dan Schroeder (right) hands over they keys to a skid steer to Daryl Bridenbaugh (center) outside Habitat for Humanity's most recent project house. PC Habitat Director Matt Rau (left) hold two checks totaling $2000, donations from both FIC Dealerships and John Deere. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

PUTNAM COUNTY — This past June, The Sentinel reported on the selection of Pandora farmer Daryl Bridenbaugh as one of just three finalist in John Deere’s contest, “Small Machines. Big Impact.” The nationwide contest focused on those who could use a skid steer on projects that improve their community. For his entry, Bridenbaugh wrote an essay on how his Methodist faith inspired him to become involved with the local Habitat for Humanity, and how he intended to use the Skid Steer to help do volunteer work for the organization.

As part of the contest, John Deere produced a video on Bridenbaugh and the two other finalists on how they intended to support their community should they win a new skid steer. These videos were posted to a John Deere website, and the general public was asked to vote for a winner. That winner was recently announced at a special awards ceremony at John Deere’s headquarters in Moline, Illinois.

Bridenbaugh described his experience visiting John Deere’s headquarters, “The first thing we did was we went to the combine factory and got the gold key tour there, which is kind of reserved for the guys that buy the machine. So it’s kind of a one-on-one tour. In this case, it was Peggy (Daryl’s wife) and I and one of the other couples in the contest.”

“And then, we went to the headquarters and got a nice tour there. It’s nicknamed the ‘Rusty Palace’ because it’s made out of steel and glass, and the steel’s unpainted. It’s back in the woods with big oak trees around it. It’s always going to be pretty because Deere owns so much of the ground around it, somewhere between 1200 and 1400 acres. So it’s always going to be an incredible place and it’s won all kinds of architectural awards. Saarinen designed it, same guy that designed the St. Louis Gateway Arch.”

Following a day of tours, the winner of the contest was announced at an awards ceremony during the evening. The votes for Bridenbaugh, unfortunately, came up short. However, he still receives a free one-year lease of a new skid steer. His was just delivered by John Deere this past Monday at the most recent Habitat for Humanity house in Ottawa.

Though he may not have won, Bridenbaugh was gracious towards Eric Moores, the Woodbine, IA school teacher who did, saying, “He was such a delightful fellow. They have 100 kids in the whole high school, and 50 of them took his class last year. It was his first year teaching. So he’s a much loved teacher, that’s for sure.”

Bridenbaugh also described the awards ceremony, and the moment after the winner was announced, “Just raw emotion. [Moores] and his wife, said, ‘We did it,’ and they just hugged. It was really incredible to see. All of our wives were crying and everything. It was really neat.”

In addition to delivering the skid steer, FIC Dealerships and John Deere planned a surprise donation for Putnam County’s Habitat for Humanity as well. FIC Dealerships donated $1,000 to the organization and John Deere matched that donation with an addition $1,000.

“This will help with our new critical home repair program,” says Matt Rau, Executive Director of the Putnam County Habitat for Humanity. According to Rau, this program assists low income homeowners with needed repairs that are beyond the ability for the homeowner to afford. In addition to the monetary donation, Rau hopes to soon have Bridenbaugh and his skid steer providing assistance as well. One possible project may involve digging a new well for a homeowner. Though the skid steer would not be able to dig the well itself, it is a versatile machine and would certainly prove useful.

This is exactly what John Deere’s machines are known for, after all. Which Bridenbaugh pointed out himself when relaying a video he was shown during his visit to the company’s headquarters. “In the one video it said, ‘Half the crops in the world are harvested with our machines.’ But they said it in a modest way. That’s just pretty incredible.”