When one woman rises, the other women around her rise with her. And women in power know how to make change.
The Downtown Bettendorf Business Women (DBBW) knew this when they banded together to form a partnership amongst women business owners in Bettendorf.
“When we started, there wasn’t much help for women starting their own businesses,” said DBBW member Pat Beréskin. “The women’s group started in order to promote and help other women in Bettendorf.”
The DBBW is an organization within the Bettendorf Business Network, meant to support businesses and services offered by women in the downtown Bettendorf area. The group meets monthly to celebrate member accomplishments and support each other’s work.
From encouraging one another in business endeavors, to donating their time and money to support local charities and offer scholarship opportunities to young women interested in business, the DBBW has established itself as a Bettendorf organization focused on growth, development, and security for the area’s youth.
The community-building efforts are made possible by the DBBW’s annual Christmas ornament fundraiser.
A Tradition of Good Tidings
The DBBW was quick to realize that when a group of like-minded, caring, and dedicated women gathers together, their boundless passion to care for others can make great change.
“We’re all very much vested in this community as mothers, parents to children who have been in the school system, and members of community organizations. So we decided we would try to raise money to help,” Beréskin said.
In 2018, the DBBW learned of a local group raising funds to provide Christmas presents for families in need at two local elementary schools. Beréskin, owner of Beréskin Art Gallery, had recently held a “plein air painting” that had local artists painting the downtown Bettendorf riverfront. One of the artists allowed the DBBW to use their painting to create a Christmas ornament.
The group hoped to sell 200 ornaments depicting the painting of what was then the I-74 Bridge. They ended up selling nearly 700 ornaments and raising $5,000.
“We had to keep making them because people wanted them,” said Bereskin. “With those funds, we not only were we able to help the one group with their Christmas project, but we were able to donate to several other charities.”
The DBBW has since established the Debe LaMar Scholarship for Young Women in Business, which gives two young women from Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley High Schools $500 scholarships as they pursue a secondary education or trade to grow a business. LaMar was a long-time beloved Bettendorf Alderwoman who lost her battle with cancer in 2018. Having raised over $12,000, they’ve been able to donate to additional local charities, such as the Bettendorf Angel Network and the Agape Center's Christmas Stocking Drive
A Team Effort
Since the fundraiser began, the framed ornament has featured a painting of the I-74 Bridge—a structure that has certainly come to represent Bettendorf in each of its iterations.
“It’s something that everybody’s been focused on,” Bereskin said. “Now that the bridge is here, a lot of times people who’ve moved away, or who are moving back, love that bridge picture. We want to honor that.”
Bettendorf Office Products reproduces the painting at a miniature scale, which then must be hand-cut and placed in small frames with an attached decorative ornament hook. The ornaments are all handmade by members of the DBBW. They’ve also had members of an organization for parents of special needs students assist in the past.
Because of the labor-intensive creation process, the group is limiting the number of ornaments this year to 300. They will also have 5x7 prints available of the image. The fundraiser has continued to gain traction over the years, and Bereskin anticipates selling out quickly.
“We have people who have a dinner party each year, and they buy ornaments to have at each person’s place at the table,” Bereskin said. “They’ve made it to be their tradition.”
Local Artists Giving Back
The DBBW has ensured they support local in every aspect of their fundraiser, and that includes supporting local artists.
Bereskin asked Brad Bisbey to paint image for the ornament this year. Bisbey is a Quad-Cities native and graduate of St. Ambrose University.
“He’s often referred to as the Grant Wood of our time,” Bereskin said.
Bisbey’s painting will look quite different than past ornaments. While most have depicted the bridge from the Bettendorf point-of-view, Bisbey painted from the Moline perspective looking into Bettendorf.
“I wanted to get a view of the bridge that was not your generic view of the arch,” Bisbey said.
Bisbey scoured the area from both sides of the river to find an image of the bridge that spoke to him the most. Ultimately, he ventured behind a local business to the edge of the river where he took a photograph that captured both spans of the bridge and all four arches exactly how he’d hoped.
“As soon as I looked at that subject from that viewpoint, I thought yeah, that’s probably the one,” Bisbey said. “That’s what art is all about—the search.”
Don’t Wait to Purchase
Those looking to buy a 2022 ornament can find them at Concept Kitchen and Bath, Frymoyer Stone, K & K Hardware, Within by CDI, and Tango Hair Salon. This year’s limited inventory means they might run out if you don’t buy quickly.
The ornaments cost $15 with 100% of the proceeds being donated. Payments can be made via cash, check, or Venmo. This year, the group also plans on using the proceeds to give scholarships for students to attend art classes at The Figge Museum and the Family Museum.
The previous I-74 Bridge paintings have allowed the fundraiser to grow and help hundreds of community members. Moving forward, the DBBW has discussed changing the theme.
“There’s a conversation of doing ‘Nostalgia Bettendorf’ or ‘Nostalgia Quad-Cities,’” Bereskin said. “I think it will give everybody a new perspective on the Quad-Cities.”