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Keeping up with Jim Pletscher

A look at a life of service

Published in the September 2022 Issue Published online: Sep 16, 2022 Arts & Culture
Viewed 1068 time(s)



BY EMMA JOHNSON
PHOTOS BY ANNIE CARBUTT AND GIBBY SMEDE

THE NEXT TIME you take a walk in Historic Downtown Idaho Falls, pay special attention to how clean it is. You’d be hard pressed to find an alley wall with graffiti tags on it or a debris-riddled street. While many people make regular efforts to spruce up this historic neighborhood, some individuals have made it a personal mission to keep it polished. Jim Pletscher, in particular, has quietly been working to keep downtown gorgeous for years. Anyone who meets Jim immediately knows they’ve found a friend. Jim cares about people. He is always finding ways to help, visit and uplift those around him. Creating a community where people can feel safe and welcome means everything to Jim. After a successful career as an engineer in the Navy and at the Idaho National Laboratory, Jim has dedicated his retirement to volunteering for a plethora of local organizations.

Jim estimates he spends over 25 hours a week serving in Idaho Falls, Ammon and the surrounding areas. Some of his projects through the years have included volunteering for Ronald McDonald House Charities, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, City of Ammon volunteer programs, the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center, the Senior Center, Downtown Idaho Falls Operation Facelift Project, Christmas basket allocations, the Idaho Falls Soup Kitchen, Men’s City of Refuge, the Idaho Falls Symphony and the Civic Center for the Performing Arts.

In addition to these efforts, Jim spends regular time at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center emergency room where he volunteers a few days every week. Even in the organized chaos of the hospital, Jim finds ways to help each individual feel seen and valued. Whether he’s helping a patient with non-medical needs, buying them a phone charger, offering comfort or giving them a ride home at the end of their visit, Jim is constantly embodying the hospital’s mission: “Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life.”

Jim has also volunteered through the Adopt-A-Highway program to personally clean up state roadways in the area. His cleanup efforts were so thorough, he won a statewide award for the Southeast Idaho region against entire groups of other roadway volunteers.

Another example of Jim’s efforts to help others in need is demonstrated by his volunteer work refurbishing a downtown rental apartment. The apartment was owned by a widow in her eighties who was dependent upon the rental income from the apartment. Jim used his mechanical repair skills over a 6-month period to lead an effort to restore the apartment and get it back in renting condition. He didn’t even charge for his many long working hours. Jim credits his love of service to his mother who he says was always looking for ways to help others. It’s simply in his blood to offer a hand to those around him. He also says the leadership from Catherine Smith and Mala Lyon with Idaho Falls Downtown Development provides great motivation for him to serve in the downtown area. He feels the same about Mayor Sean Coletti and Micah Austin with the City of Ammon. Above all, Jim loves Historic Downtown Idaho Falls. It’s here that his wife Lyn owns and manages Lyn’s Ladies and Babies Shoppe. For the past three years, Jim has been cleaning up graffiti in the downtown area on his own dime. He periodically walks around taking note of dumpsters, walls, and power boxes that have been tagged with graffiti. He then schedules a day for cleanup. He starts by laying out a tarp, scrubbing the tagged area, and applying a fresh coat of paint to the defaced surface, doing his best to match the paint color when possible. He does all of this to ensure small downtown businesses stay looking their best. “I’m proud to live in this community,” Jim said. “I want this area to reflect how good the people are.”

This pride in his community is a major source of motivation for Jim in his clean-up efforts. Jim has noticed that the more he silently makes it known that graffiti won’t be tolerated, the less it seems to show up. Observant pedestrians in the downtown area will notice blocks of painted brick or shiny yellow dumpsters where Jim has been at work. Part of the reason Jim makes an effort to cover up graffiti is to send the message that the illegal defacing of property is unwanted, but he also works to make room for murals and street art that people have created.

Like many others, Jim loves and appreciates the hard work and talent that go into creating the gorgeous murals that can be found downtown. Covering up graffiti takes away the distractions and draws attention to the art. To help with the downtown art scene, Jim has teamed up with Gibby Smede, the creator and manager of Pugsslane Art Alley. Located off of B Street, Pugsslane is a place where artists young and old can showcase their work through murals. (See our story on page 58 to read more about Gibby and her Pugsslane project). Gibby and Jim work together to help keep the alley clean of graffiti. Jim uses his skills to clear up blank areas that have been defaced while Gibby uses her artistic talents to clean up graffiti covering the work of local artists.

Jim’s volunteering efforts show that the small actions of one person can make a big difference. Idaho Falls is the type of place that makes you feel safe and welcomed, and Jim’s clean-up efforts are part of the reason it feels this way. Everyone can find ways to serve their neighbor and be a little like Jim.

“I just try to pay attention to places where I can step in and lend a hand,” Jim said. Some ways that Jim has found volunteer opportunities include attending community events, staying up to date on city newsletters, and checking out the library’s bulletin boards. The desire to create a better community drives Jim to constantly find ways to serve. It brings him joy to clean up and unite his neighborhood. He doesn’t view his volunteer efforts as anything extraordinary, but as an adventure in finding ways to help.

For more information: Pugsslane Instagram: @pugsslanealley
Community volunteer ideas:
www.idahofallsidaho.gov/1214/Volunteer www.cityofammon.us/residents/community -service-projects

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