Editor's note: "Community Champions" is a new weekly feature in which area residents who are advocates for the community are profiled. To recommend someone for consideration, send an email with the subject line 'Community Champions' to email@example.com. Please include contact information about the person and their background. Read previously published stories on columbustelegram.com.
When Jedidiah States first went to work for Hy-Vee back in 2008, he never imagined he would find his passion or make a career out of it. He certainly didn’t think he would someday live in Columbus, mostly because he had never heard of it.
“When my store director at the time first approached me about an opportunity in Columbus, I was honestly like, ‘where’s that?’ I didn’t think that would work out,” States recalled.
States and his family ended up relocating from Papillion to Columbus nearly six years ago, and he has served as the produce manager at the Hy-Vee in town ever since. It’s Columbus where he works, lives, raises his family and takes pride in being an active member of the community.
“Just sitting at home and hanging out, that’s not OK to me,” States said. “I think we’re called to do more, especially when we have the ability to help people in our community who might need help and support.”
FINDING HIS WAY
States is a Nebraska native. He was born in Scottsbluff but lived in Bayard early on before his family relocated to Concordia, Kansas. The latter is what he considers his first hometown because it’s where he graduated high school.
The son of a preacher, States went on to attend Nebraska Christian College in Papillion to pursue his interest in education and religion.
“I initially wanted to be a teacher, but I realized that wasn’t the right fit,” he said. “I began debating what to change my major to in college. I thought about biblical interpretation because I was always interested in scripture, but there was nothing relating to it that I could see myself doing as a career.”
While in college, States began working for Hy-Vee in Papillion on a part-time basis in the produce department to make some spending money and funds for gas. But as he began contemplating what to change his major to, a full-time position in the produce department at his Hy-Vee store opened up. He saw what he considered an opportunity and decided he needed to pursue it.
“I asked, ‘what do I need to do to get that job?’ I was told I needed to stand out, so I started putting my nose to the grindstone. I kept working hard and ended up getting it. That’s how it started,” States said.
A few years had gone by when States, now a husband and soon-to-be father, decided to pursue management opportunities with the company in an effort to better provide for his young family. He signed up for and went through Hy-Vee University, the Midwest grocer’s model for associate training.
He graduated the program in 2012 and it was less than two years later the Papillion store director approached him to let him know about the produce manager position opening in Columbus. At first, he said he had reservations because he didn’t believe he and his wife, who was a teacher, would be happy in a town they had never been to before.
“I didn’t think that would work out. But he was like, ‘talk to your wife.’ That night we talked. We had just had our first daughter and she mentioned that she had been thinking about being a stay-at-home mom and would be into it if it could work out. So we went for it.”
GROWING IN COLUMBUS
Before States even had his first interview at the local Hy-Vee, he and his wife, Melissa, made a couple of trips to town to explore.
“We liked what we saw,” States recalled of those August 2014 visits. “We liked the town. The location wasn’t too far away from family. We loved the small town thing.”
He ended up getting the job, and though he was excited, he admittedly at the time thought Columbus would be a stepping stone to something else.
“I was personally thinking we would be here like two years, but as we got more involved in the community, the more we actually fell in love with it,” he said.
Columbus isn’t simply just a place they live – it’s a place they love, it’s home, it’s where they raise their family. The couple now has three young daughters, Adelynn, 5; Makenzie, 3; and 11-month-old Hannah. In the States’ household, he’s the last man standing. But, he said he’s OK with that.
“It’s fun. I’ve always been around girls,” he said, noting he grew up surrounded by his mom and sisters. “This is what I was meant to be. Princesses are a big thing right now, and the thing about princesses is, they always need a prince. So I’m often a king or a prince, sometimes a villain, and that’s always fun.”
Having children really changed the States’ outlook on life. Their two oldest daughters both have cystic fibrosis, a hereditary and often life-threatening disease that causes constant lung infections and also impacts other organs in the body where mucus builds up.
States said Adelynn’s initial diagnosis was very difficult at first, especially because he and his wife learned the life expectancy for a person with the illness is approximately 37.5 years. Finding out their second daughter also had the disease was equally as tough, but it has motivated them to be about the moment more so than ever.
“It’s tough to think about the future. It definitely has caused us to look at today and live day by day and not be worrying too much about the future,” he said. “We try to not focus too much on the future and try to find joy in today and have fun.”
May is National Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month, which encourages education when it comes to the battle against a lung disease that affects more than 30,000 people in the U.S, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Having two children with the disease, in a way, also brought the couple closer together. They try to advocate for the disease as much as possible and make time for one another.
“Something like that I feel can really cause issues in marriages. It is something that is a dividing factor or a uniting factor, and rarely is it in between,” he said “It brought us back to each other and God. Family was also a huge support.”
Melissa said her husband is a special person who cares about his family and community.
“Jed is a very motivated man. When he cares about something, he becomes passionate about it and it shows. He has an infectious personality and when he is excited about something it’s easy to get on board with it,” she said. “He is great at solving problems and can easily find a solution that creates a great outcome, which is helpful at his job and also in leading our family.”
FOLLOW THE LEADER
States undoubtedly loves his family but also takes a ton of pride in his work and the company he has been employed by for more than a decade. Hy-Vee, based out of Iowa, is an employee-owned chain of more than 245 supermarkets throughout the Midwest. States said Hy-Vee is known for its honesty and integrity, which aligns with the values important to him.
As produce manager, States is responsible for making sure the store has enough product, pricing, the layout of the department, as well as bringing in items that will intrigue people and overseeing the salad bar area.
“We have access to a lot of cool stuff, which is why I love produce,” he said, adding his appreciation to his team of 15-20 people with years of experience who help make sure things run well in the produce department.
His team is a major reason why he said he has been able to also take on additional responsibilities, like handling the local store’s social media platforms.
Chad Dyhrkopp, store director of the Hy-Vee in Columbus, praised States. He said the longtime produce manager is not only a great employee but an all-around good-natured individual.
“Jed is a really fun family guy and Hy-Vee through and through on top of it. He’s well-rounded and very motivated to be successful in all areas. He’s a great asset for us to have at the store,” Dyhrkopp said. “Not only is he a family guy with his girls and his wife, but also at the store, he’s just one of those guys who is always looking to do more than he is asked to do.”
It’s not all about work for States, though. He and his wife are involved in a number of local organizations and initiatives. He’s a member of the Lions Club and they're both active at their parish, Highland Park Evangelical Church.
“Giving back is what’s important,” States said. “This is a nice place to raise a family. It’s relatively safe. We just like to help however we can.”
States likes reading scriptures, including The Bible, and being part of church groups. He’s also an avid Huskers fan. Melissa said the two try to go to at least one football game together each season, and Jed will go all out when it comes to representing his team.
“Jed has been known to get on ESPN and get his pictures in magazines for his Husker attire he wears to the games,” she said. “One year I remember particularly well, he went to a game and had Husker ‘N’ stickers on his face. It was a hot and sunny day and he came home with a sunburn from the game. He actually had the ‘N’ outlined on his face from the sunburn, which he sported proudly around town. We still laugh about it each time he gets in his gear to go to a game.”
He also likes to host game nights and hang out with his friends, noting he and one of his buddies are big on keeping up with all of the Marvel movies. He said he saw “Avengers: Endgame” recently and enjoyed it.
“It was good … Pretty action-packed,” he said.
States said he will keep working hard because he wants to help his children through life. He loves his family, job and helping his community however he can. Ironically, the town he didn’t know anything about less than a decade ago is now a place he can’t imagine not being part of going forward.
“Honestly, only God knows what’s going to happen, but I don’t see us leaving this community,” he said. “We love it - it’s home now. It’s our home and we’re super content being here.”
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.