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Dishmans are Citizens of the Year
December 27, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Brian Hale/Gering Citizen

By a unanimous vote of the Gering Citizen staff, Ben and Kerri Dishman, along with their children Avery and Daniel, are the newspaper’s 2012 Citizens of the Year.

“It’s always a joy to choose someone to honor in our community, but this year it is a particular pleasure,” said Citizen Publisher Lisa Betz. “Ben and Kerri are a wonderful example for all of us. They saw Gering as an investment and fertile ground for their dreams and their family. Not only have they invested in Gering, they picked up their family and moved here to do so.”

She continued that the Dishmans have grasped what makes Gering the beautiful town it is. “Kerri has never said no to any opportunity to help Gering thrive since the moment I’ve met her. She is a member of the Gering Merchants, and her creative mind has the most wonderful ideas to share. The Gering community is lucky to have the Dishmans here, not just because of the grocery store and their excellent management of it, but because they are Gering’s kind of people – kind, generous, sincere, faithful and giving. It is a pleasure to honor them.”

The Dishman family came to Gering from Ogallala early in 2012, opening the Fresh Foods supermarket in a building that had been vacant for almost seven years.

Ben, who grew up in North Platte, said he always wanted to pursue the American dream of owning his own business. And from the time he was 16, when he started out as a bagger, it was the grocery business.

The route to that American dream was a long one. Ben first heard about a potential supermarket in Gering’s old Sun Mart building about four years ago. Although he worked with the city to explore the possibility, that didn’t materialize.

Then a friend proposed a partnership to open a supermarket. That also failed to materialize.

Finally, Ben began working with the property developer. After lots of behind-the-scenes work and construction on the building, the new Fresh Foods supermarket opened in March 2012.

There were other challenges as well. Both Ben and Kerri had undergone major surgeries the year before, plus the financial burden of going from jobs in Ogallala to owning their own business in Gering. But both of them are deeply rooted in their faith. As Kerri said when the store opened, “As long as God is glorified in all this, then it’s all worth it.”

The Dishman’s church pastor, Gary Hashley of Calvary Memorial Church in Gering, agrees. “I’m amazed at the step of faith and risk they took to open a grocery store in Gering. You don’t do that just on a whim. You have to be pretty serious about what you’re doing.”

Both Avery and Daniel are involved in the youth program at Calvary Memorial and the entire family regularly attends. Their pastor believes they’ll get more involved as time goes on. “I don’t think they’ve really had a chance to dig in for service in the church yet,” Hashley said. “That’s understandable because I can’t even imagine how difficult it is to set up a grocery store and it’s not even a year into the process.”

In addition to a new church home, the Dishmans are setting down roots in the community at large. Through Fresh Foods, they provide produce for the Gering school lunch program. And through their distributor, Affiliated Foods, customer receipts may be turned in to help the schools purchase needed equipment.

As for third grader Daniel and fifth grader Avery, teachers at Northfield Elementary School agree the Dishman kids are a joy to have as students. This is the third school move for the children in the last two years. From Ogallala, they first attended Geil Elementary. This school year, they’re at Northfield Elementary.

Dawn Sabo, Daniel’s third grade teacher, called their adjusting to changing schools as “pretty remarkable.” He’s described as courteous and has been a good role model for his fellow students.

“Daniel has an interest in sports and likes current events,” Sabo said. “You can tell the family visits a lot about what’s happening in the world.”

According to fifth grade teacher Kathleen Kniss, Avery was rather shy when she first came to Northfield. But as she settled in, Avery started making friends and talking with others.

“Avery is an outstanding student,” Kniss said. “She is an avid reader and writer and has been a good role model in class. She’s the kind of student teachers like to see more of.”

The Dishman kids are also exploring what musical talents they might have in the school’s general music class. Kathy Rose teaches dancing and both vocal and instrumental music. “Primarily, the class is to introduce kids to music so they can explore what they’d like to pursue in the future,” she said. “Both Avery and Daniel are enthusiastic about the class and enjoy participating.”

And outside the classroom, both children are involved in sports. Daniel plays basketball and Avery is involved in the Gering UP basketball club. In Ogallala, she was on a junior team sponsored by the US Volleyball Association.

“I think that sports have always been an important of their family’s lives and it’s wonderful to have both kids in my class,” said Northfield physical education teacher Jennifer Schwartz. “Avery’s mother is a tall woman, so when we have that caliber of a kid in school, we recruit them for volleyball or basketball.”

For the short time they’ve been in Gering, the Dishman family has made a big impact, both through Fresh Foods and service to the community. From people we’ve talked with, it’s plain the family is a great addition to the valley – people who want to be a part of the community and watch it grow and prosper.

As Pastor Hashley said, “Personally, I think when God brought us a grocery store, he also brought us a great addition to the community by bringing this family to us.”
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