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The Reasons I Call Des Moines Home (and Why You Should Too)

Charlie Lasher in DSM USA

February 5, 2019

When I was first presented with an opportunity to move to Des Moines, I was told it was close to Iowa City. While 2005 was not “pre-Google,” I apparently wasn’t much into fact checking at the time. I had been to Iowa City once or twice and it was an easy drive from my hometown of Peoria, Illinois. So, why not give it a chance?! 

When I actually made my first drive to Des Moines to look for apartments and continued to head west beyond Iowa City for nearly two additional hours, I cried a little harder with every passing mile. I was young, and Des Moines was FOUR hours away from my family, friends and everything I was comfortable with.

My first few months in Des Moines were hard. I think I made the drive back to Peoria every other weekend. Then, with a little tough love only a mother could provide, my mom said, “You should try to make a life there, or just come back home.”

I was fortunate to have found a job I love, working for Professional Employer Organization (PEO). The PEO, now called Aureon HR, allowed me and my coworkers to build wonderful partnerships with the clients we serve, especially nonprofit organizations in Central Iowa. In large part, the exposure and networking opportunities that came with my job helped me begin to “make my life” in Des Moines. 

Exploring DSM and Finding My Happy Places

I learned Gray’s Lake, early on a Saturday morning, is one of the best places to calm your mind and start your weekend after a long, busy week. During the summer, when the weather is beautiful and I have a little extra energy to burn, I swing by the Downtown Des Moines Farmer’s Market, one of the coolest in the nation!

I also found the art and culture opportunities in Des Moines rival those of much larger major metropolitan areas. As I explored the city and worked to find my sense of community here, I shared my experiences with my parents.  They had both been in the Peoria area their whole lives, falling in love and getting married (at ages 16 and 19!).  Leaving their home and coming here seemed out of the question. 

But the company my dad had worked at for over 30 years was sold and much to my surprise, they also chose to make the move to Des Moines. My dad’s passion is art (he is an incredibly talented painter) and through art, he was able to quickly find others who shared his interests. He and my mom found a home in Valley Junction, and he has been blessed to participate in both the Des Moines Arts Festival and ArtFest Midwest. Last year he even landed Valley Junction on national news with his handcrafted giant leg lamp (A Christmas Story, anyone?)!

Leg lamp

My explorations took me outside the boundaries of the city as well, and I found more things to be fond of. I think it may be impossible to be stressed out while sitting on the porch of the incredible log cabin at Winterset Cidery, sipping their cider and looking out over the expansive green fields. And, I have never had a better cheeseburger than the one at the Rusty Duck in Dexter, Iowa (with bacon of course – PILES of it)!

DSM is My Home

I love we are a bit of a hidden secret. I was recently traveling for work and while picking up my rental car in the Nashville Airport, the young woman working began making small talk. “So where are you from?”, she asked.  “Des Moines, Iowa,” I responded.  She looked at me with surprise and said, “Oh wow!  So, do you have malls there?” “Yes, we sure do! And, a lot of other great things. You should visit sometime.” I walked away from the conversation smiling and thinking, “She has no idea what she’s missing.”

Des Moines is my home now. It was scary to take the chance, but I couldn’t be happier that I did. The community I want to be a part of, the career I love that allows me to partner with great organizations in the area, and the excitement knowing as we grow together and dream big, the opportunities and experiences will just keep getting better.