Co-op News

Co-op Aids Search for Wis. Toddler

By Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: July 23rd, 2013

A Wisconsin electric cooperative proved its commitment to its community recently by using all of its personnel and its available resources to help find a missing toddler.  Sadly, however, the search came to a tragic end.

Isaiah Theis

Isaiah Theis

Two-year-old Isaiah Theis was playing with his 7-year-old brother outside the family’s Centuria, Wis., home, July 16. When the boy’s mom looked out around 7:30 p.m. everything seemed fine, but when she came out to collect them before nightfall, the younger boy had disappeared.

“There were reports on the news Wednesday morning about a missing toddler in Centuria, and we knew they’d need someplace to organize the search,” said Joan O’Fallon, director of communications at Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative. “We called the sheriff’s office and offered our headquarters facility.”

Polk County Chief Deputy Steve Moe jumped at the invitation to use the co-op’s Centuria office to stage volunteers.

As co-op lineworkers and other staffers arrived to begin their workdays, they immediately volunteered to help. Some joined search teams; others began organizing the massive amounts of food, water and other supplies donated by local businesses, churches and charities to support thousands of volunteers.

“Co-op employees made sandwiches, served hundreds of meals and delivered water to volunteers who waited up to 2 hours in line for a shuttle bus to the search site,” O’Fallon said.

Volunteers line up outside of Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative to be bused out to the site of a search for missing toddler near Centuria, Wis. (Photo By: Joan O’Fallon/Polk-Burnett EC)

Volunteers line up outside of Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative to be bused out to the site of a search for missing toddler near Centuria, Wis. (Photo By: Joan O’Fallon/Polk-Burnett EC)

“We hauled hundreds of bags of ice in, and hundreds of bags of garbage out. We parked cars over every inch of our property and provided a cool place for volunteers to rest, as the temperature soared to the low 90s Wednesday,” Fallon said. “We even had a first aid station and a bug spray station for volunteers.”

Despite the massive effort, which eventually involved 2,450 volunteers, including most of the co-op’s 52 staffers, there was no sign of Isaiah Theis in the brush, woods and cornfields where searchers spent most of the day.

The boy’s body was found in a locked car his father, a mechanic, was hired to repair. When the owner of the vehicle showed up to retrieve it around 10:15 p.m., July 17, a deputy found the child’s remains in the trunk.

The child’s death and the circumstances leading to his disappearance remain under investigation.

“A full autopsy has been requested and it would be inappropriate for anyone to speculate as to the cause and nature of death,” said Polk County Sheriff Peter Johnson, in a statement issued by his office.

Meanwhile, at Polk-Burnett EC, employees are among those wishing the child had been found alive.

“This was a very tragic outcome,” O’Fallon said. “Yet even with this very sad news, we experienced an outpouring of generosity. As a co-op, our employees work and live in the community and it was important to be a part of this effort.”

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