Tiny northeast Iowa town experiencing baby boom

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SAINT LUCAS, Iowa (KCRG) - A town with a population of roughly 150 people is experiencing a baby boom.

Families in Saint Lucas hold their children at a gathering on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020 (Allison Wong/KCRG)

Saint Lucas is in northern Fayette County. In the last 10 years, many young families have settled down in this quiet community.

“We recently had 19 babies born in the last year and a half or so, from August 2018 through October 2019,” resident Courtney Schott explained. “Then we’ve had a couple more families announce recently that they’re expecting again.

Schott has two kids herself; the Gage family added baby Sutton about six months ago; there are four boys in the Hackman family; John and Joann Svendsen have a son who is almost four and a little girl who is 16 months old; the list of growing families really goes on and on.

“The town has completely changed from, you know, a bunch of retired people a bunch of young families, so it’s pretty cool," Eric Dietzenbach, a Saint Lucas resident, said.

People say there are many reasons for the boom. Some residents have lived in Saint Lucas their whole lives and started families. Other moved away for college or a job, and then decided to come back.

Dietzenbach and his wife have four children and had moved away. The pair moved away for college, ended up in Des Moines for a few years, and then moved back to Saint Lucas in 2009.

“We were kind of the first young people in Saint Lucas, or we felt like it at the time,” Dietzenbach said.

Ten years later and he can’t believe the transformation, but he understands it.

“If they can find the opportunity in their small town, they’re happy to be around their family,” Dietzenbach said. “Because that’s really kind of what it’s all about, being close to your family and connected with your community, and I think you get that in a small town.”

The town is growing so much that a committee was formed to raise money for a new park. The town had a small park that only had equipment for very small children. Schott and others raised $60,000 to purchase new equipment. They hope to raise a total of $200,000 to add other amenities.

"Right now it’s just the very big equipment section but we’re going to have a basketball court, a shelter, a bathroom, just going to keep expanding on all of that stuff for our kids,” Schott said.

This is a trend that actually goes against what’s happening across the state. The new National Movers Study found slightly more people left Iowa than came to the state. 55 percent of moves were for people leaving the state, which ranks as the tenth worst in the nation. The study also found about a quarter of people leaving are between the ages of 18 and 34.

People who live in Saint Lucas love to see it thriving and hope it continues. Schott hopes people will see what small-town Iowa life has to offer and come join.

"We do have a house for sale, at least one that I know of, so if anyone is looking with kids to move back to the area, it’s a great place to be," Schott said.