Cico's Vegetables: A Gift to the Community
September 7, 2023
POTTER- Among all the wonderful and friendly people in Potter, there's one who stands out for his generosity, compassion and heart of gold. Though not originally from Nebraska, the state, and the community of Potter welcomed him as one of their own. Instinctively, the people knew his presence would be a blessing, not only for the village, but for all who have had the chance to get to know him.
The life of Pastor Warren Cico is fascinating, however you look at it. After growing up in Angleton, TX, he started his undergraduate studies in Accounting at Alvin Jr. College, but eventually ended up with a degree in Physical Education and a minor in History. He taught seven years of school in Texas, along with coaching sports. While in Rockdale, as an assistant coach in football & track, the black student athletes boycotted the spring sports banquet over the controversy known as The Great Rockdale Football Mutiny. With the boycotts disrupting the sport, he looked to his mother's home state of South Dakota for a change of location for his career. He took a teaching & coaching job in Belle Fourche, which lasted for about 11 years. During that time, he was the head cross country coach, as well an assistant coach for track and football.
In 1981, he married Sheila, and by 1985, with 3 young children, they decided they wanted a small town atmosphere to raise them, and Sheila got a teaching job in Lewellen NE, where they remained for seven years. On December 4, 1990, driving to referee a junior varsity basketball game in Oshkosh NE, his life would take an unexpected twist. Motoring to the game in a snowstorm, with his children along, a drunk driver crossed the center line and ran head on into the Cico family vehicle. Cico's side was shattered but, despite his injuries, he turned his attention to his children.
He first removed twins Emily and Brett, but older sister Erin, despite wearing a seat belt, had hit the dashboard. He panicked as she remained silent while being held. Luckily, a car with three 19-year old boys saw what happened, stopped and offered a ride to the hospital in Oshkosh. During the transport, Cico prayed and asked for help from God. When they arrived at the hospital, the X-rays revealed a skull fracture, broken bones in her face and a possible brain injury. His whole world collapsed in matter of seconds. Erin was quickly transferred to the hospital in Scottsbluff, for surgery which would include a tracheotomy and facial bone repair. After a few weeks of hospitalization, Erin was released. Cico was confused, and inquired in Scottsbluff about all the injuries revealed by the X-rays previously taken in Oshkosh. He was told there was neither a skull fracture or brain damage. Cico later caught up with the first doctor who'd taken the X-rays in Oshkosh, who said, "Well, look at the X-rays, she definitely had her skull fractured". After taking a silent moment to process what he was hearing, Cico realized that this was a miracle. As tears began to fall from his eyes and he said to the doctor: "It was God. God took care of her."
Cico believes it was a sign, that led him to a more spiritual life and a deep connection with God. "God called me and I started helping with the church camp, and next thing, God said, "You're gonna go be a preacher." In 1995, the last year Cico was in Lewellen, he quit coaching, but continued to teach and substitute. He worked as a school janitor and helped out as a farm hand, but something in his heart kept growing, and it was the love for God.
In 2005, Cico was accepted into Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City. In his first year, he was an intern at Stevens United Methodist Church in Kansas City. The next year, he became a student pastor in Cumberland, Iowa, where he spent four years. This is where Cico really embraced his pastime of gardening.
When he turned 72 and it was time to retire, he looked for a little town where he could find a house with a big yard for gardening. Enter Potter, Nebraska, in 2019. "You never know what to expect from your garden. Every year is different, and you learn from it and teaches you to be patient." Cico explained.
"Three and a half years ago, with a lady from Dix, we started a Food Pantry here and decided not to just give away food, but also have a garage sale table for people to donate things; we just let people come to eat and give a donation and get what they want. We don't care what it is.", said the Pastor. "I love to cook. When I was in Kansas, I started a free Christmas dinner for people who didn't have a place to go", he said.
"I give the vegetables away for free on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and whatever is left over here, I'll take to Physical Therapy people over in Sidney, also to the Kimball grocery store because they love my cabbages and then I also give some to the Kimball County Manor", Cico explained. "There's people who want to give me money, but I tell them to help others instead." The venture of free vegetables was received with open arms, and is so popular, people from other communities come to get them.