A new way to help those needing employment has come to South Central Iowa as Well Works launched a new manufacturing program last week. Well Works, a part of The Well Resource Center and A Call to Serve Ministries of Iowa, launched the program in a building located at 107 Vermeer Road. Well Works provides short-term employment with the goal of finding that person long-term employment. Manufacturing officially begins today; Well Works employees will work 40 hours a week assembling hog catchers, a product of Ring-O-Matic. Eden Youngberg with Well Works says the goal of the program is o help fill the gap for individuals who have become unemployable, while teaching them to be good employees again. The program is intended to be short-term and provide Well Works’ temporary employees with an income and teach structured work place standards, while allowing them to get back on their feet, according to a statement released by The Well. About 70 percent of individuals who come to The Well Resource Center have a work-related issue, Youngberg said.
Pella’s two Recharged Robotics teams will advance to the FIRST-Tech Challenge–Iowa Championship in Coralville on Feb. 23-24. Recharged Robotics teams, Recharged Green and Recharged Organce, are comprised of students in the PEACE Homeschool Group in the Pella area. There are 22 total students participating with Recharged this year. Last year, Recharged Green made it to the world championship competition, and placed 11th in their division during the qualification rounds. This year, both Recharged teams were finalists in the Jan. 27 FTC– League Championship and the Feb. 3 FTC–Super Qualifier competitions. Both teams went undefeated in both previous competitions during the qualification matches.
There’s funny money circulating in South Central Iowa – Four Ottumwa businesses received counterfeit bills totaling $160 during the weekend, according to police. South Ottumwa Savings Bank reported Monday morning that a counterfeit $50 bill was used to pay for goods at North Hy-Vee in Ottumwa sometime over the weekend, according to an incident report from Ottumwa police. The same day, Murphy USA on Venture Drive reported that it had received a counterfeit $50 sometime before Sunday. Also Monday, the Owl’s Nest on South Court Street reported that two counterfeit $20 bills were used at the establishment sometime after Jan. 31. Early Tuesday police investigated the report of a counterfeit $20 bill used for a purchase at the McDonald’s restaurant on West Second Street sometime Monday.
Student athlete concussions are a hot topic these days, and the Knoxville school board agreed this week to participate in a concussion research project with CTE Hope of Indianola. Participation by athletes will be voluntary – students taking part will have a saliva swab taken before the season, after the season, and after any concussion occurs. The project will begin this spring with the Knoxville soccer teams, and is taking place in conjunction with Harvard Medical School. Superintendent Cassi Pearson says the district is hoping to find out how concussions affect the physically developing body of a teenager. Pearson says the district is also excited to give parents and student the opportunity to take part in the study.
Facing the possibility of layoffs, officials in the Newton Community School district are keeping a close eye on the state legislature this week. Last week, the house and the senate moved forward with education funding bills, a priority for governor Kim Reynolds. The governor had budgeted a 1.5% increase in school funding; the house passed a 1% increase and the senate added an additional $14 million to that amount to address transportation issues in rural districts. While superintendent Bob Callaghan said the district has been planning for a zero percent increase in supplemental state aid, the amount proposed still falls short of meeting the district’s needs. NCSD teachers are in the midst of a two-year contract, with a guaranteed 2 percent raise each year. Balancing the district’s budget may mean layoffs, and district administrators have targeted eight positions across the district to potentially be cut – four at the elementary level, three at the middle school, and one at the high school.
It was a record making week for snow in South Central Iowa, with one of the busiest winter weather stretches in recent history. According to the National Weather Service, 3-5″ of snow blanketed Marion County Saturday morning, with a final total of 5″ in Knoxville and 3.5″ in Pella. Another 1-3” fell overnight into Sunday morning, with Knoxville officially reporting 2.3″. Last week overall, between 10-14″ of snow fell in the region. The Des Moines Airport recorded measurable snow each day from February 4th through the 11th, the most consecutive days (8) with snow since 1965 and 2nd most ever on record – A much drier and more mild week is in the forecast ahead.
Family-owned and operated Lee’s Hallmark Store is slated to close this spring upon the sale of the building at 635 Franklin St. to ATI Group, a real estate development company. Lee’s Hallmark Store offered greeting cards for special occasions, unique household items and gifts for nearly four decades. The building at 635 Franklin St. was first purchased by Lee and Mary Louise Vriezelaar in 1949. With hard work and perseverance, Mary Lou became a successful business woman. She continued to grow and expand beginning with Lee’s Variety and later opening Lee’s Hallmark Mary Lou’s daughter, Jan Vande Voort, and her husband Jim, purchased the Hallmark business in 1989. In recent times Jan tried selling the business, hoping to keep a Hallmark store in Pella, but to no avail. Vande Voort said she will miss all of her wonderful customers and treasured employees, but feels this is the right time to retire.
Pella Christian High class of 1991 graduate Rachel Brand is stepping down from her post as U.S. associate attorney general, according to the New York Times. Brand became the associate attorney general in May 2017 and would be next in line of succession after deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel’s inquiry into the Russian influence in the 2016 election. Brand is reported to be taking the position of global governance director at Walmart, the company’s top legal position. President Donald Trump is reported to have considered getting rid of Rosenstein, which would leave Brand in charge of the special counsel. In a statement released on Feb. 10, Sen. Chuck Grassley said Brand is an “incredibly talented lawyer” who served the U.S. very well.
Not many people can say they came through Ellis Island when they immigrated to the United States. But one Pella resident can. Francene (Schilt) Poortinga doesn’t remember much of her family’s stop in Ellis Island, but she does remember the 12-day ship ride to the U.S. and the three-day train ride to Percy, Iowa. She was eight years old when she, her father, mother, brother Gerrit and sister Lena emigrated from the Netherlands. Poortinga, who turned 104 years old on February 10th, attended a one-room school house until the eighth grade – her father was a farmer in the Netherlands, and continued to farm when the family moved to Iowa – first to Percy, then near Prairie City, and finally on land west of Pella in 1935. Francene married her husband Francis in 1939; during WWII she sewed clothing from feed sacks. Poortinga still resides in Pella and has six grandchildren, 12 great-grand children and one great-great-grandchild. Her advice for living a long life? “Keep breathing.”