The cold weather hadn’t quite shown up early Saturday morning, and that was good news for the over 200 people who laced up their shoes at Pella Christian High School to participate in the 11th annual Gene Van Wyk Memorial 5k run and walk. A total of 238 men, women, children, and families ran and walked in the race – Valerie Keegan, 37, of Pella, was the overall female winner, finishing with a time of 20:12, while Josi Wittenberg, 15, of Pella, was the overall male winner, finishing with a time of 17:52. The event honors Pella Christian guidance counselor Gene Van Wyk who died from stomach cancer in 1998. Van Wyk was involved in several sports as a coach and is credited with starting the weightlifting and soccer programs at Pella Christian.
The Mahaska Health Partnership’s Serenity House hospice has been empty since December, the result of a catastrophic furnace breakdown – but that’s all about to change. The past few months have been used to update the old hardware with new, efficient geothermal HVAC system; MHP CEO Kevin DeRonde says the new unit should last 20 to 30 years. The Mahaska County Hospice Auxiliary held a fundraiser in February which raised $50,000 to cover the funds needed for the new furnace and other small updates. MHP marketing director Cathy Stahl says she’s thankful for the community’s support, and understands there are questions about the facility which opened in 2010 – she said they hope to re-open as soon as possible.