Now & Then Volume 1, 2023 | Page 14

wants to rent it ,” Arvin Van Zante says .
On the ground floor , dozens of paint brushes and pounds of clay can be found in the Pella Community Art Center , where local artists teach after-school programs for students , art classes for adults and a range of outreach projects .
“ We let kids have the freedom to make mistakes and to think in a different way ,” says Mary Robertson , lead art instructor . “ After being at school all day , they ’ re wound up , and they need a release .”
From painting and ceramics to sewing and papermaking , students come to the art center every day with project ideas ; It ’ s the art center ’ s mission to help guide them through the creative process .
“ The arts are therapeutic . It ’ s a time for reflection , and it ’ s a way to make everybody well-rounded individuals ,” Robertson says .
Robertson sees firsthand each day how the arts positively impact the community .
“ The [ art program ] is community-centered . It gets Central involved , the city involved , the library involved , the park systems involved , the home-schoolers as well . So you ’ re including an enormous amount of people ,” Pati Van Zante says .
Housed on the third floor is the Crossroads of Pella , a local nonprofit organization that develops and implements educational services and programs “ designed to meet the real and changing needs within the [ Pella ] community .”
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Founded in 1983 during the farm crisis , the organization provides vital resources for the community , including free mental health counseling ; alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous meetings ; Adopt a Family , Christmas Toy Shelf and Coffee and Coats programs for the holidays ; financial assistance ; child abuse prevention ; classes and resources for English language learners ; Medicare and employment help ; and other prevention programs .
The organization also hosts the annual Klompen Classic 5k to kick off Pella ’ s Tulip Time Festival in May . Funds raised from this tradition make it possible for the organization to provide free programs to help children and families in the community .
“ We had a mom a couple of months ago call us looking for a counselor for her daughter ,” said Chris Allen , associate director of Crossroads of Pella . “ She asked how much it was , and when we told her it was free , she started crying on the other side of the phone .”
The Pella Community Center is also home to the Pella Senior Meal Program , PTV 12 , Health Builders Club and the city ’ s Community Services Department . The Pella Public Library holds educational programs in the building ’ s former library , including their Culture Night Series . County residents can renew their driver ’ s licenses every Wednesday .
A group of senior men play billiards , eat popcorn and simply enjoy each other ’ s company on the regular in an old classroom . The building doesn ’ t just earn its name as the Heart of Pella simply for its central location , or the community needs it fulfills — but the way it brings people together .
A history of community service
Before it was the Pella Community Center , the town ’ s center was the city ’ s first high school .
Photos : Clockwise from top left : A postcard of the Pella Community Center when it was Pella High School school prior to later additions . An old Pella Chronicle newspaper clipping shows students learning from instructor John Hoeksema in a night vocational welding class taught during World War II . This room is now the art center on the east side of the Pella Community Center . An old Pella Chronicle newspaper clipping shows a former study hall , which was one of the new additions to the building in 1938 .
“ The construction of Pella ’ s first high school capped off an unmatched decade of improvement that catapulted the city from its prairie roots into a thoroughly modern era ,” Boertje says . “ Dedicated in 1916 , the high school building was a capstone to a dizzying period of major advancements .”
Prior to 1876 , eighth grade was the highest level in Pella ’ s public education system , according to Boertje . All high school classes were held on the top floor of the original Webster School building , formerly located to the south of Casey ’ s on Main Street . By 1914 , the top floor could no longer adequately ( or comfortably ) fit the town ’ s
124 high school students .
James Cox , the building ’ s architect , unfortunately died of stomach cancer before the new high school officially opened on Sept . 11 , 1916 . Cox wasn ’ t just an architect , but a champion of the performing arts .
“ It was sold to the community as not only a high school but a community facility ,” Arvin Van Zante says . “ The gym and the auditorium were intended for use by the city as well as the high school . It ’ s always served the community as a community resource .”
In 1935 , a $ 60,000 addition was constructed along the east and north perimeter of the original