PELLA — A local retirement home held a groundbreaking ceremony in honor of expanding their homes amidst an array of challenges.

Hearthstone, A Ministry of WesleyLife, invited both community leaders and residents on Friday to discuss their progress on the project. Around 36 suites will be included on the campus off of North Main Street.

Pella Mayor Don DeWaard was the first speaker of the event, reflecting on how the city also held a groundbreaking for an all-inclusive park a week prior.

“That's just such a strong indication of how the people of this community care and love for their neighbors and their fellow community members,” DeWaard said. “[The two projects] are just great examples of a community embracing every member, and providing quality of life issues and opportunities for all those people that sometimes get neglected.”

Rob Kretzinger, the CEO of WesleyLife, also spoke at the event. In his speech, Kretzinger said the roots for WesleyLife have always been based on caregiving.

“This one has been so special to me because of the family connection that I have here, but also the people that I know that I see out here that I've known for many years that have given tirelessly and have cared a lot,” Kretzinger said.

Kretzinger also commemorates the staff for working through the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the past year.

“I think we now have a new, greater appreciation for home and what that represents,” Kretzinger said.

In the past 10 years, WesleyLife has provided care for Pella residents, although the building has faced other challenges outside of the virus. Last year, a flood caused by water-break damage left a significant loss for the facility.

“I think God made a decision that we're going to help you with your decision with the destruction,” Kretzinger said. “Thankfully, we were able to relocate all the residents to Wesley communities or other communities, and we'll be able to welcome some of those folks back as we build and be about this.”

Nancy Hamilton, the executive director of WesleyLife, said she stood with heartfelt gratitude for WesleyLife, their residents, their team members, and the Pella community.

Since her first interview for her position, Hamilton said she always knew WesleyLife was the right place for her.

“We're always looking at the whole person, believing in their abilities, giving them a voice and our Wesley life mission of being guided by Christian compassion,” she said. “We enhanced the independence, health and well-being of older adults, wherever they call home is a part of everything we do.”

At the end of the event, a group of people gathered to wear hard hats, officially “breaking” the ground.

“We're known across the country, for beautiful communities with award-winning designs, state-of-the-art amenities, and positive proven outcomes,” Hamilton said. “However, the most important thing that we do is not about buildings, and bricks and mortar. It's more about building up relationships, trust, and community with each other.”

Sarah Stortz can be reached at

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