Congratulations to our 2019 Impact Award Winners!

The Pella Area Community & Economic Alliance is proud to recognize the significant impact our members have made on the community. The recipients of all of these awards come from a variety of backgrounds, but all have positively impacted how we live, work, and play in Pella.

The honorees were selected for their overall impact on the quality of life in Pella, collaborations and partnerships, innovative programs or events, entrepreneurial spirit, and impact to the local economy.

Each of our award winners, in very unique and different ways, has unselfishly contributed their time, talents, and teamwork to make Pella a better place.

Mark Putnam presented the Heritage Award to Jennifer Van Kooten, Executive Director. and Wayne Stienstra, Board Member of the Historic Pella Trust.


The Heritage Award is given to a business, organization or individual who has significantly impacted the heritage aspect of our community.

This year’s award went to a non-profit group whose sole mission is to protect and preserve Pella’s heritage by advocating for historic architecture that makes Pella so unique. If you’ve been on Facebook, then you’ve probably seen the old photos of buildings and people from early Pella. Historic Pella Trust members engage in conversations around remembering the past to keep the legacy alive for future generations.

The Historic Pella Trust was organized in 1994 and serves in a counseling and advisory capacity regarding historically correct architecture and disseminates information regarding restoration and reconstruction of facilities.

Their efforts can be seen in the rescuing of the Tuttle Log Cabin where their office is located, funding for research and documentation of historic homes, and establishing Pella’s first historic district – the Collegiate Historic District – which is being added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Other preserved landmarks are the Rock House which dates back to 1856 and the Soul Sleepers Church from 1860. Both buildings have been added to the National Register of Historic Places through the work of Historic Pella Trust.

On the horizon is the Tuttle Learning Walkway in partnership with the City of Pella. This educational project, which is nearly fully funded, will create an entertaining way for children, adults and visitors to learn about Pella’s history and heritage through signage and plantings. The Walkway will begin at the homestead of Thomas and Nancy Tuttle and end at Sunken Gardens Park with signs along the way featuring QR codes to scan for more history and photos of Pella.

Congratulations to The Historic Pella Trust for Preserving Pella!

Mark Putnam presented the Business Impact Award to Kris and Dana Van Gent, owners of Iowa Bike Co.



The Business Impact Award is an award given to a business, organization or individual who has made a significant impact on the business community by being a leader in their field. This year, we presented the Business Impact Award to Iowa Bike Co.

Early in 2017, Kris Van Gent became the second owner of Iowa Bike and Fitness, formerly known as Marty’s Schwinn Cyclery.

When the opportunity came to partner on the Boats Furniture building and move in the spring of 2019 to a much-needed larger location, Iowa Bike Co. was born.

Since then, the Iowa Bike team has been focused on changing the way people think about riding bikes by offering quality products and outstanding customer service. And, when rubber meets the road, Iowa Bike Co. has taken their business to a new level by introducing new ideas, new places to ride bicycles, and new ways to serve our community.

Kris and the Iowa Bike team have been the main advocate and facilitator of the Pella bike-sharing program, VeoRide, those bright blue bikes you see in the park that are available to rent and ride using a mobile app.

They’ve encouraged the development of local trails and the biking community by being an ally of the Red Rock Area Mountain Bike Association, and a key player in the start-up of the Red Rock Mountain Biking Club for students from 7th to 12th grades.

They are a friend to the local Pella Cycling Club, hosted a Girls Night Out, sponsored the Bike Rodeo at Thursdays in Pella, and services all the students’ bikes at the annual Pella Christian Grade School bike ride.

Iowa Bike Co. is truly a business leader and we are proud of the work they’ve done to lead the way for Pella to be bicycle-friendly community with infrastructure and activities for bike enthusiasts. Because according to Kris, “More people on  bikes makes the world a better place.” Congratulations to Kris Van Gent and the Iowa Bike Co. team!

Mark Putnam presented the Individual Community Impact Award to Michelle Gritters.


The Community Impact Award is an award given to a business, organization or individual who has made a significant impact on our community.

Michelle Gritters is the owner of Digital Galleria, specializing in portrait and wedding photography, and two 9Lilas boutiques in Pella and West Branch. She’s a board member of the Pella Historic Downtown Retail Group and Pella’s Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In addition, Michelle is the organizer of Let’s Shoppe Pella, a network of social media and online platforms built to work together to create awareness and foot traffic for the downtown retailers. The website, Instagram downtownpella, and Let’s Shoppe Pella Facebook page are a powerful three-pronged marketing effort put in place by Michelle, but utilized by 40 different stores and retailers to promote their events and offerings.

Along with establishing this cohesive marketing effort, Michelle organized the Boutique Bus Crawl last August which partnered with boutique owners in Pella and other surrounding towns. The goal was to have fun and Michelle said, “we accomplished that!”

Her ideas didn’t stop there. Let’s Shoppe Pella is hosting a Personal Stylist Workshop tomorrow from 9 to 11:30 (so there’s still time to get tickets!) Michelle adds that all profits from any event planned by the Downtown Group goes directly back into advertising on Facebook and Instagram to bring more people to Pella and encourage Pella locals to shop here as well.

Michelle is not afraid to get involved and is a true representative of what it means to lead by example. She’s an outside-the-box thinker and willing to help anyone with marketing ideas because she wants every business to thrive. Her ambition paired with her ‘can do’ spirit is a rising tide for all downtown stores.

We are truly grateful for everything you have done for Downtown Pella and we are honored to recognize Michelle Gritters as this year’s Individual Community Impact award recipient. Congratulations Michelle!

Mark Putnam presented the Corporate Community Impact Award to Karmen Gardner  and Karin Peterson on behalf of the Pella Corporation & the Shareholder Family.


The Community Impact Award is an award given to a business, organization or individual who has made a significant impact on our community.

The Pella Corporation and the Shareholder Family are an integral part of the Pella community – going back to 1925. Founder, Pete Kuyper, created a company that was part of something bigger – a company that helped team members and their communities thrive. Today, Pella Corporation remains steadfast in that mission and continues to invest in our vibrant community so the city of Pella remains a great place to work and live for years to come.

Together with Pella Corporation’s shareholder family, the company made significant investments in 2019 to help ensure Pella continues to be a community with a rich Dutch heritage that attracts tourists and provides residents with meaningful opportunities. Their contributions to attracting and retaining talent extend beyond their walls and can be enjoyed by all who live in the area or come to visit.

A few examples include Liberty Street Kitchen restaurant, Prairie Ridge and the South Main housing developments, renovations of the Pella Historical Society and Museums, Scholte House and Wyatt Earp Home, as well as financial support for the Tuttle Learning Walk, which will provide a historic, educational experience alongside the 1843 Tuttle Cabin and Sunken Gardens Park.

When asked what advice they would give a business to help them make an impact, spokesperson, Karin Peterson said something Pella Corporation has been practicing for nearly 100 years…”contribute your time and/or resources in order to enhance Pella’s ability to be a place where people want to work and live.”

Congratulations to the Pella Corporation and the Shareholder Family as they celebrate their 95th anniversary this year and for everything they do for our community.

Karen Eischen presented the Spotlight Award to Mark Putnam and the Central College team.


The Spotlight Award is an award given to a business, organization or individual who has brought a positive spotlight on the Pella community.

We present this year’s Spotlight Award to Central College. As we all know, Central announced in the Fall of 2019 its decision to change tuition centered around making the price easily understandable and more transparent to what students and families actually pay. This news was reported by hundreds of media outlets across the nation, including CNN, NPR News and The New York Times.

What these media outlets didn’t get to see were the six years leading up to the announcement, which were devoted to researching and analyzing data surrounding college tuition pricing by Central’s Board of Trustees and senior leadership team. In 2019, the board determined the college was fully prepared and ready to make the change and voted to implement the strategy beginning in Fall 2020.

Along with making the tuition announcement, the college was excited to let the public know of several other new programs, including women’s triathlon as a new NCAA sport, new clubs and a four-year graduation commitment.

During interviews with media, Mark Putnam, Central College president, spoke candidly about the decision to launch the affordable pricing initiative and Central’s continued commitment to the success of students both in college and beyond graduation.

Thank you, Central, for being a treasured and innovative community partner, and for bringing national attention to Pella. Congratulations to Central College for the Pella Spotlight Award!