Members of the Oelwein Area Ministerial Association gathered Tuesday at the new East Penn Manufacturing plant in Industrial Park to offer a blessing over the vast facility, its present and future employees and all associated with its success.
Plant manager Bob Bouska welcomed the eight pastoral guests, Father Ray Atwood, Sacred Heart and Immaculate Conception parishes, Dennis Backes of Faith Discipleship, Pastor Dave Byrd, First Baptist Church, Pastor Dan Driscoll and John Kollman, Evangelical Free Church, the Rev. Connie Markle, Grace United Methodist Church, Michael Schemmel, Mercy Hospital Chaplain, and Pastor Josh Schunk, Zion Lutheran Church.
While the plant is still in the finishing stages, guests were invited inside to the new office area where the blessings were given, each pastor giving a unique prayer, asking for success of the business, safety for its employees, and many thanks for East Penn taking a chance on Oelwein and providing great opportunities for many families.
As pastors joined hands in a ring of faith, the blessing ceremony symbolized a unity that is being felt throughout the community, and a positive beginning for the largest manufacturing endeavor Oelwein has seen in many decades.
Bouska told of his 25 years with the company and that this will be the fourth time he has moved the location. He shared that he remembered noticing the Donaldson building standing empty about 13 years ago and thought there must be something that could be done to put all that space to good use. He prayed the city would find a use for the building.
Two years later, plans began to move East Penn from its facility in Jesup to Oelwein where it would occupy a portion the former Donaldson building. Bouska said his boss kept telling him the new location would not be enough and that some day a new plant might be built. He prayed that the company would come up with a solution that would be good for both the city and East Penn employees.
“As you walk through this plant today,” he told the faith leaders as they prepared for the mile-long tour of the new facility, “be reminded to be careful what you pray for.”
Bouska said plant operations will be completed in three phases with Phase I bringing in approximately 200 workers beginning in the next week or two. Phase II is looking very bright, he said, with stacks of applications from which approximately 80 will be trained and brought into the plant. The final Phase III will fill in the last 70 new employees.
He said the plant will be fully operational within the next year.