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A ceremony like this usually would be attended by dozens of people.

There normally would be the mayor, members of the Waverly Health Center board and foundation and the City Council, the Bremer County Board of Supervisors, the Waverly Chamber of Commerce and members of the hospital staff.

However, on this mostly-cloudy, breezy noon hour on Thursday behind the hospital building, there were just 10 people gathered. Three of them, including this writer, were armed with cell phones broadcasting the event onto different Facebook feeds.

But the most important were the four who were holding the shovels — hospital CEO Jim Atty, board chairwoman Susan Vallem and foundation head John Johnston with bright silver bladed implements and Dr. Clay Dahlquist, medical director, holding an older one that one attendee said dated back to 1968.

The quartet was the centerpiece of the groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate WHC’s $36 million expansion project. Everyone on hand for the festivities wore hardhats, which is typical for the activity, and facemasks, which is part of the new reality during this time of the novel coronavirus.

You can see the entire ceremony on Waverly Newspapers’ Facebook page at

WHC Chief Operating Officer Heidi Solheim served as the emcee for the afternoon’s proceedings.

“Unique times call for flexibility and creativity,” Solheim said in her opening remarks. “We’re bringing this groundbreaking to you virtually.

“We hope to convey our excitement in kicking off this $36 million project.”

The expansion is expected to be completed by August 2022, according to Solheim.

In a statement he read before scooping the soil, Atty touted WHC’s reputation for person-centered care with high-quality experience.

“Today is an important day in the continuation of that promise,” Atty said. “By increasing our capacity and modernizing our facility, will further prepare ourselves to take care of the people of Waverly. We will be better to prevent illness by expanding our clinic offering, and also be better equipped to respond to emergencies with our new emergency department.”

Vallem expressed the collective pleasure of the hospital board of trustees for the groundbreaking.

“Waverly Health Center is a community hospital and committed to meeting the needs of the community,” Vallem said, reading prepared remarks. “This addition meets those expanding needs.

“We’re grateful for all of the support, and we will do our best to serve you.”

Johnston, speaking impromptu, said that the groundbreaking ceremony is an exciting day for the foundation, which he has led for 34 years. The new expansion is the third major project he’s seen in his role.

“(This expansion is) for the betterment of the Waverly community and for our patients,” Johnston said. “We’re really excited going forward.”

He added the foundation is in the process of going forward with fundraising for the project.

“We’re all in this together, and we will win together,” he said.

Dahlquist added his thanks for the community support for the hospital. He said the doctors, nurses and the rest of the WHC staff are excited for the opportunities the expansion will provide.

“We’ll have an emergency department that allows for better workflow, privacy and comfort to our patients,” said Dahlquist, a doctor of osteopathy who earned his undergraduate degree just up the street at Wartburg College. “We’ll also be centralizing our clinic space, which will make it much easier for patients to navigate our halls, and free up more space for visiting specialists to support our primary care teams.

“We believe that this investment will allow us to continue to provide the high-quality service you expect from Waverly Health Center and will make our community health center stronger into the future.”