New Heartland Church of Christ arises on Perry’s south side

Breaking ground on the new Heartland Church of Christ were, from left, Susanna Romerz, Mario Romerz, Robin Conklin, Karla Allen, Nancy Steele, Phil Dvorak, Nick Dvorak, Don Isley, Jeff Dvorak, Dan Stout, Sue Hegstrom, Rick Brown, Suzi Carmichael and the Rev. Terri Carmichael. Photo courtesy Heartland Church of Christ

After gathering for 37 years in the old Congregational Church at Fourth and Warford streets, the Heartland Church of Christ will soon hold services in the new church arising on Perry’s south side at 14417 J Ave.

The Heartland Church of Christ bought the 2.5-acre J Avenue property in 2017 from the trustees of the Alma L. Bice Trust for $125,000, according to county records. Construction began in earnest in early June.

A big reason for the relocation of the nondenominational church is accessibility, the Rev. Terri Carmichael told

“We have some senior members who are struggling to get in and an 8-year-old girl in a wheelchair,” Carmichael said, “so we decided that we were going to build a new building. We found that location and thought it was perfect. Hopefully, we cannot limit anybody coming in, and we can grow there.”

Lasco Construction Services in Ames is the contractor for the engineered building, which is assembled from pre-made insulated wall and roof panels. The walls sprung up quickly in June.

“It’s amazing,” Carmichael said. “It’s plywood and then styrofoam and then plywood, with channels inside to run the wiring through. When you’re finishing the interior, you don’t have to worry about hitting studs.” He said church members and volunteers hope to complete the project in 2020.

The Heartland Church of Christ will leave behind a 115-year-old structure at 1402 Warford St. that has served as its home for almost four decades and served before that for several other congregations as well as a labor union over the years.

Ellen Dvorak of Perry, a member of the Heartland Church of Christ, has also been doing some assembly work this spring, but in her case it is the history of the old church she is piecing together. Her records for the old Congregational Church begin in 1884.

“Known at that time as the Congregational Church, the original location of the building is unknown,” Dvorak wrote in a report on the church. “Eighteen members worshiped in what was referred to as the ‘old site’ before the present lot on Warford was purchased and the old building moved and remodeled in 1889 at a cost of $11,000.”

By the turn of the century, the cost of upkeep on the “old building” led the members of theĀ  Congregational Church to plan for a new church.

“They begin discussing the need for renovations in 1902,” Dvorak said. “In 1903 they merge with a local Presbyterian congregation and discuss the need for more extensive repairs — painting, new roof — costing $1,200 to $1,500. At some point, they make the decision to construct a new church building because they refer to the ‘new church site’ versus the ‘old church site.'”

The cornerstone of the new church was laid Aug. 17, 1904, and a dedication service was held in 1905, according to church records.

“It is unknown when the church dissolved,” Dvorak said, but the building later served as a meeting place for the Trinity Lutheran Church. When the Heartland Church of Christ bought the property in 1983, the Oscar Mayer meat cutters in the United Food and Commercial Workers Union were using the church as their meeting hall.

The decision to leave the old church with its stained-glass windows after 37 years was made with some heartache but with a desire for progress.

“After much prayer,” Dvorak said, “the consensus was to start planning for a more handicap-accessible building since available space for that compliance was unavailable.”

The 50 families composing the Heartland Church of Christ will soon enjoy a meeting space open to everyone, and the old Congregational Church is back on the market.


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