The Mahaska County Pheasants Forever chapter celebrated its 25th anniversary Saturday night at its annual banquet held in Penn Central Mall.
The center court at the mall was decked out with tables for the chapter’s 175 member as well as numerous booths for live- and silent-auction items and raffle prizes.
“We’ve got a lot of one-of-a-kind items that you couldn’t find except here,” Pheasants Forever President Jeff VanDerBeek said.
The Pheasants Forever chapter is having a busy year.
“We’ve expanded our work at the Hull Area where we hosted our Field & Stream event,” VanDerBeek said.
The chapter also recently assisted the Iowa Department of Natural Resources with a 160-acre controlled burn at the area this past week. Also, the chapter is assisting the DNR with an “adopt a wildlife area” project, he said.
VanDerBeek said that there are still three active members of the original Pheasants Forever committee that started the chapter and four sponsors who have helped the group for the past 25 years.
The 25-year board members are Bill Benson, Randy Walston and Dave Pfieffer. The four sponsors are Oskaloosa Hy-Vee, Pepsi, Industrial Commercial Insulation and Don Pierce, VanDerBeek said.
Some of the original Pheasants Forever members reflected on the chapter’s 25 years.
Walston remembers that the Pheasants Forever chapter met at the Eagles Club 25 years ago and there were about 12 members.
“The banquet now is four times bigger than when it started,” Walston said. “The community has really rallied around the situation.”
Walston talked about the origins of the chapter.
“A few of us decided that we as a community need to do more for pheasant and upland game habitat,” he said.
Benson was the first chapter president.
“I was president for the first four years,” he said. Then, he was state president for two years and then returned to be president of the Mahaska County chapter for two more years.
“We still have the basic concept that the money we raise stays local,” Benson said. The chapter has raised about $750,000 for habitat and youth programs, he said.
“We’ve made a commitment to young people,” Benson said. “We’ve got a good bunch of young people involved.”
Brooks VanDerBeek was involved in establishing the Oskaloosa High School Pheasants Forever chapter in 2009 — the first high school chapter in the nation. Now, he is a freshman at Iowa State University and a member of the university chapter. Brooks said that the Iowa State chapter was the first student chapter in the nation.
The Oskaloosa High School chapter had between 10 and 15 members with Mike Goudy as the chapter advisor, Brooks said.
Goudy said the high school chapter is now doing a membership drive with eighth- and ninth-grade students. The OHS chapter is continuing work on its North Slop prairie restoration project just north of the high school student parking lot. The chapter also is working with two Eagle Scouts to sponsor their community service projects. Chapter members also are working with the high school shooting team and sponsored them to compete in the Pheasants Forever Pheasant Fest, he said.
“The kids are busy,” Goudy said.