Our History

History of Heartland Presbyterian Center

In 1956 the Kansas City Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Church (USA) purchased 180 acres of pasture and woodland north of Parkville from Joseph T. McCormack for $26,250 ($145/acre). On the property at the time was a basement farmhouse with a nearby pump-house and garage.

In the early 1960s, with funding provided by Bill Trask, the farmhouse was expanded into a lodge, which was also used as the administrative building. This was called the “ad house” or, as often as not, the “outhouse.” Ten camper cabins were built between 1958 and 1960 by volunteer churches, using prefabricated structures. The present Dining Hall was constructed by Vick-Lintecum contractors in 1960. Another house was built at the top of the hill near the camp entrance in 1961, to serve as a residence for the administrator and staff.

Perry Wilson of Westport Presbyterian Church was hired as the camp administrator in 1960. The first staff member, Dwight Webber, lived in a mobile home near what is now Cabin 9.

Campers came from the Kansas City area and from northern Kansas. College students were hired as counselors and cooks. Camping usually involved small groups of ten youth and two leaders.

Wilderness camping began in 1963. Ninth graders came from Topeka with Pete Rasmussen. Rasmussen and others from Topeka sought a property in Kansas to purchase for their use as a camp, but in the end came to an agreement with the Kansas City Presbytery to share the use of the Parkville camp.

At first, each camp session was limited to participants from a single church. Later the program embraced multiple groups, occupying sites in several different areas of the property.

In 1965, Charles (Pete) Rasmussen became the camp administrator. At that time, the program drew 200-300 campers during the summer. Campers were bused to Park College to use the indoor swimming facilities. A private pool at Weatherby Lake was also used. In 1966, the present swimming pool was built as a memorial by the Myers family.

Rasmussen supervised the construction of a maintenance shop in 1970. “Administrative offices” were located in his bedroom in the hilltop house.

Camp usage increased to include almost as many adults as children, and the need for additional adult accommodations was recognized.

In 1971, camp staff member J.D. Walker pointed out a house scheduled for demolition at the site of what is now the Park Plaza Shopping Center near I-29 and Hwy. 45, and suggested that it be purchased for use at the camp. Presbytery agreed, but asked that three bids be obtained for the moving job. Time being of the essence, camp friends made a few calls, found a suitable contractor, and received immediate funding for the project from Central Presbyterian Church (with the leadership of Barry Robinson). Within two weeks the house was moved, in two parts, and relocated to the camp. Walker, Rasmussen, and Jack Mahaffey reassembled the house, and it was made available for accommodations in 1972 and named the House of Faith.

A long-range planning committee was established under the leadership of Rev. Andy Cullen.

In 1989, Nunemaker Conference Center and Lodge were constructed, with a gift from the estate of Irene Nunemaker, a member at First Presbyterian Church in Topeka. Three years later, the Cray Lodge was added to the Conference Center, thanks to the generousity of the Cray Family, members at First Presbyterian Church in Atchison.

Oak Place was built by the Heartand Center staff and volunteers in 1993.

Pete Rasmussen retired in 1990 after 25 years as camp administrator. Rev. Jim Rhaesa assumed the role, bringing with him abilities as a fundraiser and builder.

The Heartland Presbyterian Center was incorporated as a non-profit organization (separately from the Heartland Presbytery in 1992).

In 1991, the Rev. Charles “Chuck” Olsen and Joyce Olsen were hired, as a couple, as the first Program Directors for the Center.  Handbell Camp, Dulcimer Camp, and the Elderhostel program began under their leadership.

Chuck Olsen started the Worshipful Work ministry as an umbrella program of Heartland Presbyterian Center in 1993 and left the staff to become the Executive Director of Worshipful Work when it became its own separate non-profit organization in 1996.  The mission focus of Worshipful Work is to serve as a consultant service to help church Boards incorporate spiritual business practices.

Rev. Jim Rhaesa retired in the fall of 1996, Richard Raecke was hired as Interim Director, and Dr. Richard Davis was named Executive Director in July of 1997.

Dr. Davis resigned to reenter the parish ministry in December of 1999.  For the year of 2000, an administrative commission was assigned by Heartland Presbytery to oversee the administration of the Center; Clark Hargus was hired as the Interim Executive Director in January 2000.  In December of 2000, the Center underwent a complete organizational restructuring and the entire staff was laid off and rehired under the new structure.  Maintenance Director Dale Harden and Program Director Dan Scheneman were hired as Co-Interim Directors in January of 2001.  In September of 2001, Dan Scheneman was hired as the Executive Director.

In the fall of 2001, volunteers from 2nd Presbyterian Church completed renovations to Trask House, including significant kitchen improvements and new sleeping, meeting, and bathroom facilities.  The number of rentals per year more than doubled after the remodeling was completed.

In 2002, the HPC Board of Directors adopted the first edition of the Master Plan designed to be a living document, updated annually.

Heartland Presbyterian Center became accredited with the American Camping Association in the fall of 2003 verifying that the Center is compliant with industry standards for program, safety, health care, food service, and financial management.

The Board of Directors began a long-term capital campaign February of 2004 to accomplish the development goals of the Master Plan.

Named in honor of Charles “Pete” Rasmussen, Pete’s Cabin Lodges were constructed in 2004, replacing four rustic summer-only cabins with a 40 bed, year-round retreat lodge.

Renovation of the rustic summer use cabin area, known as the Highlander Camp (cabins 5 – 8), started with the remodeling of the two bathhouses in 2003, the addition of a picnic pavilion in 2004, and two castle-like tree houses in 2005.   The renovation of Highlander Camp was completed by summer work camps, volunteers from Blue Ridge Presbyterian Church, and the staff.  Blue Ridge Presbyterian also donated most of the funds required to complete the projects.

Volunteers from Blue Ridge Presbyterian Church also completed a crushed stone and brick labyrinth,

The Reed Family Foundation donated funds for a loafing shed which was completed in 2005. In addition to providing shelter for the horses from the environment, the shed also provides much needed hay storage.

In the fall of 2010, the main road was paved from the main entrance on Highway 45 to the front entrance of the Nunemaker Center.

Grace Hall, a new dining and meeting hall was opened in January 2012.


Charles “Pete” Rasmussen

Our hearts are heavy with the passing of “Pete” Rasmussen on Sunday, July 17. Pete was the Camp Director for 25 years (1965-1990). As we grieve with and pray for comfort for Kathy and all of Pete’s family, we rejoice in the hope of our faith, “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”-Romans 6:4

Charles “Pete” Rasmussen

What an amazing man and a living tribute to the love of Jesus Christ. You will be missed Pete. And for more than your mis-matched socks! Brian Frick

Pete’s ability to quiet the rowdiest kids with his quiet voice always amazed and inspired me. He brought the Good News of Jesus Christ to so many through stories, humor and song. Pete’s love for God and God’s people just shined through everything he did. We’ll miss you, Pete! BernaJean Norman

My heart just broke…truly the most inspirational man I have ever known. Clarissa Best

He touched MANY hearts and will be missed, a great legacy will continue. Paula Marie Isgrig

His model of service for the cause of Christ remains an inspiration to me. David Irwin

I am so saddened. Pete was truly an inspiration to me. Prayers to the family. God be with you. Lucy Miller Berry

Sad that Pete’s soft-spoken wisdom and faith won’t be heard, but I rejoice in the grace of Jesus Christ and the savior to whom Pete always pointed. Jim Robinson

And now someone is singing for him, “Well done good and faithful servant” Darla Haines Mills

The best model of a man of God that I had the privilege of knowing at a critical time in life. Thanks for believing in me, Pete. Heather Layton

Pete had a true heart for God and for all the children who came to the camp. I remember talking to him one week about all the kids who came to camp from broken homes, who were scared, abused, or neglected, and how most of this doesn’t come out until the Thursday night during the week when people finally start to open up to each other. Those kinds of stories are heartbreaking to hear as a counselor when you suddenly realize what they have to go back to in another day or two. I will always remember what he said to me: “You don’t need to try to fix all of their problems. Just love them.” This camp was my first glimpse as a 6th grader into the way the world should be, the way it could be, if we just loved God by loving others. It was the reason that I came back and worked as a counselor there for four years, to give back to the place that had given me my first inkling of what heaven on earth would look like.  Nick Velharticky

Pete has touched many lives, mine included, and I see myself as a better man of God, because of the way Pete touched my life. John Vale

Remembering Pete makes me want to break out singing. . . “Oh, an Austrian went yodeling on an mountain so high. . .” What a joyful child of God who helped all of us smile and taught us all to laugh at ourselves! Sarah Parker

1. Pete socks and shorts  2. Soft spoken  3. Song – Zum Gali Gali he would wear a kitchen’s strainer on his head and dance around with a large spoon. You have to comfortable in your manhood to do that. Randy Robinson

Wow, I’m going to miss having Pete in the world. It’s a rare individual who can make virtually every person who crosses their path feel valued and cherished, but somehow, he managed that. As soon as he would appear on the scene, in his plaid shorts and mismatched socks, campers knew they were in a place where it was safe to let their “inner goofball” shine and to allow themselves to be vulnerable before God and others. I’m blessed and honored to have known him. Beth Handly Peck

What a kind, gentle spirit! He will be greatly missed. Looking forward to seeing you on the other side, Pete!  Beth Trueblood Neidecker

The thing I remember most about Pete: As a camper even thou I was only there one week during the year, he ALWAYS knew my name. I don’t know if it was one of his tricks or not, but I was amazed. Spencer ‘Spencer’

I remember as a camper sitting on the hill next to the dining lodge for group photos and Pete would always make sure everyone was smiling. If you weren’t smiling at the beginning, you were smiling by the end b/c of the tricks he would do or the goofy outfits he would put on. I remember how he would get me to go to camp by setting me up to go the same week with his grandson, Andy. I remember while on staff, Pete would come out for a visit and he would take the time to share stories and just make me feel like there was no better job in the world than being on staff. My life will forever be touched by his devotion to God. Keith Mandachit

Pete was a man after God’s own heart. He was a good man. In the years I was on staff (1981 – 1984) I don’t remember him ever losing his temper: he might not have always been pleased with some of out antics, but he never got mad. Joan Hagemier

I am thankful to God for His servant Pete Rasmussen, who touched so many lives. I am so glad I got to know him. I will see him again. Will he have mismatched socks at that time? He probably will know a few more tricks also. Dan Irwin

Pete was the “Father” figure for me after I lost mine when we were both too young. Summer was Parkvilleand Pete. I don’t think I missed one, even when it meant sneaking away and not telling my folks I’d paid for the week myself…. then I got sick and Pete called Mom, but let me stay. He understood what the quiet pathways meant and thrilled in the lightning storms tempestuous thrall. Pete will forever be a part of my life, and always whispering to me whenever I hear the wind in the trees or see the summer heat lightning. Rod Light