Eulogy for Sister Agnes Dreher: Sept. 28, 1912-March 4, 2011

March 7, 2011 by  


March 6, 2011, at the Nazareth Motherhouse

Eulogist: Sister Christella Buser

Sister Agnes Dreher died March 4, 2011, at Mount Joseph Senior Village in Concordia.  She was 98 years old and a Sister of St. Joseph for 80 years.

She was born in Schoenchen, Kan., on Sept. 28, 1912, to John and Ann Elizabeth Beiker Dreher, the third of nine children, and was baptized Mary Agnes. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia on Sept. 18, 1929. On March 19, 1930, Agnes received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph and was given the name Sister Mary Olivia.  Later she changed back to her baptismal name Agnes. She pronounced first vows on March 19, 1932 and final vows on Aug. 15, 1935.

Sister Agnes was preceded in death by her parents, four brothers and three sisters.  She is survived by one brother, Melvin Dreher of Cedaredge, Colo., and numerous nephews, nieces, cousins and a host of friends.

A couple of years ago, Sister Agnes asked if I would give her eulogy when she died. I told her I would be honored. She stated, “I want it to be short.”

She pointed to a picture of the good shepherd on her bedroom wall and said, “This is my favorite picture.” Inserted in the picture frame was a holy card of Bishop Paul Coakley. She said, “He is our diocesan shepherd, he is kinda cute.”

Sister Agnes was an elementary teacher, housekeeper and nurse’s aide in Stafford Hall at the Motherhouse and Mount Joseph. Throughout her years of service she worked in institutions staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph  in the Kansas towns and cities of Plainville, Junction City, Abilene, St. Peter, Concordia, Tipton, Gorham, Aurora, Herington, Beloit, Pfeifer, Hays, Antonino, Russell and Salina, as well as St. George, Ill., Gladstone, Mich., Silver City, N.M., and Fairbury, Neb.  In 2004 she moved to the Motherhouse and in 2010 she moved to Mount Joseph.

Sister Agnes said, “My father was a big farmer and a good provider. My mother had a large garden and did a lot of canning and our cellar was filled with good food that she always shared. She was also a great seamstress and would help anyone make clothes.”

She talked about being thankful to God for the many graces and blessings he had bestowed on her in her 80 years as a Sister of St. Joseph. Also, how deeply grateful she was to all the sisters for their love, prayers and support. May God bless you all.

We weep with joy as we remember the fullness of Sister Agnes’ life, and we weep with even greater joy that she can proclaim Mary Magdelene’s words, “I have seen the Lord.”

What joy must be hers!

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If you’d like to make a memorial contribution in the name of Sister Agnes, you may do so through a secure server with PayPal. Simply click on the button below.

Marymount Theatre memories — now on CD!

February 28, 2011 by  


Deep in the corners of Dr. Dennis Denning’s basement, a bounty of Marymount Theatre photos had been stored.  Recently, all the photos were digitized and are now available for purchase.

A small group of theatre alum has done their best to identify the years which the shows were produced.  There are photos from 1971 (J.B. & Star Spangled Girl) to Marymount’s final year of 1988 (Cabaret/Brighton Beach Memoirs/Harvey). Sixteen shows from the mid-1970s have recently been added since the photos were first offered.

With proceeds from the sales of the photo CDs last year, a donation of $100 was made to the Sisters of St. Joseph.  The goal is to share the photos with MMC Theatre alum and support the Sisters, who provided us with such a wonderful facility and education.

CDs are $10 each and you can mix and match the shows you want.  The cost covers the discs plus shipping, with any remainder donated to the Sisters of St. Jospeh.

Contact: Barbara Evans Nichols (MMC ’85) at jcbekc@gmail.com

 


Superintendent: Community faces tough choices for schools

February 21, 2011 by  


Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, standing, welcomes a crowd of about 50 to the first talk in the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series at the Nazareth Motherhouse Monday evening.

Concordia Schools Superintendent Beverly Mortimer

Concordia Superintendent Beverly Mortimer, who wears a “no complaints” purple wristband, made it clear she was not whining about the challenges facing public schools in a talk Monday evening.

Instead, she told the crowd of about 50 for the first session of the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series at the Nazareth Motherhouse, “Our strength is our people — inside our buildings and outside in our community.”

Mortimer took nearly an hour to lay out both the strengths of strategic planning for the district and the challenges of dwindling budgets and legislative unknowns.

“People think I cry wolf when it comes to the budget,” said Mortimer, who has led Concordia’s USD 333 for eight years. “They asked me, ‘Where are the cuts?’ I’ve already cut the low-hanging fruit. Now we have to talk about the cuts none of us want to make.”

After her presentation, Superintendent Beverly Mortimer answers questions from the audience.

The first step in making those tough decisions, she said, is to follow the district’s strategic plan, which focuses on engaged learning, effective teaching and building trusting relationships. Those three priorities mean finding new and creative ways to help children learn, using technology to teach and learn more effectively and providing safe schools for students, staff and the community.

Meeting those goals is increasingly difficult, Mortimer said, when the state Legislature — responsible for paying for public schools — has defined its role as “funding a suitable education” for the state’s children.

“’Suitable’ is the key word there,” Mortimer said. “I don’t think what (legislators are) so much concerned with is what happens during class time; what they’re thinking about is extracurricular (activities) that can be eliminated. And that’s not just sports. It’s debate, the Scholar Bowl, cheerleading, 4-H…

“Those are the places where we as the community will have to make choices.”

And that’s already beginning, she noted.

The state bases its funding for education on a “per pupil” amount that’s multiplied by the number of full-time students in a district.

Audience members listen to a question asked during Monday evening's first talk in the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series.

For Concordia USD 333, the full-time enrollment is just over 1,100.

At the start of the 2008-09 school year, the per-pupil amount was $4,433 — but that was cut mid-year by the Legislature to $4,400. During last school year, the Legislature cut it again mid-year, to $4,218.

And it has already been cut once during this school year to $4,012 — while the governor’s not-yet-approved budget recommendation would cut it to $3,937 before the school year ends.

For this school year alone, that means a cut in state funding of $310,000. Plus, Mortimer noted, the district has learned that its health insurance premiums for employees will go up 15 percent this year.

“For us, that’s another $180,000. So with the cuts, if the governor’s budget is approved, we’ll have $500,000 less than we started with this year.”

The choice then comes down to increasing local taxes and fees or cutting the budget even more.

She ticked off some of the budget cuts that have already been made:

  • Selling the alternative high school building.
  • Reducing staff.
  • Shifting to a four-day workweek in the summer to reduce utilities.
  • Offering an early retirement incentive.
  • Reducing in-town bussing and eliminating activity bus routes.
  • Reducing summer school.
  • Eliminating the auto program at the high school.

In making those kinds of decisions, Mortimer said, she and the school board ask how the cuts affect the students, their families, school staff and the community.

As a part of the budget process this spring, she said she will ask taxpayers the same kinds of question in a “Survey of Patrons.”

“Basically, the survey will ask, ‘What is it that you can live without?’ she said.

After the survey is completed, Mortimer also plans to create a Patron Advisory Panel to help review the survey results and help in the tough decisions to come.

Having that kind of community involvement in the process is crucial, she said.

“I see myself as a steward of this district,” she told the crowd Monday evening. “It’s not mine, I am just the caretaker for you.”

Varied progress reports prove forum’s power

February 16, 2011 by  


Nearly 40 people spent an hour Wednesday reporting on programs and progress due at least in part to the “working lunches” that began two years ago.

At what was announced to be the 13th and  last working lunch of the Community Needs Forum, individuals and agency representatives took the microphone to update the group on events, fundraisers, projects and needs that continue in Concordia.

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Sister Betty Suther reported on the Community Garden of Hope, which is getting ready for its second growing season. The garden is working in a partnership with Concordia High School and has applied for a grant through the Kansas Green Schools program. The hope is to develop a composting program and then get students involved in growing produce under the direction of teacher Nathan Hamilton.

She also noted that all 26 plots in the garden have already been reserved for the season and there’s a waiting list.

Suther also reported on behalf of the Tourism and Convention Bureau, which is planning a major Concordia event as part of the 150th anniversary of Kansas’ statehood. Billed as “KS 150 QuiltFest,” the Oct. 7 and 8 affair will feature an exhibit of 150 quilts plus a dinner and quilt auction, with vendors and demonstrations at various locations in the city. The Nazareth Motherhouse will host the quilt exhibit and other details are still being worked out.

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski told the group about the Concordia Year of Peace, which in January began “Another Year of Peace.” T-shirts are available to support that effort (by calling Sister Julie Christensen at 785/243-4428), and Rosemarynoski said a new book available this spring will be a collection of the Year of Peace newspaper columns published from September 2009 through the end of 2010.

She also said the Year of Peace Committee is working to put together events for the National Night Out Against Crime, which is organized in communities across the country in August.

Sue Sutton said the Year of Peace Committee and Cloud County Community College have partnered to present a film series focusing on themes of civility and nonviolence. The next movie, which is open to the public without charge, is set for March 15 at 7 p.m. in Cook Theatre on the college campus. The movie to be shown that evening is “My Favorite Year,” a 1982 comedy about the early days of television.

Pat Gerhardt of the Kansas State University cooperative extension service showed off table tents and posters, made available through K-State, that emphasize a message of showing each other appreciation. “That’s a part of peace,” Gerhardt said. “When we appreciate each other, we are kinder to each other.”

Jennie Thrash gave an update on a new outreach program a small group of people have come together to create. Called “Our Father’s House,” it is seen as a way to help meet the needs of families in crisis or those who need mentoring and support. Its special emphasis would be on helping men, but it would serve the needs of the entire family, Thrash said.

Others at Wednesday’s meeting made pitches for upcoming fundraisers: The waffle breakfast this Saturday at the American Legion to support Lifeline, the Bowl for Kids Sake fundraiser supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cloud, Mitchell and Republic Counties, and the soup dinner at Concordia High School Monday evening to support the Honor Flight program that allows World War II veterans to visit Washington, D.C.

At the end of the reports, Sister Marcia Allen asked the question that had been in the air since the beginning of the lunch: What next?

The Sisters of St. Joseph have already announced the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series, which kicks off Monday evening at 7 with Superintendent Beverly Mortimer talking about the “Strengths and Challenges of Concordia’s Schools.” That presentation will be at the Nazareth Motherhouse in the auditorium and it is free and open to the public.

Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph that has hosted the lunches at the Nazareth Motherhouse, said that in the 26 months since the meetings started in January 2009, a total of 125 different individuals have taken part. She said she sees the new speakers series as the “redirection” of the Community Needs Forum’s “working lunches.”

“This idea (for the speakers series) grew out of these meetings,” Allen told the group. “This is a way for leaders in the community to talk to people about the issues that are important to all of us.”

The group at Wednesday’s lunch seemed reluctant to give up the regular meetings, however.

“You heard all these reports,” participant Everett Ford said. “We’ve got something going on here and I’d hate to lose that.”

A number of people suggested quarterly or twice-yearly meetings instead of getting together every six to eight weeks. “I’ve very much appreciated the generosity of the sisters, hosting us and giving us lunch,” said Rose Koerber of the Cloud County Health Center. “But as much as that, these meetings have been about the networking and getting to know each other, and finding the ways we can work together.”

After the lunch Wednesday, Allen said she would work out a schedule of quarterly meetings and get those dates out to the public as soon as possible.

It’s a rap: Employees honored for service

February 15, 2011 by  


Rose Tremblay

Loleda Monty

Employees were recognized for five, 10, 15 and 20 years of service during “A Banquet of Gratitude” at the Sisters of St. Joseph Nazareth Motherhouse Tuesday evening.

The employees honored this year were:

For 20 years, Loleda Monty, who is a cook, and Rose Tremblay, a nursing assistant.

Donna Breault

Linda St. Pierre

For 15 years, Donna Breault, a nursing assistant

For 10 years, Karen Brown and Linda St. Pierre, who are both cooks.

For five years, Terri Headrick, who is a cook.

All of those honored live in Concordia.

Karen Brown

Terri Headrick

Each year the Sisters of St. Joseph host a special dinner for the nearly 70 employees who  work at the Motherhouse, the CSJ Administration Center and Manna House of Prayer. About 140 sisters and employees and their guests filled the Motherhouse Auditorium for the event Tuesday. The theme of the evening was “Love Changes Everything,” the title of a song by Andrew Lloyd Webber that was performed by Sister Regina Ann Brummel accompanied by pianist Sister Janis Wagner.

But that wasn’t the only music of the evening: The seven-member Leadership Council gave a somewhat ragged rendition of a rap blessing, written by Sister Jean Rosemarynoski to include the name of each employee.

The Sisters of St. Joseph is a religious order of women who came to Kansas in 1883 and established the Nazareth Convent and Academy in Concordia a year later. There are about 145 Sisters in the order, serving missions in more than 20 cities and towns in Kansas, plus others in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas. About half the sisters live and serve in Concordia.

Sisters share a message of love on Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2011 by  


Women who regularly take part in programs and fellowship at Neighbor to Neighbor gathered this afternoon (Monday) for an offering of love from the sisters who work there.

• • • • • • • •

In short remarks to begin the Valentine’s Day party, each of  the three Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia  — Jean Befort, Pat McLennon and Ramona Medina — talked about the power of love to bring people together and to build a community of the people who come to the downtown Concordia women’s center.

“We are just a small group,” said Sister Jean, “but by being kind to each other and caring about each other, we demonstrate love.”

Sister Pat said that Valentine’s Day — coming after a long winter when many people start feeling stressed by “cabin fever” — gives everyone the opportunity to love each other as neighbors and to be grateful for each other.

The sisters served special Valentine’s cupcakes and sundaes to celebrate the sweetness of the holiday.

Neighbor to Neighbor is open every weekday  — from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and from 1 to 6 p.m. on Thursday. It’s at 103 E. Sixth St. in downtown Concordia, next to the Catholic Thrift Shop.

To learn more, call the center at 785/262-4215 or CLICK HERE to go to the Neighbor to Neighbor home page.

Wednesday’s lunch reviews two years of progress

February 14, 2011 by  


After two years of “working lunches” to focus on addressing concerns in Concordia, the Community Needs Forum is changing direction — but not without one last working lunch to review what the group has accomplished.

The lunch is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 16, from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Nazareth Motherhouse, 13th and Washington streets. Everyone is invited to take part; you do not have to have attended earlier forums to join the process now.  Lunch is provided at no cost, and those planning to come are asked to RSVP to Sister Jean Rosemarynoski at 243-2149 or sisterjean@csjkansas.org.

Wednesday’s session will be the 13th in a process that started in the fall of 2008 with informal lunches at the Sisters of St. Joseph. In addition to identifying what participants see as the greatest needs in the community, the meetings have established smaller groups to seek solutions.  It will also be the opportunity for Sisters Marcia Allen and Jean Rosemarynoski, who organized the process, to introduce the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series.

“The idea of a speakers series originated in an informal presentation made by Police Chief Chris Edin at the working lunch in June (2010),” Allen said. “He said he wished he could talk to the public about creating an awareness about various crimes committed in the town, especially sexual assault among the young, and inviting citizens to help prevent them. That set us thinking.”

The free monthly forums will be held in the evening so more people from throughout Concordia will be able to attend, Allen said.

The first of the 2011 Concordia Speaker Series is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Nazareth Motherhouse. Concordia Schools Superintendent Bev Mortimer will talk about the challenges facing public schools and what USD 333 Schools are doing to continue to meet the needs of students, families and the community.

At Wednesday’s working lunch, Allen and Rosemarynoski will ask for updates on other projects that have grown out of the Community Needs Forum, including:

• The Concordia Year of Peace, which is continuing through 2011 as “Another Year of Peace.”

• The Concordia Community Garden of Hope, which is gearing up for its second year of operation on the northeast corner of the Motherhouse property.

Agencies and organizations attending the lunch will also be asked to talk about any significant changes they see for 2011.

A day after the storm, it’s beautiful!

February 9, 2011 by  


Tuesday’s bitter cold and blizzard conditions seemed like they would last forever. But late this morning — Wednesday, Feb. 9 — the sun and blue skies returned to give us a winter wonderland. (A wonderland, that is, for everyone who doesn’t have to work out in the still 20 degree weather or drive the still snow-packed roads.)

The Nazareth Motherhouse is beautiful in any weather, of course, but this view of the snow-covered field to the south, looking north to the historic red-brick building is particularly striking after a heavy snow.

Donors pay for 1,302 square feet — so far

February 1, 2011 by  


The idea when the fundraising drive began to expand Neighbor to Neighbor was that people like to have a sense of what their money will pay for. Eight weeks later, donors have paid to renovate 1,302¼  square feet of the center’s upper floor at 103 E. Sixth St.

At $24.33 a square foot, that works out to $31,684 donated so far — or about 63 percent of the total needed to double the space available for the center in downtown Concordia.

• • • • • • •

At the same time, workers from the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse have been working in the upstairs portion of the building since Dec. 1.

When Greg Gallagher, facilities manager for the Sisters of St. Joseph, began planning work on the two-story building nearly two years ago, he knew that the project would be more resurrection than renovation — particularly on the second floor, which had not been used for anything other than storage for decades.

So when the first floor was cleaned out and the lath and plaster removed from the walls, that work was done on the second floor, too. The only other work upstairs was to remove the boards that had filled the three large windows facing Sixth Street and replace them with new vinyl windows.

Then the work upstairs stopped.

Downstairs, on the main floor, Nazareth Motherhouse employees completely refinished the 122-year-old structure, adding new plumbing, lighting, a heating and cooling system, interior walls, a complete kitchen, bathroom facilities, a laundry room, flooring and all the finishings.

When Neighbor to Neighbor opened in May 2010, it seemed to offer ample space for the women and their young children who would be welcomed there by Sisters Jean Befort, Pat McLennon and Ramona Medina, the Sisters of St. Joseph who conceived of the center and now staff it every day.

From Monday through Friday, the sisters and volunteers offer classes and services that range from one-on-one tutoring for GED exams and book studies to providing a place to do laundry or take showers and classes in sewing, baking, lacemaking and household budgeting. Individual counseling services are also available as needed, as is help in navigating the social services maze. And, for some moms, the center has become a place to go with their young children, to give the kids a chance to play and the moms a chance to befriend other moms.

There is never any cost to the women taking part; all the programs are offered free, with funding coming from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, a handful of grants and individual donations.

“This is about one neighbor helping another,” as Sister Ramona explains it.

And the neighbors throughout Cloud County have responded — the center is often packed throughout the day.

So Gallagher and the sisters last fall began working on a plan to bring the upstairs back to life, in much the same way as was done downstairs.

Second-floor plans call for an art room, a private counseling or small meeting room, two more bathrooms, lots of storage space and a kitchenette that will look out over a large play area for children.

Sister Jean emphasizes the word “large” in that description of the coming work: “With more and more children, they really need a bigger space,” she explains, “and this is the only way we can provide that.”

Again, Motherhouse employees are doing the bulk of the work, which keeps the labor costs for the project low.

As February begins, workers have framed new walls upstairs and are stringing electrical wiring throughout the second floor. At the same time new ductwork for the heating and cooling system is being custom cut and fit. Employees doing the bulk of the work are Gene Gangstrom, Curtis Mansfield, Jim Helton, T.J. Hayne, Brad Snyder, Bob Kearn and Renn Allsman.

Gallagher expects the work will be completed this spring.

The center remains open during the upstairs construction. The sounds of work on the second level sometimes competes with conversation on the main floor, but not enough to deter women from continuing to come to Neighbor to Neighbor.

The fund drive is continuing as well. At $24.33 per square foot, donors may pay for the renovation of one foot, or 10 — or 100.  As of Jan. 31, there are 754¾ square feet not yet covered by donations.

If you’d like to help support Neighbor to Neighbor or any of the sisters’ other ministries, you can make a donation through a secure server with Amazon Simple Pay, simply fill in the amount of your donation and then click on the Donate button:

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New speakers series creates ‘a community informed’

January 28, 2011 by  


The challenges facing Concordia’s public schools will be the first topic tackled in a series of free public discussions that begins in February.

Concordia Superintendent Beverly Mortimer will give the first of eight monthly presentations scheduled for the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series.

The idea for the series grew out of the Community Needs Forum, which were lunchtime gatherings held throughout 2009 and 2010. Those “working lunches,” hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph at the Nazareth Motherhouse, identified what participants saw as the greatest needs in the community, the meetings have established smaller groups to seek solutions.

Some of the projects that grew out of the dozen lunches were a revamped Community Resources Guide, the Community Garden of Hope and the Concordia Year of Peace.

The idea for a speakers series grew from an informal presentation by Concordia Police Chief Chris Edin during a working lunch in June 2010. As he talked about getting information out to people throughout Concordia, Edin said, “I think in terms of a ‘community informed’ vs. a ‘community uninformed.’ I believe in a community informed.”

Edin will have his chance to work at creating a “community informed” when he is the fourth of the eight scheduled speakers.

All the speakers are non-elected experts in various facets of community life who serve the people of Concordia and, in some cases, Cloud County.

According to Sister Marcia Allen, the president of the Sisters of St. Joseph who has helped organize the working lunches and now the speakers series, “They are the people who can provide a sense of the big picture or whose piece contributes to the big picture” for everyone in Concordia and Cloud County. “They understand quality of life and the challenges we all face.”

All eight presentations are on Monday evenings in the auditorium of the Nazareth Motherhouse, 1300 W. Washington St. Each will begin at 7 p.m. with a 30- to 40-minute presentation by the speaker, followed by time for questions from the audience. Each session will end no later than 8:30 p.m.

There is no charge for any of the sessions and the public is encouraged to come to any or all of them. No registration is needed, but if you’d like more information, you may contact Sister Marcia Allen at 243-2149 or mallen@csjkansas.org.

The scheduled speakers and their topics are:

• Feb. 21: Bev Mortimer, Superintendent of Concordia Schools (USD 333) — “Strengths and Challenges in Our Schools.” Mortimer, who has been superintendent for eight years, will discuss the challenges facing local and state schools, including finances, resources changing demographics, and what Concordia Schools are doing to continue to meet the needs of students, families and the community.

•  March 28: Jim Wahlmeier, CEO of Cloud County Health Center — “Update on building a new hospital.” Wahlmeier, who has headed the local hospital since 2006, will discuss the aftermath of the failed 2008 hospital financing election and “what still needs to happen in order for a new hospital to be a reality in Concordia.”

• April 25: Kirk Lowell, Executive Director of CloudCorp Inc.  — “Local Economic Development: Fad or Fundamental.” Lowell, who has headed the economic development agency serving all of Cloud County since 1983, will give a brief history of CloudCorp and discuss the basics of economic development in rural communities.  The audience will have an opportunity to participate in a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats (SWOT) Analysis of Cloud County.

• May 16: Chris Edin, Concordia Chief of Police — “The State of Our Community through the Chief’s Eyes.” Edin, who took over as chief on March 1, 2010, will offer a one-year perspective on the past, present and future for the city of Concordia.

• June 20: Danette Toone, President of Cloud County Community College – “Cloud County Community College: A partner for today and into the future.” Dr. Toone has been president of the college since July 1, 2010.

• July 18: Susie Haver & Tammy Britt, Co-Directors, Cloud County Convention and Tourism — “Finding the 8!” Susie and Tammy will discuss the “8 Elements of Rural Culture” with a focus on helping others see their hometown with new eyes.

• Sept. 26: Larry Uri, Concordia City Manager — “Building Community.” Uri, who has been an attorney in Concordia since 1976, was named city manager in September 2008.

• Oct. 24: Cameron Thurner, Outreach Specialist for the Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas (DVACK), based in Concordia — “Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Rural Communities. Thurner, who has worked with DVACK for seven years, will specifically address issues in Concordia.

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