Dec. 16, 2016: 207th column is the last — but ideal remains the same, by Sarah Jenkins

December 16, 2016 by  

Sarah Jenkins

In September 2009, when the first “Year of Peace” column was printed in this space, the idea was to have a weekly article written by different people from throughout Concordia. Sister Carolyn Teter wrote that first column, and the intent was to have the column each Friday throughout the 16-month “Year” — from Sept. 25, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2010.

The committee’s enthusiasm, and the community’s response, didn’t let it end there. From 2011 through this year, there has been a Year of Peace column twice a month — and there has been so much more than that: an early film series at the college, T-shirts and Year of Peace buttons, songs composed by Patrick Sieben, book studies in conjunction with the Frank Carlson Library, supporters’ signs in businesses all over town, six years of the Civility Pledge, Concordia’s National Night Out each August, radio spots on KNCK and a yearlong Speakers Series in 2011.

But the Year of Peace was more than emblems and events.

As Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, who led the committee, wrote in a column at the end of that first Year of Peace, “Our hope is that the Concordia Year of Peace instills in each person the belief that all people are to be treated with dignity and respect. Dignity and respect for children, for women, for men, for the elderly, and for those who are different from us in some way. Dignity and respect for our neighbors, for those we meet on the street and for our own families. That is not always easy to do but we believe it is an ideal worth striving for.”

This column — the 207th, published over seven years and three months — concludes the regular work of the Year of Peace Committee. We’ve decided to take a break, in part to generate new ideas and also to see if the emphasis on peace and civility is still needed. Committee members will get together again in mid-summer to see if there remains work to be done.

In the meantime, we look back to that first column from September 2009.

“Peace is more than the absence of war,” Sister Carolyn wrote. “Peace is a set of values, attitudes and behaviors: It means respect for others regardless of race, gender, age, nationality, class, sexuality, appearance, political or religious belief, physical or mental ability. This respect requires a great empathy for others — a willingness to understand their views from their standpoint.”

That, as Sister Jean noted, is not always easy to do but it is an ideal worth striving for.

Today we thank the Blade-Empire for giving us this space for these Year of Peace columns and for its generous support over the years. And we thank everyone who embraced the Year of Peace as together we all continue to strive toward that ideal.

— Sarah Jenkins is the communications director for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

Dec. 2, 2016: Perspectives on the meaning of peace abound, by Bruce Nutter

December 2, 2016 by  

Bruce Nutter

Bruce Nutter

When I look at the definition of peace in Webster’s dictionary, it lists things like “freedom from public disturbance and disorder,” “peace of mind” and “tranquility.” These are all positive attributes and goals for each of us.

I have served on the Concordia Year of Peace Committee spearheaded by the Sisters of St. Joseph and I feel that the Civility Pledge with its hundreds of signatures was definitely an awakening, It encouraged us to make a conscious effort to be better citizens, thus creating peace not only locally, but any place we interacted with other people.

There are many quotes from famous people offering their perspectives on peace. Here are a few:

“A peace is of the nature of a conquest; for both parties nobly are subdued, and neither party a loser” (William Shakespeare)

“A people free to choose will always choose peace.” (Ronald Reagan)

“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want understanding which bringeth peace.” (Helen Keller)

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

“Peace begins with a smile.” (Mother Theresa)

I hope that as you read these, you’ll think about what the word peace means to you.

— Bruce Nutter is owner of Nutter’s Mortuary and a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.

Nov. 18, 2016: What is community? Who is my neighbor? by Sister Mary Jo Thummel

November 18, 2016 by  

Sister Mary Jo Thummel

Sister Mary Jo Thummel

When I pondered the theme of the Year of Peace columns, which is basically “building community,” many thoughts swirled around in my mind.

“What is community?” I asked myself. I sought my answer through definitions.

There were many different definitions and most of them had to do with having something in common, but that didn’t satisfy my wonderings. Next I sought the root definition of the word and found such words as: commonness, everybody, fellowship, courtesy, affability, union, the whole, total, the universe, the world.

That led me to the further question of how I build community and this led me to my poetic heart, which expresses the deepest truth of who I am.

So I offer to the ponderings of my heart in poetic form.


There I saw you in the gutter lying
bruised and broken and almost dying.

Too whole was I your hurt to know
I could not stop and mercy show.

Again I came and heard your pain-filled sighs
stooped and saw your sad and hurt-filled eyes.

More broken then — I sympathized
and thanked the Lord It wasn’t I.

A third time did I journey down
a stranger in my skin I found.

Mirrored there in you was me
no longer could distinction be.

In reaching out to you I found
the reaching had been turned around.

Your brokenness I knew as mine
the crushedness of a common wine.

In our dying sifted together
made we one with one another.

Though I the minister be
I know that you are healing me.

I give you of my bread and wine
and know in you, I will find mine.

One without distinction we
living as we are to be.

No longer can I pass you by
It is within your life I lie.

We are broken all together
And give out to one another.


How do I build community? By realizing that I am no different than any of my sisters and brothers all over the world. Underneath everything, we face many of the same struggles, joys, sorrows, questions, strengths and weaknesses. I think building community means building bridges and reaching out to one another.

I invite you to ponder what building community means to you.


— Sister Mary Jo Thummel is a Sister of St. Joseph presently serving on the Leadership Council for the congregation in Concordia.











Nov. 4, 2016: Take action against fear & fight poverty in the process, by Tonya Merrill

November 4, 2016 by  

Tonya Merrill

Tonya Merrill

Before I began writing this column, I thought about what it means to be at peace and what enemies lay in the way of positive actions and energy. The greatest enemy to peace I could find was fear.

Zig Zagler writes of fear by saying that, “Fear has two meanings: forget everything and run, or face everything and rise.” As many in our community face the difficult economic times ahead, fear is a commonplace occurrence.

There are roughly 400 people living in Cloud County who have jobs, education and families — but no benefits or savings because they just aren’t able to get ahead. This puts men, women, children and senior citizens at risk of going hungry. Like walking wounded from war, they limp through each day, painfully aware that one car repair, medical bill or other unexpected expense may tip them from daily uncertainty into crisis. Fear becomes their opponent, preventing them from taking action.

But in this community, that fear can be combated by Concordians rising together.

One example of doing just that came in August when together we generated two tons of items for the Cloud County Food Bank. I have never been prouder of this community that at times like that.

We must continue to donate food, money or time to the Food Bank, Helping Hands at Manna House of Prayer and the Salvation Army. We must remain active and support events and drives in the future. Or you can create your own drive to gather items from your neighborhood, job or church. You can use a donation of canned goods to reduce the cost of tickets or as admission for events. And attend events that focus attention on the issue of poverty.

One such event is “Crock Pots for a Cause” on Monday, Nov. 14, from 5 to 7 p.m., where area organizations are invited to cook off against one another with their best crock pot recipes. Later in November is Giving Tuesday (Nov. 29) and bell-ringing as part of the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign (which begins Thanksgiving night in Concordia).

With the holidays fast approaching, our attentions here at the Resource Center are turning toward preparing foods and baking supplies for the Holiday Baskets and gifts for the Holiday Store.

Personally, I love the holiday season so this isn’t really a chore except that I’m painfully aware how many families this will actually be essential to. For many families in this county, the small presents that can be purchased at a reduced rate are the only chance they will have to have presents to open together on Christmas morning. The meals and gifts create peace of mind. They will have normal lives.

The monumental task of stamping out poverty isn’t easily accomplished. But with sustained effort, we can make a direct impact here in Cloud County.

And it is our choice, whether to run or rise. I encourage everyone to rise together and take an action to fight poverty. We have the power to create a more positive environment and push fear back by taking a few simple actions of our own.


— Tonya Merrill is the executive director of the Cloud County Resource Center and Food Bank in Concordia.

Oct. 28, 2016: Family & college make life great for this sophomore, by Jordyn Rumsey

October 28, 2016 by  

Jordyn Rumsey

Jordyn Rumsey

Life is great!

It is great having a family that supports everything I do. It doesn’t matter what decisions I make in my life, my family is always there to support me. Even if they don’t agree with what I am doing, they always give me positive words of advice.

It is great being with the best fiancé and dad, my daughter and I could ask for. My fiancé and I have been together for over three years now and our relationship just continues to grow better and we are happier than ever.

Having the most amazing daughter in the world has helped us out tremendously. It is great being a mom. My nine-and-a-half month old is now walking and saying “mama,” “dada” and “nana.” She is the most energetic little nine-month-old I have ever seen.

It is great being in school at Cloud County Community College. I can continue to go to school and get my education, while working and taking care of my little family I have back home. Cloud County community college is great at working with me on that. I love it here I could not ask for anything in my life to be any different, in any way possible.

I have the best family, few friends and the best teachers in the world.

Life is just great all the way around.

— Jordyn Rumsey is a sophomore in the music program at Cloud County Community College.


Sept. 16, 2016: Writing on the Wall: What is kindness? by Kathleen Norman

September 16, 2016 by  

Kathleen Norman

Kathleen Norman

With Fall Fest right around the corner, I wanted to take a moment to reflect back on the public art piece that was on display last year. You might have seen it tucked off the main drag by the Chamber of Commerce or that night at Music Fest.

We had two giant plywood sandwich boards, coated with chalkboard paint and placed side by side to create the 8-foot-by-6-foot “wall.” Then we stenciled in a two-part fill-in-the-blank prompt: “I want to live in a world where…” and “To create this world, I will…”

This piece was part of a larger global movement called The World We Want, which focuses on creating public art pieces where individuals and communities express themselves.

There was a decent amount of participation. By noon, most of the squares had been filled in and people continued writing their visions wherever there was space. While not everyone chose to write on the wall, many people stopped and just read what others had written. The responses were both humorous and serious.

The chalkboard wall will be back this year and again people are invited to share their thoughts. This year’s prompt will be “Kindness is…”

According to the Oxford Dictionary, kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. But, what does that mean to you individually?

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the comic “Love is…” by Kim Casali. The single image with a caption: “Love is… having someone to hug,” “Love is… when someone remembers,” “Love is… facing the unknown together,” etc.

From the simplest gesture to an elaborate demonstration, love is manifested in many ways and so too is kindness. Maybe for you “Kindness is someone holding the door for me.” Or perhaps “Kindness is a friend listening to my troubles.” Or simply it could be that “Kindness is 13 points in scrabble.”

Take some time to think about it. And, I encourage you to find the wall at Fall Fest and share what “Kindness is…” to you.


— Kathleen Norman is director of Neighborhood Initiatives Inc., an office of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, and teaches the Sew Creative sewing classes


Sept. 2, 2016: Cloud County Fair Board thanks community for a great 2016 fair, by Danny McReynolds

September 2, 2016 by  

Danny McReynolds

Danny McReynolds

The Cloud County Fair Board would like to thank the citizens of Cloud County for your support of the Cloud County Fair.

The Fair Board consists of six volunteer members who represent different regions of the county. Members can serve an unlimited number of three-year terms. Members are considered by the board for approval and then presented to the County Commissioners for appointment. Serving with me on the current board are Charlotte Anderson, Katie Revell-Lehman, Katie Reedy, Aaron Hake and Mike Kindel.

It takes the entire community to put on the fair. This is one week during July when the county comes together, makes new friends, sees old friends and shares what they enjoy doing.

There are many elements that make the fair a success. That includes the exhibitors who bring all kinds of projects ranging from foods, photography, quilting to the different livestock projects.

The 4-H/FFA members work hard throughout the entire year so that they can compete for prizes and ribbons. For the 2016 Cloud County Fair, these members brought a total of 1,035 entries with 373 exhibits receiving either a Grand Champion, Reserve Champion or purple ribbon. Depending on the member’s age, the exhibit will represent our county at the upcoming Kansas State Fair.

Open Class exhibitors brought in 395 exhibits this year. These consisted of 151 youth entries and 244 adult entries. Off all these entries, we are proud to say that more than half received purple and blue ribbons.

We want to send a big thank you to all the exhibitors, families, superintendents, KSU extension agents and staff and judges for their hard work and dedication to bring their exhibits to the fair.

Another element that we want to make sure to thank are the Day Sponsors, Event Sponsors, Free Stage Entertainment sponsors, Rodeo and Race organizers and the FFA group. Without these people and organizations, we would not be able to provide the activities and entertainment each day. We hope that you enjoyed music at the free stage, came to the rodeo or watched the races.

Commercial exhibitors play an important role at the fair regardless of where they are located. They all matter, whether they have a product to sell, information or a service to provide or give us a chance to eat the food that we only get “at the fair.” Thank you commercial and food venders and a big thank you to the community for supporting these people.

As the fair comes to the end, the 4-H/FFA market livestock exhibitors have an opportunity to sell their animals in the Livestock Premium Auction. We want to thank the auction buyers for their donations to these kids. Those of you who have participated in a livestock project know the hard work and dedication that these members have committed to this project, beginning with selection of their animal, preparing and caring for their animals at home and during the fair. Your support helps them to continue these projects. You are investing in the youth in our community, helping them to become responsible, productive, confident adults who could become the future business leaders in Cloud County.

Some of you, no matter your age, come to the fair to enjoy the carnival rides. We have had Great Plains Amusements provide the carnival rides and games for the last several years and plan on returning next year.

We want to thank the County Commissioners for providing the fair with Wind Farm Grant funds. This money was used to provide the community with pre-fair discounted carnival armbands. The armbands were reduced by an additional $5, thus giving the carnival riders a break in the price. A total of 672 discounted armbands were sold this year.

Looking toward next year, the fair board is always seeking new performers for the entertainment stage, whether it be local or area talent or the up and coming talent from Nashville. The board will start now planning and looking for next year’s entertainment lineup.

Lastly, we want to thank all the behind-the-scenes people, parents, grandparents, community groups and organizations, many of whom we may not be aware of, but who see a need and provide the helping hand when needed.

The Cloud County Fair Board says thank you for jobs well done.

See you next year at the fair!

— Danny McReynolds, a 36-year Concordia resident and employee of Cloud County Health Center, has been a 4-H volunteer leader for 29 years and has served more than 20 years as a member of the Cloud County Fair Board.  

Aug. 19, 2016: Are you really going to bring out the big guns? by Sarah Jenkins

August 19, 2016 by  

Sarah Jenkins

Sarah Jenkins

For nearly seven years, I have been the editor and coordinator of the “Year of Peace” columns that have been published in the Blade-Empire since the end of September 2009.

That means I have read every single word of every single column, written by young teens, college students and their instructors, Catholic sisters and social workers, even gardeners and graduates of impressive-sounding universities.

In fact, this is the 200th column.

Some have been incredibly well written.

A few have been truly touching.

A handful were inspirational.

And another handful were philosophical.

All have been heartfelt.

But in six-plus years, only one made me stop and honestly assess one aspect of “nonviolence” in my life — and what pulled me up short was just one line in that one column. It was in a column written by Kaleb Pounds, then an eighth-grader at Concordia Junior High School, and published on Feb. 26, 2010. This was the headline: ‘Disarming the heart’ means replacing negatives with positive action

And this was the one line:

“Practice using peaceful words.”

Maybe it’s the three decades I spent as a reporter and editor, including a short stint writing sports headlines. Maybe that explains why I favor action verbs — a sports headline writer can only use “win” so many times.

Then we start looking for verbs with more action, with more clout, if you will, with more oomph.

Like “beat,” “trounce,” “wallop,” “crush,” “conquer.”

(Come to think of it, the same verbs are often used in election coverage.)

In the wake of this summer’s violence — with Milwaukee being the most recent addition to a litany that now includes Baton Rouge, La., Falcon Heights, Minn., North Miami, Chicago and Dallas — there has been almost endless angst about a connection between violent language and violent action. But my own epiphany from Kaleb’s column was much more simple than that.

How often do I use violent language and imagery when peaceful words would work just as well?

I check out that latest killer app.

I want traffic to our website to explode.

I pull the trigger on a plan.

I blast through a meeting.

I’d kill for a pair of those shoes.

And then I wonder, is this really just semantics? Am I needlessly worrying about words when I know I’m not literally bringing out the big guns?

Maybe not.

The fact that I worry about it, even a little, means I stop to think — more often than not after the words have left my mouth, but I still stop to think.

I think about how the language of violence pervades so much of our speech; I think about how our speech portrays violent action without us even recognizing the fact.

And I worry that if we listen to kids talking to each other, it’s even worse.

(Much of what they say can’t be printed in a family newspaper, but trust me — it’s crude and violent and they don’t think we’re listening.)

But I am listening, and with my grandkids I ask them what the words mean, and I challenge them: Do those words really reflect who you are and how you act?

Then I ask them to join me in following Kaleb’s suggestion:

Practice using peaceful words.


— Sarah Jenkins was a newspaper reporter and then editor for 31 years. Today she is communications director for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.





Aug. 5, 2016: Community Foundation says, ‘Thanks, Cloud County!’ by Robert Steimel

August 5, 2016 by  

Robert Steimel

Robert Steimel

Thanks to the citizens of Cloud County, the Community Foundation for Cloud County was able to award grants of more than $445,000 to charitable organizations and charitable causes during its fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. Since the Foundation was established in October 2002, it has awarded grants of more than $1.7 million.

This is only possible because the citizens of Cloud County have taken to heart the “Keep 5 in Kansas” theme in their charitable giving. The citizens of Cloud County have donated more than $6.2 million to the 50-plus active funds in the Foundation. Since its inception, the Foundation has received donations from 1,366 donors, with memorial gifts ranging from $5 to more than $1,960,000. Fourteen individuals or organizations have donated more than $100,000 each to various funds in the Foundation.

During the one-day 2016 Match Madness drive, some 240 individual donors made gifts ranging from $10 (10 each) to 10 gifts of more than $1,000. In one day, gifts totaled $63,000 for the 25 Match Madness participating funds.

Thanks to all 1,366 donors, the Foundation has awarded 661 grants, including:

  • 125 interfund grants (ranging from $16 to $60,000), totaling more than $272,000;
  • 46 grants to the Cloud County Community College, totaling more than $152,000;
  • 27 grants to the Brown Grand Theatre, totaling more than $192,000;
  • 39 grants to the Cloud County Community Resource Council, totaling more than $102,000; and
  • 14 grants to the Concordia Rotary Club (park project) totaling, more than $152,000.

None of this is possible without the generosity of the citizens of Cloud County.

Thanks also go to all of the grant recipients who put the monies into action and provide the services to their clientele. Without you their needs would not be met.

The impact these contributors have on our county is unbelievable, but the most important part is that the total endowed assets of $6 million as of June 30, 2016, will continue to pay out a base of 5 percent — or $300,000 — each and every year for the charitable benefit to the citizens of Cloud County area. That does not include the $100,000 “pass through” monies the Foundation has received for each of the last two years from the Dane G. Hansen Community Grant Fund.

Thanks must also go to the 52 “Founders” who had the foresight and vision to donate $5,000 each to establish the Community Foundation for Cloud County. And thanks go to the 44 “Builders” who donated new endowed monies to the Foundation so it would earn and receive the $300,000 matching grant from the Kansas Health Foundation Grow II Program. Then, thanks to the 240 individuals and businesses who participated in the 2016 Match Madness program and thanks to all of the 1,366 contributors over the past 14 years. Without you, none of this would be reality.

This is just the tip of the generosity of the citizens of Cloud County. It does not consider the charitable giving to the churches and to the nonprofits directly. Nor does it consider the volunteer hours donated to the various charities, activities and projects here in Cloud County.

Thank you! Please feel free to join us.

— Robert Steimel is a retired CPA and partner with Kennedy and Coe LLC who serves as the volunteer executive director of the Community Foundation for Cloud County. He and his wife, Lorene, live in Concordia and are members of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.


July 15, 2016: National Night Out is a new summer tradition, by Patrick Sieben

July 15, 2016 by  

Patrick Sieben

Patrick Sieben

The long, hot summer days are upon us. The long postponed home improvement projects are finally starting to be addressed. The wheat is in and the beans will be soon. The Royals are defending their 2015 World Series title.

This is summer in Kansas.

There is one more event that is becoming a tradition in Concordia, and that is the National Night Out. This year, Concordians can join with the Year Of Peace Committee and the Police Department in observing this event on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

Just what is National Night Out?

It is an evening to get to know your neighbors and your neighborhood. It’s a chance to step away from the television or computer screen and go out on your front porch, or attend one of the numerous block parties that will be held about town, and talk — face to face instead of Facebook, no email, no Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat. You can have an actual conversation with people who live around you! Get to know them, or get to know them better.

The evening is a great time for casual conversation about what’s going on in your life. But it is also a time for a bit of serious conversation about neighborhood safety. Things like locking up, turning on a light, trimming shrubs that obscure windows, etc.

But most of all, it’s a time to just be neighborly. Enjoy the company of the folks next door or across the street.

In 2011 — the first time Concordia took part in what’s called “America’s Night Out Against Crime” — more than 25 neighborhoods planned events and a number of others held informal front-yard get-togethers. Each year since then neighborhoods across the city have taken part.

National Night Out is now in its 33rd year, and more than 16,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide are expected to take part this year.

So we encourage you at least attend, or better still, host a National Night Out block party. If you are interested in hosting a neighborhood get-together and would like a visit from the Concordia Police Department to discuss safety or other concerns, you may obtain more information and register with Ambria Gilliland at 243-2113, ext. 1221, or (And organizers who “register” their activities will get free National Night Out yard signs and balloons to mark the spot.)

We hope to see all Concordians taking part in National Night Out on Aug. 2.

Enjoy the summer, the harvest, the Royals, and most of all, each other!


— Patrick Sieben is the Director of Bands at Cloud County Community College and a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.


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