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.

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