Sisters offer help to meet community needs

January 19, 2009 by

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski presents details from a two-month community survey conducted by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, during a meeting Tuesday, Jan. 13, at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski presents details from a two-month community survey conducted by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, during a meeting Tuesday, Jan. 13, at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Kim Krull, from Cloud County Community College, speaks to the group during Tuesday’s Community Needs Forum at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia.

Kim Krull, from Cloud County Community College, speaks to the group during Tuesday’s Community Needs Forum at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia.

One community member said he was “taken aback” to learn that providing mental health services rated as the No. 1 need in Concordia, based on a two-month survey conducted by the Sisters of St. Joseph. But others among the 20 or so community members who attended a presentation and discussion at the Nazareth Motherhouse Tuesday, Jan. 13,  were not surprised.

In fact, several of those representing agencies and organizations from throughout Concordia said they were relieved to hear that others also placed a high priority on finding solutions for a wide range of mental health issues.

“We have resources in this community,” said Cameron Presler of the Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas, “but do we know about them? In my five years, we’ve never had this type of meeting.”

Tuesday’s hourlong session came as the result of a series of lunches the Sisters of St. Joseph held between early October and early December. At each, Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Concordia-based Catholic religious order, invited representatives from a wide range of local organizations and government agencies to talk about what they saw as needs in the community.

From that, Sister Marcia Allen and Sister Jean Rosemarynoski put together a report that included the participants’ observations as well as local statistics.

“We really do want to find ways to be of service where there are needs,” Sister Marcia told the group Tuesday. “We’d like to get our direction from you folks.”

The top concerns identified in the report were:

• Mental health needs, ranging from more emergency services, more providers so assessments and appointments could be handled more quickly, and better access to substance abuse treatment, anger management and conflict resolution skills and on-going parenting classes.

• The high rate of sexual abuse and assault, with incidents continuing to increase across all ages.

• The high number of children in foster care, with some participants questioning the motives or training of some foster parents.

• Poverty and the issues that accompany it, including the need for financial assistance with medical care, utility bills, food costs and childcare, as well as a growing problem with transient families and homelessness. The report noted that 54 percent of school-age children in Cloud County qualify for free or reduced lunches. That’s up from 47.3 percent in 2006, according to the national Kids Count survey.

• Community “morale” and support for Concordia, which translates into “negativity that keeps Concordia from moving forward as readily as it could,” according to the report.

• A lack of activities for youth and college students, demonstrated by the uncertain funding of the Club 81 a youth center.

• The need for more volunteers at every level of the community.

Groups and agencies represented at Tuesday’s forum included the Cloud County Health Center, Cloud County Resource Center, Cloud County Community College, Manna House of Prayer, the Concordia Police Department, Concordia Public Schools, the Court Appointed Special Advocates program (CASA) and Cloud Corp.

Sister Marcia  said she was impressed with the thought-provoking discussion during Tuesday’s forum. “This room has a wealth of resources,” she told the group.

She also agreed with a suggestion from former Cloud County judge Kathryn Carter to reconvene the participants within the next few weeks for a working lunch to set priorities and begin working toward solutions.

That meeting will be open to anyone in the community who’s interested in attending. To take part, call Sister Jean at 243-2149 or e-mail her at sisterjean@csjkansas.org.

“That will give us a chance to mull this all over and work on the subheads,” Carter said.

The Sisters of St. Joseph launched the initiative after a new seven-member Leadership Council was elected in July. Sisters Marcia and Jean, both members of the Leadership Council, see it as a way of re-emphasizing the service the order has given to the community during its 125-year history in Concordia.

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