Concordia missionary to carry Little Dresses to Africa

June 19, 2012

During a visit this week to Neighbor to Neighbor, Chelsey Horkman chats about her upcoming mission to Africa.

The Little Dresses for Africa will soon be headed to Africa, packed in the luggage of a Concordia woman who will serve as a missionary in Burkina Faso for the next three years.

Chelsey Horkman learned about the 100 dresses made by women at Neighbor to Neighbor through a fellow member of The Wesleyan Church in Concordia. In fact, it was that church member, Sandi Hubert, who took the idea for the project to the women’s center in downtown Concordia to begin with.

Sandi Hubert shows off a "Little Dress" made from sunflower fabric as women gathered at Neighbor to Neighbor this week to meet Chelsey Horkman.

When Hubert first learned about the Little Dresses for Africa project from a sewing program on television, she talked with Sister Jean Befort at Neighbor to Neighbor about it. Sister Jean in turn talked with Sister Ramona Medina, another of the three Sisters of St. Joseph who run the center, and before long there was something of a mini manufacturing line of sewing machines set up.

More than a dozen women embraced the project and by early May they were halfway to their goal of 100 little dresses. As word about the project got out, donations of fabrics, thread and other sewing notions flowed in.

Then Hubert asked Horkman to help deliver the completed dresses when she goes to the small West African nation of Burkina Faso next month.

Horkman, a Concordia native and graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, has being studying French in Quebec, Canada, for the past year as preparation for a three-year mission with Child Evangelism Fellowship. She leaves for Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, in mid-July.

There are three other CEF missionaries serving in Burkina Faso, she noted, but she is the first  non-native to serve there and will be the only one in the capital city.

The small nation of Burkina Faso is within the red square.

Burkina Faso is roughly the same size as the state of Colorado but has about 3½ times as many people. The high population density and limited natural resources — issues shared with its neighboring countries — make that area of West Africa one of the poorest regions in the world. About 60 of the Burkinabe people are Muslim and another 15 percent practice tribal religions, with the remainder predominantly Catholic, according to the World Factbook.

The 25-year-old missionary, the daughter of John and Marj Horkman of Concordia, has already been to the equatorial nation three times, but each visit was for just a month. This time she is committed to a three-year stay with the goal of starting “Good News Clubs” for children and then teaching others to carry on her work.

Her goal in Ouagadougou, a city of about 2 million people, is “building relationships” with children as a way of introducing them to Christ.

That goal seems to blend perfectly with the Michigan-based Little Dresses for Africa Inc., a nonprofit Christian organization that began in 2007.

Founder Rachel O’Neill of Brownstown, Mich., believes that Little Dresses for Africa deliver a small dose of hope and love to girls across the poorest regions of Africa (and now, around the world), in the form of simple sheaths sewn by volunteers using mostly donated fabric and notions and then delivered by individual travelers — whether tourists, mission workers and even a National Geographic photographer — to wherever they’re needed.

So far more than 560,000 dresses from all 50 states have been distributed in 31 African countries, as well as Honduras, Guatemala, The Philippines, Cambodia, Mexico, Haiti and poverty-stricken areas in the United States.

Horkman will add to that flow 100 more dresses — each with a matching hair band and a label that reads “Made with care, especially for you by your friends at Neighbor to Neighbor, Concordia, Kan., USA.”

But that doesn’t mean the project is completed for the women at Neighbor to Neighbor, Sister Ramona adds with a laugh. “Now we’ll just start on the next 100.”

 

More about ‘Little Dresses’

The Little Dresses for Africa — sometimes called “pillowcase dresses” because the simplest way to make them is from pillowcases — are brightly colored sheaths with ribbon ties at each shoulder.

To create them, the downtown Neighbor to Neighbor center has become something of a mini-manufacturing line: On a recent afternoon, it includes one woman to cut the fabric, another to sew the seams, another to add binding to the edges and sew on the ties, still another to add the label (“Made with care, especially for you by your friends at Neighbor to Neighbor, Concordia, Kan., USA”) and a final woman to iron and package the dress and its also-handmade matching hair band.

To learn more about Little Dresses for Africa, you can go to the organization’s website: http://www.littledressesforafrica.org/

 

Community Garden receives grant from Kansas Project

April 18, 2012

The Concordia Community Garden of Hope has been awarded a $2,150 grant through the Kansas Community Gardens Project, a joint initiative of the Kansas Health Foundation and K-State Research and Extension. The Concordia garden is one of only 24 projects in the state to receive this funding, which will help pay to build raised garden beds for those with limited mobility and to purchase compost tumblers.

The Concordia Community Garden, on the northeast corner of the Nazareth Motherhouse property at 13th and Broadway streets, opened for its third growing season earlier this month. There are 32 plots that are rented by people from throughout Concordia, with the Sisters of St. Joseph providing use of the land as well as water, mulch and seasonal maintenance.

From fostering a greater level of community involvement, to providing healthy foods for schools and nonprofit events, to the personal health of individuals, community garden projects can make a lasting and positive impact on their communities. Through the Kansas Community Gardens Project, the Kansas Health Foundation and K-State Research and Extension look to spread these benefits throughout Kansas by providing not only the grant funds, but also information and assistance to help make the individual garden projects successful community ventures.

Grant recipients were selected through a competitive application process, which drew interest from organizations and gardens throughout the state. The Kansas Community Gardens Project is a three-year initiative, with this year’s recipients representing the first of more than 60 gardens that will eventually join the program.

“This grant has provided a tremendous opportunity for reaching out across the state to help people grow their own fresh produce. We anticipate a significant number of people will be impacted by this generous award as our goal is that each of these gardens still be thriving in a sustainable way in 10 years,” said Dr. Cheryl Boyer, assistant professor and extension specialist, ornamental nursery crops, with K-State Research and Extension. “We are proud of the quality, variety and geographic coverage of the proposals we received this year and that we were able to fund so many great projects.”

“As winter turns into spring, people naturally begin thinking about getting outside and starting a garden,” said Steve Coen, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation. “Through the Kansas Community Gardens Project, our hope is that people will take that desire and energy and channel it into contributing to a community garden for the benefit of their entire community.”

For more information about the Concordia Community Garden or to learn how you can participate, contact Cecilia Thrash at Manna House of Prayer, 785-243-4428 or retreatcenter@mannahouse.org.

To speak with someone in more detail about the Kansas Community Gardens Project, please contact Cheryl Boyer (785-532-3504 or crboyer@ksu.edu) or Evelyn Neier (785-410-3760 or eneier@ksu.edu).

 

Sisters welcome guests to annual fundraising dinner

March 25, 2012

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, right, helps Holly Brown and James Willcox mix up all the tickets in the drawing for $500 cash during Sunday's Spaghetti Dinner at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Some 430 guests plus scores of volunteers and Sisters of St. Joseph packed the Nazareth Motherhouse this afternoon for the annual fundraising Spaghetti Dinner.

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Part of the lure was a hearty dinner, complete with ice cream and beverages, along with performances by local musicians throughout the afternoon, a bake sale, grab bags and showings of the “Sunflower Journeys” 2008 segment celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. But drawings for nine prizes — all donated for the event — also drew participants to the Sunday afternoon event.

The prizes, listed with each winner, were:

  • $500 cash — Deb Blackwood of Clyde, Kan.
  • Apple iPad — Megan Nulf of Bartelsville, Okla.
  • Kenmore Gas Grill — Keith Sells of Belleville, Kan.
  • Quilt, handmade by Sister Betty Suther — Margaret Denneler of  Colby , Kan.
  • Handmade Stuffed Dinosaur Pair — Elijah Tremblay of Emporia, Kan.
  • $250 Rod’s Gift Card — Kenneth Hammerbacher of Belleville, Kan.
  • $100 Target Gift Card — Leanna Rexford of Ponca City, Okla.
  • $100 Lowe’s Gift Card — Mary Ann Palmquist of Concordia
  • $100 Applebee’s Gift Card — Maxine Boling of Clyde, Kan.

Musicians who performed during the dinner were Jane and Amanda Wahlmeier, Sarah Harvey, Gina Sanders and Sister Lucy Schneider.

A special guest at the dinner was Irene Saulnier of Concordia, who attended with numerous family members. Emcee Cheryl Lyn Higgins introduced Mrs. Saulnier to the crowd and had them join in singing “Happy Birthday” to her, in advance of her 100th birthday later this week.

Lunch participants learn about anti-poverty ‘Circles’

February 23, 2012

An anti-poverty initiative that brings together struggling families and community mentors might be a way to help people in Concordia, those attending Thursday’s “working lunch” at the Nazareth Motherhouse learned.

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Jennifer Stull, who works in the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Initiatives office, has been researching the national Circles Campaign, which to date has programs in 62 communities across 23 states. In Kansas, Stull said, there are Circles operating in Newton, Hutchinson and McPherson.

“This idea connects everything we’ve been talking about today,” Stull told the nearly 40 people attending the lunch, which was the 17th session in the Community Needs Forum, a process that started in the fall of 2008. The idea from the very first has been to bring together people from throughout Concordia to identify what participants see as the greatest needs in the community and then work to seek solutions.

From the start poverty has been a major concern. But, noted Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, attempts to tackle the issues surrounding poverty in Concordia have “sputtered” despite continued concern for people living in poverty.

Stull said that the Circles campaign is designed to recruit “people who are tired of living in poverty” and who are willing to “take a very tough look at their lives” in the intensive program. Those people are the Circle Leaders, who are then joined by Circle Allies — volunteers from middle-classes or higher-income families who mentor and support the Leaders as they set goals and work toward them.

Stull said one of the strengths of the Circles design is that while it recognizes the importance of the “safety net” of social services that exists for families living in poverty, the long-term goal is for families to no longer need those services.

Speaking to representatives from social service agencies attending the lunch, she said, “Your services are there to help people facing tough times, and the Circles help them change their lives so the times aren’t as tough.”

Stull said that the Sisters of St. Joseph are researching how the Circles work, especially in Newton, Kan., which has had the program in place for about two years. A contingent of sisters from Concordia plan a trip to Newton in the next week or so to learn more.

Stull said there are still many questions to be answered about how the program works, how participants are recruited and how it’s all funded.

She will present a more detailed report at the next working lunch on May 16.

There were also a variety of updates and announcements at Thursday’s lunch:

  •  Signature sheets for the 2012 Civility Pledge will be circulated beginning today. In each of the past two years, the Concordia Year of Peace Committee has collected signatures on the pledge for “civility in public discourse,” and has then published those signatures in space donated by the Concordia Blade-Empire. The deadline for turning in signatures is March 30, and the signature sheets are also available to download as a PDF. CLICK HERE to go to that site.
  •  On March 12, at 7 p.m., there will be free public presentation titled “Social Hosting 101,” which will look at the law and potential consequences of hosting parties where alcohol is served to underage drinkers. This is the first in a series titled “Alcohol and Drug Information 101,” which will be on the second Monday of each month and will cover a variety of topics about drug and alcohol use and abuse. Jim Kerr, a member of the Cloud County Chemical Dependency Committee that’s sponsoring the series, encouraged parents and young people to come and learn more. The free presentation will be at Cook Theatre at Cloud County Community College.
  •  There are still three plots available in the Concordia Community Garden of Hope, according to coordinator Cecilia Thrash, who works at Manna House of Prayer. The garden is on the northeast corner of the Motherhouse property and plots cost $13 to rent for the entire growing season. Weather permitting, the garden will open this year on March 15, Thrash said. For information or to sign up for a plot, call Manna House at 243-4428.
  •  The county extension office is again encouraging Concordians to take part in Walk Kansas, an eight-week team fitness program that begins March 18. Information is available at the extension office in the Cloud County Courthouse.
  •  The annual Nazareth Motherhouse Spaghetti Dinner is set for Sunday, March 25. Dinner will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., plus there will be prize drawings, live musical entertainment, grab bags, a bake sale and guided tours of the historic building. Tickets in advance are $8 for adults and $4 for children 5 to 12. (Kids 4 and younger eat free.) To reserve your tickets, call or email the sisters’ Development Office: eweddle@csjkansas.org or 243-2113, ext. 1223.
  •  There’s a Cancer Support Group that meets on the third Tuesday of each month at the Motherhouse, and Jane Wahlmeier encouraged those attending the working lunch to spread the word about the group. It’s open to any cancer patients and cancer survivors, their family members and their caregivers. For information on the group, call Wahlmeier at 243-2113, ext. 1101.