Making “Aging in Place” a Real Possibility

Erin Schmidt

Lawrence Habitat for Humanity is celebrating its thirtieth year in the community by adding a new program called “Aging in Place.”

Erin Schmidt, coordinator for the initiative, explains that homeowners already trust Habitat for Humanity to give them dependable and affordable work and interest-free loans. The aim of the new program is to extend that reputation to help senior homeowners in Douglas and Jefferson Counties continue to live in their own homes safely and independently for as many years as possible.

The “Aging in Place” program will tackle external and relatively small home repairs and improvements. Applicants may need ramps; handrails; removal of trip/fall hazards; house painting; porch repair; gutter/soffit repair; siding repair; and/or minor roof repair. It is not an emergency service.

To be qualified for “Aging in Place,” a homeowner must be age 55 or older, live in the home to be repaired, and have income less than 80% of the median household income ($4,079/month). The average applicant is 70 years old, has 44% of the median income, and pays $277 for materials. Repayment for materials costs is based on a sliding scale, likely in the form of interest-free loans for materials. There is no labor cost, as the work is done by volunteers.

As with other Habitat for Humanity programs, recipients are expected to invest in the work. For seniors, this investment will likely be in “social equity,” depending on what they are able to contribute. They may write thank you notes, bake cookies for workers, or help others who live in the neighborhood.

Kansas Land Trust Protects and Preserves

Jerry Jost speaks to Rotarians

Jerry Jost explained that the Kansas Land Trust (KLT) has been protecting land and water in Kansas for 29 years. During that time, KLT has permanently conserved 74 properties equaling nearly 39,000 acres.

The KLT works to protect and preserve land of ecological, agricultural, scenic, historic, or recreational significance in Kansas. Thus, the protected acres may be virgin prairie, prime farmland, stream banks, or woodland. Nearly 30,000 acres of land in the Flint Hills falls within KLT protection. Six properties preserve threatened species. Protected property may or may not allow public access.

When property owners place land into the trust, they retain ownership, but create conservation easements.The easements are voluntary arrangements in which the owner gives up certain options for using the land in exchange for the protection of the land in perpetuity .  Thus, they also end up contributing some portion of the equity in the property to the Kansas Land Trust.  Each trust is negotiated individually.  

Visiting Nurses of Douglas County Celebrates Fifty Years

“We come in as strangers. We leave as friends.”

This phrase summarizes the impact of Douglas County Visiting Nurses Association in the community during the past fifty years. Lori McSorley, business development manager for the organization, told the story.

Over the years, Visiting Nurses has had six different offices and a number of dedicated directors.  Currently the organization houses at Bert Nash.  Cynthia Lewis has been CEO since 2013.

Services expanded from home health and rehabilitation to include hospice care in 1981.  In 2010, the organization began providing non-medical assistance through “Help at Home.”  Visiting Nurses has made over 1,580,000 visits to more than 38,000 patients since they began.

Funding remains a challenge as federal reimbursements to Medicare continue to be reduced, but Visiting Nurses remains dedicated to serving everyone, whether or not they can pay.  

Find “high quality comfort food” at Leeway Franks

K Meisel knows Leeway Franks well. She and her husband Lee established the restaurant in 2015. This fall, they have expanded to include a butcher shop. K’s husband Lee is owner-operator, chef and butcher of Leeway Franks and Leeway Butcher. K is the co-owner and business administrator for Leeway Enterprises.

Leeway Franks offers “high-quality comfort food.” The flavors are “approachable” and “memory driven,” according to K, inspired by family recipes that appeal to all ages.

Leeway Butcher serves as a retail outlet for handcrafted sausages, meat cuts including steaks and chops, deli meats, sandwiches, and more. The shop also offers custom processing and cut-to-order bundles. Meats are sourced from small Kansas farms and livestock producers with an emphasis on humane production methods and sustainable agriculture.

Lee Meisel was born into a cattle ranching family in North Dakota. A member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Lee was schooled in old-world style butchery, sausage making and meat processing. He brought his trade to Lawrence in 2005. Lee earned a business degree from Haskell Indian Nations University and spent more than two decades in the food service industry as a butcher, manager and chef before opening Leeway Franks.

Leeway Franks has won accolades as a Native American-owned certified Minority Business Enterprise. It was named “Minority-Owned Retail Business of the Year” by the Kansas Department of Commerce (2016 & 2018); “Top 50 Native American Entrepreneurs” by Native Business Magazine (2019); and “Emerging Small Business of the Year” by Kansas Small Business Development Center (2019).

Youth Benefit from LCR Support

It was a day for young achievers at Lawrence Central Rotary as two high school students reported on club-sponsored summer activities.

Hamidat Asuku received a financial award from the club to help her participate in the Sister Cities student exchange trip to Hiratsuka, Japan. Hamidat shared images of her trip and her impressions of Hiratsuka, which she described as safe, clean and pleasant, with a small town atmosphere.

The most memorable part of the trip was her host family who were very kind and made her feel welcomed. Hamidat is studying Japanese, but she was grateful that the host family spoke English. She was impressed with the interesting and tasty variety of food she was served. The “host dog” was great fun, and it went along on various excursions. Hamidat enjoyed trips to museums, places and to the beach. She would very much like to return to Japan. Hamidat’s mother, Billy Asuku, was present at the meeting.

Shreya Bhaka, daughter of club member Sam Bhaka and his wife Rohini, was selected by the club to attend Rotary Youth Leadership Academy (RYLA). Some sixty students assembled in Lawrence this summer for a week of presentations on leadership and various civic and social issues.

Shreya enjoyed working with the mix of students drawn from schools in the area. The students formed small work groups and took on such topics as “the state brain-drain” and activities such as preparing care packages for tornado victims. They also learned about Rotary service options for young people as well as other avenues for service. Shreya spoke of numerous new friendships and intends to maintain contact with others in the group to create a forum of RYLA attendees for sharing school issues and ideas in the coming year.

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