Independence, Inc. in Lawrence serves both people with disabilities and the communities where they live. Organized in 1978, the agency was the first Center for Independent Living (CIL) in the area, according to Bob Mikesic, co-director for the agency. Currently, it is one of about 400 CILs across the nation. Douglas, Franklin, and Jefferson counties benefit from its programs and services.
Cooking is one of the most popular classes that the agency offers among its training programs. In addition to teaching such independent living skills, classes create friendships and good times among peers who use the agency. In addition, Independence, Inc. provides advocacy, peer counseling, information and referral, and transition services of various types. It can also help to locate assistive technology, telecommunications access, and medical equipment for the disabled. Disabled people can find a ride to a medical appointment, learn to manage their finances, and get a document transcribed into Braille at Independence, Inc. The youth employment program provides jobs for young people with disabilities aged 15 to 21. The Haskell Avenue location houses a computer learning center and accessible meeting rooms as well as agency offices.
By promoting self-reliance and advocating personal rights and choices, Centers for Independence work to make individuals productive and to stay interconnected with their communities. There were no laws requiring accessibility or reasonable accommodation when CIL initiatives began in the 1960s, and employment options for the disabled were limited. After years of advocacy, CILs saw Congress pass the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, a law that provided rules and regulations to open the door for disabled people to manage a job and their own lives. More recently, one-third of the people who benefited from the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid were the disabled.
Van Go is a unique and creative non-profit program that has provided employment, guidance, and success for disadvantaged youth in the Lawrence community. Development Director Eliza Darmon presented the story of this award -winning program started 20 years ago by Lynn Green with a modest Arts Commission grant.
Van Go has grown into an arts based social service and jobs program serving at-risk teens aged 14-24. Van Go operates a year-round after school and summer job training experience utilizing local businesses, nonprofits, and community members who provide over 100 youth employment opportunities annually. Young people are usually referred to Van Go through school social workers and have an IEP, a mental health diagnosis or have been in the court system. Some 70 percent of these young people live in poverty. Accordingly, the program is committed to providing a support system which includes academics and tutoring, counseling, encouraging a healthy lifestyle and other life skills. Clients participate in Bench Mark, an eight weeks employment program in which a bench is constructed and placed in the community. The Adornment program employs 22 clients to produce art and decorations for the yearly Van Go recognition ceremony. Young people also plan and paint a mural each spring. A tile recognition wall also provides employment with colorful fused tiles representing over 700 donors.
Van Go has a budget of $743,000 with almost half coming from Federal, City and County funding. The rest comes from donations, fundraisers, art sales, two well-attended annual dinners, and an on-site gallery that is open 9:00 am through 5:00 pm. The Van Go website is http://www.van-go.org/.
The Senior Resource Center of Douglas County (SRC) has recently redefined its mission and rebranded itself as an information clearinghouse. The organization is now focused on helping people navigate the complexity of resources in the Lawrence area that are available to seniors, according to Marvel Williamson, director of the agency.
Nowadays it is commonly understood that there are three stages of aging: (1) active seniors who need limited assistance to participate in a community; (2) seniors who are facing a life event that limits them in some way and who need a particular set of support services in order to remain self-sufficient and connected to the community; and (3) individuals who are heavily dependent on support services for their daily routines.
When it was established in the 1970s, Douglas County Senior Services (DCSS) was a centerpiece of activity for all seniors in downtown Lawrence, a role it continued to play through the 1990s. During a recent strategic planning process, however, DSSC staff realized that the agency was serving a small population of the most vulnerable and that they interacted with active seniors only infrequently. The need was clear: re-invent DSSC in order to meet the needs of all three constituencies.
Senior Resource Center is doing just that. 2017 is a year of “building capacity” for its new mission. The agency has adopted its new name, designed a logo, and developed a website at www.yourSRC.org that identifies it as a resource and referral point. At the same time, it has taken care to maintain support services to seniors: meal delivery, rides for those who need them, a calendar of social and educational activities, and technical and legal assistance, among many others. The agency has catalogued the multiple non-profit and business resources in the community, including identifying seniors who can help each other in various ways. Professionals in the field can also use the Center as a place to network in periodic “summits,” Williamson envisions.
Funding for Senior Resource Center comes from Douglas County. The balance of the $1 million annual budget is met through grants and gifts. The City of Lawrence provides space for the agency and its programs. Because the longtime physical office and gathering spaces in downtown Lawrence are currently under renovation, the agency staff is working at Peasley Technical Center for the year. Currently, there are nine full time employees and 20 who work part time.
The City of Lawrence was one of the first communities in the nation to establish a Fair Housing Ordinance, said local historian Tom Arnold. This important event took place in Lawrence in July 1967, well before the federal Fair Housing Act was enacted in 1968.
Tom Arnold has spent the past months doing research and developing an oral history to commemorate the passage of Lawrence’s Fair Housing Ordinance fifty years ago. After thirty years in the U.S. Navy, Tom came to Lawrence to teach Naval Science at KU for three years as an adjunct professor. He retired from the University six years ago and began volunteering at the Watkins Museum. As the anniversary of the Fair Housing Ordinance approached, Arnold took the archival work that began in the City Attorney’s office by LCR member Scott Wagner, Management Analyst, and accepted the task of developing an oral history to complement the historical documents. Those interviews were conducted in October and November 2016. The goal was to get the personal perspectives and motives of individuals who participated in this important set of decisions in Lawrence during the 1960s. Arnold conducted nine interviews with eleven people, generating twelve hours of recordings. The recordings have now been transcribed so that they are searchable for future research needs.
The milestone anniversary of the Fair Housing Ordinance will be celebrated with a variety of events and displays during the coming months. There will be a visual display at the Watkins Museum and a traveling exhibit as well. Documents will be archived at the KU Spencer Museum.
The Lawrence Human Rights Commission (HRC) was established in 1961. Before that time, none of the public swimming pools were open to non-whites. Businesses routinely segregated Afro-Americans and even refused services.
The Fair Housing initiative began as a grassroots movement among Lawrence citizens in 1964 when the Lawrence Fair Housing Committee formed. Attempts to pass state legislation on Fair Housing failed, so the group transferred their focus to the local level. The Lawrence Ordinance was the result of effort and risk-taking by many to address the housing discrimination and inequities that existed in the Lawrence community. The Committee sent a resolution to the Human Relations Commission of the City of Lawrence in 1967. By that time, there was broad support.
Many community groups and churches collaborated to bring this significant milestone to reality:
• The ground for the Fair Housing Ordinance had been laid by community groups that were organized before the 1960s. The Lawrence League for the Promotion of Democracy started in 1945. This group joined the Fair Housing initiative in 1954 when it found that there was much discrimination in housing in Lawrence. At that time, the League found that only 2% of Kansas housing was available to non-whites.
• NAACP began in Lawrence during World War II. The group generated a map of the areas in the community where Afro-Americans lived in 1963-1964. At that time, few blacks lived outside of neighborhoods in East and North Lawrence and Old West Lawrence.
• Church Women United did a study in 1964 and found that it was NOT true that desegregation lowered property values. They found more support for Fair Housing in Lawrence than anticipated.
• The faculty at the University of Kansas spoke strongly for Fair Housing. They were less vulnerable to criticism than business leaders who risked losing business because of these ideas. KU Vice Chancellor James Surface, basketball coach Ted Owens, and KU athletes all advocated for the anti-segregation.
“Question everything!” says Dr. Roger Dreiling, head of Cardiology Services at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. It was advice that he received from a mentor early in his medical career. Questioning led Dreiling to solve emergency situations in innovative ways and to avoid recommending procedures that had not been through rigorous medical trials. He believes that doctors who ask questions are more likely to use the correct medical tool or procedure and to refer patients to the most appropriate area of expertise to address their health problems.
Dr. Dreiling described the evolution of treatments used to help patients suffering from heart disease. It was a questioning approach that led to innovations. Years ago, for example, doctors knew that the drugs prescribed to help with some of the symptoms of heart disease caused dangerous side effects. Some physicians experimented with treatment using angioplasty, even though that course of action was not approved by the profession at the time. By 1993, the use of angioplasty emerged as the safest and best alternative for many patients. Dreiling prefers to use this procedure at LMH to avoid the side effects of drugs and the dangers of surgical options whenever possible.
From thirty to fifty people present with symptoms of a heart attack (acute myocardial infraction) at the Cardiac Cath Lab at Lawrence Memorial Hospital each year. Dreiling and his team of doctors, surgeons, and technicians respond to those situations 24/7, frequently using angioplasty. The department has very low mortality rate—only 5%. They have saved hundreds of lives during the past nine years.
Trained in pharmacology before he pursued a medical degree at University of Kansas School of Medical, Dr. Dreiling is board certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Interventional Cardiology.
In introducing District Governor Chris Ford, Lawrence Central President Jim Peters listed the club’s activities, both local and international. He named community bike rides, wreath sales, and fireside dinners as well as support for LiveWell Lawrence, Willow Domestic Violence Center, Salvation Army bell ringing, the Rotary Arboretum, and internationally, support for Shelter Boxes, the Open World Program, and Sister Cities, among many others.
“We’re a ‘DO IT’ club,” Peters said.
This attitude emphasized Ford’s theme of creating an active, vital group. Ford is passionate about Rotary, both its future and its past. He began his talk with a quote from founder Paul Harris that illustrates that enthusiasm. “Be passionate about Rotary. Embrace change,” Harris wrote in 1907 when the social club he had started in 1905 became a service club. “Paul Harris had real foresight,” Ford said. “He said for Rotary to achieve its proper destiny, it must be evolutionary and, at times, revolutionary.”
Ford said his goal for 2017 is 3,000 Rotarians in District 5710. “We’re a small district with 45 clubs. I want a growth rate of 20% for our clubs.“ He outlined three goals for Rotary clubs: new members, retention of current members, and improved attendance. He said we must inspire members to stay in Rotary and have the quality of programs that will keep attendance high. Rotary projects are important. Polio has been conquered but other worldwide concerns include literacy and education, maternal and child health, clean water, and a host of others.
Ford closed his talk with an invitation to the District Conference, May 5-6, in Overland Park. His goal for the conference is to make it inspirational with more Rotarians attending. “The conference,“ he said “is to celebrate Rotary.”
Brandon grew up in Hoxie, Kansas where he spent many hours working in the family grocery store. That early experience and a desire to serve the community made his commitment to Just Food a good match.
Just Food supplies more than 40 partner agencies with fresh produce, frozen meat, bread and other food. Client services also include instruction on growing vegetables and healthy cooking classes. The organization believes that access to nutritious food is a fundamental human right and they also teach self- sufficiency.
Just Food collaborates with numerous community partners and over 400 annual food drives. Gifts of cash are particularly welcome as currency provides the most efficient way feed people. An annual dance and a fundraising dinner both receive considerable community support. The Just Food Pantry is open five days a week and clients may fill a bag or box with food once a month. However, fresh vegetables and bread are available daily. A mobile food pantry and several other pantry sites also serve clients.
Client eligibility is capped at 185 % of the Federal Poverty Index, that translates into some 19,000 people in Douglas County who are identified at risk or in need of food. The need is great, as Just Food served 13,000 clients in 2016, all by 3.75 employees and gracious volunteers clocked in over 18,000 hours.
Brandon concluded that there still is a great need and the community response has been gratifying. For more information about Just Food visit their website at http://justfoodks.org/
The Spence Museum’s Director of External Affairs Margaret Perkins McGuiness brought Lawrence Central Rotarians up to date on renovations at the museum as well as filling them in on museum history at the Rotary meeting on January 11. Using slides and a video, she detailed the museum story beginning with gifts of art from Mrs. Thayer of the Emery Bird Thayer Company in Kansas City and contributions from Helen Forsman Spencer .
The museum has gone from being housed in Spooner Hall in 1895 to its own building which is now being enlarged and modernized to make exhibits even more accessible, especially for art classes. “The museum will be brighter, more welcoming,” McGuiness said “with smaller, flexible exhibits that can be moved more quickly. And there will be more art outside around the museum,” she said.
Begun with Mrs. Thayer’s collection, expanded by Mrs. Spencer, the museum began an internship program in the 1980s, and is part of the Mellon Foundation Academic Programs.
“We are adding staff members to work with this, “McGuiness said. “The Spencer is one of the leading art education museums in the country, counting the curator of the Manhattan Museum of Modern Art as an alumnus.”
The collections range from works by Thomas Hart Benton to Andy Warhol, and include a western collection, very contemporary types of art in a room recently built especially for them, and “cabinets of curiosities” –smaller items in collection.
“Our goal in this renovation,” McGuiness said “ is to make the museum a part of the campus transformation. We want to make it more inviting, with more space for teaching, more open, more functional.
“We want visitors to the museum to look at art, look around and look inward.”
Swan, a past president of Lawrence Central, was chosen for a year-long fellowship to travel in Latin America and to attend the University of Bueno Aires. Arriving there, he began to hear rumors of a coup and decided to attend Catholic University of Salvador in Buenos Aires instead, fortunately as the University of Buenos Aires was closed.
During his 10 months in Argentina, he conducted research on the Peronista movement, culminating in interviews with associates of Juan Peron’s second wife, Isabelita, and a five-page letter from Peron himself answering Swan’s questions.
He traveled widely while he was in Latin America, being hosted by Rotarians and, at one point was joined by his parents from Topeka. In both Buenos Aires and Cordoba he presented programs on American folk music. He also interviewed three other Argentinian former presidents, Gen. Pedro Aramburu, Dr. Arthur Frondizi and Arturo Illia.
He said that what impressed him most during his fellowship were the remarkable world natural and cultural sites of the southern hemisphere and a strong lasting impression of the prestige and position of Rotary and its highly successful members in South America.
One of 50 fellows chosen world wide that year he said “thinking back 50 years now on all the experiences of 1966 and early 1967 I feel very positive about the 11 months I spent representing Rotary International and the United States in Latin America.”
Many families gather to take pictures and tell stories during the holiday season and on December 14 Lawrence Central Rotary followed that trend. Instead of having a speaker or a program, each member told stories about holiday gatherings in the past and plans for this year. Past holidays included everything from big family reunions to small dinners with friends and the occasional holiday upset. Grandchildren figured prominently. Sometimes the Rotarian had been the grandchild, relating fond memories. Christmases had been celebrated in other countries, on family farms and college campuses. Christmas 2016 plans range from hosting dinner at home to traveling abroad to be with relatives.
At the close of the meeting, President Jim Peters assembled everyone for a family picture.
Three veteran Rotarians shared their stories with fellow members of Lawrence Central Rotary. Each found Rotary in an unusual way!
Nancy Hause joined Lawrence Central Rotary in 2014. Prior to that time, she was a member of Lawrence Jayhawk Rotary and Estes Park Rotary. Her loyalty to Rotary is long-lived, despite the fact that her grandfather, a Boulder, CO, businessman was not invited to join Rotary years ago. At the time he sought membership, the Boulder club assumed he could not be a part of the club because he was Catholic and they did not serve fish at their Friday meetings. Years later, her father joined the Brighton, CO, Rotary club and served as its president. Her mother was an active Rotary Ann, playing the piano for the weekly club meetings. Nancy’s husband Richard was invited to join Rotary in California and played the piano for that club for many years. Even though women were allowed to join Rotary by the mid-1980’s, Nancy didn’t become a Rotary member herself until after Rich’s death. After she and Rich retired and moved to Estes Park, Rich joined Rotary there. He dedicated his year as president of the Estes Park Rotary Club to Nancy’s father. When he died, the Estes Park Rotary invited Nancy to join their group. Nancy is a two-time Paul Harris Fellow. Nancy studied journalism at the University of Colorado, has worked as a writer and editor on newspapers over many years, and continues to do freelance work. She taught news and feature writing at Kansas State for fifteen years. She and Rich had four children and eight grandchildren.
Bob Swan joined Lawrence Central Rotary in 2009, but his first involvement with Rotary was in 1966 when he studied in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a Rotary Foundation Fellow.
Bob graduated from the University of Kansas in 1964 and, prior to his year in Argentina, was a KU Exchange Scholar to Reading, England. After his Rotary year in Argentina and South America, Bob ran for U.S. Congress in opposition to the Vietnam War, and wrote his Master’s Thesis on his symbolic campaign. His lifelong activism has been inspired in part by his opportunity to meet Dr. Martin Luther King in St. Augustine, Florida during the demonstrations that helped end the Senate Filibuster and ensure passage of the historic 1964 Civil Rights Act. In 2009 Bob joined Lawrence Central Rotary through encouragement from one of its founders, Ed Samp. In 2012-2013 Bob served as club president and focused on increasing membership and organizing a fundraiser for polio eradication, held in Lawrence and supported by nine other clubs of District 5710. Bob and his wife Irina from Moscow live in Lawrence where they now follow from afar the activities of Bob’s two daughters and Irina’s son and four grandchildren.
John Wilkinson joined Rotary in 1974 in Topeka and came to Lawrence Central Rotary in 2005. John grew up in Cherryvale, a small Kansas town of 2300 people. He began his career in 1941 as an entrepreneur with a paper route of 235 customers. He also carried luggage between the Frisco and the Santa Fe train depots for travelers. Delivering the paper—the Cherryvale Republican—John became aware of Rotary and was impressed with the community leadership of its members. “Rotary owned the town,” he observed. While attending Independence Junior College, John worked for a CPA firm where he had a chance to visit Rotary clubs. Once again, the comradery of Rotary impressed him. John attended the KU School of Business, did time in the U.S. Army in personnel, and graduated from law school on the G.I Bill. He joined a law firm in Topeka and practiced law for 42 years, spending time as clerk for both federal and state judges and serving as general counsel for the Federal Home Loan Bank for many years. John is past-president of the Topeka West Rotary Club. He has been married to Marianne for 59 years. They have three sons and five grandchildren.
Leawood Rotarian Jeff Deatherage spoke to Lawrence Central Rotary about ShelterBox USA and his role as a Response Team member. The ShelterBox organization is an international nonprofit effort to provide shelter and vital supplies in response to disasters and humanitarian crises. The program is most known for the distinct green plastic boxes containing tents, blankets, ground covers, water storage and purification devices, solar lamps, cooking supplies, a basic tool kit, mosquito netting, and a children’s activity kit. ShelterBox response is tailored to each unique situation as only the supplies that are needed are distributed.
The idea for the program was developed by a local Rotary Club in Cornwall, England in April 2000. This project was quickly adopted by other clubs and has grown into an organization with twenty international affiliates. ShelterBox has responded to 270 disasters in 95 different geographic locations and served over one million people.
Jeff explained the work requires considerable coordination and communication with local officials and other aid providers. The world -wide network of Rotary is heavily depended on to accomplish deployments of supplies. Presently, ShelterBox has representatives and assistance on the ground in Syria in preparation to assist 300,000 civilians trapped in Aleppo by fierce fighting.
Jeff explained that his role as a ShelterBox Ambassador involves periodic training and a willingness to deploy for two weeks each year. Jeff has deployed to Paraguay for flooding, the Philippines after a tsunami, and twice to Oklahoma for tornado relief. He makes numerous speaking engagements each year and often sets up demonstration tents and supplies as he did for the fall LCR Community Bike Ride. He thanked LCR for past support of ShelterBox and presented the club with a Shelter Box Hero award. More information is available at shelterboxusa.org.
The City of Lawrence received great news and Lawrence Central is proud to have helped the city to be able to achieve this designation!
The City of Lawrence has been honored again as a Bronze Rank Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC). The City first received this designation in 2004 from the American League of Bicyclists. There are now 404 communities recognized in the U.S. as Bicycle Friendly Communities; this is Lawrence’s fifth successful application. The Bronze level BFC award recognizes Lawrence’s commitment to improving conditions for bicycling through investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies.
Lawrence-Douglas County Bicycle Advisory Committee members prepared the application utilizing information, such as data collected from bike/pedestrian counts, safety material, outreach efforts, and lane mileage. This year’s application featured Lawrence’s completion of a number of projects that will form the “Lawrence Loop”, a 22-mile paved off-street path around the city, the bicycle education provided by Lawrence’s League Certified Cycling instructors, the on-bicycle safety education at local elementary schools, and the recent commitment in the city budget for bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure improvements. The Lawrence Central Rotary Club’s Community Bike Ride, Safe Kids Douglas County Bicycle Rodeo and Helmet giveaways, the Tour of Lawrence, the Lawrence Mountain Bicycle Club’s partnership with Parks & Recreation for the development and maintenance of the Lawrence River Trails trail, the National Bicycle Challenge, and 100 percentage of buses equipped with bike racks were also highlighted as part of the application process.
By the numbers, Lawrence now has 16 miles of bike lanes, 9 miles of shared-lane markings (sharrows), 39 miles of signed bike routes, and 45 miles of paved shared use paths.
Four Kansas communities have received the Bicycle Friendly designation: Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan, and Shawnee. Find out more information online at www.bikeleague.org/bfa.
The Burroughs Creek Trail in East Lawrence is a paved path and parkway running for 1.7 miles from 11th Street at the north end to 23rd Street on the south. The trail leads walkers, runners, and bikers past sites that were significant in Lawrence history, blending both health and history for all who travel its length.
In a presentation to Lawrence Central Rotarians, Henry Fortunato explained the variety of historic places found along to the Burroughs Creek Trail. The path “ties together William Clarke Quantrill, and Langston Hughes, 19th-century travelers on the Oregon Trail and World War II-era German prisoners of war, the artistry of William S. Burroughs and the agricultural history of Douglas County, plus a long-forgotten railroad line and a number of dimly-remembered east side neighborhood notables whose names still grace streets and parks,” to quote the Lawrence Public Library website.
Fortunato, retired director of public affairs at the Kansas City Library and recent Simons Public Humanities Fellow at the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas, made headlines in 2014 for walking 500 miles across Kansas. He said in interviews at the time that he wanted to “take the love for walking and exploring and create something everyone can enjoy.” He envisioned combining “all the things he’s learned in his professional career — public history, presentation, use of graduate students, humanities, and traveling exhibits — to enhance the walking and hiking trail experience in the greater Kansas City area by creating well designed interpretive panels” that tell about what happened along those trails. Happily, Lawrence has become the beneficiary of Fortunato’s vision.
Fortunato’s comments referenced the traveling exhibit of ten panels that tell the stories of people, places, and events associated with the trail. The exhibit is currently hosted at Watkins Museum of History. By next spring, the panels of the traveling exhibit will be translated into interpretive signage along the Burroughs Creek Trail itself that will explain the points of interest and the history of area to people as they travel the length of the path.
Lawrence Central has launched our annual fundraiser for the work we do every year. As in year’s past, we will be selling wreaths and other holiday decorations from Lynch Creek Farms and in Lawrence Central’s partnership with them we receive 20% back from every sale to help partially fund the service projects we do. Some examples of our service activities have included are:
- Hosting / sponsoring the Lawrence Community Bike Rides
- Purchase of ShelterBoxes
- Lawrence Sister Cities Scholarships
- Lawrence’s Rotary Arboretum
- Bike Racks around Lawrence
- Tour of Lawrence Kids Zone
We want to continue to do this work and more with help from you and all you need to do is simply purchase holiday decorations. You can do this by talking to any of our members or there’s an even easier way – go to our Lynch Creek fundraising website, peruse what they have and order yourself! We’ve even set up an easy link:
If you’re not comfortable with ordering online we totally understand – you can also call Lynch Creek direct toll-free at 1-888-426-0781 and please mention/reference Lawrence Central Rotary’s Fundraiser #48825
Lynch Creek is a family business that started in 1980, now transformed from selling a few flowers and vegetables at the local farmers’ market on the weekends, to a full blown year-round business that ships throughout the United States.
Lynch Creek Farms have been amazing to work with and they care about the groups that sell their wreaths and decorations. Here’s a video about the business.