Dr. Sherrie Vaughn, the new Executive Director for NAMI in Kansas, knows first hand about the heartbreak of mental illness.
Sherrie told the story of her daughter who struggles with psychosis. In her early teens, Sherrie’s daughter reached a point where she believed all food and drink were contaminated. Because she refused all nourishment and liquids, she was eventually hosptialized. Near death, she finally admitted she needed help and found psychological services as well as medical treatment. Now 18 years old, Sherrie’s daughter has gained self-awareness and coping skills. Currently, she is living on her own and navigating support systems in a new community.
NAMI has thirteen affiliates in Kansas, including one in Lawrence. The non-profit offers an array of services to individuals and to families–all at no cost. There is no need to wait for a referral. Funding for NAMI programming comes from a diverse set of foundations, grants, donors, and some state monies.
The Basics Education Program, for example, is open to parents and caregivers of minor children who are experiencing mental health challenges. Peer support groups can be found through the agency as well as in churches and on campuses.
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.
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.
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.
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.