Author: Gena Dellett (page 2 of 3)

KPR Plans for a Bright Future, Even with Funding Cuts

Dan Skinner, Director of Kansas Public Radio (KPR), sees a bright future for the station, even though funding has changed significantly in the last few years. The effects of State and University budget cuts have trickled down to KPR, with the University defunding the Audio-Reader Network and cutting $200,000 in direct funding to the station.

Since coming on the air as KANU in 1952, the station has received 17 “Station of the Year” awards and now operates across eight different frequencies. 72% of KPR’s current funding comes from individual donors and underwriters. Skinner shared that “sound fiscal management has given a sound operating reserve.” This is especially important as the station may need to “pull on reserves over the next couple of years to raise more money.”

KPR is part of the Kansas News Service, which is a collaboration between multiple news resources, ensuring that efforts and resources aren’t duplicated across the state. Skinner projects that over 100,000 listeners tune into KPR per week.

Skinner addressed the fact that some people think of public radio as being one sided. “It really depends where you are on the political spectrum.” He says he hears people say that the station is to conservative and others say it’s too liberal. That’s perfect, he joked. “We want to be a source of civil conversation where you can hear divergent ideas.”

With the changes in funding, Skinner is most concerned about the Audio-Reader Network, which has been giving the “gift of sight through sound” since 1971. The program has over 400 volunteers who read newspapers, magazines and books, as well as over 1,600 hours of specifically requested materials each year. The program is the second oldest in the nation, and one of the largest programs of its kind. The program is free to clients, who receive a radio receiver for the subcarrier frequency. Clients can also access programming through the telephone reader service.

Lawrence Central Rotary Inducts New Members

New members (from left) Karena Schmitendorf, Gena Dellett, Julia Gaughan, Janis Bunker, Lee Ann Thompson, and Margaret Brumberg.

Lawrence Central Rotary celebrated the club’s new members on September 5. The following new members were inducted:  Karena Schmitendorf, Gena Dellett, Julia Gaughan, Janis Bunker, Lee Ann Thompson, and Margaret Brumberg.

L-R: Julia Gaughan, Margaret Brumberg, and Karena Schmitendorf

The three newest members, Julia Gaughan, Karena Schmitendorf, and Margaret Brumberg shared more about their background and interests during the now traditional new member panel.

Julia Gaughan studied law and works at Bert Nash. Her most recent read was There There by Tommy Orange. Audrey Coleman invited Julia to Rotary. The two have been friends since college. Volunteering has always been important to Julia. She shared that she’s excited to be around people who find service important. For fun, Julia reads, writes, is involved in several book clubs, and attends a lot of soccer games, cheering on her 10 year old son.

Margaret Brumberg studied law and administers federal grants at KU. Her most recent read was Amateur by Thomas Page McBee. Kate Campbell invited Margaret to Rotary. She was immediately inspired by the service mission. For fun Margaret enjoys being outside, taking walks, and drinking wine.

Karena Schmitendorf is a retired art instructor and now works combining three of her passions: art, elderly care, and transitional housing. She has recently been reading books on death and dying, integrating her learning into her daily work. While living in California, Karena regularly presented to Rotary clubs about her work with a homeless and housing group. She is especially drawn to Rotary’s international focus. For fun Karena enjoys gardening, cooking, and her work renovating a house. She also is enjoying the many art galleries and events in Lawrence.

Catholic Charities Helps Refugees Put Down New Roots

Denise Ogilvie from Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas knows what refugees face when they are starting over their lives. The organization’s refugee and immigration services, which is qualified through the State Department, provides refugee resettlement and support.

Ogilvie explained that their team is given 24 hours notice when a new refugee family will be arriving. Most refugees have been in a camp for 10 or more years. “Families come here with children that were born in a camp and are now college age. The children have never lived anywhere else.”

The Catholic Charities team meets the families at the airport and takes them to an apartment outfitted with all the basics they will need to start their new life.

With funding from the State Department, Catholic Charities works together with the families for six months to find employment and help them get settled. Thanks to the New Roots for Refugees program, support no longer ends there. New Roots builds on the strengths and experience that the refugees already possess, helping them start their own small farm businesses growing and selling vegetables. This means that refugee families can continue to support themselves and their families with the agricultural skills they gained in their native country.

“For many, this was their sole source of income in their original country. With a plot to farm, they now grow food they may not have eaten before.” The program also provides resources on how to market the produce that is grown and how to manage their finance and business.

The programs current plot in Juniper Gardens in KC Kansas provides everyone in the program with a one acre plot. Produce is sold in 27 farmers markets and restaurants. The program lasts for four years. Currently 85 percent of participants purchase a small plot of land to keep farming after completing the program.

“We try to not only help people in the middle of crisis,” said Ogilvie. “We believe in order to give dignity we need to help people stand on their own two feet so they are self sufficient.”

Andy Rondon Makes the Case for Solar


Andy Rondon from Good Energy Solutions

The next time it’s overcast, you may think differently about the sun’s rays. Kansas is currently one of the top ten states for solar power, either “slightly above or below Florida, depending on who you ask,” says Andy Rondon from Good Energy Solutions.

Rondon is living “every solar guy’s dream.” He was originally trained as a civil engineer and recently received his NABCEP certification, which is the solar industry’s leading recognition of technical sales expertise. He proudly drives a solar-powered car and nestles under his solar roof each night.

Rondon’s work at Good Energy Solutions paves a way for residential and commercial clients to take advantage of solar energy. Good Energy Solutions, based out of Lawrence, was named one of the top 25 solar contractors nationwide by Solar Power World Magazine and installed the most solar in Kansas in 2017.

Rondon explained that there are two types of energy production: Centralized and Distributed. Centralized energy production is the status quo, with large energy plants powering multiple cities. Solar breaks this model, with energy being made and used in the same area. “Creating energy where it is being used means you don’t need to have transmission lines as we have now. It changes the infrastructure that’s needed.”

The core of solar technology has not changed significantly since 1989. “We’re just better at manufacturing it,” says Rondon. Instead, the majority of research and development dollars are being spent on improving battery technology. “Once we do batteries better, we don’t need coal or natural gas. When this happens the world is going to be a lot different,” says Rondon. “The amount of energy dumped on the planet is mind-boggling.”

Solar modules last 20 years with a 30 to 40-year potential. Current rates mean it takes about 10 years for a customer to get their money back. New potential rates could push that to 15 years.

That shouldn’t deter potential customers. To the question of “Why go solar now if there will be a new technology in the next five to 10 years, Rondon replied “If you are generating all or most of your own energy now, what is the benefit of the next technology? You already have that.”

Sister Cities Bridges Communities and Hearts

Kelly Schultz, Megan Durner, and Joan Durner share the positive impact Sister Cities is making in Lawrence.

Megan Durner, incoming Senior in Lawrence, discovered her love for cultural exchange as a Freshman. Through the Sister Cities program Durner’s family hosted a student from Germany. It was such a positive experience, the family hosted again the following summer.

This summer Durner became the exchange student, traveling to Eutin, Germany, a Lawrence Sister City since 1989.

“Being in Germany is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” said Durner. “I truly learned what it was like to live in someone else’s shoes. I relished learning the differences and similarities in how we live.”

As soon as Durner received information about her Eutin host family, she started talking with her host sister. “By the time we met she felt like family.”

The whole trip felt like “something out of the movies,” said Durner. The students went to class, on day trips, and took in the beauty of the small lake-side town. 

2019 will mark the 30th year of Lawrence and Eutin’s history as Sister Cities. Kelly Schultz, from the Sister Cities Governing Board, shared an update on changes in the board’s structure.

The City of Lawrence has recently restructured several of its boards in order to improve efficiency and combine like-efforts. Sister Cities is now managed by a Governing Board and will continue to benefit from financial support from the City for operating expenses. While this has reduced the board size from 14 to 9, the change has provided greater autonomy.

Lawrence has three Sister Cities: Eutin, Germany, Hiratsuka, Japan, and Iniades, Greece. The goal of Sister Cities is to “Promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.”

Schultz thanked Lawrence Central Rotary for their support of Sister Cities programming. “The goal of good international relations is something Rotary is very interested in. It’s also a way to assist students with an incredible educational opportunity. Sister Cities combines these two goals.”

Schultz encouraged the Club to send a Rotarian on the 2019 delegation to Eutin, celebrating the 30 year international friendship.

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