Jasmin Moore, Sustainability Director for Douglas County, reminded Rotarians that Lawrence became a national leader in 2016 in quality of life measures, the first community in Kansas to earn a 4-STAR certification. The STAR measurement framework (“Sustainable Tools for Assessment and Rating”) allows communities to track progress toward improved quality of life against seven sets of objectives–and to compare themselves with others working on similar goals.
Moore defines a sustainable community as one that is economically, environmentally, and socially healthy and resilent. She uses a four-way test to evaluate sustainability initiatives:
How does it impact environmental health?
How does it impact the well-being of people?
How does it impact relationships, effective government, social justice, and overall livability?
How does it impact the local economy and at what short-term and long-term costs?
Originally from the Kansas City area, Moore chose to study urban planning at KU when she became intrigued with the idea that the built environment of a community influences the health of the community. After a series of jobs in Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, and Johnson County, she has landed back in Lawrence. Now she coordinates the City/County collaboration to develop integrated solutions and long-term investments for sustainability.
There is so much that Shannon Oury, Executive Director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority, is proud of in this community. She also knows how much work is left to do.
LDCHA, which recently celebrated its 50 anniversary, serves 1,250 families monthly through owned and managed properties. 73 percent of people served are considered extremely low income, making $15,000 or less as a household. Programs are 99 percent full, with waiting lists.
Oury shared that she has always been “pulled to this work.” While she taught at the University of Kansas Law School and worked as a practicing lawyer, she served on the board and as the attorney for LDCHA. When the previous Executive Director announced she was stepping down, Oury realized how much it mattered to her that the organization’s work continues.
She’s especially proud of the Moving to Work (MTW) program, which provides a flexible structure for LDCHA to provide support and resources based on where the individual or family is at, whether that be rental assistance, job training, bikes and bike trailers, computer access, or counseling. The transitional program also has a wonderful success rate, with 83 percent of participants transitioning into stable housing after completing the 24-month program.
In addition to the core exhibits about Douglas County history on display at Watkins Museum, such as this 1870s playhouse, there is always something new to see, according to Steve Nowak, Executive Director.
Sometimes the “new” is an addition to an existing exhibit. For example, the story of Lawrence’s efforts to establish a Fair Housing Ordinance in the 1960’s has been added to the “Enduring Struggles—Lawrence Fights for Change.” Documents, music, photographs, artifacts, and oral histories combine in an interactive display highlighting Lawrence’s spirit of activism and community spirit in various decades.
Changing exhibits can focus attention on a particular aspect of local history. For example, “Community and Culture: the Lawrence Turnverein” tells the story of the Germans who were among the earliest settlers in Lawrence.
“Hidden Treasures: Staff Favorites from the Watkins Collection” showcases artifacts in new ways. Find a cowboy hat signed by John Wayne and a sculpture made of the soles of shoes, as well as other treasures.
“Mass St. Magic—Weaver’s Window Displays” celebrates the 160th anniversary of the local department store by recreating some of the window displays it featured over the years. Founded in 1857, Weaver’s is one of the longest running department stores in the United States. Even in 1850’s, it was known to bring NYC fashion to Lawrence.
On Saturday, December 2, the museum will host “Tails and Traditions Holiday Festival.” Stop by between 9 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. for prime horse parade-viewing spots, snacks, kids’ crafts and games, and live holiday music. The Watkins Museum of History hosted 17,500 visitors in 2017, up from 6,000 seven years ago when Nowak began his tenure.
Megan Hill, Major Gifts Officer for the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, highlighted a robust history and a “great future” fof the organization.
She described the new Don and Beverly Gardner Center for Great Futures that will open in the fall of 2018 to house teen activities, replacing the small Teen Center on Haskell Avenue. Situated adjacent to the College and Career Center in southeast Lawrence, the new building will allow the school district and the Boys and Girls Club to share and maximize the spaces of each facility. The new construction includes a gymnasium, maker-space, performing arts area, a culinary arts kitchen, admininstrative offices, and classrooms. Although they have raised most of the $4.25 million capital campaign goal, fundraising will continue to complete capital donations and to raise on-going money for programming.
The local club is one of the largest per capita in the country, serving 1,500 young people each day. It partners with the Lawrence school district to provide after-school programming in all fourteen elementary schools in Lawrence. Middle school and high school students are bussed to the Teen Center on Haskell Avenue. All programming supports academic success, healthy living, and character and citizenship, fulfilling the organization’s mission: “To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”
Hill asked Rotarians to explain how Boys and Girls Club had impacted their households. The responses from the group echoed the reasons why others say the program is so valuable: supervision after the school day when working parents cannot be at home; tutoring and help with homework; physical activity and good nutrition; welcoming friends, mentors, and tutors.
Julie Belluci and Maren Ludwig, out-going chairs of the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, gave a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the year-round planning and fundraising that goes into this Lawrence tradition. The 2017 parade was the thirtieth one, once again bringing enthusiastic crowds to Mass Street and raising significant money for youth organizations in Douglas County.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, a 501c(3) entity, raises money through a long list of special events over the course of many months. It counts between 40 and 70 voting members who meet between August and April to plan not only the parade but also a wide variety of fund-raising activities. The group interviews and selects non-profit entities to receive funds and manages distributions from “Sully’s Pot of Gold,” a pool of supplemental emergency funds that they have established.
Non-profit organizations in Douglas County involved with serving youth can apply to be sponsored by the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee. By applying, groups agree to provide volunteers to help raise funds and run events.
This year the Parade Committee distributed $75,000 to three non-profits. They gave $25,000 to Big Brothers/Big Sisters Douglas County to help them establish matches of youth in their program with mentors who are law enforcement; $25,000 to Douglas County CASA to fund training for more adult volunteers to assist children in foster care and the court system; and $25,000 to Sunrise Project to help them renovate space for their gardening/nutrition/cooking programs for preschool and elementary age children.