Community Grants Awarded!

The United Way of Franklin County’s executive board of directors recently approved and signed the first part of the newest community grant awards with a focus on mentoring. The board was thrilled to see our Community Partners evaluate how coming alongside their clients in a mentoring relationship that guides them to better health, education, and income stability could truly impact our community in the most meaningful way possible. Executive Director Leigh Hanson was able to hand deliver most of the awards and was able to witness the joyful reception of these awards and see first-hand how this money in our county will be used for direct services for our family, friends, and neighbors in need. Congratulations to Hope House, LifeCare Center, Ottawa Recreation Commission Foundation, East Central Kansas Area Agency on Aging, CASA (4th Judicial District), Ottawa Community Arts Council, and Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation. Congratulations to these Community Partners that are pouring themselves into volunteer mentoring in our community.

These community grants are a direct result of mostly local donations to the United Way of Franklin County! As we campaign and fundraise throughout this year, we hope to give these organizations a bonus at the end of the year due to their good work and your generosity! Consider a gift of any amount. If every adult in Franklin County gave just $7 per person, per year, all 18 of our Community Partners could have enough funding to care for more than 40% of our population with direct services! As always, all donations to the United Way can be designated to one of our Community Partners of your choice, and we will honor that designation.

Free S.T.E.A.M. Summer Day Camps

The United Way of Franklin County is excited to release our line up of S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) Summer Day Camps that are completely free to students! All camps will be held at the Carnegie Building at 501 South Main, Ottawa unless otherwise noted. Thank you once again, Ottawa Community Arts Council, for donating the space for these vital programs in our community! Call Leigh at 785-418-2015 to register your student(s). Would you like to volunteer to help at our camps? Looking for students 12 years + and adults! Give back to your community! Call Leigh to set up an interview and orientation!

Tuesday-Friday, June 1-4 Let’s Get To Work! — Presentations with hands-on activities from some of our city and county departments. Ottawa Police and Fire will be some of our presenters! 10 am-noon for students ages 5-10 years old. 1 pm-3pm for students ages 11+.

Tuesday-Friday, June 15-18 Tinker Camp! — Engineering/building challenges each day for ages 5-10 years old. First camp is full from 10 am to 12 pm. Currently taking registrations for the same camp and ages for 1-3 pm the same day. Call Leigh to express interest for older students.

Tuesday-Friday, June 22-25 Lego Robotics Camp — Ages 7-11 preferred. 10 am-noon. 12 projects in learning to build and code a robot.

Thursday, July 8, 10 am- 3 pm Physics Experiments — Ages 5-11 Bring a sack lunch and water bottle.

Friday, July 9, 10 am-3 pm Science Experiments — Ages 5-11 Bring a sack lunch and water bottle.

Tuesday-Friday, July 13-16 Computer Coding Ages 5-11 Off screen challenges. 10 am – 12 pm.

Tuesday-Friday, July 20-23 Craft Camp — Ages 5-10 One project each day. 10 am-12 pm. Ages 11+ same curricula, same days. 1-3 pm

Tuesday-Friday, July 27-30 Painting Camp — Ages 5-10 One project each day. 10 am-12 pm. Ages 11+ from 1-3 pm.

All students must be registered to come.

United Way Organizes Lunches for Food-Insecure Children during Spring Break

During the week of Spring Break, March 15-20, the United Way of Franklin County Association organized free lunches for children who may not have had any other resources for food during the week off school. With more than 50% of USD 290 students enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program, it was vital to ensure these students had access to food over the Spring Break. Ottawa Strong Blessing Box took the lead and volunteered to provide lunches on Monday, Faith Lutheran followed with lunches on Tuesday, Wednesday’s lunches were provided by Grace Community Fellowship, Thursday’s lunches were delivered by Hope Anthem, Friday’s lunches came from Life Mission, and the final lunches on Saturday were assembled and delivered by the Rambling Ranchers 4-H Club. The UW set up for the lunches to be given out at the Carnegie Building from 11 am-1 pm each of those days and made sure volunteers were available to distribute them. American Eagle Outfitters Distribution Center provided hot chocolate for everyone as well as frisbees. Due to inclement weather, the turnout was low on most days, but leftover lunches were taken to first-responders, senior housing centers, and Harvesters volunteers. Thank you to all our volunteers (more than 70 for lunch assembly, delivery, and distribution!) and supporting donors to the cause.

After School Program Funded With $15,000 Grant

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Kansas Volunteer Commission,

volunteer agencies build capacity in Kansas

Funds provided through Volunteer Generation Fund used to support Kansas volunteerism

TOPEKA, KS — The Kansas Volunteer Commission has awarded $120,000 in funding to eight Kansas volunteer and mentor organizations through the 2021 Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant competition.

Each organization received $15,000 for one year. 

The VGF grant will increase the infrastructure and expand the capacity of volunteer and mentoring organizations as they work with volunteers to improve their communities. 

The Commission received the VGF grant from AmeriCorps, the federal agency that oversees the nation’s volunteer initiatives. AmeriCorps awarded 22 VGF grants to state service commissions, including the Kansas Volunteer Commission, totaling more than $6 million.

2021 Volunteer Generation Fund Grant recipients are:

  • Douglas County CASA Inc. – Serving Douglas County.
  • Flint Hills Volunteer Center – Serving Geary, Pottawatomie and Riley counties.
  • Heart of a Champion/One Heart Project – Serving Northeast Kansas.
  • Kansas Humane Society – Serving Sedgwick County and supporting shelters statewide.
  • Peace Connections Inc. – Serving Harvey County.
  • Rosedale Development Association – Serving Wyandotte County.
  • United Way of Douglas County – Serving Douglas County.
  • United Way of Franklin County Association – Serving Anderson and Franklin counties.

The successes of former VGF grant recipients will create a model for the new subgrantees to follow. In 2019, the Kansas Volunteer Commission awarded nearly $100,000 in funding to six Kansas volunteer organizations. The 2019 Volunteer Generation Fund Grant recipients were Barton County College Volunteers in Action; Flint Hills Volunteer Center; Kansas Humane Society; Sunflower CASA Project Inc.; United Way of Franklin County Association; and Wichita Habitat for Humanity.

The goal of that grant was to increase the infrastructure and expand the capacity of volunteer organizations to recruit and manage skilled volunteers. Together, these programs engaged 5,773 volunteers who leveraged 45,860 volunteer hours. According to the Independent Sector, a volunteer hour is currently valued at $27.20. Therefore, volunteers leveraged through the VGF grant provided an estimated value of $1,247,392.00 in service in Kansas between Oct. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2020. 

VGF’s unique model means that the grants announced will leverage additional public and private funds – further increasing the return on the federal investment. The Commission anticipates that the 2021 grants will leverage an additional $120,000.

“The Kansas Volunteer Commission is proud to support the VGF recipients with funding, training and technical assistance that has been proven to increase capacity,” said Jessica Noble, Kansas Volunteer Commission executive director. 

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The Kansas Volunteer Commission is a program of the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE). The mission of the Kansas Volunteer Commission is to empower all Kansans to meet community needs through service. The Commission’s primary role is to provide resources and leadership to support local initiatives that tackle community needs. As the state service commission, the KVC directs effective national service programs, provides volunteer management training opportunities and supports the work of Mentor Kansas. For more information, visit http://www.kanserve.org.

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Kansas Volunteer Commission
Landon State Office Building
900 S.W. Jackson St., Suite 105
Topeka, KS 66612

S.T.E.A.M. After School Mentoring/Tutoring Program In Full Swing!

We have nearly a full quarter of our program behind our backs, and we are looking forward to finishing the semester even stronger! We have 9 children enrolled in our program with room for 21 more elementary children! We had four high school mentors, but lost them due to spring sports, so we are hoping to recruit more teens. We currently have 6 adult mentors from various career fields, but need 14 more if we get 21 more elementary students! Right now, the ratio is nice, but we need to grow mentors and high school mentors/mentees with any new enrollments.

We were awarded another $2,500 Kansas Volunteer Commission mini-grant for our mentoring program to cover background checks for 30 mentors age 18 and older, mentor training materials, S.T.E.A.M. curriculum, and end of program closure parties. The Kansas Volunteer Commission is committed to training its sub grantees in best practices for mentoring, so the director, Leigh Hanson, will be attending six sessions of training sponsored by Mentor Kansas. We are building a “gold-star mentoring program” in Kansas that will be recognized for all the benchmarks of quality mentoring.

We hope to share our best practices in mentoring with our Community Partners as we have just put out a new community grant for them to establish their own programs featuring volunteer mentors that will help our clients get back on their feet to live healthy, educated, economically stable lives.

You can be a part of this positive community change. Be a volunteer. Be a donor. Spread the word; spread the hope.

S.T.E.A.M. After School Tutoring/Mentoring Program

With the support of the Kansas Volunteer Commission, our organization is offering a FREE after school program from approximately 3:30-5:30 M-Th this semester. Our goal is to support working parents of elementary students who need homework assistance and inspire them to dream bigger with STEAM career goals related to their academics. We are recruiting 20 successful career professionals and 10 honor students from local high schools and colleges to give them an opportunity to give back and be inspired as well. If you would like to support this program, consider donating with the PayPal button, sending a donation by mail or volunteering! We are looking for mentors to fill 5 spots each day, M-Th. That is only a two-hour a week commitment to impact the lives of 1-5 children for the rest of their lives! Do you have a skill you would like to pass on to the next generation? Are you retired and need a place to give back to the community that has supported you? Are you a college student needing practical experience in an educational setting? Do you need community service for a club or organization you are with? Do you have children that could benefit from this program? Call me TODAY at 785-418-2015!

We will be offering summer day camps and another after school program for the fall 2021 school semester. If you can’t volunteer now, plan on how you could help this summer or in the fall!

Giving Tuesday

Tuesday, December 1st, is giving Tuesday. I would like to encourage you to consider a gift to the United Way of Franklin County. This has been an unusual year and very difficult to do typical fundraising in a pandemic. Our typical corporate campaign has also suffered less giving.

The pandemic only exposed more issues in our community to address. The United Way has worked to address some of these issues working with USDA for food box distribution and a remote learning center. We have worked and obtained some grants, but it just won’t be enough to help all that need a helping hand in our community.

I am asking you to consider giving to the Franklin County United Way. You can give electronically at https://unitedwayoffranklinco.org/how-your-money-helps/ or you can put a check in the mail to :

United Way of Franklin County, PO Box 233, Ottawa, KS 66067

Thank you for your thoughtfulness and generosity,

~Richard Oglesby, Board Chair

United Way of Franklin County is Awarded $2500 Mini-Grant from the Kansas Volunteer Commission for Remote Learning Tutoring Program!

The Kansas Volunteer Commission (KVC) is a grantee of the Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) a federal grant for the expansion of volunteering in each state. The United Way of Franklin County has been a sub grantee for several years and has again secured more funding for its efforts to expand volunteerism in our community.

In response to Covid and USD 290’s move to half days of school and remote learning, the United Way of Franklin County was compelled to help working families with elementary school children to supervise the Remote Learning. September 9, we launched our Remote Learning Tutoring program with 27 children enrolled in both morning and afternoon sessions.

The KVC was so impressed with our efforts to make a vital impact on a community need born out of the pandemic, they awarded our grant proposal for more equipment to expand our Lego Robotics Club to serve the children in our Remote Learning Tutoring program. We are in the process of purchasing five new all-in-one computers for each of our student groups, and also much needed cleaning supplies.

This award announcement came just prior to finding a theft of three of our laptops, a Chromebook, an all-in-one desktop, and our hot spot. We are still scrambling to get enough supplies and equipment to meet our educational needs for the students, but we have many many offers from the community for donations of snacks/lunches for the kids, laptops, computers and supplies.

We have so many community business partners and individual donors to thank for our success with this program! Modern Woodman’s Crystal Taylor organized a snack drive with the community for this program, United Way’s campaign chair, Lisa Rivers also mobilized many people to give generously, and we have had several tech experts offer reconditioned computers. We are blessed to live in such a fabulous community that has come together to support this vital cause. Our mentors volunteering their time for 3 hour shifts each week to make sure our children have the homework help they need has been invaluable!

As USD 290 shifts to a full school day, the United Way of Franklin County is planning on launching an after school program second semester that will help with homework and have an emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) mentoring. We will incorporate the computers to have Lego Robotics activities as well as 3-D printing. We will stay flexible and be prepared to switch to Remote Learning Tutoring should that become a need again.

If you would like to volunteer or give to our completely free enrollment program, just use the donate button at the top right of our web page, or call Leigh at 785-418-2015.

Pandemic Report from the Franklin County United Way

During the global Coronavirus pandemic, we have had to stop and ask the critical question, “Are we meeting the needs of the people in our community?” At the beginning of this year, we found ourselves facing off against Meth and Opioid addictions. The addiction problem in our county has gone on for a number of years. Sadly, this has contributed to 190 students in our public schools that share a home with grandparents or friends. We don’t know the actual number of homeless that sleeps in tents or cars.

Then, March came, and with it the Covid-19 pandemic.  It hit us hard; the pandemic brought with it a plethora of issues.  One of these issues was the possibility that the healthcare system would collapse under the immense weight of a high number of cases. Secondly, many people lost their jobs as a result of the stay at home orders across the state and nation. The number of people that lost or were furloughed from their job is unprecedented.

Unfortunately, none of the agencies in Franklin County that are designed to be a safety net for the community were prepared for the onslaught of a global pandemic.  Stockpiles of supplies and money have been chipped away, and volunteers have put in countless hours. We were underfunded to face the issues before that riddled our county. As one could probably guess, we were completely underfunded to handle the Covid-19 pandemic without the help of our neighbors.

Today, our county’s unemployment rate continues to rise. We reached 9% in April. Unfortunately, we are up in May.  Some think our unemployment rate might be closer to 25% due to those that have not registered as unemployed, have given up, or are self-employed/not eligible for unemployment benefits. This dramatic increase in unemployment led families and their neighbors to fear. They were fearful of eviction, lack of food, medical care, and money for utilities. Even still, many are woefully unprepared for this life during pandemic. As a result, we have many agencies with immediate needs and increasing calls for help.

  1. Children’s Mercy Hospital furloughed many employees when they ceased elective healthcare as they prepared for a potential overflow of Covid-19 patients. This was a possibility we faced if we did not take the virus seriously and take precautions. This has upended the finances of a hospital that is essential to many children in the region. Unfortunately, there will not be Big Slick raising money and spirits this year.
  2. Elizabeth Layton Center sees to the stress that overwhelms many of us. This service is very critical still to those with addictions, and now the depression many feel from lack of social interaction.
  3. LifeCare Center is delivering to mothers and babies with curbside delivery for formula, diapers, and wipes. This is a never-ending need. Frankly, the supplies available are dwindling and desperately need to be replenished.
  4. The American Red Cross is there whenever needed. This organization commonly shows up after disasters like tornadoes and fires. However, they are also needing blood to save those in need during the pandemic. They need volunteers that are trained to help out in these emergencies.
  5. Communities in Schools of Mid-America is an agency that is more in need now than ever as homeschooling is the requirement. This organization also provides healthcare, food, and tutoring in our community. The greatest need here is those who will offer tutoring.

That is just the list of needs that agencies have delivered within the past week. Additional agency requests are the following:

  1. ECKAN assists with food distribution and housing. As previously mentioned, the high unemployment rate has led to a struggle to pay rent and utilities. ECKAN is seeing a dramatic increase in assistance for these areas.
  2. Hope House helps families in our community with utilities, food, housing, and clothing. As the homeless rate is expected to increase over the next few months, this agency is critical in giving support to those that will need it most.

Each of these organizations represented by the United Way are desperately needed. Each is in need of donations, volunteers, supplies, and money. Each of them are seeing an increase in requests for aid.  Without your help, they will be overwhelmed by the vast need in our community. Covid-19 arrived without any scheduled departure. That means one thing. We need your help. Sadly, this may not be the last time we request your help as there will be many in our community that will be in need for quite some time. However, we appreciate whatever help you are able to offer us to help those in our community.  Thank you.

United Way of Franklin County has received a Donation from Aetna Better Health of Kansas in the amount of $500.00 to Support COVID-19 Hunger Relief Initiative.  

Ottawa, Kansas – The United Way of Franklin County announced today it has received a $500.00 donation from Aetna Better Health of Kansas as part of the Medicaid organization’s efforts to address food insecurity and other community needs in response to the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Way will use the funds to organize food distributions and continue to provide 211 call assistance to our community in need.

“We have a longstanding partnership with the United Way and are pleased to provide this assistance during such a critical time,” said David Livingston, CEO, Aetna Better Health of Kansas. “These funds will allow for additional food supplies to be secured and distributed to those most in need across our great state.”

“Aetna Better Health is happy to offer our support during this crisis,” said Chris Beurman, Director, Community Development, Aetna Better Health of Kansas. “We applaud the continued efforts of the United Way to fight food insecurity in our state; especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

About Aetna Better Health® of Kansas

Aetna Better Health of Kansas is a subsidiary of Aetna Medicaid Administrators LLC (Aetna Medicaid), a CVS Health Company. Since 2019, Aetna Better Health of Kansas has served the state’s most vulnerable members. Aetna Better Health of Kansas is bolstered by Aetna Medicaid’s 30 years of experience managing the care of the most medically vulnerable, using innovative approaches and a local presence in each market to achieve both successful health care results and effective cost outcomes. Aetna Medicaid has particular expertise serving high-need Medicaid members, including those who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. Currently, Aetna Medicaid owns and/or administers Medicaid managed health care plans under the names of Aetna Better Health and other affiliate names. Together, these plans serve approximately 2.4 million people in 16 states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Texas. For more information, see www.aetnabetterhealth.com.