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Central Prairie board votes to end affiliation

POSTED June 18, 2012 11:19 p.m.

By Jim Misunas
jmisunas@gbtribune.com

The Central Prairie Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) board, based in Great Bend, has voted to end its affiliation with the Honor Flights program.
The Central Prairie Honor Flights coordinated 17 flights for more than 1,100 World War II veterans from Kansas to Washington, D.C., the past four years, but no flights have departed in 2012. The governing board of Honor Flights Network, based in Springfield, Ohio, voted to decertify the local chapter in April.
Wichita’s Herb Duncan, a fundraiser for the Great Bend hub, will chair a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Wichita’s American Legion Post, 816 N. Water, to help transition the group from Central Prairie Honor Flights to Honor Flight Kansas, based in Hutchinson.
“Central Prairie Honor Flights is defunct and this meeting will put closure on that group and help answer any questions,” Duncan said. “The meeting will give the general public, Legion Riders and everyone who has helped pay for the flights a better understanding of what’s happening.”
Stafford’s Richard Foster, Central Prairie RC&D president, said it became clear that recent decertification by the Honor Flights Network had created fundraising obstacles with volunteers representing the local group. He said the board members realized it was time to turn the work over to another entity.
“The amount of money Central Prairie raised and their commitment to the World War II veterans the past few years is amazing,” Foster said. “We have some of the best volunteers in the state.”
Central Prairie RC&D will be represented at Tuesday’s meeting by Kenton Janzen, Ellsworth County; Stacy Neilson, Edwards County; and Max Alber, Rice County.
“We’ll get past this obstacle because the overall goal is to send the remaining veterans to Washington,” Foster said. “Our board members will accentuate the positive work by Central Prairie Honor Flights.”
LeVeta Miller served as coordinator for Central Prairie Honor Flights the past two years after the federal government stopped funding RC&Ds in 2011, forcing them to change to independent nonprofit agencies.
“I’m very proud that Central Prairie Honor Flights accomplished what we wanted to do and helped send more than 1,100 veterans to Washington, D.C.,” she said. “I’m equally proud of the volunteers and the job they did taking care of everyone. We’ve received numerous notes of support and thanks for what we’ve done. This will give us time to focus and work on other quality projects.”
Duncan said he believes a mission started by Central Prairie RC&D has a good chance to finish on a high note.
“Central Prairie staff and volunteers worked aggressively to make this happen,” he said. “Our biggest obstacle was our donations had turned off. Now, we can put this chapter behind us and help them raise funds to finish the job. Our focus of this mission when it started was to send these veterans to Washington and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Officials estimate about the remaining 350 World War II veterans from the Central Prairie RC&D’s eight-county area could travel to Washington, D.C., for $230,000. Honor Flight Kansas, replacing Great Bend, features cochairs Mark Collins and Mike VanCampen.
“I will help them raise funds to get it done,” Duncan said.
The Central Prairie RC&D council is comprised of Barton, Edwards, McPherson, Pawnee, Reno, Rice, Stafford and Ellsworth counties. The council is a non-profit, 501c3 that has a mission, vision, and five-year planning models to Improve Quality of Life in central Kansas. The RC&D program combines private enterprise and federal assistance that encourages the blending of natural resource use with local economic and social values.

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