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‘Community’ project helps foster children
Partnership part of MLK Day of Service
MLK day of service St. Francis pic
Pictured are: Back row, Kathy Hewitt, Mindy Evans, Shelley Keeling, Sasha Harger, Stacy Lewis, Sandy McMullen and Danielle Fahrney; and front row. Kandi Wolf, Dennis Wolf, Dawn DeBolt, Ariel Fluke, Stephanie Galusha, Lesley Percival and Desiree Procopio. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities, and a host of local partners took this to heart to help area foster children. 

“Volunteers In Action/AmeriCorps Seniors of Central Kansas embraced the idea of collaborating with many organizations to create ‘We Care’ bags for children who were initially entering the foster care system,” said VIA Director Linn Hogg. All of the bags were then delivered to Saint Francis Community Services in Great Bend Thursday afternoon.

Hogg explained how a former VIA employee and current volunteer, Kandi Wolf, wanted to do something special for these kids who were caught in a very emotional and traumatic moment. The idea was to give them something new and something that belonged only to them. 

Each of the We Care duffle bags had hygiene and dental products, a water bottle and a fleece blanket.

“The duffel bags have really been a product of community spirit,” said Hogg. “This was very much a community project.”

Hogg said she was very excited about this collaboration. There was a grant written to the promotional product company 4-Imprint, the blankets and bottle were from a grant through the Kansas Volunteer Commission, the hygiene kits were from COPE (Communities Organizing to Promote Equity), the dental kits were from Heart of Kansas, and the Pilot Club of Great Bend assembled all of the bags.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted people to work together to create a better community and I feel this project really exemplified how many of our agencies and civic groups want to work together to accomplish this,” Hogg said. It’s fitting that her agency’s mission is to “create a community of volunteers that work to build a better, stronger and more cohesive place to live.”

“When we all live in a spirit of community, great things happen,” Hogg said. “Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need.” 

“Saint Francis Ministries thanks the community of Great Bend for their amazing generosity,” said Lesley Percival, foster care homes supervisor for Saint Francis Ministries. “Great Bend never fails to step up and support.  The Great Bend community cares.”

She outlined the agency’s footprint in Barton County:

• There are a total of 24 licensed foster homes.

• There are 82 active out-of-home cases, and  27 of those cases are adoption.

• There are 15 kinship (relative) home serving 21 youth.

During the last quarter-century, the MLK Day of Service has grown, and its impact increased as more Americans embraced the idea that citizenship involves taking an active role in improving communities.

MLK day of service pilot club pic
Pictured are Great Bend Pilot Club members Mary Ann June, Jari Marietta, Marilyn Kopke and Nancy Rogers. - photo by COURTERSY PHOTO