HOISINGTON — Two weeks ago, GPS Kids Club founder Debbie Stephens and parent advisory board president Alicia Boor were grim about the future of the after school and summer daycare program so many families in Hoisington and the surrounding area have come to consider their home away from home. In order to keep the doors open for the summer, they needed to raise just over $20,000 in less than a month. The Kansas State Fire Marshal’s office had notified them a new fire alarm system needed to be installed before June 1, or they would shut building down.
Less than three weeks later, the two were in Great Bend Tuesday morning meeting with Golden Belt Community Foundation Director Christy Tustin about fundraising opportunities ahead. The two were smiling, and a new hope was apparent as they shared how excited and grateful they are for the outpouring of support they’ve received from their community and beyond.
After the Tribune reported GPS Kids Club’s precarious position, friends and family began calling and stopping by to ask how they could help. The fundraising campaign, “$20,000 Reasons to Support GPS Kids” appeared on facebook. That’s the amount the organization needed to raise up front for work to install the externally monitored fire alarm system the Kansas State Fire Marshal insists on for GPS Kids Club to remain open this summer.
A request for 200 people to donate $100 each began to garner attention, and people responded. Checks were sent by mail, dropped off in person, and handed to advisory board members and Stephens when they were out in the community.
Over $20,000 has been raised to date, with donations continuing to come in to help cover the remaining $22,000 GPS will need to pay for the system in full, Stephens and Boor said. Cash hasn’t been the only type of donation.
Hoisington shop organizing fundraiser, holding benefit sale
Mother’s Day weekend, The Farmhouse, a Hoisington gift shop, will hold fundraiser sale for GPS, along with a community fundraiser outside their Main Street location. They have pledged 20 percent of their May 11 sales. GPS board members are organizing a craft for kids.
“We will have flower pots and flowers,” Boor said. “They can decorate their pot and plant a flower in it for mom.”
Lemonade, a bake sale and raffles are also planned. Pork butts have been donated, and Plum Crazy Barbecue is donating their time for a barbecue. All sides have been donated and any left over bake sale items will be served for desert.
Finally, a local DJ has donated time, and the Knights of Columbus organization has donated its hall from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. for a benefit dance.
On top of all of this, GPS Kids Club will kick off its annual enchilada and breakfast burrito sale that weekend. All orders are presold, and details can be found on the $20,000 Reasons facebook page.
Superior Essex donating fire alarm cable
According to an April 30 post on the $20,000 Reasons facebook page, Superior Essex, a Hoisington manufacturer, has started production on a special batch of wire which the company is donating to GPS to use on the fire alarm system. Plant manager Tony Szot confirmed, the company will be donating 6,000 feet of fire alarm security cable. That, Stephens said, should decrease the overall cost of the project significantly.
Plans for the fire alarm system have been submitted to the state, and Stephens was informed Firetronics, the contractor, is set to begin work on Monday, and has assured her of project completion before the May 31 deadline. She credits the outpouring of support for convincing the company to go ahead.
“We’re going to knock this one out of there,” Stephens said. “Thank you God, thank you God.”
Once the fire alarm system is installed, fundraising will begin for the fire rated construction and upgrades the KSFM will require for GPS to inhabit and use the building in its entirety.
“We don’t have to raise that all immediately,” Boor said. “That is our major goal, to raise the money and complete the project room by room.”
Boor is researching grant options, and the organization is taking the initial steps to be awarded tax credits to raise $150,000 for this second phase.
Stephens has asked the fire marshal for clarification about deadlines for the additional upgrades, and she is still waiting for their response, though they have reached out to her and assured her they will work with her. For now, the organization is operating under the assumption the next phase can wait until kids return to classes in the fall.
All ages contribute
The advisory council is making every effort to personally thank each donor through the facebook page.
On April 28, Stephens posted, “The giving hasn’t slowed down - I am just behind on shout outs!! You guys are absolutely amazing!! Keep up the fantastic work GPS Champions!! We appreciate you more than you will ever know.”
Individuals, couples, even organizations throughout the county and beyond are listed as the number of donors nears 200.
One group, the “Kaiser Ledgers,” which Stephens describes as a group of farmers that meet at the Kaiser station, play pitch and solve the world’s problems, gave a sizeable donation. It came in an envelope that read “Ledgers for GPS.”
“I just wanted to cry. I want to frame that envelope,” she said. “There’s maybe one or two that have a tie to us through their grandchildren, but for the most part they’re just the guys hanging out. That was special.”
One of the youngest donors is a student at GPS Kids Club. Kamben Burkey was saving up for a special LEGO set, but donated to GPS kids last week instead.
“How great is that,” Stephens said. “To me, that is the end goal, that’s it.”
With renewed optimism, Stephens hinted at a full summer of activities planned for GPS Kids.
“The last time we talked to you, I had no clue how we were going to pull this off in two weeks time,” Boor said.
“I felt pretty run over,” Stephens agreed. “It kind of took the wind out of my sails to say the least.”
That feeling has turned around now.
With the community support, and everyone coming around, Boor is confident they can raise the $42,000 needed within a comfortable time.
“Now with other opportunities in our sights, we won’t be so behind the eight ball anymore,” she said.