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Encouraging tomorrows leaders
Find your passion, advises Foundation president
Monday, the 2013-2014 crop of Junior Rotarians were honored at a Great Bend Rotary/ Optimist Club luncheon. Front from left: Tarikua Williams, Mary Beuoy, Kaylie Doll, Kelsie Doll, Marissa Hoisington, Hannah Hildebrand and Kiley Flint. Back from left: Harry Willems, Rotary Club President, Jesus Sandoval, Greg Burley, Alejo Carbajal, Chris Seidel and Steve Coen, President of the Kansas Health Foundation and our speaker. Not pictured: Bryce Beck, Amanda Burgardt, Justin Henry, Elijah Conner and Andre Parks. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

A focus on the need for a new crop of leaders to step into community service was the underlying message at the Great Bend Rotary/Optimist Club luncheon held Monday at the Highland Hotel.
The guest speaker, Steve Coen, president of the Kansas Health Foundation, praised them for their accomplishments so far, and encouraged them to make service a priority as they enter adulthood.  
“Follow your passion and do something you love,” he said.   It was a chance for the St. John native to give provide pointers on how to stand out in college and careers, and an opportunity to offer advice.
He emphasized the need to go the extra mile and find good mentors, and take advantage of internships as they build their careers and to strive to understand and build their skills through community service.
“Many of the same critical skills employers are looking for are the same ones community service organizations are looking for,” he said.  “We need people who are dependable, have energy and ask questions, aren’t afraid to buck trends, work in teams, and have good communication skills.”  In addition, adaptability and high ethical and moral standards are needed.  
According to Rotarian Mark Mingenback, two Jr. Rotarians, one boy and one girl, are nominated each month of the school year by teachers and guidance counselors at Great Bend High School.
“Our club feels that the Jr. Rotarian program is very important because of the relationships that are established between young aspiring students and club members who are business and organizational leaders in our community,” Mingenback said.  Each year, Rotary also awards two scholarships to Jr. Rotarians.  All are given the opportunity to apply, he said.
The club hopes students like these will someday become Rotarians themselves, providing service to their community.  And they aren’t alone. Coen  also hopes they step into leadership roles that help Kansas to regain its footing as one of the more healthier states in the country.  Since 1991, the state has fallen in health rankings from eighth to 27th.  That may be in a large part because Kansas has become more of an urban than agricultural population in that time period.   

Working towards better health
Coen also shared with the club ways the KHF is working to turn the tide.  Partnering with community organizations like Be Well Barton County which promote healthy behaviors and initiatives is one way.   The recent promotion of Complete Streets policies, which encourage healthy built environments in cities to make the healthy choice the easy choice was one example..  
In the past several years, Coen said the KHF has awarded several millions in matching grants in Barton County through the Golden Belt Community Foundation. The GBCF is one the most successful community foundations in the state, he said.

Recognition grant open to Barton County groups
Turning the tide towards good health will require help from many and varied groups. Coen hopes more Barton County groups will apply for the KHF Recognition Grant this year.  The grants were designed to fund unsolicited requests. It is targeted for organizations and agencies proposing meaningful and charitable projects that fit within the Foundation’s mission of improving the health of all Kansans.
Organizations that are tax-exempt, governmental or church related, with some restrictions, may apply.  All ideas for increasing the health of Kansans will be considered.  More details and instructions on how to apply can be found on the website .
Every year, from around the state, the foundation receives 150 grants, and awards 50 to 60 of them.  There are two rounds, one in September and one in March, which provide up to $25,000 or less.  
“Barton County already has a leg up because we haven’t received an requests from here for some time,” Coen said.

Update May 8.  Golden Belt Community Foundation correction.