STAFFORD — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) will deliver remarks and present his “Building Better Communities” award at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Stafford Mercantile, 101 N. Main.
The award will honor the residents of Stafford for their efforts to revitalize their community.
“An example of a community that rallied together to make things happen is Stafford — population 1,042,” Moran said in a recent U.S. Senate address. “I’d like to recognize the efforts of Stafford residents with a Building Better Communities award. They have made the effort to preserve their town for another generation. The community leaders of Stafford are taking steps to secure that town’s future.”
Moran will recognize the achievements of Clayton Grimmett, Stafford County commissioner, Stafford Mercantile; Mary Jo Taylor, Stafford superintendent, Stafford High’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center, and Todd Taylor, Stafford County Hospital administrator, Stafford County Hospital. Stafford Mayor Dennis Bronson will also be recognized.
The “Building Better Communities” award spotlights positive community action in Kansas and shows how creative thinking and teamwork make a positive difference.
Moran said Carolyn Dunn, Stafford County economic development director, summarized how Stafford is making economic progress.
“She said, ‘Stafford is proving that when communities look within themselves for growth, they have the capability to forge a stronger, more positive future.’”
Moran said, “Stafford is a success story, a role model. It demonstrates how teamwork and creative thinking can make a positive difference. I am proud to recognize the efforts of Stafford with what we’ve called ‘Building a Better Community Award.’
“I offer my congratulations and gratitude for the kind of leadership an effort among all the residents of Stafford to see that Stafford is a good place to live today and a great place to live tomorrow.”
After the Duckwall Store left town, Stafford Enterprises LLC and Stafford Development Incorporated worked with citizens to reopen a small-town variety. Stafford Mercantile sells a wide variety of items ranging from cleaning supplies, snack food and dozens of other common household items. The soda fountain is a 1928 Bastian-Blessing model, located in Elroys II and the old Smart Drug Store.
“What makes this shop unique is it’s owned by the community and features a lot of Stafford’s history — including a 1928 soda fountain,” Moran said. “The new shop brings back fond memories of the past, but also brings a future for the young folks to enjoy a Mercentile story and soda fountain. They can shop at home.”
Grimmett said progress takes a step at a time.
“It makes people feel good,” he said. “We have a couple of businesses with their lights on. Maybe someone else may open a business here. Our goal is to get a snowball effect. We may have gotten on the first rung of the ladder. It will still take a lot of community work.”
Stafford County Hospital
Declining population and reduced Medicare reimbursement rates and rising healthcare costs created a $550,000 deficit for the Stafford County Hospital.
Moran said access to proper healthcare is a primary concern for local citizens.
“Other than closing the hospital, there was no option for Stafford,” Moran said. “Rather than giving up, the hospital got new leadership. They sought help from the county. They worked to make ends meet so the hospital doors could remain open and continue that long tradition of serving the citizens of Stafford County. Access to healthcare services and hospitals is vital to the survival of a community.”
Todd Taylor, Stafford County Hospital, said the hospital’s future was tenuous, but the Stafford County commission and citizens wanted to keep their local healthcare.
“The majority of the community was supportive,” Taylor said. “The community really rallied behind us.”
Stafford Superintendent Mary Jo Taylor recognized the challenge of retaining young residents because of a lack of jobs. She started the Stafford Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center at Stafford High School in 2003 with approval by the Kansas State Board of Education.
Taylor said she appreciates the support from the donated building, to donated carpeting to anonymous donors.
“The support has been tremendous,” Taylor said. “In 2008, when our budgets were lowered, we had an anonymous donor that paid the salary of the teacher. They felt it was a necessity in our community.”
The center equips high school students with training to become successful entrepreneurs.
“By learning what it takes to develop and manage a small business, young people gain valuable skills that open doors for a wide range of future employment opportunities,” Moran said. “Local store owners hire those students and give them hands-on experience in managing their own business. Those skills are important as those students leave high school and enables them to create jobs that Stafford so desperately needs.”
Moran said Stafford’s success is a good example for everyone.
“In these small communities, the people work together to come up with common-sense solutions,” he said. “They make a difference for their families and their community. They strive for a better future so that every child has the opportunity to pursue the American dream. For rural communities to survive and prosper, citizens have to work together to create their own opportunities. Those communities with a bright future are those who decide on their own to work together within their community.”