Communities strive to make home a better place

What do a skateboard park, Main Street Mural and neighborhood watch have in common?


by Nancy B. Peterson
K-State Research and Extension News Media Services

The report is in, and enough to generate a WOW!

In 2011, Kansas PRIDE communities reported contributing 94,263 volunteer hours toward community and economic development.

“The estimated dollar value for the time is $1,677,800,” said Dan Kahl, K-State Research and Extension PRIDE Program coordinator, who cited The Independent Sector as a resource for his calculations.

So, what is PRIDE? And, what do its volunteers have to show for their time?

The Kansas PRIDE Program facilitates volunteer-driven community and economic development by working with K-State Research and Extension and the Kansas Department of Commerce to guide self-assessment, help communities identify important projects for their future, establish priorities, and identify resources to help them get the job done.

The effort, which has a more than 40-year history of supporting community improvement, has evolved with changing times, said Kahl, who explained that successful PRIDE communities were recently honored June 2 at PRIDE Day in Melvern, Kan. Communities cited for completing projects that add capital improvements to their community included:

• Alton, pop. 104, earned a top 2012 award (projects completed in 2011) for Built Capital by creating a skateboard park. Third and fourth grade boys and their fathers approached the city council, which included PRIDE members, and were challenged to raise the funds and take responsibility for the project.

With the help of Post Rock Extension agent and PRIDE representative Nadine Sigle, the group applied for and was selected to receive a K-State Research and Extension Get It-Do It grant to support youth and adult partnerships in promoting physical activity, health and wellness.

Community volunteers, including children, worked together to research equipment, make a budget, host community events to raise money, and build a safe new park for youth.

• Larned, pop. 3,340, earned a 2012 award for Built Capital for adding Splash Pad and Park.

PRIDE volunteers surveyed the community, and picked up on a suggestion to revive an aging park and adding a Splash Pad. They sought community support favoring a $25,000 contribution from the city if volunteers could submit a successful Small Communities Improvement Program (SCIP) Grant for $125,000 from the Kansas Department of Commerce.

Community volunteers contributed more than 6,000 hours to complete the Splash Pad and update the park with new play equipment, refinished tennis courts, and lighting.

• Highland, pop. 933, earned a 2012 Financial Capital award for creative and persistent fundraising to replace their city’s aging holiday decorations.

PRIDE volunteers wanted to make Highland the “Snowflake Capital” of Kansas, and hosted community dinners, worked food stands, recycled aluminum cans, sold books, and organized event after event to raise $6,000 toward the purchase of the decorations.

• Lucas, pop. 407, earned a Cultural Capital award for creating a Main Street mural illustrating the history of the area, which includes Wilson, Kan., and the Czechoslovakian immigrants who chose the area as their home.

PRIDE volunteers collaborated with members of a Scenic Byway Committee and local artist Erika Nelson to replace and update a mural that had been painted in 1998.

They sought funding from the Kansas Arts Commission, Russell County Convention and Visitors Bureau, area businesses, and individuals, and invited high school art students and volunteers to help prepare the site and complete the new mural, which, as they say is “the talk of the town.”

• Spearville, pop. 827, earned a Social Capital Award for organizing a neighborhood watch program, with neighbors watching out for neighbors.

PRIDE volunteers sought support from the local police chief in developing a plan, and played an important role in convening organizations and residents to ensure a safer community. They invited participation from the Ford County communications coordinator, medical and fire personnel and school district, publicized the effort in a newspaper, staged a flyer-design contest with K-5th graders, and collaborated with the Lions Club to co-host a meal to introduce the plan and unite the community in putting it to work.

• Stafford, pop. 1,032, earned a 2012 award for Political Capital for conducting a community assessment and developing a vision statement to guide PRIDE community and economic development.

Disappointment with participation in previous surveys prompted PRIDE volunteers to invite Glenn Newdigger, K-State Research and Extension agent in Stafford County, to organize a visioning session with a goal of assessing where the community is today, and where the public would like it to be in the future. The session drew participants from ages 10 to 80+, and is being used as a planning tool for community development.

• Washington, pop. 1,083, earned a Human Capital Award for seasonal holiday efforts in helping families through a “Christmas Compassion Project.”

In 2003, the Washington County Ministerial Association introduced an Angel Tree requesting holiday gifts for residents, and followed up by adding a seasonal food box. In 2010, the local PRIDE committee assumed responsibility for food gifts, and, in 2011, added a holiday dinner for 550 people, including recipients of 323 Angel Tree gifts and 155 PRIDE food boxes with enough food for eight meals.

The project represented more than 2,000 volunteer hours and $20,000 in donations from businesses, individuals and organizations, such as swine producers who donated 150 pounds of ham for meals.

Top award recipients earn a plaque and are eligible to apply for Star or Community of Excellence Awards, and grants to fund future projects, Kahl said.

Additional awards to community-based PRIDE groups earning honorable mention in the Natural Capital category are:

• Alden, pop. 154, which raised the money and contributed volunteer hours to re-do a former flower garden near the post office. It turned an empty lot on Main Street into a colorful, inviting garden.

• Potwin, pop. 434, collaborated with the local Lions Club, Scouts, Methodist and Christian churches and businesses and encouraged youth and adult partnerships (ages 2 to 90) to grow and contribute 1,470 pounds of fresh produce for distribution to the Salvation Army in Wichita, a shelter in El Dorado, and Food 4 Kids.

About 70 Kansas communities participate in the Kansas PRIDE program annually, Kahl said.

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