Our Future Looks Bright

The Write Stuff – Deb Hadachek
Belleville Telescope –

Kids these days.

I was thinking that the other day at the county commission meeting as I listened to Drew and Blake Erkenbrack talk about their dreams for the Belleville High Banks.

The Fair Amusements Committee is pretty much all new, and pretty much all young (these days I think that’s anyone under the age of 55). But those young men hit the ground running with ideas to continue the legacy that grizzled volunteers who do what they do for no other reason than love of the sport have built at the track over the last 100 years.

Not all their ideas may pan out. Like generations before them, they will learn by trial and error what it takes to keep the World’s Fastest Half Mile Dirt Track on the map.

It was fun to listen to them talk about Tyler Kasl who has stepped up to help address electrical and track maintenance considerations, and Preston Cheely and James Doyle working the phones for sponsorships and promotion and grants. They are lucky to have the wealth of knowledge of Ron Huncovsky on the track and Tim and Karen Hiatt in the concessions.

If even a fraction of what they envision becomes reality, they will play their part to strengthen and grow a part of our economy that adds significant outside tourist dollars to our organizations and businesses each year. With kids these days like these, our future is bright.

A common theme I hear everywhere is “how do we get young people to step up and serve?”.

Number one, do we ask them to help?

Number two, when we ask them to help, do we demand they do things exactly the way we did them? Or are we willing to accept–gasp! –change? Do we give them support and advice, but also turn them loose to try something new?

Number three, from my view of Republic County, there are already quite a few young people accepting those challenges. Every time I talk to Adam Robertson, Belleville’s mayor, I think “Now there’s a man on a mission.”

Who’s that person in your community? Do you encourage them? Or criticize them behind their backs?

Number four, even though we old volunteers get crabby and burned out, stepping back doesn’t mean we should walk away. This year Deanna Morris took over as chairman of the North Central Kansas Health Care Foundation, to continue another critical role to recruit family practice physicians to Republic County.

As a former chair, I know there are times she will lay awake at night and worry about the responsibility. I also know I would have melted into a little grease spot in the carpet if another previous chair, Edwin Splichal, hadn’t stuck around to lend me his support.

I hope I can be that kind of person for the next group of people who love our communities.

Sometimes those young whippersnappers will refuse to learn from our mistakes and go ahead and make their own mistakes, just like we did.

The only people who make mistakes are those who do something.

Finally, we need to stop making volunteering about forever commitments. We need to cultivate platoons of people who can offer one important skill or one pair of hands for one project.

I could recite a long roll call of young (or youngish) people who don’t really feel capable to serve, but swallow hard and do so anyway.

Lesley Popelka has taken the helm of the Republic County Community Foundation, a project that has grown from humble beginnings to assets in the millions. Narka might not have gotten a new fire hall if Nathan Svoboda hadn’t helped lay the groundwork (literally–he and a legion of volunteers raised that building from the ground.) Lance Rundus rallied the Methodist troops in Republic to wear work clothes to church on the fifth Sunday and help clean up lots and houses. Every time I talk to Amy and Greg McGuire at the Blair Theater, they have another inspiration about how technology and entertainment and the arts can draw people of the county together.

Pity poor Belleville Chamber/Main Street director, Waylon Sheetz, who was quietly enjoying his popcorn before the movie the other night when I plopped down next to him and started quizzing him about projects. I have economic development director Luke Mahin on speed dial whenever I need someone to connect me with solid facts or resources for some proposal.

This, of course, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of people who have taken a deep breath and said, “I can help.” Make your own list. Tell them thank you. Offer to do one small thing to help, support or encourage them.

We’ve got untapped potential in energy and talent to grow our future.

Thank goodness for kids these days