County residents start visioning for Hansen $500,000 gift
By Deb Hadachek Telescope editor
“You have something everyone else wants.”
Those were the words of consultant Betty Johnson as she led 75 county residents through a “Strategic Doing” exercise June 20 at Republic County High School.
What everyone else wants is money to make their ideas a reality, Johnson said, something that Republic County has access to through the Dane Hansen Foundation. The Hansen Foundation will make $500,000 available over the next five years to counties and communities who can dream innovative ways to use the money.
A community center. Services for the elderly. A business incubator. Affordable housing. Playgrounds. Parks. Excavation at Rocky Pond. Apprenticeship programs for young people interested in building, plumbing, and electrical trades.
Johnson broke participants into groups to brainstorm the strengths, weaknesses, dangers, and challenges that exist in Republic County. She had team members post their best ideas, a collage that nearly filled a wall in the RCHS cafeteria.
Johnson said the Hansen Foundation puts few limitations on how the counties in their region use the donation, preferring instead each community be free to develop proposals that best fits its needs.
“They want you to come up with ideas of how to best invest the money,” she said.
“You have something everyone else wants. You have the opportunity to be game changers. Most places have ideas and no money. You have money.”
Johnson said along with the $100,000 per year the Hansen Foundation has offered to distribute in the 26 counties, individual projects can apply directly to the Hansen Foundation board, which meets monthly.
Johnson will compile ideas and will direct another Strategic Doing meeting in Republic County July 25. Participants will begin to focus on top priorities and start to devise steps to reach those goals.
“This is strategic “doing”, where you will start to do things that help you reach your goals.”
Johnson said not all goals may be achieved, but ideas have a greater chance of success if citizens start to break ideas down into steps to reach those goals.
Johnson encouraged participants at the first meeting to invite more people to participate in future meetings.
Making a difference
County Community Foundation participated in the meeting, including Steve Scofi eld, president, and William Navis, Belleville, who gave a history of how the RCCF was started.
Navis said the partnership with the Greater Salina Community Foundation, which helps administrate and invest donations has taken RCCF from $50,000 in donations needed to start to an organization with a $2.7 million value nine years later.
“At our first meeting we were able to give away a few hundred dollars, and I thought ‘will this really make a difference?’” Navis said. “When we formed the community foundation nine years ago there was no way we could forsee we would have this opportunity.
“How fortunate we are to be in the Hansen Foundation service area.”
The Hansen Foundation has already made $200,000 available to counties with community foundations in the last two years, along with other private and specialty grants.
Nadine Sigle, a K-State Research and Extensive community vitality specialist in Northwest Kansas, said she is working with the Hansen Foundation to establish a Community Intern Initiative. This year the program brought five interns to communities to help with projects, including architectural ideas for existing buildings, walking trails, to create a database of alumni to match graduates with jobs in local communities, or helping rural businesses with social media marketing.
Get out and ‘do’ something
Viewpoint Deb Hadachek
I am an expert at sitting at meetings.
Butt-numbing, joint-stiffening hours and hours of meetings where a few people talk about their pet project and everyone else sits and tries to stay awake.
I sort of expected the same thing when I attended the Strategic Doing meeting last week, hosted by Republic County Community Foundation.
But within a few minutes we were already “doing” something–brainstorming in small groups about the strengths and weaknesses of Republic County, and the things we would like to see happen if money were no object.
Best of all, at the direction of facilitator Betty Johnson, we were ordered to do a fruit basket upset: go sit at a table with someone you’ve never met before.
Because I sit at a lot of meetings around the county, there weren’t too many people I didn’t know. But there were a lot of people I don’t get to talk to regularly or in any depth. It was especially gratifying to see people from Scandia and Courtland sitting at tables with people from Cuba and Belleville.
There was a lot of animated conversation, lots of hands moving, lots of laughing as people talked about great ideas.
And from what I heard as I wandered a bit to take photos: people who see that our strengths far, far, outweigh our weaknesses. Not only concrete things like good schools, hospitals and community services. But also intangibles that are more important: Lots of volunteers. People who generous. Safe communities.
Johnson made an important statement that needs to be repeated over, and over, and over.
We’ve been through strategic planning processes. We talk about our needs. Our dreams. What we’d like to see. All of that information is compiled into a report which then gathers dust on a shelf or is stuffed in a drawer, never glanced at again until it’s thrown into the trash at some future date.
But strategic “doing” is different: identify the small steps that make big dreams to come true. And for citizens to take ownership in making those small steps happen.
When you see publicity about future Strategic Doing meeting on Tuesday, July 25, at 7 p.m. at Republic County High School, take note: this is not a meeting for “other” people who should “do” something to make our communities better.
This is something you can “do” too. Attend. Listen. Visit. Learn. Participate.
All dreams are better and stronger when they are shared.