Hope: A dare worth taking

Oh no. Here comes that “H” word again.
Dare we try it?
Last year the presidential campaigns challenged the nation to “hope” for changes that will better our lives. That theme has worn a little thin of late with a world seemingly determined to undermine any chance of it with wars, partisan politics and persistent economic malaise.
Yet Thursday night, a whole room full of people were proof positive that good things can happen for those who believe.
The venue was Thrive Allen County’s second annual banquet. And perhaps the difference between here and what seems to be the world out there is that because of hope, which is part and parcel of dreaming, wishing and envisioning a better tomorrow, positive changes have begun to happen.
The night was full of success stories:
* This afternoon Humboldt is dedicating its Centennial Trail and new biking route, the result of work between city folk and Thrive to secure the funding through the Sunflower Foundation and the Kansas Health Foundation.
* Because of Josh Oberley through his connection with Modern Woodmen of America, $10,000 in matching funds has been given to Allen County recreation programs. Yes, it’s good promotion for his business, but more importantly, he recognizes the payback for giving.
* Likewise, Sonic Equipment and Kneisley Manufacturing have raised money for local health and recreation needs and sponsored food drives for area citizens.
* A program has begun to help Iola adults obtain their high school diplomas through District 257’s Crossroads center.
* In what appeared to be a one-man battle, Dr. Sean McReynolds of Humboldt launched a campaign to educate Humboldt voters about the benefits of fluoridated water. Though the fluoride initiative was defeated at the polls, “Dr. Sean” won respect and admiration for fighting what he be-lieved in.
* Also in Humboldt, B & W Trailer Hitches, a for-profit business, showed its charitable heart by keeping all its employees working, even if it meant a loss for Joe Works, company president. When the demand for B & W products turned south, Works put his employees to work for the city of Humboldt by building ball fields, improving parks and other community-minded projects.
* Over the past year Iola’s disadvantaged youths have been better served by the Southeast Kansas Community Action Program’s Head Start program by its expanded and restructured services at its South Sycamore site.
* Allen County Hospital is becoming a more integral part of the community thanks to its new director, Joyce Heismeyer. Not only are its grounds spiffier, but through Heismeyer’s leadership the hospital has a new surgeon, made significant upgrades to its equipment and taken over sponsorhip of the Jingle Bell Jog, which occurs Saturday.
* A garden across from the county jail has supplied its inmates with an abundance of fresh food and a significant savings to taxpayers. Known as the “Sheriff’s Garden,” because of its instigator, Sheriff Tom Williams, the garden yielded 12,000 meals worth of food over three months to inmates and provided frozen produce for over the winter. The sheriff noted that many of the inmates who worked on the garden had never tasted fresh-picked produce and that inmate pockets had to be checked when re-entering the jail due to them wanting to smuggle in extra vegetables to eat while incarcerated. Kudos also go to local real estate agent Kent Thompson for providing the lot for the garden.
* Another garden that has grown in leaps and bounds is the Elm Creek Community Garden south of town also on donated land courtesy of Val and Carolyn McLean. By spring, the garden will have more than 100 plots, which rent for $20 apiece and include water and use of tools. Organizers have attracted nearly $75,000 in grants that will fund a full-time coordinator, part-time bookkeeper and provide free plots for the low-income as well as raised plots for the handicapped.
* The Elsmore community now has playground equipment for the first time since its elementary school was closed in 1994 thanks to the cooperation between its Ruritan club, area residents and the baseball team of Allen County Community College.
* And thanks to SAFE BASE, our local after-school program, kids are being screened for cavities free of charge.

THE NIGHT’S biggest heroes were Iola city and Allen County commissioners who stood together on stage and proclaimed their intentions to make 2010 “the year of the hospital.”
A first-rate hospital in any city or county stands at the very top of the must-have list of any business or industry looking for a new home. If it fails to meet expectations, people are quick to go somewhere else as has been evidenced by a loss of patient market share to our neighboring communities of Chanute, Fort Scott, Burlington and Parsons.
It’s awfully hard to hug a commission, much less two, but at your next opportunity, give a hearty handshake to your nearest commissioner.
And dare to hope.

— Susan Lynn