The Kansas Masonic Foundation partners with three K-State programs to advance communities
Excited yet hushed chatter filled the hallway as nervous students prepared to present their business plans to a panel of judges. The Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge (KEC) was underway, with high school and college students from around the state pitching business ideas ranging from meal plans to computer applications to surgical tools. The KEC is just one way the Kansas Masonic Foundation and Kansas State University are working together to lift up Kansas communities.
Last year, the Kansas Masonic Foundation invested in and partnered with three K-State programs — the Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship, Kansas PRIDE and the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs have received funding, as well as volunteers from local Masons across the state. As of 2017, Masons from 220 lodges had raised $2.5 million to support these three K-State programs. As well as partnering with these organizations, the Kansas Masonic Foundation also helps students achieve a college education through their donation of scholarships.
The Kansas Masonic Foundation is a nonprofit organization that was established for the purpose of expanding philanthropy in the fields of scientific, educational and charitable programs. This foundation is funded by endowments from Kansas Masons, their families and friends, as well as voluntary gifts.
Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge
The Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge is a new business idea competition for Kansas high school and college students. The competition is hosted by the Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business Administration on K-States campus. This program includes financial prizes for the winners, as well as mentoring opportunities with community business leaders. Kansas Masons are encouraged to mentor teams from local high schools and universities, and in order for the high school teams to be eligible for this competition, they need to be sponsored by a local lodge.
Chad Jackson, director of the Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship, believes the Kansas Masonic Foundation is making an extraordinary impact in communities all across Kansas through their support of programs like the Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge.
“The Kansas Masons and the Kansas Masonic Foundation have had a tremendous impact on the K-State Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship and the interest in entrepreneurship across the state,” Chad said. “Because of their generous support of the Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge, a statewide competition featuring the best high school and university entrepreneurial talent, the program has had a dramatic increase in participation and impact, which ultimately leads to the inspiration and support of the next generation of Kansas entrepreneurs.”
The Kansas PRIDE program has been successful in creating a better future for people living in cities, towns and neighborhoods all across Kansas, reaching 500 communities to date. This program is continuing to reach more communities with their model and strategic planning and approach to better communities. PRIDE partners with K-State Research and Extension for the “First Impressions” program, which shows the community its strengths and weaknesses by using a first-time visitor survey and comparisons to other communities. The Kansas PRIDE program has benefited from the Kansas Masonic Foundation in many ways: capacity building, community funding and promotion.
“Seven Kansas PRIDE communities have benefited from $67,000 of grant funding provided through our partnership with the Kansas Masons since spring of 2017,” said Jaime Menon, Kansas PRIDE program manager. “The PRIDE communities are: Almena, Grainfield, Grinnell, Iola, Lincoln, Norton and Russell. These projects have provided opportunities for the communities to build and strengthen partnerships between PRIDE communities and Masonic lodges on a local level.”
The Kansas Masonic Foundation has invited Kansas PRIDE program coordinators to speak at their annual conference to promote the program to their membership. With capacity building, the Kansas PRIDE program now benefits from a new co-coordinator to assist in programming education, delivery and promotion.
Office of Military and Veterans Affairs
The partnership between K-State’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs and Kansas Masons helps provide vital comprehensive services to current and former members of the military from Kansas and their families. Their work supports post-9/11 military veterans’ readjustment to productive civil life and work. Art DeGroat, director of K-State Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, shares that “The multi-year partnership with Kansas Masons has enabled the delivery of much needed community education regarding how best to assist the integration of post-9/11-era military veterans and their families into Kansas communities. The Kansas Masonic Foundation has been exceptionally generous in creating access with their many statewide and local lodge leaders for the application of current K-State research on the process of veteran transition and reintegration that is proving to be helpful to recent veterans after their service in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Art believes the partnership has a very natural feel, largely because both K-State and the Masons are value-based service organizations that respect people, communities and the knowledge and character that bind people together.
“In my more than 35 years of professional service in the military and higher education, I find the Kansas Masons to be the one of the absolute best teams of people that I have ever worked with,” Art said. “I look forward to a long partnership in service together ensuring that the state of Kansas remains one of the top military and veteran-inclusive places to live, work and enjoy family in America.”
The Kansas Masonic Foundation also awards scholarships to Kansas college students and residents, awarding almost $250,000 worth of scholarships annually. They offer three scholarships. The general scholarship is for those who plan to attend one of seven Kansas four-year universities or one of the many Kansas community colleges. The Legacy Scholarship is for a student who is either personally involved with a Kansas Masonic lodge or is the child of a Kansas Mason. The third scholarship is the Cynthia Ruth Russell Scholarship that is awarded to a Kansas resident who has a medically approved disability. All of these scholarships are renewable each year with reapplying. In fall 2017, the Kansas Masons awarded scholarships to 66 K-State students.
“There are simply very few gifts we receive that have had the overall impact as the generous support we enjoy from the Kansas Masonic Foundation,” said Pat Bosco, dean of student life. “My students and the families we serve are most grateful.”