Kansas PRIDE provides assistance and resources to enhance communities throughout the state
The Kansas PRIDE Program collaborates with local communities to assess their needs, organize volunteers, gather resources, and execute projects that enhance the quality of life for residents. Founded in 1970, Kansas PRIDE is a partnership between Kansas State University Research and Extension, Kansas PRIDE Inc. nonprofit board, the Kansas Department of Commerce, and the Kansas Masons.
Kansas PRIDE seeks to make communities a better place to live and work. Local communities create a vision for their future, which Kansas PRIDE helps strategize and support. Kansas PRIDE provides education that helps communities organize projects and form a communications network with partners and volunteers. The education component of Kansas PRIDE assists communities in getting organized, handling funds, applying for grants, recruiting, and retaining volunteers and celebrating success.
One of the main features of Kansas PRIDE is the opportunity for community assessment. Through the First Impressions Program, communities can evaluate their needs and identify goals and projects for community development.
In Russell, Kansas, the First Impressions Program was particularly helpful. The assessment helped identify the need for cleanup and beautification. Russell decided that the implementation of a walking trail would not only help promote physical activity within the community, but also make strides toward the goal of beautifying the town.
“One of the biggest positive impacts we got was being able to affiliate our local organization with Kansas PRIDE,” said Andrea Krauss, a board member of Russell PRIDE, Inc. “There’s enough name recognition around the Kansas PRIDE program that just being able to say that we are a PRIDE community helped lend credibility to our group and helped us attract more people.”
Starting as a collaborative project with the Russell Rotary club, the grant writing and city approval process began. Over two years, Russell raised $225,000 toward the project from local donations and grants. Now complete, the trail is a mile-long circular path within the park.
“It has been a huge benefit from the community,” said Andrea. “Every week, someone will come up to me and tell me how much they appreciate it. It is used constantly, every day of the year. It has been a huge positive impact for the community.
Jan Steen and Jaime Menon are co-coordinators of Kansas PRIDE and serve as staff and guidance to the Kansas PRIDE Board of Directors. They are also specialists for K-State Research and Extension. Jan and Jaime gather resources for local PRIDE communities, identify projects and provide examples from communities who have completed similar projects.
Each county in Kansas has an extension office. These offices assist local Kansas PRIDE communities in making connections both locally and at the state level. The extension office in Russell assisted in creating informational materials for the walking trail and to raise awareness for the need for physical activity.
“That is why I love the program, because it is unique to every community,” said Jaime. “They may need to do an assessment or strategic planning, but then we help to connect them with resources that we’ve come in contact with, whether it’s economic development, or the Department of Commerce or the Masons.”
Kansas PRIDE encourages communities to reach out to other local entities, such as civic organizations, churches, and schools, when beginning projects. Through a collaborative effort, communities can complete projects efficiently, without duplicating efforts. Partnering with other organizations also provides financial resources, equipment, and volunteer power. With such a capital initiative project, Russell PRIDE partnered with the Russell Rotary Club and the City of Russell to raise funds and identify volunteers for the walking trail project.
The Kansas Masons also came on board as a program partner for the walking trail. The Kansas Masonic Foundation provided philanthropic support through grants, but also gathered volunteers to help with the project. Through the Kansas Masons partnership, Kansas PRIDE communities can apply for up to $15,000 in grants for large-scale projects. Other grants from the Kansas Masons assist communities in attracting visitors and providing support in times of emergency.
“The Kansas Masonic Foundation was set up to help those in need,” said Daron Woelk, Grand Senior Steward of the Kansas Freemasons. “Whether it be a brother Mason, their family or community, it is meant to help, aid and assist in their needs. The Russell Pride committee asked the Kansas Masonic Foundation for financial assistance for the walking trail, and it was granted.”
“We were able to raise the funding from multiple sources for the trail itself, but once it was completed, there was still quite a bit of work that needed to be done to beautify the landscape next to the trail,” said Andrea. “The Masonic Foundation helped us take the project across the finish line.”
To support Kansas PRIDE, contact Chris Spooner by email or at 785-775-2130
By James Dalton Burton