Mitchell County Non-Profit Organizations Roundtable Discussion

By Terry Bailey

Representatives from Beloit area non-profit organizations met at the First Bank Community Room from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, September 7, 2022. This roundtable discussion was organized by Julie Rabe, Director of Community Relations for the Solomon Valley Community Foundation. For several years Rabe was the Executive Director of the Beloit Area Chamber of Commerce. A few months ago, Rabe accepted her current position with the Solomon Valley Community Foundation.
Hannah Bowers, a native of Salina, took over the job as the Director of the Beloit Area Chamber of Commerce. She hit the ground running with the organization of the Eight Man All-Star Football game. Since that time Bowers has been hard at work arranging the Fourth Annual Millapalooza to be held on September 24th.
Emily Benedick is the third member of the organizational group. Benedick assumed the position as the Executive Director of the Solomon Valley Economic Development/Mitchell County Community Development director when Heather Hartman resigned that position.
Rounding out the organizational framework of the group is Colleen Eberle, Director of the Solomon Valley Community Foundation. She is a native of Minneapolis (Minnesota, not Kansas). She and her husband Cole own and operate Eberle Photography in Cawker City.
The status of volunteer, non-profit organizations in Mitchell County is somewhat akin to the parable of the blind men and an elephant where a group of blind men/women who have never come across an elephant learn and imagine what the elephant is like by touching it. Each blind person feels a different part of the elephant's body, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then describe the elephant based on their limited experience and their descriptions of the elephant are different from each other. 
Rabe's goal was to offer everyone an overall view of the non-profit elephant in Mitchell County. Each of the twenty-two representatives introduced their selves and gave an overview of who they were, the non-profit organization they represented, and the goals of that organization. That simple task took up the two hours allocated for the meeting. While twenty-two folks were in attendance this was by no means the total number of non-profit associations in Mitchell County.
Kyle Peterson - Mitchell County Historical Society
Vickie Mears - Beloit Economy Shop
Mike Jordan - Secretary of the Beloit Masonic Lodge
Mike Schmitt - Make-a-Wish Foundation
Rachel Ducote - Heart Choices - Pregnancy and Parenting Resource Center
Kristi Arasmith - Boost Ministries
Jeannette Luke - Anti-Human trafficking
Rachel Malay - Director of Port Library
Katelyn Heiman - 12th Judicial District
Amanda Horn - NCK Regional Planning Commission
Jay Rowh - Silver Haired Legislature
John Cashatt - Waconda Heritage Association
Susan McConaghy - Solomon Valley Transportation
Gilletta Moelleker - Pawnee Mental Health
Kathy Webster - Pawnee Mental Health
Barb Wise - Member of Twelve Boards of Directors
Susan Collard - Heart House Restoration
While much valuable information was shared, and far-reaching plans were discussed, two significant announcement were made public. Kyle Petterson, Director of the Mitchell County Historical Society, told the group that a meeting will be held on September 27th at 7:00 p.m. at the Museum located on North Independence Street. Two major topics of discussion will take place at this meeting.
The first is "what to do with the Gabel Corner?" This property, located at the junction of Highway 24 and Independence Street, has great historical significance. Obtained by the Historical Society twenty years ago, noteworthy strategies were developed for this property, including the moving of the train depot to this location. However, these plans, as most things do, relied on the obtaining of grant funds to make the dream come true. These grants did not materialize, and the property has sat vacant since that time. Several fundraising programs failed to generate significant funds to proceed with the original plans.
Petterson said, "We need to know where the public stands on what actions to take with the property. Putting some of the original plans in action takes money. We do not have the money to act. As it is now, the property is simply setting there, continuing to deteriorate as time passes."
Petterson told the group that the location of the Gabel property could be considered prime real estate development property. They have had several lucrative offers for the sale of the corner location. Selling the property would help fund other significant operations of the Society.
Petterson emphasized "This property belongs to the public. We need to hear from the public on what their wishes are. We encourage people to attend and share their thoughts."
Another significant topic for the meeting on the 27th is plans for the Hopewell Church. It was moved to its current location years ago with numerous plans for its use. None of those plans have come to fruition. "What to do with the Hopewell Church?" will be the second topic of discussion.
The second major announcement came from Jay Rowh, member of the Kansas Silver Haired Legislature. A few months ago, the Mitchell County Hospital Health Systems stopped preparing the food for the Meals on Wheels program. The Beloit Senior Center stepped in to fill the void and take over the meal delivery. Previously about 35 meals were prepared for delivery. Since the Senior Center has taken over the program, between 75 and 80 meals are distributed each day. Plans were being considered for how to increase the local kitchen's productivity.
At this point Stephanie Simmons became involved in the discussion. Rowh commented, "When Stephanie gets involved, things get done." Simmons suggested rather than jury-rigging the inadequate situation, why not build a new building that could combine the duties of several public operations. A new building could be designed to house the Senior Center, the Economy Shop, the Food Pantry, and a fully functional kitchen that could provide hot meals for local delivery. Additionally, perhaps location for a day-care facility could be included.
Four locations are being considered as possible locations for this operation, all with positive and negative factors.
One is at the location of the old Beloit High School, one is the old Color Corporation, one is north of the Law Enforcement Center on the North Campus, and one south of the Little Red School House.


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