2008 Issues & Involvement in Johnson County Kansas

2008 Feed the Need Campaign to assist local food pantries


Dave Lindstrom For Johnson County Commissoioner

Preparing to feed a growing need in the Johnson County community.

The 2008 Feed the Need Campaign officially began with a kickoff celebration from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, June 20, on the square between the Johnson County Courthouse and Administration Building in downtown Olathe.

The public fund-raising, food-collecting program has a Summer Olympics theme with a goal set at 135 tons of food in either cash or food donations. Each donated dollar is roughly equivalent to four pounds of food.

The celebration will featured fun and food for all ages, including games such as Wii Olympics, Olympic Ring Toss, Sand Trap, Motorcycle Showcase, drawings and Bean Bag Toss.

Maury Thompson, 2008 campaign chairman and director of Developmental Supports, will be first up in the Olympic dive tank, followed by several other Olympic hopefuls (county officials) in the water sport of “dunking.”

“Johnson County continues to see growing rates of poverty. Our Olympians (our employees), for over 20 years, have participated in a tradition that demonstrates caring and support for their neighbors in need,” Thompson said. “I am pleased to see this tradition continue.”

Other Feed the Need events include drawings for prizes, donation opportunities and other attractions. Lunchtime food offerings also will feature the Olympic theme, such as Torched Right Brisket, Gold Medal Spuds, First Place Floats, Torch Run Taquitos, and many others.

The food and cash donations in the 2008 campaign will be used to replenish the supplies available to households in need of assistance from 10 Johnson County food pantries, including five operated by county government.

According to Kim Mayer, public information officer for the Department of Human Services and Aging, there has been a 31 percent increase in requests for assistance and more households are asking for assistance. From January 1 to June 17, 2007, the pantries assisted 848 households with food. For the same period this year, 997 households have been assisted.

The increased demand is being driven up by rising costs of food, housing, utilities, health care, and gasoline.

“Our food pantries can always use food; the shelves are especially bare over the summer,” Mayer said. “Summer is the most difficult time for our food pantries. We experience a decline in food donations because school food drives are not being held. Also, children are home from school, so parents are responsible for providing three meals a day. During the school year, many of our children receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school.”

Last year, the five pantries, operated by the Human Services and Aging, at multi-service centers in Overland Park, Lenexa, De Soto, Gardner, and Spring Hill received 3,788 requests for food assistance, serving 1,604 households totaling 5,293 individuals.

Dave Lindstrom For Johnson County Commissoioner

The eligibility requirements vary based on location of the food pantry. Since each multi-service center serves a different school district, the family must reside in the school district where they receive food. For services, the county uses 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline, which is $3,533 gross monthly income for a family of four. “But, if someone is hungry, we will not turn them away,” she added.

The 10 pantries that will benefit from the county’s 2008 Feed the Need campaign include:

The annual food drive by county government started in 1987 with one county department and the collection of less than one ton of food. Last year, the county collected a record 146.9 tons of food.

The county has been a lead participating organization in the annual metropolitan Feed the Need campaign since 1988. Feed the Need is a regional effort coordinated by the Mid-America Regional Council, the Mid-America Assistance Coalition, and Harvesters International.

Johnson County recognizes Gardner, Olathe schools for water quality projects

Students and teachers from Olathe and Gardner schools were honored Thursday, June 12, for their participation in environmental sustainability efforts, focusing on water quality and community education through the county’s Stormwater Management Program.

Students and teachers from Olathe North High School and Wheatridge Middle School in Gardner were recognized as special guests during the weekly business session of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners.

They were praised for their work to educate the Johnson County community about the environmental and water quality issues in connection with local streams and watersheds.

“We would like to recognize the schools and educators in particular because their commitment to water quality education through this grant program goes above and beyond their typical duties as teachers,” Board Vice Chairman and Fifth District Commissioner Doug Wood said.

Kent Lage, manager of the Urban Services Division of the Johnson County Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, agreed. “They are doing the work that needs to be done,” he said.

Since 2005, the Stormwater Management Program, which is part of the Urban Services Division in coordination with the Johnson County Stormwater Management Advisory Council, has awarded annual funding through the Water Quality Initiative Grant Program. The grants are used to implement education/outreach programs in water quality and stormwater management issues. Dave Lindstrom For Johnson County Commissoioner

The program awarded a total of $132,734 in grants in 2008. Wheatridge Middle School, which has participated in the program since its inception, received $6,811 in grant funding this year. Olathe North High School, which began its 21st Century High School geosciences program in 2003, was the recipient of a $31,562 grant.

Over the years, the Wheatridge Middle School has used its grant funding to create a “Water Education Development Through Middle School Eyes” project, set up school stream-monitoring teams, and organized a multi-camp summer experience aimed at students from all grades.

The stream teams have performed water quality monitoring along Big Bull Creek, assisted with storm drain stenciling in the Hillsdale Lake Watershed, and participated in field trips to water and wastewater treatment facilities and other water-related activities during the school term. In 2007, the program involved approximately 350 middle school students.

The Olathe North geosciences program, involving approximately 75 students last year, has used its funding for educational community workshops about how to make rain barrels and rain gardens. The project has resulted in the construction and donation of 100 rain barrels with plans to donate and install 10 rain gardens in the Olathe North community. Construction of a future rain garden at Olathe North also is planned.

Aside from the two schools, the Water Quality Initiative Grant Program provided $44,860 to Hillsdale Water Quality Project and $49,501 to the Blue River Watershed Organization in 2008.

Schools in the Olathe School District have participated in the program since it began. Olathe North is a first time participant in 2008. The program also provided past grant funding to Chisholm Trail Junior High School. Dave Lindstrom For Johnson County Commissoioner

The Water Quality Initiative Grant Program, which was established in 2004 with the first grants being awarded a year later, requires a 10 percent match for participants and is open to non-profit/501c3 programs, local public schools, and government programs serving Johnson County residents. Since 2005, the program has awarded more than $270,000 in grants, including a total of $19,900 to Wheatridge Middle School and $31,562 to Olathe North.

“The purpose of the grant program is to promote and support grassroots efforts to involve, educate, and inform Johnson County residents regarding the need to limit pollutants in stormwater runoff, the importance of protecting our streams and rivers, and most importantly what Johnson County residents can do to help,” Lage said.




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