State of the Campaign

by Dalton Black, executive director

The start of a new year at United Way means it’s time to start building our budget. We put pen to paper to evaluate our programs and fundraising efforts to see how best we can invest in Harvey County. What we decide is based upon results from our annual fundraising campaign, current commitments, and investment goals for the year. 

Unfortunately, we did not meet our Annual Campaign fundraising goal in 2022. There are several factors in this but one of the biggest is that we’ve had some of our locally owned businesses bought by larger companies that have different philanthropic priorities and strategies. We had a shortfall of $40,000 at the end of our campaign despite our best efforts to gain new philanthropic partners. 

What does not hitting our goal mean? Well, it means we have to take a hard look at how we spend money this coming year. Our Community Investment grants will not be as large. We won’t be able to fund as many special project requests. We won’t be able to start any new Community Impact projects. At United Way, we pride ourselves on our ability to stretch $1, and we strive to do so every year when we develop our budget, but there is only so much stretching we can do before we have to make adjustments.

We’re proud of what we accomplished in 2022. For a refresher on our investments last year, you can read our Year in Review here. We will continue to be proud of our work in 2023, even if it looks a bit different than in past years. 

Staff, board members and I will continue to find solutions in our community, and we will continue to try to find financial support for those solutions. I encourage you to donate if you haven’t already. Become a first time donor or a donor again. Maybe your company used to do a workplace campaign but haven’t been able to restart these efforts since COVID. We need you and our business community to step up to continue making progress in Harvey County. Change doesn’t happen alone. 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to Harvey County United Way for our 2022 Annual Campaign. We couldn’t do what we do without you. 

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It’s My Pleasure to Introduce…

Gretchen Loganbill, Harvey County United Way board member

By Sheila G. Kelley, development coordinator

Question: Where did you grow up and what was your family life like?

Answer: I grew up in a small town south of Omaha – Plattsmouth, Nebraska. YES, I am a husker fan! Go BIG RED! My family was and still is very close. I have an older brother; he and his wife reside in Arizona.  I have a younger sister who now resides in Newton! My husband is from Moundridge so when I picked up and moved here and had children, my parents uprooted to be close to grandchildren and my sister moved from Omaha a few months ago to be closer to her nieces and nephews! So, to say we are all very close still is a true statement!

Question: Who has been your strongest influence in life?

Answer: My strongest influences have been my kids. They have encouraged me to re-prioritize things. They have taught me to slow down and take each day as a blessing. They bring out characteristics that have been lost during the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Question: What led you to your career? 

Answer: I started out as a teller in my hometown at a small family-owned bank during my summers in college. I enjoyed my customers and the relationships I built during that time. I have continued to develop my relationships, just in different roles as a branch manager at Heartland Credit Union

Question: How would friends and acquaintances describe you? 

Answer: My friends and acquaintances would describe me as caring, people person and trustworthy. My husband would say I am a busy body, and it drives him nuts!

Question: With so many volunteer opportunities in the community, why did you choose to be involved with Harvey County United Way?

Answer: I wanted to volunteer with Harvey County United Way because I wanted to dive deep into the community and really make an impact to all different avenues of Harvey County.

Question: What’s the one thing you want people to know about HCUW?

Answer: One thing I would want people to know about HCUW would be that the people on the Board or volunteers or staff really care! They want to help, and it’s one of their passions. I have been on different boards through my time and HCUW really dives deep every meeting to meet the needs of our community and how it can be better!

Local printer marks 30 years in business

by Sheila G. Kelley, development coordinator

Tucked around the corner off old Highway 81 sits Hesston Prestige Printing, a Harvey County business owned and operated by Norman and Denise Critchfield since 1992.

Printing business technology has evolved over the past 30 years, which has made it necessary for the business to move from its original site in Hesston across from the now-closed grocery store, then to a site on main street and finally to its current location.

The building they are in now was originally built to house a dollar-type store then served as offices for Southern Star Gas Pipeline. With a little remodeling, the building was able to fit all the equipment as well as having room for offices and a retail store front.

“When we started in 1992, we had one black and white copier and two printing presses,” co-owner Denise Critchfield explained. “Then the machines just kept getting bigger and bigger, giving us many options that we didn’t used to have.”

Many of the functions previously done by hand were taken over by the new, bigger machines. The machine now can copy, fold, staple and three-hole punch to make a booklet. It can also score, perforate and cut business cards. These new technologies save time and costs to customers.

The largest and most used machine is the flatbed printer. Large sheets of printable materials are held in place by vacuum suction as they are rolled through the machine while printing is applied.

“Literally, we can print directly on a 5’ X 10’ sheet of metal or substrate,” Denise said.

With the flatbed, staff are able to print almost any design requested, as long as the material is completely flat.

Once the project is printed through the flatbed, it then goes to a Colex cutter. The Colex offers a full line of cutting and finishing of wide format media: shapes, rounded corners, 3D, routing and on all sorts of media such as Sintra (PVC board), acrylic, coroplast (corrugated plastic), Di-bond (an aluminum composite material), foam board and more.

They have a machine that can scan and copy blueprints. They also laminate products, so they last longer, especially those made for outdoor usage.

“Our largest seller is signs,” Norman said. “We do about 60 % signs and 40 % other printing with about 75 % of sales coming from out-of-town customers.”

Over the past few years, personalized Christmas cards have become quite popular. Most are 5” X 7” and feature family or favorite photos with a short greeting.

Most of the layout and graphic design work is done at the Hesston site. They also own Copies and More in Newton. Between the two businesses, they employ one part-time and two full-time employees.

Customers aren’t made to purchase boxes of envelopes or reams of paper like big box stores sell, although they are certainly able to do so. However, they can also purchase these items individually. They also offer a large variety of office supplies.

Printing services include letterhead, envelopes, business cards, signs, banners, posters, stickers, coasters, ceiling tiles and most any type of custom work requested.

More information can be found on their website along with a photo gallery of their recent digital printing projects.

Thank you Critchfields and Hesston Prestige Printing for being one of our founding members of Small Business United!

WHAT IS SMALL BUSINESS UNITED?

Small Business United is a group of Harvey County small businesses who have joined together to make a huge impact! Often we see small businesses who would love to get involved and help the Harvey County community, but don’t have the resources to make a large gift. By becoming Small Business United members, these businesses contribute to improve lives and strengthen our community. To become a SBU member, click here and select “Small Business United” on the donation page.

Financial stability starts with making life changes

by Sheila G. Kelley, development coordinator and Dalton Black, executive director

There’s something very profound about welcoming in a new year. Most people making new year’s resolutions want an opportunity to do all the things that you didn’t get done last year. But many people think resolutions are worthless, unmanageable, and soul crushing if they are not achieved. A few of the most “I’m going to do it!!” resolutions include losing weight, learning new skills, getting organized or becoming a better person.

We at Harvey County United Way recognize another resolution that is on most people’s lists – and can be one of the hardest to achieve – financial stability.

Let’s face it, the word budget scares the pants off many people all year round. We are constantly faced with managing how we will pay our rent, utilities, fees for our kids’ activities, medical bills, vehicle maintenance, and any number of other expenses. It can be a daunting task, even for someone who feels comfortable building a budget. However, the only way to learn to manage finances is through practice and some coaching. This could be a great time to start conquering your financial challenges.

Financial stability is described as “when income and expenses are in balance.” Stability allows you to live a comfortable life without worrying about money so much. But what happens when there’s a lack of one or both?

As many as one-third of working Americans do not earn enough money to meet their basic needs. Wages have not kept pace with the rising cost of housing, healthcare, and education and currently, 40 million Americans are working in low-paying jobs without basic health and retirement benefits.  According to one report, 9.9 % of the 33,022 people living in Harvey County are determined to be living in poverty.  Identifying and changing that deficit has led to financial stability being one of the three core initiatives of HCUW. 

HCUW is helping families become financially stable and independent by supporting basic needs while improving financial education, providing childcare scholarships so families can stay at work, working toward homelessness prevention and providing disaster response services. You can see all of our initiatives on our website, harveyunitedway.org, and if you need assistance, you can call 211 to be connected with a trained support specialist, or call us directly at 316-283-7101.

Eliminating or reducing financial hardships isn’t easy, especially in today’s world. It involves making lifestyle changes, which is, in reality, what makes new year’s resolutions successful. If things get tough, rest assured United Way is here to help. We wish you the best of luck and a bountiful 2023!

A Year in Review

by Dalton Black, executive director

What an incredible year it has been! I can’t believe we are nearing the ending of 2022. My staff, board of directors and I have been busy this year as we’ve navigated uncertainty around COVID-19, growth in our organization, and the increase of hardships facing our community. Despite all that, I’ve been incredibly pleased with what all we’ve been able to accomplish. I wanted to take a moment to recall all of these milestones because it’s easy, even for me, to forget to celebrate our wins.

Operations:

We wrapped up our 2021 annual campaign in January by raising $333,000 here in Harvey County. This has been the most fruitful campaign we’ve had since I arrived in September 2020. All of the other accomplishments from this year have been made possible by the dedication of our community members and donors, and the success of our 2021 annual campaign. 

After our successful campaign, we hired our fabulous development coordinator, Sheila Kelley, as a permanent member of staff. It didn’t take long to realize our office at 103 E. Broadway was just too small to accommodate two staff members. In February, Sheila and I packed up and moved Harvey County United Way to 500 N. Main, Ste. 206. We love it here!

With Sheila came some new, great ideas to engage in our community. We launched The United Way blog in February and have been providing long-form content for our community to learn more about issues facing our neighbors, the programs intended to provide aid, and even some behind the scenes information about United Way. We also started a new outreach and fundraising effort called Dining for Donations which allows area restaurants to donate a certain portion of their sales from a day to Harvey County United Way. We’ve enjoyed our days sitting at the restaurants welcoming guests and meeting more of our community members.

Lastly, this fall we were able to hire a part-time Digital Marketing Intern through the CTE program at Newton High School. Zack Dauer has been a great asset to our team and has kept our social media pages running smoothly. We are thankful for his help this semester, and wish him all the best on his next adventure!

Tools for Schools mini-grants to Sedgwick Public Schools.

Community Investment:

One of the essential parts of business for us is our Community Investment grants. Funds for these grants come from the money raised during our annual campaign and are part of our promise to ensure that money raised in Harvey County stays in Harvey County. This year, we were able to grant over $170,000 to 20 local non-profits, the highest amount since pre-pandemic. These organizations are working tirelessly to meet the needs of our community in the areas of health, education, and financial stability. We thank them for their partnership!

Community Impact:

This is one of the areas we’ve been growing in the past few years, and I’m excited at all the things we were able to do for Harvey County in our community impact efforts. First, we made a huge effort to address early literacy in our community. We hosted our annual KidFEST event in April and passed out free books to more than 360 children across the county. Additionally, we spent all summer pushing out messages about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and saw an incredible increase in children signing up for the program. 

Next, we focused on our teachers and how we could support them as they geared up for a new school year. We were able to distribute mini-grants to more than 300 educators across all five school districts in Harvey County. Each grant allowed educators to purchase supplies they needed for their classrooms. This was our second year of the Tools for Schools program and I’m excited to see how we can continue to grow support for our teachers who are so essential to our children’s success. 

Ribbon cutting event for Railer Boxcar at Newton High School. Harvey County United Way donated $5,000 to help start the program.

This year, we decided to rethink how we invest a pool of funds back into our community. Our Community Impact Giving program allows us to look at projects or programs as they arise, determine how best for us to be involved, and work alongside our partners to bring these projects to life. Some of our notable contributions from community impact have:

  • helped start a food and clothing closet for students,
  • helped provide WiFi hotspots so all individuals have access to the internet,
  • provided transportation services for individuals so they could participate in financial literacy courses,
  • brought a financial literacy program to high school students,
  • and provided basic necessities to victims of a Newton apartment fire.

Lastly, we have received more and more calls and emails this year of families in our community needing assistance with rent and/or utilities. It became apparent that, although there are places for them to get help, there weren’t enough options or money to keep people safe in their homes. We have worked hard this year to help in this area, and we are excited to have received a grant that will make it possible. Beginning in 2023, we will launch the Helping Hands Fund which will provide support to individuals struggling with rent and utility payments. Since we know the need is great, we will ask each requestor a series of questions to determine the amount of support we are able to provide. This will ensure we are assisting the largest number of families in our community,  and those who have exhausted all other options. I’m really looking forward to being able to provide this extra help in Harvey County.

What’s next?

You’ve read this far so you’re probably wondering what we have planned for the next year. We are nearing the end of our 2022 Annual Campaign, and what we do in 2023 is dependent on the funds we are able to raise. There have been major changes to some of our largest employers this year, and unfortunately, that has changed some of the philanthropic support we’ve been receiving. My team and I are working hard to fundraise so that we can continue all the things we’ve done in 2022, and bring new projects to the county this year. 

We’ve sat in a number of meetings where we’ve discussed the challenges in Harvey County. From transportation to child care, we are examining these issues and brainstorming ways to make life better for our community. The truth is, we won’t be able to do that without support from people like you. Community members who are willing to step up and donate are the ones who are making possible these initiatives that will address the issues facing our county. We need you more than ever so we can be more than an organization with “big dreams.” We want to make those dreams a reality. We want to create a healthy, happy and thriving community for all of us to live in.

We hope you’ll join us today, and thank you for all you’ve done to support us so far. You are what makes Harvey County great. 

Saying farewell to our HCUW intern

By Sheila G. Kelley, Development Coordinator

Zack Dauer came to Harvey County United Way mid-September as an intern through the Newton High School Ag Academy program. Zack has been handling most of our social media outlets. He will be completing his internship next week and we wish him well and thank him for all he’s contributed to HCUW. I asked him some fun questions for this interview and they are as follows:

Question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’m not sure. When I started high school, my plan was to join the Marine Corps as an infantryman for a few years before using my GI bill to go to college for engineering. But I’m not sure I want to be an engineer now and there isn’t much need for infantrymen nowadays.

Question: If you could talk to someone from the past, who would it be and why?

There are a lot of good people that I could talk to. Fredrick Douglass, to ask about the actual circumstances of his time. JFK, to ask about how the decision process went. Or just an average person in ancient times, to ask them what life was like back then.

Question: What superpower would you choose for yourself?

Telekinesis, so that I could be extremely lazy. Mom forgot to close my bedroom door? Shut it with my mind. Too lazy to take the trash out? Just use my mind. Someone put something on a top shelf I can’t reach? Jokes on you.

Question: If you had one day left on earth, how would you spend it?

Saying goodbye to friends and family, listening to some good music.

Question: How would you describe yourself with one word? Why?

Chaotic. The funny thing is, most people see me as an extremely serious person when in reality my brain had Let’s Groove by Earth, Wind & Fire on mental repeat.

Question: What was your favorite part of interning at United Way?

Seeing the impact of some of the bigger programs such as the Railer Boxcar (program at Newton High School). The student who interns there and I are part of the same program (Ag Academy) and I’ve been told stories of people in need actually getting the items that they needed. Which are often what we consider basic necessities.

Zack also shoots Trap and Skeet with the Steve Eye Memorial Newton High Trap Team. Here he is pictured during the 2021 State Competition, where he placed 2nd overall in Novice Skeet.

Success stories abound with payee program

By Sheila G. Kelley, Development Coordinator

“We do have great success stories. There’s one that will stay with me forever,” said Peggy Gerber, administrative assistant for the St. Matthew’s Payee Program.

An elderly lady lived in Halstead in an apartment by herself. She was scammed up the wazoo. And just handed money here and there and was always overdrawn at the bank. She became a client, and she was in debt already, $3000-$4000. When she died, she had over $10,000 in the bank.”

The name “payee program” has lead many people to think services provided are similar to check cashing business or the like. But that’s not true – it’s so much more.

“Basically what we do is manage their money for them,” said Mike Loyd, part-time executive director and priest at a church in Derby. “I’m here part-time and there part-time.”

Executive Director Mike Loyd discusses client’s finances with Administrative Assistant Peggy Grover. They operate the St. Matthew’s Payee Program located in Newton.

The social security administration designates the payee program to be the client’s financial representative. Monthly disability checks are deposited in a local bank and then used to pay the client’s bills.

Mike and Peggy work with clients in the nursing homes as well as people who are living independently in their own apartments.

“The clients receive social security benefits either because they’ve been diagnosed with an Intellectual/Developmental Disability (IDD) and/or they live with a chronic mental illness,” Mike explained. “Some of them have both.”

So what can a client expect from the payee program? During case management with Mike, the person has a bank account to where the benefits go. After receiving the funds, the payee program pays all their bills and counsels them on proper money management.

Clients submit receipts for what they want reimbursed from their accounts and some local businesses let them charge their services and directly bill the payee program. With that process, the client doesn’t even have to see the bill and worry about it.

“We have a good reputation < in Newton> so when these people are out in the community, businesspeople know that they are responsible through us,” Peggy stated. “They know that the clients’ bills will be paid.

But that’s not all they do.

“We also help people with food stamp applications, medical card applications, recertifications, LEAP applications and housing,” Mike stated. “Those are just some additional things we take on and, in some cases, it just works out for us to take that on.”

Mike and Peggy, along with four volunteers from St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, manage the program which has around 170 people participating now and a bunch of pending referrals.

Another misconception is that the program pays for all the clients debts but that is now true. The program won’t pay such things as court fines and personal loans.

“Some people call and say, ‘I need help to pay my electric bill,’” Peggy said. “We do pay the electric bill but only for our established clients.”

Mike and Peggy are grateful for the Harvey County United Way dollars the program is awarded. They appreciate that the funds aren’t restricted but can be used for any client’s needs.

“We do have other expenses besides salaries,” Mike stated. “General stuff like postage and envelopes are a big one. Medical expenses come up that our clients can’t afford like dental or eye glasses costs.”

Besides their general business expenses account, they manage a ‘client needs’ account. There are times when clients’ monthly income doesn’t cover their needs. The HCUW grant supplements this account.

“The HCUW funds are used for a little bit of everything,” Mike explained. “It’s a needed service <that relies on the HCUW grants>.”

There is hope for a better tomorrow

By Sheila G. Kelley, Development Coordinator

Breaking the cycle of domestic violence and sexual assault lights a fire in Kim Ratzlaff and Angela Schepmann, executive director and domestic violence/sexual assault program director respectively, at safehope, a non-profit organization providing advocacy and support to all survivors and secondary victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Part of their mission is social change. Outreach efforts are important for people to understand the cycle of violence and how the trauma affects the survivors and communities.

“A big thing we do is outreach. We try to give as many community awareness and educational events as we can,” Kim said. “Anyone willing to let us talk about our programs, we’re willing to go and tell about our services in hopes to bring more awareness and maybe even connect with more survivors.”

With over 31 years of advocacy and outreach services, safehope has expanded their services in Harvey County to include McPherson and Marion Counties.

“Our services are confidential, voluntary and free,” Kim said. “Those are three key words for the agency and what guides our processes.”

Safehope’s service and response is available 24 hours, seven days a week. Along with a 24-hour help line, they provide crisis intervention; personal, medical, court and law enforcement advocacy and supportive counseling, support groups and parent and child advocacy and mentoring.

“Ultimately in our advocacy, we find out what is important to the person, then we help them with goals and support them through the process of what their goals are and we try to connect them to as many resources as we can,” Angela explained.

Support groups make up an important part of their mission. There are separate support groups for women and men as well as meetings at the homeless shelter. A sexual assault coordinator facilitates a support group at Mirrors and a group in Marion is going into the jail to provide support.

“We also have a parent/child advocate who specifically works with youth. She has outreach hours at the high school and middle school,” Angela said. “We also provide services at Bethel College, Hesston college and Bethany through our sexual assault coordinator.”

“In a fiscal year, we are serving just over 900 participants in Harvey County,” Kim stated. “Granted, that could be a day or two, a few phone calls or it could be three plus months in the shelter.”

Safehope provides a shelter for women and children that operates like a regular home. According to statistics, for the same time period, 51 victims stayed at the facility and just under 30 stayed in a hotel due to not having enough room at the shelter or several years of support.

The agency works with other entities already mentioned. Another group safehope has connections with is Caring Hands Humane Society in Newton.

“They’ve been a great support for accommodating some of the participants pets,” Angela explained. “The Humane Society finds foster families for the animals.”

Pets become part of their family and can sometimes be the deciding factor for someone in leaving the situation, especially if they are scared that their pets might be harmed.

“Since the pandemic, overall there is more lethality,” Kim stated. “Really, we heard it more than we had in the past. They say, ‘I want to leave but I can’t leave my pet.’”

Safehope is highly funded through federal, state and local grants. But there are many things the programs need that those grants will not fund.

“We are very, very good stewards of money and we follow their rules,” Kim said. “But there are many things that funding from Harvey County United Way covers. That’s why UW is so important to us. It’s invaluable. We would be less without it.”

Those needs could be a gas card or a bus ticket. Maybe it’s new tires for the car. Without a vehicle and transportation, she can’t get a job and without a job, she can’t keep her house.

Another asset of safehope is the Resiliency Center which provides free, confidential and voluntary services of individualized care at the center, on the phone and in the community. It was first opened for survivors of the Excel shooting and then it has been expanded for domestic violence/sexual assault victims.

After a traumatic event, adults and children can experience a change in how they view the world and others. Counseling provides a safe place to develop knowledge and skills for healing and change.

Yet another benefit safehope provides is a food and personal care assistance pantry. They are available at all the outreach locations for people who use their services.

Two events are on the horizon for safehope and its participants. The first is the holiday boutique, an idea staff came up with and it’s taken off.

“They are given tickets to go through the boutique and make their purchases,” Kim said. “We’ve heard how positive they feel about having that control with what they get to buy at the boutique.”

The other exciting thing to happen will be the completion of the remodel going on at the Oak Street facility.

“It had been a strategic plan for several years, but we were able to capture federal funds through a grant and are looking forward to being in the remodeled facility,” Kim said.

Give a helping hand this Giving Tuesday

by Dalton Black, executive director

Each Thanksgiving, we spend the day with our friends and family, eating delicious food and giving thanks for the blessings we’ve received over the past year. Then, we jump into Black Friday shopping deals, followed by Small Business Saturday shopping and, finally, Cyber Monday online sales. The following day, Tuesday, is considered Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday is a global movement unleashing the power of generosity. Created in 2012, the day has continued to grow and gain momentum across the globe. The idea was simple: a day that encourages people to do good. It is a great way to show thanks and kick off the holiday giving season on a high note.

It’s more important than ever to show up for our communities, and Giving Tuesday is the perfect opportunity to do so. Whether it’s making someone smile, helping a neighbor, or showing up for an issue or people we care about, we each have something to contribute.

This year, Harvey County United Way will be accepting donations for Giving Tuesday to help support a new program we are looking to launch next year. The newly established Helping Hands Fund aims to keep families safely in their homes with rent and utility services to those most in need. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a huge increase in calls requesting this type of assistance. Unfortunately, that need has only continued to grow over the past two years. 

“My husband and I purchased a new home in early 2021 as we prepared for our family to grow. We hadn’t even made our first mortgage payment yet before my husband was laid off. We really weren’t sure what we were going to do,” said Alice, Harvey County resident. “Luckily we had some savings to cover our mortgage payment, but we needed assistance to pay our energy bill that first couple months. My husband was only out of work for six weeks until he found another job, but we are so grateful for the short-term help so that we didn’t lose electricity, or worse, our house!”

We believe that when we are able to keep families in their homes with working utilities, we are investing in the health and well-being of our entire community. By assisting in preventing homelessness, we can ease the struggles of shelters and other services working to help reestablish individuals in our community. These types of struggles can happen to anyone at any time so it’s important to stand behind those who are struggling and support them how we can.

On Tuesday, November 29, 2022, we hope that you will add Harvey County United Way to your list of charitable donations for Giving Tuesday. Every donation received that day will be added to the Helping Hands Fund. Your contribution is a sign of support for those in need. 

Whether you support Harvey County United Way or some other deserving organization, we just hope you participate in Giving Tuesday. Identify your gifts, pick a cause that gets you fired up, and give back. Each seemingly small act can transform society and build the world we all want to live in. 

Program gives offenders an opportunity to make amends and more

By Sheila G. Kelley, Development Coordinator

Sometimes a person who has been victimized just wants to find answers. Answers to questions from the one who offended or harmed them. Like why did they make the decisions they did, what the impacts of the harm were and what is needed to move forward and make it right.

Offender/Victim Ministries in Newton offers these opportunities through a process called restorative justice. Restorative justice invites “core-participants” in a specific incident to identify harms, needs and obligations in order to restore relationships and make things as right as possible.

According to Todd Lehman, OVM executive director, OVM focuses this work through three programs: 1) community justice programming (CJP), batterer invention program (BIP) and prison ministries.

CJP provides restorative conferencing, neighborhood accountability boards and parent-adolescent mediation. HCUW provides funding that helps pay CJP staff salary but also makes the possibility for a sliding-scale fee.

“We don’t want cost to be a barrier for anyone,” said Todd. “We are grateful that support from HCUW helps to make this service accessible for anyone in our community. Without such funding, we would have to charge a higher fee which could limit who in our communities could benefit from this restorative process.”

BIP is designed to hold those who have committed acts of domestic violence accountable for their abusive behaviors, tech nonviolent ways of being in relationships and promote safety for the victimized.

Next year will be the 50th year for the organization. Originally it was called Inter Faith Offender Concerns Committee. The committee partnered with the prison in Hutchinson.

“Volunteers from the community went and visited the inmates and that turned into what we call today the M-2 program – Match-2,” Todd explained. “You take a volunteer from outside and an inmate and match them together and they sit down once a month and have a conversation together, just to visit.”

They quickly moved into restorative justice work in that setting where they were finding that folks who were incarcerated really wanted to have a chance to talk to the people who they had harmed. They often don’t have an opportunity to apologize.

“The committee found out that people who were harmed, whether it was direct or indirect, had questions too,” Todd said. “Like what was going on, why did you choose us or why did you choose my loved one who isn’t here anymore, whatever the case was. So they had opportunity to make a live conversation happen back in the 80’s.”

An inmate must meet some criteria to be eligible for M-2. They qualify by how many visits they get in a year so if they get fewer than six visits a year from anybody outside the walls, that qualifies them to be part of the program.

“Some of it is behavior related,” Todd stated. “If you behave well, you can be part of this program.”

Currently OVM has about 50 volunteers who are making monthly visits.

“Many of the guys in prison have had people let them down. They are expecting to be let down so we want to demonstrate a different way of relating,” Todd said. “We understand there could be a month where a person can’t make their visit but we hope that’s the exception.”

M-2 had a few long term members pass away in the last couple of years but there were some that had volunteered 30 + years. Todd said they have had and still currently have long-term volunteers.

A second activity in PM is the prison arts program. It offers creative arts programs to inmates at the Hutchinson facility. Arts programs offer inmates a creative outlet for self-expression to help re-build self-esteem and promote a sense of connection with the community. Current opportunities include choir, creative writing and theatre.

“This summer there was a retired professor from Bethel College. There was a requirement for students to do some drama work. He has done that in the past so he took those students over to the Hutchinson prison where they were inside the prison working with inmates interested in drama and they created a production together,” Todd explained. “Then they performed that for the inmate population at one time and then separate from that, community members who wanted to go watch.”

Todd said they have the drama program and writing classes. There was a writing class that was in progress, but it got stopped due to COVID restrictions in 2020. There have also been choir groups to help inmates create music.

Todd is the only full-time employee at OVM. There are three part-time directors, one for each of the programs and a program/office coordinator.

OVM funding comes from a few different sources – various grants from foundations, Harvey County United Way, a state grant as part of the local community corrections, private donors and churches.

“Harvey County United Way has been faithful in granting our requests over the years. It is focused on the community justice programming so those funds help contribute to staff salary and then also costs for training volunteers,” Todd said. “If we didn’t receive the grants, we would have to do some searching to make up for it.”