Sallie Magazine 2021

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FALL 2021



THREE PACKETS OF KETCHUP And a “Radical” leap of faith

BROKEN BECOMES BEAUTIFUL Letting the light shine through

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SALLIE SPOTLIGHTS Area businesses and professionals share what's up and what's new in their line of work

20 Kohlmeier Dental Alternative solutions to sleep apnea 32 Skin Studio Med-spa introduces nutritional therapy and more 44 Dynamic Discs Throw like a girl 46 USD 252 Serving South Lyon County 48 Hereford Coworking A new kind of place to do business



Jessica Symmonds makes dream a reality and carves out her own niche in the food industry in Emporia.

86 Camso Cooperation and team work 88 Fanestil Meats Get ready for holiday parties


Emporia woman breaks glass ceiling as 190th ARW’s first female Command Chief.


High school math teacher finds perfect fit with a notso-average home.


Tracy Whipple uses translucent mosaics to point viewers to beauty and truth.


70 Holiday Resort Welcome to the new neighborhood 74 Emporia Senior Center More than just B-I-N-G-O!



60 Emporia Public Library A library on the go!


“Ringmaster” Brody Peak carries on family legacy with charisma and hard work.

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Local women weigh in on what “fearlessness” means to them.


Lindsey Smith steps out in faith to help struggling families stay intact.

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FROM the EDITOR FEARLESSNESS Perhaps it was turning 50 years old. Or, maybe it was all that is going on in the world today. Or, maybe it was a combination of them both. But over the past year I decided I wanted to do some things to push the boundaries of my own personal fear factors.

else these days. It’s everywhere we turn. So, it was refreshing when we at Sallie Magazine met some ladies in town who have clearly faced and overcome their fears to accomplish something much greater in their lives and in the community around them.

For one, I stood atop a very high cenote and, despite what every fiber of my being and all the risk vs. reward calculations were telling me to do, I jumped into a seemingly bottomless cenote below…without a life jacket, I might add. Dumb or daring?

Inside this year’s edition of Sallie you will meet a woman who has stepped out in faith to do something incredible to help struggling families stay intact. You will meet a woman who boldly uses her art to share a profound truth with her audience. You will meet a woman whose choice to push through her fear ended up not just saving her business, but pushed it to reach even greater potential. And on our cover this year, you will meet a woman whose incredible accomplishment in her field has required overcoming multiple fears time and time again.

I also rode a couple of completely insane roller coasters with my daredevil nieces…and actually lived to tell about it. I took some out-of-my-comfortzone steps towards some new friendships in my life. And I let my 14-year old baby boy drive to and from school all by himself, for goodness sakes. If that’s not a lesson in learning fearlessness, I don’t know what is! We live in a world that seems to be guided by fear more than anything

And don’t miss “In Her Own Words” where, five ladies you may recognize from around town, weigh in on what “fearlessness” means to them. From a stay at home mom to a police captain, each of them offer a unique perspective that proves fearlessness can be had anywhere.

A pastor I listen to periodically, Craig Groeschel, has said, “We have to face our greatest fears in order to reach our full potential.” I believe that to be true. I’m not quite sure yet what cliff jumping and crazy roller coasters will do to help me reach my full potential but I’m excited to find out! Now, sit back, relax and enjoy this edition of Sallie. It’s nice to see you again.

Ashley Walker Editor and Publisher

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Hopkins Manufacturing �������������������������������� 84 Joseph Laudie Dental ���������������������������������� 62 King Liquor �������������������������������������������������� 28 Kohlmeier Dental �����������������������������������20/21 L&L Pets ������������������������������������������������������ 83 Longbine Auto Plaza ������������������������������������ 15 Lyon County History Center ������������������������ 85 Lyon County State Bank ���� Inside-Front Cover Lyon County Title ���������������������������������������� 56 McKinzie Pest Control ���������������������������������� 57 Midwest Land Group �������������������������������������� 5 Miracle Cafe ������������������������������������������������ 94 Modern Air �������������������������������������������������� 58 Moon Title ���������������������������������������������������� 39 Mr. G's Express Car Wash ���������������������������� 56 Newman Breast Cancer Center �������������������� 59 Newman Medical Partners �������������������������� 31 Newman Regional Health ������������������������������ 4 Newman Sleep Disorders Center ���������������� 29 Newman Women's Life Center �������������������� 27 Plumbing by Spellman �������������������������������� 39 Prairie PastTimes ������������������������������������������ 96 Prairieland Partners �������������������������������������� 85 Regional Development Association ������������ 19 Roberts-Blue-Barnett Funeral Home ������������ 83 Rolling Hills Bar & Grill �������������������������������� 94 Shelter Insurance - Dave Watts �������������������� 56 Simmons Pet Food ���������������������������������������� 9 Skin Studio ���������������������������������������������32/33 Skywalker Gymnasitcs ���������������������������������� 85 Sommers Auto Plaza �����������Inside-Back Cover State Farm Insurance - Pete Euler ���������������� 31 Sutherland's �������������������������������������������������� 41 Sweet Granada �������������������������������������������� 83 Symmonds & Symmonds ���������������������������� 57 Tanner's Carpet �������������������������������������������� 57 The Lark Inn �������������������������������������������������� 96 The Press Room �������������������������������������������� 90 Thomas Transfer ������������������������������������������ 29 Thompson Dental ���������������������������������������� 84 Topeka Landscape ���������������������������������������� 63 Tyson Fresh Meats ������������������������������������������ 1 Union Street Social �������������������������������������� 90 USD 252 �������������������������������������������������46/47 Wash House �������������������������������������������������� 82 Water's Hardware ���������������������������������������� 58 William's Automotive ���������������������������������� 81 William's Towing ������������������������������������������ 84


FALL 2021 | 7



FALL 2021 | 9

Story by Ashley Walker 10 | EMPORIA LIVING

Photos by Jason Dailey EDITION

Tucked into the basement of the Humanitarian Center in downtown Emporia is a little business that was born out of a big dream. Jessica Symmonds, owner and operator of Gourmet-To-Go Catering is creating some of the most fresh and delicious foods in town. Serving “comfort food with a twist,” patrons have come to love her home-cooking and keep coming back for more.

s a culinary student in 2009 one of Jessica Symmond’s class projects was to create her own business plan for a restaurant or food operation she dreamed of opening someday. It would be called Ogliaro’s (pronounced o-YARo’s), after her Italian great, great grandmother. Ogilaro’s would serve primarily Italian specialties and focus on, you guessed it, “gourmet-to-go catering.” She got an A+ on the assignment, of course. Fast-forward to 2021 and Jessica not only made her dream a reality and made it through a global pandemic but she is actually growing her catering business during a time when most businesses are struggling to stay afloat. Officially opening “Gourmet To-Go Catering” in December 2018 (she figured “Ogliaro’s” may be too tough to pronounce), Jessica has certainly found her sweet spot in Emporia’s food industry. She is also doing what she loves: cooking and preparing food for others, and making their lives easier as a result. In fact, cooking and working in a kitchen has almost always been a part of Jessica’s life. Inspired by necessity when she was a child -- her single mom worked 12-hour shifts -- Jessica grew up cooking. She was responsible for making her own dinners and loved to experiment in the kitchen. “I would just play around in the kitchen when I was bored,” she said. “As long as I cleaned up afterward it was good.” Her passion for food continued to extend into adulthood. From managing a local Subway restaurant for nine years and completing her culinary degree from Flint Hills Technical College, to climbing the ladder in Pampered Chef and cooking for friends and family, Jessica slowly gained the skills and tools she would need to finally open the business she had dreamed of. All that was missing was her own space.

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THE SPACE Then she discovered the Humanitarian Center, the former Lowther South school building that had recently been rehabbed as an office and a multi-use space. In the basement, most likely in the same spot that the old school lunchroom once served hundreds of hungry students each day, she found the perfect spot to call her own. Having been used previously for a food business, it already had some equipment in place and it was just the size she needed. The timing finally seemed right for Gourmet To-Go Catering to open its doors. She started catering large events, like weddings, business lunches, parties and other special events. Then she slowly added in to-go lunches one day a week -- doing all the work herself. She would set up in a hallway at The Humanitarian Center and advertise the lunch menu on social media. Although the lunches were geared primarily to workers in the building, it didn’t take long for word to spread throughout town. “Word got out and I increased it to two days each week,” she said. But as more people tasted her unique menu, demand continued to grow. She eventually hired four employees to help out during her first year. One of the highlights during those first months of business was being invited to cater Governor Kelly’s State of the State Address in January 2020. “I almost didn’t believe it when I learned I would be catering the event,” Symmonds says. Preparing and serving heavy hors d'oeuvres for the governor and 100 of her closest friends and colleagues was Jessica’s task. For most people that kind of job assignment would have been intimidating. But not for Jessica. It went off without a hitch. The only thing that caused her some anxiety was the intense security and protocol she had to go through to get access to the special event. With a Kansas Statehouse event in the books, Gourmet To-Go was certainly off and running. Then COVID hit. SHIFTING DIRECTION Gourmet To-Go had barely opened its doors when the pandemic hit, sending Jessica’s business model into a tailspin. $30,000 worth of catered events were cancelled nearly overnight. But that didn’t stop her. 12 | EMPORIA LIVING


“I just knew I had to change direction,” she said, in true entrepreneurial fashion. Even though the demand for catered events had halted, with determination and ingenuity, she found a way to pivot what she was already doing to fill a new need in town by providing food to-go. “During quarantine everyone was complaining about having to cook all the time, so I was just trying to make it easier on people.” And it worked…very well. She went from two to four days a week serving lunches, added curbside “take and bake” meals and even breakfasts on Saturdays. Looking back on that year, Jessica can see that COVID forced her to take some risks that, in the long run, were good for the growth of her business and have helped her bounce back from the pandemic relatively easily. Today, daily lunch service and “take and bake” meals are a standard part of her business plan and continue to grow in demand.

“During quarantine everyone was complaining about having to cook all the time, so I was just trying to make it easier on people.”

THE FOOD The food industry can be especially tough, but Jessica’s commitment to not only providing good-tasting food but dishes that are unique, has kept patrons coming back for more. Jessica describes her food as “comfort food with a twist.” Everything is homemade. She even grates her own cheese — pounds and pounds of it — uses only fresh green beans and isn’t afraid to de-seed dozens and dozens of fresh jalapenos for her spicy jalapeno poppers. “It just tastes better when it’s fresh,” she said. And that’s the point. She won’t cut corners when it comes to freshness and homemade goodness. (There is one exception, though: Thanksgiving green bean casserole. Then — and only then — will she use canned green beans. It's one of the only dishes where canned green beans actually taste better than fresh, she said.) Sharon Finley has been a regular patron of Gourmet To-Go since she first opened. And Sharon, a skilled and experienced cook in her own right, knows good food. “She cooks like I do,” she said. “She uses all fresh ingredients and she doesn’t cut corners.” Sharon, who often grabs Gourmet ToGo for a picnic with her husband during the week, also appreciates the variety on the menu. “You just can’t get that food anywhere else.” Among her favorites: the Monte Cristo, the white chocolate lemon blueberry bread pudding and the lemon chiffon cheesecake. Although Jessica’s menu has a good variety of options, it is clearly a nod to her family’s roots and recipes from her past. FALL 2021 | 13

“I was really close to my grandma, and so there are some things that I've put on there that we used to make together, like ham salad or the hot beef, her favorite sandwich,” Jessica said. Hence, “Betty’s Hot Beef” is one that shows up on the menu from time to time. It is a familiar dish to many who enjoyed the Blue Plate Special in diners growing up. Betty’s Hot Beef, the epitome of comfort food, consists of a piece of Texas toast topped with parmesan mashed potatoes, roast beef, and gravy. Symmonds says the ham salad is a favorite childhood recipe as she remembers grinding the ham in a food grinder and then, “We’d just snack on it throughout the day. It’s really simple.” Her recipe uses bologna with relish, onion, hard-boiled eggs, and seasoning. She also wants her menu to be unique. “I always say I want to serve something that you can't get anywhere else in Emporia.” It is safe to say that Gourmet To-Go is the only place in town to find dishes like: Bang Bang Shrimp Po Boy, Chicken Florentine, The Mainstreet Melt and a Roasted Grape and Goat Cheese Salad, just to name a few. 14 | EMPORIA LIVING


“…don’t be scared to try new things. If it doesn’t work it doesn’t work. But sometimes fear will keep you from missing out on something really good.”

THE FUTURE Like a true entrepreneur, Jessica is always finding new ways to grow her business. The next venture? Perhaps renting the space adjacent to the kitchen where she can finally serve patrons face to face at tables or where she can cater events right on site. In the meantime, the young business woman has some good advice for anyone interested in opening their own business in the food industry or elsewhere: “Whatever it is you are wanting to do, be great at it. Set yourself apart. Be on time, be professional, flexible and make yourself available. Put yourself out in front of people in a good way so they remember you and the experience.” “Also, don’t be scared to try new things. If it doesn’t work it doesn’t work. But sometimes fear will keep you from missing out on something really good.” And something “really good” is what Gourmet To-Go Catering has done really well.

Jessica: A Screenshot

Favorite cooking app: Don’t have a cooking app… unless you can count the clock/timer and calculator. Where’s the craziest place you lost your phone: My phone was stolen from my driveway while I was having a garage sale. It was found a week or two later on the side of the road on the Prairie Street bridge that goes over the Interstate. I got it back from a friend of a friend’s husband that found it while they were working on the bridge.

App you wish someone would invent: Gourmet To-Go Catering event app, so people can easily RSVP and the host and I would easily know how many people to expect. First app you check in the morning and last before bedtime: In the morning: Business Suite. At bedtime: Rain Sounds.

How many photos are on your phone? 2,454 Favorite food/restaurant-related app: I play “restaurant story” where you build and decorate your own restaurant and serve dishes that will make you the most profit and keep your customers happy!

Most used app: Google Chrome, Pandora, Square

Number of contacts on your phone: 447

What social media app do you post most on? Facebook Biggest timewasting app: Facebook. Love it and hate it!

Last photo you took with your phone: A platter of cheesecake bites for a bridal shower. What's on your home screen and why? A hazy Colorado sunset from a recent trip with my kids. The word “Acceptance” is a principle I live by and this reminds me to always accept life as it comes, good or bad. And that whatever is happening at the time is part of a far greater plan than I could ever imagine. 18 | EMPORIA LIVING

At what battery percentage do you feel compelled to charge your phone? When the red light starts blinking (15%).

Most obscure app on your phone and what’s it for: Mewe. I downloaded it because my aunt did but I have never used it. It’s a new social media app but not a lot of people are on there. EDITION




Do you Snore? Do you wake up tired? Do you struggle with CPAP?


ansas Sleep Solutions in Emporia can help … And our solutions don’t have to involve a CPAP machine or a sleep study in a clinic. Getting treatment for snoring or sleep apnea doesn’t have to be difficult or uncomfortable. Kansas Sleep Solutions can provide an easy and comfortable way to treat sleep apnea. Testing and diagnosis with board certified sleep physicians in the comfort of your own home, and treatment in a relaxed office environment with a simple dental appliance, patients can experience the results of Kansas Sleep Solutions immediately.

Dr. Ryan Kohlmeier shares some answers to the most common questions about Kansas Sleep Solutions:

Q & A

What is obstructive sleep apnea? Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the term for what happens during sleep when the muscles in the tongue and throat relax to the point that the airway closes, shutting off oxygen to the lungs. What are the signs that someone might have obstructive sleep apnea? Signs of obstructive sleep apnea include loud snoring and pauses in breathing during sleep. You may also notice clenching and grinding of teeth, along with tossing and turning as they struggle to get air. Someone suffering from OSA is not getting restful sleep and will be tired during the day. They may also be more irritable or less mentally agile than normal. How common is OSA? OSA is very common. 18 million people in the



US have been diagnosed with OSA, but 90% of people who have OSA are undiagnosed...they don’t even know they have it. It’s estimated that up to 50% of adults with high blood pressure also have OSA, and 77% of adults that are moderately overweight have OSA. How does sleep apnea impact me? The health statistics for people suffering from OSA are staggering. Reduced blood oxygen levels caused by OSA affect the entire body. Those with OSA have a much higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and are 2-3 times more likely to develop high blood pressure. They have a higher chance of developing diabetes. Those with OSA are at a much higher risk of developing an irregular heart beat, especially Afib.

Q & A

How can Kansas Sleep Solutions help me? Kansas Sleep Solutions brings together convenient testing and diagnosis from board certified sleep physicians, and treatment options beyond just CPAP. Consultations with sleep physicians can be done conveniently in your own home, sleep testing can be done privately in your own bed, and treatment for sleep apnea may consist of a simple mouthpiece. Kansas Sleep Solutions strives to eliminate barriers to getting those suffering from poor sleep tested and treated. Will my insurance cover testing and treatment? We work with your private health insurance and Medicare to cover the cost of sleep testing, diagnosis, and treatment. Do I have to be monitored overnight for a diagnosis? Sleep physicians need an overnight sleep test to accurately diagnose sleep

With my oral appliance that is tailor-made by Kansas Sleep Solutions, I can sleep longer during nights, 6 -7 hours. The first night I used it, I miraculously slept for 7 hours, waking up the following morning without being tired. This was the first time in over 30 years of my life that I felt great after a long night of sleep and not feeling tired all day long. It was wonderful. Since then, every morning I wake up with more energy, I no longer feel tired all day long as before. Also, my mind is working much better than before. Thanks to the great work of Dr. Kohlmeier and his staff, especially Ms. Rebecca Romano. — T. Nhan.

disorders like sleep apnea. The good news is that almost always, the testing is done in your own home with a simple device that is worn for 1 or 2 nights. The device is returned to the doctor, your results reviewed, and a prescription for treatment can be given. Is CPAP the only option to treat my sleep apnea? No. An oral appliance is a very effective front line treatment for many people. Additionally, oral appliances are an excellent alternative for people who have been prescribed a CPAP in the past, but are struggling with this type of treatment.

Wearing the oral appliance has absolutely reduced my apnea and improved my quality of sleep. I feel more rested, more clear headed and refreshed. I feel more like myself, as if I was distracted for a long time and now I’m back to being me. I track my progress with a sleep app on my phone, and it shows that my sleep quality has improved significantly. My last numbers before the appliance were in the 70’s with more than 70% of the time snoring, and much of that very loud. Literally overnight that number dropped to 21 the first time I used the appliance. Dr. Kohlmeier believes my numbers will continue to drop and that my sleep will keep improving as I use the next adjustments of the appliance. I can’t wait. — Amy Sage Webb-Baza

1104 E. 12TH AVENUE | EMPORIA, KS 66801 620-208-5611 | WWW.SLEEPSOLUTIONSKS.COM FALL 2021 | 21



NO “YES-MAN" EMPORIA WOMAN BREAKS GLASS CEILING AS 190TH ARW’S FIRST FEMALE COMMAND CHIEF From flight medical specialist to Wing Command Chief, Sherry Willard has risen in the ranks of the military to the highest-most position as an enlisted serviceman at the 190th Air Refueling Wing. The principal advisor to former 190th ARW Wing Commander Col. Daniel Skoda who retired in October 2021, Sherry is responsible for the well-being of the nearly 1,000 airmen under their command. FALL 2021 | 23



It’s about what’s best for the airmen. What we decide affects all 978 people across base.

he roar of a jet flies overhead, briefly drowning out Sherry Willard’s voice. She apologizes with a chuckle. It’s an occupational hazard, one could say, when your office overlooks a hangar where a couple of KC-135 Stratotankers are being worked on most days. Willard is a chief master sergeant with the Kansas Air National Guard and the 190th Air Refueling Wing command chief in Topeka. Now 26 years into her career with the military, Willard has reached the highest rank one can achieve as an enlisted serviceman. And, she’s the first woman to ever serve as the 190th ARW command chief, and just the third in the state overall. You might expect a woman like Willard, who has earned a number of impressive service medals over the course of her career, to have known from the get-go she was headed for a life in the military. But, what good is a story without some twists and turns along the way? Originally from Chanute, Ill., Willard moved to Emporia from Moline, Ill., in 1991 when her father, Jim Woydziak, was hired as the new fire chief of the Emporia Fire Department. Her father had served in the Air Force and although she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after high

school, Willard took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery which is administered by the United States Military Entrance Processing Command and used to determine qualification for enlistment in the United States Armed Forces. But instead of graduating with her class in 1994, Willard dropped out of school. “I dropped out. I was working at Rollers Skating Rink and I was living in an apartment with my brother,” she said. “All I cared about was working and partying.” Rollers was owned by Terry and Peggy Maxfield at the time and the couple would be instrumental in Willard’s path to joining the Air National Guard. Terry Maxfield said Willard worked for the couple for several years, working her way up to manager. She would open the rink for customers, manage operations and be in charge of upwards of 100 kids at any given time. It was a lot for a teenager, but the Maxfields were always impressed with Willard’s work ethic. “The two things we both remember the most about Sherry is her honesty and attention to detail,” Peggy Maxfield said. “She was a hard worker. You gave her a job and she got it done. But then we started discussing dropping out of high school.”

Having a son the same age as Willard, Peggy Maxfield said she and Terry “could not accept” the idea of a bright young woman with a promising future giving up. “I thought, ‘This is crazy. I don’t know what your excuse is, but it’s not what you can do.’ And I guess she listened,” she said with a chuckle. “Sherry just learned to work here.” Willard began taking classes to get her GED through the Flint Hills Learning Center and graduated in 1995. It was then that she spoke to her father about possibly joining the military. “I didn’t know if I wanted to join the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard so my dad said, ‘Well, let’s see what the Air National Guard has to offer,’” she said, and Willard signed up for a six-year enlistment in August 1995, shortly after receiving her diploma. She was 19. JUST SIX YEARS Willard’s military career began as a flight medicine specialist, where she gained emergency medical technician certification and performed physicals on base. Because she was part-time with the Air Guard at the time, she was generally only called to use those skills about once a month over her initial six-year enlistment. FALL 2021 | 25

“I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” she said, “and an opportunity to do a sixmonth tour [on base] opened up.” Willard said the opportunity to work full-time at the 190th ARW was a life changing experience and she reenlisted for just “a couple more years” in May 2001. Six months later, the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks changed her plans again. “Prior to 9/11 we were a true ‘Reserve ready’ force,” she said. “After 9/11 we became a very open force. We became a very different military.” Willard began rising through the ranks, from aerospace medical specialist in 2003 to nursing superintendent in 2009. Six years after reenlisting, a devastating tornado leveled the town of Greensburg, Kan. on May 4, 2007. Willard was part of the Air Guard unit that went out to help in the early days. A few weeks later, she was deployed to Balad, Iraq from June 2007 - April 2008 where she worked in a tent hospital caring for wounded Americans, Iraqi citizens, children and more. “My time in Iraq was the most rewarding time of my career,” Willard said. “It was the first time I had treated kids, the first time I ever saw someone die, the first time I treated someone for a missing limb.” Willard said she enjoyed working alongside her peers from the Army, active duty Air Force, the Guard and other countries as they treated the 26 | EMPORIA LIVING


wounded and the sick. It didn’t matter what their background was or where they came from; they all had the same mission. IT TAKES A VILLAGE As Willard navigated life in the military, so too was she navigating life as a mother. She had her first son, Tyler, when she was 21. She welcomed another son, Eric, three years later. Balancing a life in the military that had her, at times, on the other side of the world was a challenge. But Willard credited strong friendships in Emporia and her ex-husband for helping get through the tough times. “My kids always understood,” Willard said. “I missed a lot of baseball and soccer games but I had friends who were always willing to help and make sure they had someone there.” It didn’t hurt having the “cool” mom who came to school in uniform sometimes, either. Willard’s family also expanded thanks to the military. She met and married her husband, Shawn Willard, at the 190th ARW. Shawn Willard is a chief master sergeant with the 190th ARW working in another area of the base. Shawn Willard also had a son from a previous relationship: Colby, now 29. The couple drive in to work together every day from Topeka and understand if one of them needs to stay late before heading home.

“She met her true love in the service,” Peggy Maxfield said. “They truly are a match made in heaven; the best of friends.” ‘CHIEF’ After 19 years in the medical career field, Willard was ready for a change. She transitioned to personnel in the Kansas Joint Forces Headquarters Human Resources office as a full-time federal technician for more than 1,700 Kansas Army and Air National Guardsmen. In 2018, she was appointed to the role of group superintendent of the 184th Regional Support Group at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita. During that time she was responsible for the 134th Air Control Squadron, 284th Air Support Operations Squadron and Detachment 1, Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range. Working at McConnell was a big change for Willard after so many years traveling to Forbes Field. But, it was a welcome challenge that led to more opportunities. In 2019 she was selected as the Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group superintendent, advising the commander on issues involving the enlisted force and mission critical issues for the 374 person Group.

And in 2020, she had the opportunity to come back to the 190th ARW as the Wing command chief under the command of Col. Daniel Skoda. Skoda said he and Willard have known each other for the better part of 24 years, ever since he started at the Wing back in 1997. They only just started working together directly in February 2020, when he hired her as the Wing command chief. “I knew that she would be a great fit for that position and that she was the best candidate, because she was always somebody who never put herself first and she never hesitated to tell those in positions above her that … something wasn’t the right decision,” he said, adding that he always considered their working relationship more of a partnership. “For those people she served under, she never ever backed down from speaking the truth about the right thing to do.” Willard confirmed that, saying if there was one thing she told Skoda she wouldn’t do it was just nod her head and agree with him all of the time. “When he approached me about the job, I told him not to hire me if he just wanted a ‘yes man,’” she said. Skoda said he remembered that conversation. “I do remember her saying that and I already knew that about her even before I interviewed her,” he said. “That was one of the qualities that I really liked.” Today Willard serves as the principal advisor to the commander for issues pertaining to the well-being of the nearly 1,000 airmen under their command. Health, morale, welfare, professional development, readiness; Willard is the go-to for all of it, though sometimes she doesn’t get as much face time with airmen as she’d like. And, she isn’t always making popular decisions.



FALL 2021 | 29

“It’s about what’s best for the airmen,” she said. “What we decide affects all 978 people across base.” Since her appointment began last year, Willard has revamped the promotion process at the base and streamlined the Airman of the Quarter award nomination process. A lot of times her days consist of receiving a phone call or email first thing in the morning that finds her on the trail of a solution for the rest of the day. Skoda said he was impressed with how she never lets herself get stuck in her office and probably spends half of a nine or 10 hour day in different buildings and offices on different areas of the base getting to know people and hear their stories. 30 | EMPORIA LIVING


“She’s then coming back to myself and the vice-commander with a better formed knowledge of the true data of what’s going on out in the wing,” he said, “whether there was a specific need or concern somewhere. It seemed like the minute Sherry heard that a particular area on base had a concern, she would just go directly there and say, ‘Okay, tell me what’s going on.’” “I do a lot of talking,” Willard said with a laugh. When it comes to being the first woman to hold her current role at the 190th ARW, Willard said she’s proud. She was aware of the fact when she applied, she said, but the full weight of the decision didn’t sink in until later.

What didn’t make it into the equation during the hiring process was Willard’s gender, Skoda said. In fact, he wasn’t thinking about that at all. “All of the candidates I interviewed for that position were outstanding and Sherry was just the best,” he said. “I try not to look through the lens of gender selection at all, and it’s funny, that’s where we were totally of the same mind because it just so happened that she was the best candidate and was the first 190th female wing commander chief.” Skoda knew that Willard’s appointment would make history, however he also wanted it to “speak for itself.” “I really wanted to highlight the fact that she was the best candidate,” he said. In 2019, the Kansas Air National Guard reported just 20.6% of its reserve members were women. Nationwide, numbers are slightly higher with women making up 21.3% of the Air Guard. “It speaks volumes to our leadership,” Willard said of her promotion. “I’m very often in a room full of men and I’m always very conscious of that. That’s something I’m always thinking about; how do we change that culture of women in the military?” She’s always happy to talk to girls and young women potentially interested in the military. It’s not for everyone, she said, but for some? Well, 26 years in, Willard knows the answer to that question. “Something I think that’s really important is how Sherry tells her own story about how she was just an offthe-street civilian and then a young airman who was encouraged to take an opportunity,” Skoda said. “She had no idea where it would lead, but every opportunity she gets, she tries to share that experience because she wants anybody who has the capability to serve to be able to do so — not only for the service to our country, but for the amazing benefits they can receive from their service.” Willard’s story has inspired some to enlist, both men and women, and she knows bringing more women into the Air Guard isn’t going to happen overnight. Not all change happens quickly, but sometimes it’s all about where you started. After all, that’s how she got to where she is today. “I think you have to make mistakes sometimes but you learn from it,” Willard said. “My career went exactly how I needed it to, when I needed it to. That’s pretty awesome.”





fter opening its doors a little over a year ago, Skin Studio continues to expand the services it provides for clients looking for not only new treatments in skincare, but wellness, also. Owner Lindsey Ratcliff, APRN-C, DCNP is a Family Nurse Practitioner certified in dermatology and has been excited about the new treatments Skin Studio has to offer, along with a fully trained staff with expertise in skincare and wellness. “I’m here to meet my clients’ needs and to make changes in their skin or in their health, whatever that looks like,” Ratcliff said. “As we started, we started with the most popular treatments, treatments I’ve been performing for years, but the aesthetic industry and even the wellness industry are everchanging. The last three new treatments have all stemmed off of what I was hearing my clients ask for.” As a nurse practitioner, Ratcliff’s services are first and foremost medical. Both she and her registered nurses are trained and have vast experience in the field, and she will not implement a new treatment until she has adequately researched it to confirm its safety and efficacy. The three new treatments on offer have proven both safe and efficacious and will be beneficial to a wide range of people. IV NUTRITIONAL THERAPY IV nutritional therapy has been booming in popularity for some time, particularly in large metropolitan areas. But now it is available in Emporia at Skin Studio. While Ratcliff specializes in skin, she cares most about wholeperson wellness. Since vitamins that are given intravenously or intramuscularly are absorbed at up to 10-20 times the rate of vitamins introduced orally, and without the stomach upset, Ratcliff knew that IV nutritional therapy would be valuable for many clients. IVs are individually tailored to suit the needs of each client. The most popular vitamins are vitamin C -- which helps with immunity and with supporting collagen production in the skin -- and B vitamins -- which help with immunity, energy, and metabolism. Additionally, the IV can assist with hydration, which is a key component of essential body function and something with which so many people struggle. 32 | EMPORIA LIVING


Ratcliff wants clients to know that IV nutritional therapy is a supportive treatment, not a medical cure for any disease. That being said, almost everyone can benefit in some way from the treatment. “I think this could be a great answer for just about anybody’s wellness concerns,” Ratcliff said. “There are a few caveats of certain people that we can’t treat, but that is why you’re coming to a medical office to do this treatment. It’s still a medical procedure. You’re going to meet with myself and my nurses to look at your health history before we treat.” BROADBAND LIGHT The Sciton BroadBand Light corrects discolorations of the skin -- such as dark spots, redness, and unwanted vessels -but can also provide anti-aging benefits and skin tightening. Ratcliff said that a 12-year study performed by Stanford University showed that skin cells that had been regularly flooded with the light appeared younger not only on facial exam but also under a microscope with biopsy. “This is awesome because everybody is looking for this anti-aging treatment, we can stop the aging of our skin, and

correct some of those discolorations at the same time,” she said. “In addition, the final step to that treatment does skin tightening, so we’re getting a lot out of a single treatment. Before I had this machine, we were having to utilize multiple different treatments to get to that end goal.” SUBNOVII Sagging, drooping, wrinkled eyes age everyone. Finally, Skin Studio has a solution, without surgery. The Subnovii is a pen-shaped plasma device used for skin tightening and skin lifting. It is typically used around the eyes -- particularly the eyelids -- and is an effective, non-surgical alternative to blepharoplasty. Ratcliff said other methods have proven somewhat fruitless at tightening the skin around the eyes, but that the Subnovii can do that work in significantly less time and with significantly less down time and expense than surgery. “That was probably the number one request I kept getting,” she said, when referring to the correction of fine lines and skin laxity around the eyes and eyelids.

Skin Studio continues to offer a wide range of cosmetic dermatologic services like Botox®, chemical peels, Juvederm®, Hydrofacial, and Skin Ceuticals® medical grade skin care products. Lindsey Ratcliff, APRN-C, DCNP, also, loves to pair cosmetic and medical treatment for disorders such as Acne and other skin ailments. To book an appointment or to find out more information call 620-2087546 or go to www.skinstudioemporia. com or their Facebook page @ skinstudioemporia.




Story by Ashley Walker 34 | EMPORIA LIVING

Photos by Jason Dailey EDITION

Hidden back into the north edge of Emporia, right on hole 7 of the Emporia Country Club golf course, sits a house that is, arguably, the most unique home in Emporia. Often referred to as “The Pod House” for its cluster of five octagonal structures, 2034 Fanestil Drive is a 1960s architectural delight and a home that still captures the attention of passers-by today. FALL 2021 | 35



I just love this house.


fact, the home captured the heart of a young ESU college student in the early 1970s. She remembers riding her bike through the new housing development at the time, past this house, and promising herself that someday she would own this one-of-a-kind home. Nearly 50 years later, that college student, Rosemary (Gilkison) McGuire, finally made good on that promise. She and her husband bought the home in 2013 from the late Dr. Norman Thompson, who owned the property since the early 1970s and who -- lucky for Rosemary -- had made very few modifications to its design. “I walked in and just said, ‘I gotta have it!’” Rosemary recalls. Her husband, Cecil, essentially bought it for her on the spot. A math teacher of 45 years, she’s not sure what attracted her more to the 4-bedroom, 4-bath house: the octagons and unusual angles throughout, or the 1960’s design details, like the colors, faucets and gaudy carpet, that reminded her of her own childhood home. Designed by renowned Emporia architect J. Trevor Lewis in 1968 for Mr. and Mrs. George Forbes, an Emporia attorney, the home was undeniably a showcase of mid-century design in its time. From a Nutone speaker system to keep the family easily connected no matter what pod they might be in, to FALL 2021 | 37

the classic 1960s indoor water feature, Lewis and Forbes spared no detail when designing the unusual space. “There is stuff in the house that was way ahead of its time for a home being built in 1968,” Rosemary said. Rosemary had to make some tough decisions about what to keep and what to let go of when it came to renovations, because it did need a little work to make it liveable in the 2000s, she said. Although striking, the sunken living room with a built-in angular sofa had to go in order to maximize space. But the 20-foot-tall octagonal-shaped turquoisecolored stone fireplace that the main pod is centered around and the matching harvest gold, avocado green and natural brown hanging light-fixtures definitely had to stay. Other unusual features and fixtures of the home that she couldn’t part with are the dual large clam shell sinks in the master bath, the cork-covered walls and cabinets in the kitchen and entry hall and the multiple banks of light switches and dimmers --yes, there’s even one for black lights -- that control the mood and vibe of nearly every room in the house. (So far out!) Three of the bedrooms make up one of the pods. With built-in non-standard size beds, Rosemary had no choice but 38 | EMPORIA LIVING


There is stuff in the house that was way ahead of its time for a home being built in 1968.



to update those rooms. Today each bedroom in that pod is decorated for one of her grandsons and their favorite sports team: one for Oklahoma University, one for University of Kansas, and one for the Green Bay Packers. Another pod is dedicated to the master bedroom. For the eight-sided room, Mr. Forbes had a bed custom-made for the space…in the shape of an octagon, of course. The eight-sided bed is long gone now, but it lives on in the annals of The Emporia Gazette where it was featured on Sept. 28, 1968. In the article, the photo featured Mrs. Forbes proudly posing on this unusual bed along with a cutline stating that, “The mattress for the bed [was] so large it had to be moved into the bedroom before the room could be completed.” Eventually the McGuires want to retire in the home, but for now they are using it as an airbnb that is rented out nearly every weekend of the year. Until she is able to live there full-time, Rosemary is having fun spending time in her dream home from time to time and knowing that although octagons aren’t geometrically designed to tessellate (a math term for shapes that fit perfectly together), this house is the perfect fit for her. “I just love this house.”







ackie Morris and Denise Cameron want women to know disc golf is not just a sport for men.

As the Disc Golf Capital of the World, there’s no shortage of resources and opportunities locally to get involved. For five years Denise and Jackie have hosted clinics, tournaments, and leagues in Emporia with the goal to get more women out on the courses. Jackie remembers her introduction to the sport after she got a job at Dynamic Discs working in the retail store. “When I started at the store I didn’t know anything about disc golf. After a few weeks of work, I was like, ‘That looks fun!’ and I wanted to try it. Some coworkers took me out and I started playing. After that, just like everyone else who gets the bug, I think I went out almost every night,” said Jackie. The basics of disc golf are simple and similar to ball golf, but instead of clubs you use discs: A driver, midrange and a putter. Players start on the tee pad and throw a disc until they make it in the basket. Count the strokes up and the total is your score. There are more than 10 courses in the Emporia-area and most of them are free to play! The only investment is the cost of a few discs, ranging in price 44 | EMPORIA LIVING


from $10 to $18, to get started. Nationwide disc golf continues to grow rapidly and the pandemic accelerated the popularity of the sport. Jackie credits one reason for the growth of disc golf is how eager experienced players are to help newbies learn the sport. “Players are so friendly and laid back, because they want new players to learn and enjoy disc golf. It is a sport where new and experienced players can play together.” Jackie said. Locally, every Wednesday at 6:00 pm women gather at Hammond Park to play 9 holes. All women, no matter skill level, are invited to play. “We have loaner discs and help all new players,” Morris said. “The outing on Wednesday night is really about having a good chat, getting outdoors, and then also getting your exercise, too.” Jackie said. Some of the health benefits to playing disc golf include: cardiovascular from the walking involved, and flexibility from throwing the discs. There’s also plenty of opportunity to grow in the sport. From the weekly league

night to women- only tournaments women can keep advancing in the sport depending on the goals and interest-level they may have. Jeremy Rusco owner of Dynamic Discs is pleased to see the opportunities for women to learn and play locally. “Emporia is the Disc Golf Capital of the World and we want everyone locally, and especially women, to give it a try and learn how fun it can be. It is the perfect sport for families and people of all ages. We hope people will stop into our retail store and talk with our knowledgeable staff to help you get started.” Jeremy said. “When you have something this great in your own backyard we want people to experience it.” For more information on playing disc golf visit or stop into the retail store at 912 Commercial, Emporia, KS 66801.

Q & A

Questions women commonly ask: What discs should I use? Some disc recommendations for beginners are the Judge (putter), Truth (midrange), and Escape (fairway driver). We have each of these discs in a starter set at the DD Retail Store. Stop in and let our staff at the store help direct you to the best discs for your skill level.

of my male friends. However, I learned different techniques and skills I could utilize more when I played with women. Women sometimes have to play a little scrappier or adjust their game on long holes. It’s more about dissecting a hole versus throwing as far as you can throw until your arm comes out of its socket.

What if I’m bad at it or can’t throw very far? So what! We all start somewhere. As you play more, your consistency and distance will improve. Just stick with it and make it fun for yourself in the meantime!

How do I get started? Get a few discs from Dynamic Discs and go to any of the 9-hole courses in town! If you want to take it a step further, feel free to join the Emporia Ladies Disc Golf League. On Facebook, there is an Emporia Ladies League Disc Golf group anyone can join. Beginners are always encouraged to attend and the ladies who frequent the league are always ready to give pointers.

Can I learn how to play from men or should I learn from other women? Men can teach women how to play, absolutely - I actually learned how to play from a few


Southern Lyon County USD 252 Home of the Eagles and Jaguars

USD 252 Southern Lyon County Schools serve students and families in Hartford, Neosho Rapids, and Olpe communities. Encompassing 295 square miles of Southern Lyon County, this rural district provides for 540 students in grades Pre-K – 12. Hartford, Neosho Rapids, and Olpe are small but giving communities. Neosho Rapids Elementary and Olpe Elementary have very active PTO's and both high schools have robust and contributing Booster Clubs. Partnerships with Flinthills Technical College and Emporia State University create many opportunities for post secondary and career technical education. USD 252 has Early Childhood Education Centers in Neosho Rapids and Olpe. These centers care for children ages six weeks to five years. Our staff works hand in hand with Kansas Head Start, Parents As Teachers, Flinthills Community Health Center, Mobilizing Literacy, and KSDE to provide quality resources and educational opportunities to our littlest learners.

The Southern Lyon County FFA Chapter is pleased to offer Blessing Boxes in Hartford and Olpe due to a grant from the National FFA Organization. The Blessing Boxes are located near the high schools and provide our communities with an opportunity to help those in need of food and other necessities. We encourage individual members of the community, volunteer groups, churches, and other organizations to contribute to the community service project. Southern Lyon County FFA has and continues to serve our communities well throughout the outbreak of Covid-19. "Take what you need. Leave what you can."

Our Olpe Eagles swept the competition in athletic events, claiming state titles in 1A Football as well as both Boys and Girls Basketball.

High school students are giving back to Hartford, Neosho Rapids, and Olpe through community service. Students annually participate in a day filled with purposeful experience amongst a variety of community members.

Southern Lyon County students have the privilege of accompanying Veterans on the Honor Flight. The mission of Honor Flight is to transport America's Veterans to Washington D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to honoring those who have served and sacrificed for our country. Trips are planned to take place in the 2021-2022 school year.





ometime a business doesn’t need its own building to do business; they just need a space. That’s what Hereford Coworking is all about: providing a space for businesses of all sizes and scopes to do what they need to do without the overhead of owning their own brick and mortar building. It’s called “coworking” and it’s booming in popularity around the country. Opening last summer, Hereford Cowork space brought the concept to Emporia. Hereford Cowork Space is a place where workers of different companies share an office space, allowing cost savings and convenience through the use of common infrastructures, such as equipment, utilities and custodial services. Charlie Greig manages Hereford Coworking and has enjoyed watching how businesses are utilizing the Hereford spaces. Below are some of the stories: A SPACE FOR “OFF SITE” EMPLOYEES: One of newest members to work in the Coworking spot is Fusion Connect



which recently downsized out of the office building they had on the C of E campus. Fusion let people start working from home but also wanted a place for staff to come if they wanted an office environment. They rented 10 desks. A SPACE TO GROW: Tamir Zuckerman wanted flexible that would let him add staff as his company grew. CEO of his company Sela Group, provides commercial insurance for the tech industry with operations throughout the U.S., and is growing quickly. He found the office space to be most conducive to his needs as a growing business. “The idea is to take in employees one-by-one,” he said. “This lets us grow at our own pace.”

Zuckerman said he will stay in Emporia, as his wife is a native, stating Emporia has been good for business. A SPACE TO GET AWAY FROM DISTRACTIONS AT HOME Brent McCory is a longtime resident of Emporia and launched his ministry, Renewing You Ministries. “We have young kids from 12 down to almost four,” he said. “Having another space available to go to to be away — either myself or my wife — can be helpful in that way. I think it’ll be a place to meet people. The website and getting things done is pretty simple.” A SPACE FOR CONNECTING Matt Lowery chose Hereford for its downtown location. Lowery is a certified residential appraiser who worked from home for four years in Emporia.

“When you work from home for hours and hours a day, it’s nice to be around people and pick up on the energy,” he said. “It’s just a good shift.” A SPACE TO FOCUS: Nick May, vice president of sales and marketing at Asurion, lives in Nashville with wife Julie May, an Emporia native. The couple is building a home in Olpe. Both work at tech companies and have been working remotely for the last year. “For me, there real value in being able to leave the house, come to a place of work whether its a corporate office or coworking space like this, and getting in that frame of mind, ‘I’m at work. I know the WiFi is working really well, have a nice kitchen here, I know I have like-minded business professionals or entrepreneurs who I can bounce ideas off of, who I can interact with.’ That to me is the value of a coworking space.” A PLACE FOR STUDENTS Students with Emporia State University and the Flint Hills Technical College use the workspace to collaborate with entrepreneurs and business professionals.

Greig hopes as businesses start looking at their office needs they will come look at the options Hereford offers and try it out. Hereford currently offers four membership plans, starting at $25 per month and up to $450 per month depending on a variety of features and amenities that are included. From a designated to desk to a 13X9 lockable office, there is a space for just about every need. There is also a large conference room for meetings available with WiFi technology. Plans all include fiber internet, free coffee and tea, and basic print and copy services. There is even a single day drop-in rate for that emergency or last-minute need. Customers can sign up on as well as book any services book from the company’s website, herefordcoworking. com, without talking to an actual worker. Building access is 24/7. If business has a special needs Greig said they are open to creating a solution for them. TO LEARN MORE GO TO or call Charlie Greig for more information.

27 W. 7TH STREET | EMPORIA, KS 66801 620-342-8723 | WWW.HEREFORDCOWORKING.COM FALL 2021 | 49

Story by Ashley Walker 50 | EMPORIA LIVING


Photos by Jason Dailey

While most people may see a pile of broken glass and junky window panes as nothing more than an eye-sore, Tracy Whipple sees something with potential. The artist behind the colorful glass mosaics hanging in store-front windows and homes around town, Broken Becomes Beautiful is Tracy’s way to not only upcycle trashed glass and windows but point viewers to something profound: that in brokenness beauty can be found.

FALL 2021 | 51

On a Spiritual level, I’ve always had a Fascination with how God uses us even when we are Broken. rom the outside it may just look like a standard garden shed. But to Tracy Whipple the 8-by-12 bright green structure is more of a sanctuary of artistic proportions. Inside the tiny space, situated in the backyard of her home in southeast Emporia, the self-proclaimed lover of all kinds of art forms, creates masterpiece mosaics that not only inspire but capture the beauty of light and discarded materials. “I like to take something that someone may not want and make it into something pretty,” she said. Her “business” is called Broken Becomes Beautiful, but she uses the term loosely. In fact, she would call it an exercise in meditation and worship more than anything else. Born out of her own faith journey, Tracy hopes her art, created from reclaimed glass and discarded window panes, points others to the reality that out of life’s imperfections, unrealized expectations and brokenness, beauty is possible.



“On a spiritual level, I’ve always had a fascination with how God uses us even when we are broken,” she said. “Most of the time our brokenness is what makes us more useful and I want people to recognize that. You can still be broken but you still have worth and value. You have value to people, you have value to God. You still have value.” And with a step inside her studio, just past “Jasper,” her new studio cat lounging on her workbench stool, there’s no denying the beauty that she can create with a load of broken glass and a pile of unwanted window panes. One after another, in all sizes and colors, the sunlight pours through the mosaics and the tiny pieces of glass nearly disappear as the shapes and hues come together to form something entirely new. METHOD Up-cycling used glass and old window panes that she finds in second-hand stores, estate sales or in a trash pile by the side of the road, Tracy designs and (very) carefully crafts colorful images and scenes designed to hang where the sunlight can beam through. “I want it to look like I’m painting the glass,” she said. Carefully gluing shards of colored glass onto a window pane and filling in the gaps with standard sanded grout, the finished products look like a combination of leaded glass and a painting done with watercolors. But no paint brush or soldering iron is required. Likening it to working a puzzle, her “glue and grout” method is intentional. It allows her to start and finish most pieces in just a few hours time, something that keeps her motivated to move on to the next piece. However, it is not something to be done carelessly or quickly, she points out. Cuts and nicks are a fairly normal part of the process, as her bandaged hand testifies.

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“Sometimes it’s a three Band-Aid day, sometimes it’s a one Band-Aid day,” she chuckles. It just depends on the intricacy of the design and the size and shape of the pieces she is using. After just a few minutes in her “She Shed,” it doesn’t take long to recognize where Tracy’s heart is most drawn when creating a mosaic: From fields of sunflowers (her most popular designs) to hummingbirds and landscapes, flowers and nature are featured in most of the window panes hanging throughout the studio. Nature has always been one of her pathways to God, so, naturally, it’s where she is most creative with glass and feels most connected to Him. “He is the Creator,” she said, pointing upward. “Even though nothing I make compares to what’s out there, I just want to draw people to God like He draws me into nature.” There are exceptions, of course. Custom pieces sometimes require more time and planning, and often push her out of her comfort zone, like a recently commissioned piece depicting the original Citizens National Bank at 6th Avenue and Commercial Street. The



intricate piece was a gift to Cory Haag, from his mother, in recognition of the recent extensive restoration her son had done on the historic building. Getting the colors, shadows, light and perspective right was challenging. Not all brown glass is the same, for example. She had to look long and hard for the right shade of brown to do the bricks on the bank. In fact, it took her several months to find just the right shade. “But it is an iconic building in town and I wanted it to look correct and right.” Tracy is also trying new designs with wind chimes, lanterns, sun-catchers, three-dimensional pieces and more modern, geometrically-inspired pieces. She wants to provide something for everybody and all different artistic tastes. Kaila Mock, owner and operator of Trox Gallery, who “discovered” Tracy just a couple years ago at a booth at The Great American Market, affirms that she is very intentional about knowing what people are looking for. “Her technique has improved over the years. She’s doing much more intricate designs and she’s learned what the community wants,” Mock said.

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FAMILY Tracy’s mosaics are not intended to just gaze upon as pretty pieces of art, although they are certainly that. What she hopes is that the colorful windows point people to the idea that brokenness doesn’t mean worthlessness or uselessness. Far from it. Instead, she hopes people who view her art walk away being encouraged that brokenness can be transformed into something extraordinary and beautiful. “All of us are broken in some way or another, “ she said. “We all have flaws, none of us is perfect. But I believe God uses those imperfections -- that brokenness -- for His good and His glory.” And just like the discarded glass and window panes that would have normally been thrown out...those things can be changed and transformed into something else that is more beautiful and that can be loved and enjoyed. She has seen it in her own life. “We got thrown a curve ball when our son was three years old,” she said. He was diagnosed with severe autism. It was very difficult at first to come to terms with what this would mean for her family, she said. But as his primary caregiver,



she has experienced over the years how God has used her son to do extraordinary things in their lives. Careful not to use the term “normal” to describe her life, Tracy has discovered that the unexpected parts of her life are where God has shown up the most. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I have seen God take something that most people see as a broken thing and turn it into something beautiful in our life.” Or to put it another way, “When you are broken, that’s when the light can come out.” And there’s no mistaking it; when held against the light that’s when Tracy’s broken glass mosaics are the most beautiful. WHERE TO BUY Tracy sells her mosaics through her Facebook page, “Broken Becomes Beautiful,” occasionally at First Fridays and The Great American Market in downtown Emporia. She also has her pieces at The Emporia Arts Council gift shop in a special spot they’ve coined her “magic window,” because every piece she puts there seems to sell right away.

When you are Broken, That’s when the Light can come out.

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fter much patience and anticipation, The Emporia Public Library is open to the public once more. Despite being closed due to the pandemic, and the remodeling of their atrium, the library’s dedicated staff have been more focused than ever before on saturating Emporia and Lyon County with literacy programs for children and adults alike. Library Director Robin Newell and Assistant Director Mckenzie Gulick have spared no effort to return their usual calendar of events to in-person experiences. Newell, Gulick and staff have taken all necessary precautions to ensure that library visitors are safe and socially distanced while still enjoying social and educational programs. “We are a community hub,” Newell said. “It’s part of what we do. We bring people together. We bring families together. We have parents who bring their children and grandparents who bring their grandchildren.” However, the Emporia Public Library is so much more than just a place to check out books and for children to enjoy story time. In fact, it serves as a vital resource to various demographics within the community. Beyond offering study rooms, DVDs, downloadable books, an enclosed patio for children to play outside, printing services, online education, and mobile hotspots, the 60 | EMPORIA LIVING


library often serves as a retreat from the summer heat or winter cold. It can offer a bathroom break or drink of water to those who might not have those kinds of amenities readily available. More than anything, though, the Emporia Public Library serves as a proactive liaison between the curious minds of Emporia and surrounding communities and the resources needed to satisfy those curious minds. One of the creative ways that the library is bridging that gap is via the new Library on the Go! van. “We are very excited about Library on the Go!” Newell said. “We want to reach individuals who may not have a way to get to the library to obtain a library card or library materials.” The Library on the Go! van is equipped with a large selection of the latest books for adults and children. The van goes around town on different days of the week; to Flinthills Mall, Emporia Farmers Market, Olpe Farmers Market

and other special events such as the Great American Market, Food-a-palooza and Hispanic Heritage Month. Patrons can easily get a library card, check out books and use the free Wi-Fi. The library also maintains deposit libraries with collections of materials for the residents throughout Emporia located at Broadview Towers, Presbyterian Manor, Horizon Plaza, Flint Hills Health Center and Newman Regional Health. Deposit locations contain up to 50 books that are rotated regularly as a convenience to the residents of the facility. The library is also expanding to into the manufacturing industry, offering donated books at local factories like Hopkins Manufacturing Corporation. In the last month, circulation has more than doubled. Story time is back for Pre-K children of all ages including Mother Goose for toddlers, Pat-a-Cake club for birth to 18 months, preschool for ages 3-5 and a bilingual story time on Saturdays. There is also a William

Allen White book club for elementary students, and Middle Grade Connect with a different theme each week. Children K-5 that are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics can attend Spooky Science and Mad Science Hour. Adult events include Random Acts of Poetry Day and a Genealogy Workshop. All current and upcoming events are available online on the library’s events calendar at The Friends of the Library holds two book sales each year with a variety of books, movies and music available for purchase. Funds go to support programming and materials at the library. The Friends of the Library will fundraise during the Emporia Community Foundation Match Day this year for a Charlie Cart, a mobile food preparation cart with a convection oven, sink and hot plate. This cart

will allow library staff to collaborate with other community organizations to provide programming at different locations in Emporia and throughout Lyon County. Community residents will learn about healthier lifestyles and different cultures through experiencing demonstrations by library staff and guest chefs. “The library is that third pillar in the community,” Newell said. “We’re the great equalizer where people can come together, and they don’t have to pay. In the past libraries have looked inward more than they looked at the community. We want to reduce barriers to access of information and materials. We realized there needed to be a deeper, more relevant connection in the community. Our goal is to provide users of all ages access to information, educational, and recreational services, materials and programs.”

27 W. 7TH STREET | EMPORIA, KS 66801 620-342-8723 | WWW.HEREFORDCOWORKING.COM FALL 2021 | 61

Story by Zach DeLoach 64 | EMPORIA LIVING


Photos by Tim Mohn and Jason Dailey

Brody Peak is at the center of Emporia Livestock Sales, managing and running thousands and thousands of cattle through every year; and doing it all with hard work, charisma and a commitment to his family’s legacy of over 80 years.

FALL 2021 | 65


t’s Wednesday morning out at Emporia Livestock Sales. Brody Peak, a 41-year-old born-and-raised Emporian, is in amongst the cattle, unloading them, sorting them, lining them up in the right order, preparing them for auction. There’s a lot of pressure in this line of work. Not only is he laboring for his own income, but also for that of the farmers and ranchers who’ve entrusted him to sell their livestock. But he’s used to it. This is what he does every week, except for the three or four times a year when his family can steal him away. And besides, this is all he’s ever known and it has run in his family’s blood since long before he was born. It goes all the way back to 1941. While the war in Europe raged on and tension between the U.S. and Japanese governments escalated to the breaking point, a 24-year-old cattleman named Olma Peak joined forces with Paul 66 | EMPORIA LIVING


Hatcher of the Paul Hatcher Sale Co. in Emporia. The two of them would found the P & H Cattle Company, the parent corporation of Emporia Livestock Sales and, eventually, their business would become the second-largest sale in the state. Then, in 1976, Paul Hatcher retired and Olma Peak bought out his share of the company. A few years later, Olma’s grandson and eventual successor, Brody, was born. The younger Peak — as well as his two sisters and his cousins — often found themselves at Emporia Livestock Sales during their formative years. They were surrounded by family and many of the longtime customers had become close friends as well. “This place was the coolest place in the world when I was a kid,” Brody said. “ ... I just remember summertime and winter break and we all got to come in here and run around like idiots.” It wasn’t long before Olma decided he needed to put the kids to work. “I’d say by the time we were 8 or 9, my cousins and I were always working here, doing something, running around, trying to help pen cattle or probably get in the way more than anything, ” Brody said. “But we were always here, doing ornery boy stuff.” After finishing high school, Brody shipped off to Manhattan to attend Kansas State University, although he freely

admits now that he went more for the experience and less for the degree itself. What he really wanted to do was get back to Emporia. Once he’d graduated from K-State, Brody worked for about a year at a feed yard. And then one day in the early aughts, his phone rang. “My grandpa called and asked me if I’d be interested [in working at Emporia Livestock Sales],” Brody said. “It didn’t take me very long to get my butt back down there.” By that time, Olma was in his 80s and in search of someone to take over the family business for him going forward. Brody must have seemed like a natural choice. “Out of all the Peak kids, I’m probably the loudest and most obnoxious, so it seemed to fit well because you’ve got to be pretty outgoing in this business,” Brody said. “You’ve got to know people and learn to put yourself out there.” Brody said he took over operational duties of Emporia Livestock Sales from Olma but “under his tutelage.” The process wasn’t without its tension, as Brody would sometimes develop business ideas that Olma, in his 60-plus years of experience, thought weren’t viable. “I learned a lot from him, just sitting around the coffee shop and bouncing ideas off of him and him telling me I was an idiot for trying this,” he said. “But that was kind of the fun part, you know? Trial and error.” Olma passed away on May 18, 2008, at 90 years of age, having successfully passed off his business to its next owner.

But Brody wasn’t alone when he took the helm in Olma’s stead. His father, Vic, has been hanging around Emporia Livestock Sales since he was a child and is still the company’s biggest buyer. His aunt, Chrysanne, runs the office. His uncle, Glenn, married into the family and started working at Emporia Livestock Sales fresh out of college and is still employed there at 83, although he only comes around on Wednesdays now. “People like that are invaluable because they know all of these customers,” Brody said. “All these customers know them because they’ve been here so long. They’re a big asset to me just because of their knowledge and the people they know. My family’s been super supportive of what we do here.” When Brody got married, his wife Dana came on board as well. She weighs cattle on Wednesdays and assists with the business’s accounting. They have four children, a senior in high school, a sophomore in high school, a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old. While the kids don’t get to hang around Emporia Livestock Sales as much as Brody did in his youth, the family still spends plenty of time together, usually in the car on the way to one of the two older daughters’ basketball, volleyball or track events. For Brody, his kids always come first. “I would say 100%, outside of this place, it’s whatever the kids need,” he said.

Brody hopes to one day pass down the business to another generation of Peaks when the time comes for him to step aside. Of all his kids, he thinks his 4-yearold son might be the one who wants to take over the place. “He sure likes it,” Brody said. “He likes coming and watching the sales. … We’ve already been in it three generations and 80 years. It’d be kind of cool to see if we could get another 50 or 60 out of it. I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.” After all, his uncle is 83 and still going. If Brody follows in those footsteps, he’s not even halfway there.

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However, the road ahead may prove difficult. The beef business isn’t what it used to be, and Brody said that regulations drafted by out-of-touch politicians, technology, corporatization of the meat-packing industry, poor agricultural education and fewer young people pursuing careers in agriculture aren’t helping. “It’s going to be more and more challenging moving forward, but I guess I like a challenge,” he said. Emporia Livestock Sales is trying to adapt along with the times. Brody and his team have started using more social media, although he’s still hesitant about pulling the trigger on online auctions, which he said are becoming more and more popular. “I’m old school,” he said. “I like people sitting in my seats buying them instead of doing it on a computer. And I’m sure 68 | EMPORIA LIVING


there’s always ways to adapt more, but like I said, we’ve been here 80 years and it’s been working the way we’ve been doing it.” Working in a business that is completely subject to the market isn’t particularly easy on the nerves either. There are no guaranteed prices for anything that people in agriculture produce. Rather, it’s always a constant ebb and flow: sometimes the income is good, sometimes it’s not. But if he had his way, Brody said he’d simply nix the stress of the market’s volatility right out of the equation. “You grind every day to make sure your customers’ cattle bring the most and there’s days that it doesn’t happen, the market drops out of the sky,” he said. “I take it personal because I want everybody’s cattle to bring a lot because I know it’s their annual income, or maybe their biannual income, and they need it to pay bills and land payments and equipment payments. It gets frustrating for sure.” The vicissitudes of the free market may worry Brody, but that’s only because he cares so deeply about his customers. And yet it’s precisely because he cares about those customers that he continues to wake up every morning ready to put in another day’s work in the livestock sales business. “If I based this solely off the cattle business, I’d pull my hair out,” he said. “But it’s my customers and the relationships you build with these people. There’s three generations of some of these families that I’ve met and gotten to sell cattle for and know. To get to go to their places and meet their families and see their cowherd or their yearling operation is pretty special. They let you in on something that a lot of people don’t get to see and you take pride in the fact that they trust you to sell their yearly income. It’s pretty cool.”





you haven’t been inside of Holiday Resort in the past year or two, you might not recognize the place anymore.

The senior care facility has undergone a much-needed $500,000 renovation, something administrator Mike Kerbs had advocated for several years. The project was finally approved June 30, 2020, and had to be completed with all contractors paid — by June 30, 2021. “We weren’t able to open up until March 15 of this year, so it was a push to get that done, and we did,” Kerbs said. All that time between June 30, 2020, and March 15, 2021, allowed Karina Henderson of HLC Interior Solutions to develop a design and communicate that to her contractors, which was no easy task. Henderson had to come up with a design that was up-to-date aesthetically yet classic enough to last for years while also being practical for staff and residents. “I knew we weren’t going to go into something super trendy that they were going to change out in five years,” Henderson said. “And then we sat down as groups, all of the management team, and discussed it. I didn’t come in and say, ‘Okay, this is what we’re doing, we’re doing A, B, C and D.’ But I said, 70 | EMPORIA LIVING


‘This is what I’d like to do,’ and then I started listening and hearing how they actually work in the space.” Listening to the Holiday Resort staff proved to be invaluable guidance for Henderson. For instance, her original design included carpet, but the staff explained how that would not be functional. And as it turned out, the wood panel flooring she chose instead has been easier for staff to clean and easier for residents in wheelchairs to maneuver. Henderson also minimized the amount of artwork on the walls and brought in fewer but larger pieces that gave the space a Kansas feel. She added new lighting to brighten the facility and changed the foundational colors to gray and black, which would provide both longevity and versatility. Additionally,

she updated the signs inside the building as well as the one outside to have a more mature, elegant quality. But one thing that didn’t change was the red couches, which have become somewhat of a tradition within Holiday Resort. “The owner — who has since passed, and whose wife owns the facility now — always wanted to have that pop of flare,” Kerbs said. “This is our second set of couches that we’ve got. He insisted on them being red and it didn’t seem like it matched anything else. But once the red came in, it made total sense.” While some residents were skeptical of the changes during the renovation process, Henderson said that once they saw it all completed, their thoughts changed. “There’s some pretty strong opinions running around here and they would tell me, ‘You know, when you got started, I was not pleased, I was not happy with what you were doing, but now that it’s done, I like it,’” she said. “And that was one of the things I kept trying to remind everybody: just wait. Just wait until the end result.”



2700-2726 W. 30TH AVENUE | EMPORIA, KS 66801 620-343-9285 | WWW.HOLIDAYRESORTS.NET FALL 2021 | 71

After the last year and half, a lot can be said about fear.

Actually, a lot has been said. But what about fearlessness? Isn’t that a much more inspiring characteristic to consider? And believe it or not, it exists in and among our community. A few of those stories are being told on the pages of this year’s edition of Sallie. We also asked a handful of local ladies to give their thoughts on living fearlessly. Each in her own way, they embody fearlessness in what they do and how they choose to live their lives. Meet this year’s commentators for “In Her Own Words” as they weigh in on the topic of “fearlessness:”

Lisa Hayes

Michelle Kriss

In my profession — law enforcement — fearlessness can mean a lot of different things, especially in the world we live in today. First and foremost, the fear of our profession being undervalued and misunderstood. I have always been here to help — not hurt — those we serve; and to hold accountable those who do wrong and to help those who have been victimized.

When asked to write this, I began to reflect on why someone would consider me fearless. Perhaps others see that in me although I don’t necessarily see that in myself? After pondering this for several days, Rajneesh’s definition seemed to fit the best for me: “Fearlessness is not the absence of fear, fearlessness is the total presence of fear with the courage to face it.”

Age: 43 Occupation: Police Captain Family: Husband (Scott); daughter (Kaylyn); 2 bonus sons (Clay and Christopher); 3 dogs (Chasie, Mr. Bojangles, Zoey). Favorite memory from summer 2021: Working with my family to get our old boat running and taking it to the lake.

As I have grown throughout my career from a day-one rookie to now — a captain commanding a division — fearlessness has changed. I have grown from a patrol officer chasing suspects involved in criminal activities, to my current position of being responsible for a division impacting lives in our community by solving major crimes and assisting the victims of those same crimes. From day one of taking calls for service, making arrests and being involved in our community both on-duty and off-duty, I believe there is fearlessness in promoting our profession with the utmost integrity. Policing today is still extremely rewarding. It requires fearlessness to uphold our profession. To help and encourage our community for continued support of our profession is paramount. I am committed and honored to serve my community and I am beyond proud of the men and women that serve with me, and beside me. 72 | EMPORIA LIVING


Age: 51 Occupation: Office Manager at Dr. Thomas Kriss Dental; Retired Naval Officer Family: Husband, Dr. Thomas Kriss; Son, Tayler (24); Daughter, Tessa (22); Daughter, Emary (11) Favorite memory from summer 2021: Long weekends at the lake and a family trip to Cancun

By facing a fear head on and taking that tentative, courageous first step just beyond the edge of your comfort zone or past the boundaries put on you by society (or yourself) you exhibit fearlessness. As a young girl, my mom fearlessly lobbied the city council to allow girls on the summer sports teams. Perhaps that set the tone for my life: a small town girl who earned an engineering degree, spent 20 years as a naval officer, earned an MBA, spent a year in Iraq, became a scuba instructor, a step-parent and a parent, traveled the world and jumped out of a ‘perfectly good airplane’ five times. All of those things were beyond the edge of my comfort zone and society expected me to fail many of them. Each challenge I conquered reinforced my faith in myself and allowed me to push boundaries and expectations on a subsequent, larger fear. Consequently, I’ve had a vast array of amazing life experiences. To quote Joe Walsh, “life’s been good.”

Kaylene Leek

Age: 47 Occupation: SRN/BSN, Director of 3rd Floor and ICU at Newman Regional Health Family: Husband, Tony Leek; children, Courtney, 24 and Dalton, 20 Favorite memory from summer 2021: Hands down, my favorite memory from this summer would be sitting around the campfire with our children and our friends laughing, telling stories, making s’mores, and enjoying nature. Camping and family time are what helps me to recharge. As a 25-year veteran RN, fearlessness has taken on many meanings to me over the past 18 months. Fearlessness has been the ability to present information to staff members about pandemic related things like PPE allocation, knowing that they are scared about the unknown and they may have questions that I don’t have an immediate answer for. Fearlessness has meant keeping a positive attitude, even during the constant changes of best practice in how we treat COVID positive patients and how we keep all of our other patients safe during a pandemic. Fearlessness knows that there is a HUGE shortage of nurses across the nation and I have to persevere and do everything I can to support the dedicated staff members that I get the opportunity to serve with every day. Fearlessness is not being afraid or scared to cry or pray with a patient or family during their darkest or weakest moments; to hold their hand, or give them a hug. I guess for me, at the end of the day, fearlessness will always be having the strength (physical, emotional, and spiritual), resilience, and determination to keep coming to work every day and doing what I was called to do regardless of what obstacles or challenges are placed in front of me. To me, every healthcare provider is the very definition of what “fearlessness” is.

Andrea Polzin

Age: 30 Occupation: Sign Painter and designer at A&A Signs Family: married to Alex Polzin Favorite memory from summer 2021: Man, that’s so hard. It’s been such an incredible summer. Obviously all of the amazing signs and murals we got to paint, it’s been a very busy summer and I’m so excited about that. The Emporia Living magazine article was so fun to be a part of. Beyond all that, I dearly cherish the time spent with good friends and family this year. I wouldn’t say I’m truly fearless. Everything gets me a little shaky with fear, that anxiety in the pit of your stomach. Especially in this day and age with everything being so uncertain. But I know that the things I fear aren’t really something worth listening to. Ignoring my fear is what has led me out the smallness of my comfort and in to the rush of the unexpected, out of the mundane and into the mysterious beauty that is life in a chaotic world. Fear can be beautiful. If I had not pushed through my fear a few years ago, I know there is really no way I would be working for myself, truly living my childhood dream of being an artist, of painting all day and living a life that I am really proud of. If I had let my fear overshadow my dreams instead of choosing to do it anyway, I would be living a small life and wondering what it would have looked like if I hadn’t been too afraid to figure it out. I think about it all the time, because there were so many moments where I would have loved to give up and live a more comfortable, consistent, predictable life. I am grateful for my fear. I would even go as far as saying it’s important. But even more important is how to not listen when it tries to lead you away from something good. Being fearless isn’t about not being afraid as much as it is a part of not letting it hold you back from greatness.

Kristen Doty

Age: 39 Occupation: Stay at Home Mom Family: Husband, Lane, 4 children. Favorite memory from summer 2021: After a year of my dear friend battling breast cancer, multiple chemo treatments, and several surgeries, we were able to celebrate her being cancer free in Florida with our husbands! I would never choose this word as a characteristic for myself, but, like many of us, I’ve had to face fear head-on in many situations. One of the biggest ways in which I choose to handle fear is with God. I know my strength, in tough and fearful situations, comes directly from Him. My husband is a law enforcement officer and I have had to completely rely on God’s strength to give me the fearlessness I need, to boldly battle through the challenges and fears that come with being the wife of a LEO. Cautious, yes, absolutely. I definitely proceed with caution on many issues, that’s where God gives me discernment. When my husband was deployed with the Army, I struggled to hang on to that fearlessness I knew I would need for myself, and my kids, to get us through that year without him. Without the wisdom and courage God so graciously gives me, my fear gives way to weakness and insecurities begin to creep in. For me, fear stems from the unknown, and if we allowed that to dictate our everyday lives, faith would have no place to give way to dreams, accomplishments, and yes, even disappointments, and failures. But think of all the lost opportunities, lessons learned, and the character molding we would miss out on, the relationships we wouldn’t have, if we let fear rule our decisions and have control over our lives? Not the way I choose to live. Yes, it is a choice. I’ll take fearlessness for 1,000 please. FALL 2021 | 73





first glance - or perhaps based on a not-so-accurate assumption - The Emporia Senior Center might appear to simply be a bingo hall for local seniors. It is not. In fact, it is a lovely community filled with compassion, generosity, and a lot of laughter. Upon sitting down for an interview with a handful of the active board members, the admiration and and love these people share for one another and the rest of their little community was palpable. Delightfully cheery and notably humorous Van Hardesty began explaining his relationship with The Senior Center by talking about his journey from husband and caregiver to his wife Lynda, to ESC regular, to ESC volunteer, and finally to current ESC board member. “I’ve been married to Lynda for 55 years. She’s my best friend and my high school sweetheart,” Van recalled. He went on to explain that a few years after she retired, Lynda was diagnosed with dementia. Not really knowing what that was, or what it meant, or how to care for her at the time, Van felt completely lost and overwhelmed. Seeking guidance,



he turned to the Senior Center and its Director, Ian Boyd, who quickly took a genuine, vested interest in Van, Lynda and their overall well being. Through his experience of receiving an abundance of support and kindness, Van began to understand what the vision of the Senior Center ultimately is; A place for people to find what they need. Whether it be friendship and socializing, medical equipment rental, legal and financial resources, senior specific exercise classes, or just a nice, hot meal every once in a while, The Emporia Senior Center provides much more than just a space for card and dice games. As Tammy Kelley, Administrative Assistant, describes it, “It’s the domino effect”. What she’s describing is illustrated by fellow board members Pam Thuma, Virginia McCabe, and Virginia Higgins. Pam started visiting

the Senior Center as a volunteer tax advisor years ago but found herself trying out the exercise classes just for fun and eventually incorporating them into her weekly routine. After a while, Pam brought Virginia McCabe lovingly known as Ginny 1 - into the group and then they both eventually convinced Virginia Higgins - Ginny 2 - to come aboard as well. All three women speak fondly of how inclusive the programs are, how they really feel a sense of belonging amongst their peers at the center. They describe themselves as one big family even down to the maintenance man, Chris, who calls Lynda “Mrs. Lynda” which she absolutely adores. The programs, activities, and services provided by The Emporia Senior Center benefit over 1700 local seniors per month. However, those services - while free to Emporia seniors - require large

“What we need now more than ever is the support of our community. Whether that’s through monetary donations or volunteering.” amounts of funding and volunteers. Normally fundraising events like weekly bingo and the annual Christmas Gala provide a significant amount of financial support to the center. However, in the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced ESC to cancel most of these events. While Ian Boyd has cleverly researched, applied for, and been approved for several grant programs, there is still a large gap to fill by the end of this fiscal year in order to keep the lights on and keep necessary resources readily available to this city’s most vulnerable population. “What we need now more than ever is the support of our community. Whether that’s through monetary donations or volunteering,” Van stated, “Come help with bingo one night or teach a class. It’ll make you feel good!” To enhance the quality of life of Lyon County seniors by promoting health, social and recreational activities, and advocate for social change, please send your donation inquiries to or call (620) 343-3160.


By Ryann Brooks 76 | EMPORIA LIVING

Photos by Tom Mohn and Chris Walker EDITION

Three Packets A former teacher and foster of Ketchup parent, Lindsey Smith saw a … need in her community and and a


Leap of Faith

is doing something about it. Founder of Radical Life, Lindsey stepped out in faith to help struggling families not only stay intact but actually start to thrive. hree packets of ketchup sit in a gold-plated business card holder on Lindsay Smith’s desk. To a visitor, it might look a little strange. But to Smith, those little packets represent her life’s work. Smith is the founder of and community liaison for Radical Life, a community-based nonprofit organization with a mission to end the cycle of poverty and keep children from becoming wards of the state through creating safe homes and strong families. A former special education teacher with USD 253 Emporia Public Schools and foster parent of eight years, Smith saw firsthand how many children are removed from their biological families, not because of abuse or neglect, but because of issues directly related to poverty. For the first part of her career with the Emporia school district, Smith worked at a school where families had a higher average household income. Then, she moved on to a different school within the district — one with a much higher poverty rate. “In the first three months I was like, ‘What is happening? Why don’t these people care about me? Why don’t they care about their kids?’” she said. “It was almost like I was developing this me vs. them mentality.” Smith quickly grew weary of chasing down parents to sign paperwork for IEPs, things felt hectic and unsupportive. Her principal pulled her aside one day to check in and Smith relayed her concerns, how the parents didn’t care about their kids, how no one would show up for meetings. “She was like, ‘No, your head’s in the wrong place,’” Smith said. “I was like, ‘What?’ and she said, ‘No, you’re thinking about this in the wrong way. They’re not anti-education; they’re pro-survival. Our families are working two or three jobs to make ends meet.’” Families, the principal said, felt secure knowing their children were safe for eight hours out of their day. That was enough. Smith said it was then that she started to understand the true impact of poverty. FALL 2021 | 77

“She wrecked my life,” Smith said of her former principal. “She made me see what the real issue was and I was just looking for an issue I was thinking was there. When I actually saw it for what it was, I had a new approach to building relationships with those families.” And that’s where the ketchup packets come in. “This is my very favorite present I ever received,” she said, nearly bubbling over with excitement as she held up the display. 78 | EMPORIA LIVING


“My first school I worked at, it was parents who would bring you Starbucks to your IEP meetings or get you a gift card to get your nails done. People would go out of their way to appreciate you.” One day at her new school, a first grader presented Smith with a gift: ketchup packets he had taken out of his mother’s glove box, wrapped in toilet paper he had taken from the school bathroom, tied up with a shoelace. “That was my Christmas present and I was undone,” she said. “I rushed out to Staples and bought a $15 business card holder to put my ketchup packets in and people I worked with were warned, ‘If you touch them or use them, I will cut your hand off.’ Like, these are mine.” Because, it’s more than just a few packets of ketchup; it’s what the ketchup represents. Smith and her husband Chad began researching the resources and programs in the area to help make more connections like that. A program like Radical Life did not exist. Everything, Smith said, was reactionary rather than preventative. Everything was there to help a family after they were in crisis, but not to prevent the crisis from occurring. “Radical Life started out of frustration,”

Smith said. “We were annoyed and we were frustrated with how the system is set up.” Smith visited the Department of Children and Families in Topeka to ask about Lyon County’s numbers. She talked to local organizations and agencies. She found that generational poverty was prevalent in more rural communities. Emporia couldn’t offer the same resources as more urban areas like Kansas City, but Smith knew something had to change. In September 2019, Smith resigned from her teaching position effective at the end of the school year. When the pandemic hit in March 2020 and shut down in-person classrooms, she was crushed that she didn’t get to say goodbye to her last group of kids. Still, she knew she was making the right decision. “Everyone sees this need in the school district,” she said. “I saw this need and it just got bigger and heavier and my desire to help our families here got heavier than my desire to work in the classroom. But it’s just a different piece of it. Instead of working with a child from a family, I’m working with an entire family.” Partnering with Youth Core Ministries to set up a 501(c)(3), Radical Life was

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They also work through the Radical Life curriculum and create their own goals and plans for success. Once a family enters the program, they become a Leading family.

Alicia’s life was anything but “fine.” A regular drug user who lost her kids to foster care, she joined Radical Life in hopes of finally getting her life back on track. Sept. 27 she graduated from Phase One of the program and credits Radical Life for helping her get clean. born. With another agency taking care of the administrative overhead, Smith is free to keep her focus on her mission to help families. HOW IT WORKS Radical LIfe is a three-phase program and each phase encompasses 20 weeks. It doesn’t matter how a family is referred to the program, whether it’s through a therapist, the court system, friends or a self-referral, the process works the same way. Families that are considering the Radical Life program set up an initial “interview” with Smith to determine if the program is a good fit for the family. If it feels like a good fit, the families fill out paperwork and self-assessments with staff. 80 | EMPORIA LIVING


PHASE 1: All Leading families start in phase one as they complete the “Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World” curriculum over the initial 20-week period. Smith said the curriculum is evidence-based and allows each family to create their own plan to walk out of poverty, toxic stress and potential loss of custody. Families work with the program facilitator and a coach through the duration of the course. At the end of the 20-weeks, a graduation is held and families are then paired with “Learning friends” — volunteers who are coming in to offer support and encouragement. PHASE 2: Leaders and Learners work together in the next 20 weeks and attend weekly classes together, aimed to strengthen the family’s areas of need. This is when each family gets to really customize the Radical Life program to their needs and decide what classes to attend. Classes may include: Job Lingo, Managing Anxiety & Depression, Marriage Counseling, Conscious Discipline, Love & Logic, Bible studies, Meal Plan and Prep and Budgeting classes. PHASE 3: In the final 20 weeks of the program, all Leading and Learning families meet on site twice a month for dinner and “compassionate accountability.” They discuss struggles and identify community support that is available. Leading and Learning families trade off the rest of the month hosting each other in their homes. Smith said it’s an important component of the program because it enables an opportunity to create “authentic connections” and lasting friendships. GRADUATION: Every adult who completes the Getting Ahead class after phase one will be gifted with $200. Stakeholders are invited to hear the success stories of Radical Life’s Leading families who have started the journey out of poverty and possible loss of custody, but are now walking into a Radical Life where all members in their home are thriving.



For a program that just got off the ground at the start of a global pandemic, it almost seems too good to be true. But, Smith said Radical Life has already been making a difference. And the program has been working. Jessica Magathan said her son was taken in Oct. 2020. She had her rights restored full-time in June 2021. “I was actually ‘tricked’ into coming [to Radical Life] but then I figured out a few weeks into the awkwardness that this was where I was meant to be,” she said. “Lindsay came into my life a week or two before I got my son back, so honestly, Radical Life has been a support for me. But did they help me get my son back? No. That was all me!” Magathan said she worked her butt off after her son was put into DCF custody. The first step to regaining control was deciding to take care of herself. “First, I decided I needed to stay sober,” she said. “Then I just worked hard to get my own place, a new-to-me car and get my son back from St. Francis — that itself was hard. I currently work two jobs just to be able to take care of my son.”

And she did it against the odds, Magathan said. On Sept. 27 Magathan was among the first 6 graduates of Phase One of the program. “Honestly, a lot of people didn’t think I was going to do it. That was my motivation to prove every one of those haters wrong, and now that I’m done, it’s a huge weight off my shoulders,” she said. “I get to be the mom I need to be in order to raise my son. I personally think this is the best I’ve ever done and the most I’ve ever accomplished in my whole life. [It’s] one of the best feelings.” People have gotten jobs — gainful employment. One of Smith’s clients who has been attending classes for a couple of months was referred to the program by her therapist. Going to Radical Life was not at the top of her list of things she wanted to do, but her therapist pushed her to try out the program. “She’s been a really big help,” she said. “The last time I relapsed, I was going downhill. I didn’t have anybody. My family are users, so I don’t have them. I’m from here and it’s hard. … Only 2%

of IV users make it. … I’m trying to be the 2%.” Other clients have also had a good experience with the program so far, enjoying the sense of belonging and acceptance between everyone in the group. “I like how all these moms come in and all of us come from a similar situation but we’re all different,” one client said. “We have people working on getting their GEDs and their diplomas now,” Smith said. “Before starting Radical Life, that seemed so unattainable.” Other successes are relatively hard to measure. Increases in hope, lower stress levels, higher levels of confidence — these are things Smith can see but can’t put on paper. So she takes a photo of her clients from their first days in the program to where they are toward the end. “You can see a physical change in their face,” she said. “I don’t know how to report that to a grant foundation. I don’t have enough adjectives, I’m not smart enough to figure it out. I can’t show you these things that are so powerful that I get to be a part of; it’s my life.”

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Rapid growth at Camso means more opportunities for everyone


amso Manufacturing has been a stable job provider in Emporia for over 20 years, manufacturing rubber tracks and wheels for agriculture equipment. Growing in more ways than one, Camso is seeing more and more women finding careers at the plant. “We’ve just seen so much growth,” Human Resources Manager Adreinne Burris said. “And with that has come expanded opportunities for all our workers, especially women.” Comprising 20 percent of the workforce at the plant, women are becoming more and more a part of the Camso team -- or family -- as Burris prefers to call the corporation. Changes in technology have led to improvements in the day-to-day operations of manufacturing plans, which has opened the door to a much wider variety of labor pool for both men and women. Still, being out on the production floor, the physical aspect of the job is where many women are finding satisfaction and fulfillment. “To see a product through from start to finish…..there’s a lot of satisfaction in that,” Burris said. Take Christine Roberts-Kehres, for example. She has worked at Camso as



a production associate for 18 years on the production line. She started there because she knew it would provide an income that would allow her to live on her own without having to attend higher education. Over the years, she has found her job to be very rewarding, watching a product go from raw material to a finished product. “I feel a sense of accomplishment when I see a pallet of wheels I made ship out the door to one of our customers,” she said. “My work gives me a high level of personal satisfaction – I’m proud of what I do and it makes me a better person!” “I also love that the work I do is part of agriculture. We are helping farmers feed the world. That’s pretty darn cool,” she added. Adriana Ibarra, who just started last March on the production line has also found great satisfaction at her job on the production floor and pride in the new things she is learning.

“I joined a manufacturing company because I was curious about how manufacturing processes work,” she said. “I’ve been able to see new processes and learn new things. I never thought I’d be driving a forklift, but I can do it! I’m proud of the work we do and the relationships I’ve built with my coworkers.” Very family-oriented and committed to a good work-life balance, Camso is a place where people want to work, Burris said. Ibarra said that the atmosphere at Camso is one of cooperation, not competition, and that men and women see each other as a part of the same team. “At the end of the day, we all are at work and getting the same product out,” she said. “We’re doing this to make our customers happy and to put out the word that Camso is a great place to work at.” These women’s satisfaction at their jobs is just a testimony to the

environment that Camso is committed to providing for their employees. “People don’t just view their positions here just as manufacturing jobs,” Burris said. “They are manufacturing careers that they are invested in.” Some of the programs and events Camso is proud to offer their employees include the employee referral program that ties cash bonuses to new hires and family-friendly events held throughout the year. Trunk or treat, the winter party, a summer picnic and employee reward and recognition programs are a few examples of fun and inspiring ways Camso values employees and includes families into work life.

1601 E SOUTH AVENUE | EMPORIA, KS 66801 620-340-6500 | WWW.CAMSO.CO FALL 2021 | 87

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