Capital Impact- Fall 2019

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Contributors Erin Aldridge Barbara Boudreaux Sarah Carnahan Ashley Charest Chelsea Hopkins Brie Parks Sarah Richards Ashlee Schneider Laura Vaughn Ashley Watson Jenay Weekly Renae Carsten


A dusty VHS tape holds my preschool graduation class singing the 1985 classic, “We are the World.” I thought of that memory as I watched my younger daughter belt out her preschool graduation song, “Kindergarten Here We Come!” earlier this year. Excited for the future and grounded in love, she stood ready to take on kindergarten and the world.

Editorial Board Barbara Boudreaux Renae Carsten Maddie Williams Chelsea Hopkins Shawna Mitchell Kelly Robbins Tiffany Strohmeyer Laura Vaughn

Editorial Team VP Communications Bailee Carpenter Copy Editor Vickie Hawver Copy Editor Pam Koupal Design Editor Melina Stewart Advertising Editor Lacee Sandgren Assistant Editor Maddie Williams Editor Barbara Boudreaux

ADVERTISE IN THE SPRING 2020 EDITION! Contact for current ad rates and sizes.

Childhood should be a time of wonder and discovery, but for many children in our community challenges and stress impede this special time. In this Issue, we explore a variety of child welfare concerns in our community. We address kindergarten readiness and child care by spotlighting Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas, Sheldon Head Start, and the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library’s efforts to spark curiosity. We delve into child hunger in the region, how to become a foster parent, and mental health guidance for families. We also spotlight businesses and organization making our community a better place for children—from the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center and Heartland Title to Paper June bookstore. Each has made improving the lives of children a priority. JLT members, too, hold to our mission to support child welfare initiatives in our community to ensure children are safe and that families have the tools necessary to care for their children successfully. It is our promise to improve the future for the youngest residents of our community. Together with your help, “we’ll make a brighter day, so let’s start giving!”

Barbara Boudreaux


FROM THE PRESIDENT The Power of People Our community is filled with people doing good things. From our members to the Wilhelms, whose story is featured in this Issue, to Monica, a woman I met this Fall, each are doing their part big or small to make Topeka a better place for others. In September, JLT sent a group of nine women to a regional conference. It was chalk full of ideas on how to increase our leadership capacity, challenge our members, and make change in our community. When I picked up the rental car, I noticed a 15-passenger van awaiting pickup as well. Sunday after the conference, I dropped off the car and headed for my own. While there were workers around, the business was not yet open. That’s when Monica stopped me to ask for a ride home. She was returning the 15-passenger van with no way to get home until the business opened. I did something I never do, I said yes to a complete stranger, and I am so glad I did. I learned that Monica and her friend had rented the van to ensure that the kids attending a Quinceaùera arrived on-time, safely. Several of the kids had not been attending practice regularly and several had been making poor life choices. Monica and her friend did not want anything to hinder a wonderful celebration. This event had given her the opportunity to pour into the lives of these young people and encourage them to make good choices for their future. We chatted about how so many kids today need a positive role model to keep them off drugs, out of trouble, and on the path to being a productive citizen. It’s amazing how five minutes can change your perspective and help you find common ground with a complete stranger. Each of us has a part we can play in making our community a better place for others. It can be as small as giving someone a ride home or a large as organizing a Christmas drive. This holiday season I challenge you, take five minutes and find a way to make our community a better place. You never know what perspective it may bring.

Erin Aldrige, 2018-2020 President



























WHY I GIVE BACK Topeka truly is an amazing community with so many good things happening. To continue to move forward, everyone has to do his or her part. Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Getting involved both invests me in my hometown and teaches my daughters the importance of digging in to make a difference. The other amazing bonus of giving back is the amazing people you will befriend and partner with along the way! Kim Sixkiller, President-Elect 6

CAPITAL IMPACT LEADERSHIP SUMMIT Presented by the Junior League of Topeka Inviting Shawnee County and surrounding area high school students Wednesday, February 12, 2020 | 9:30am - 2:00pm Stormont Vail Pozez Education Center Auditorium




@JLTopeka @JLTopeka @JLTopeka

@JLTopeka @JLTopeka @JLTopeka 7



SPOTLIGHT Fall 2019 Ashlee Schneider By Barbara Boudreaux

Ashlee grew up in Hoyt, Kansas just north of Topeka, graduating from Royal Valley High School. She then spent 5 years in Emporia while attending Emporia State University. After graduating with an elementary education degree with a concentration in special education, Ashlee moved back to the Topeka area to begin her career as a teacher. She is currently a second-grade teacher in the Shawnee Heights School District. With her husband, Brett, they are raising 3 amazing and active kids, Sydnee (15), Sophia (4), and Seth (3). Most of Ashlee’s “free time” is spent watching her children’s sporting activities which include basketball, soccer, and dance. As a family they enjoy going to concerts, spending time with family and friends, and cheering on their favorite sports teams— Jayhawks, Chiefs & Royals!

unusual projects. My favorite subject was history, and I loved learning about the Revolutionary and Civil War.

This year marks Ashlee’s fifth year in League, having served as the Sponsorship Co-chair, Funding Chair, and VP of Funding Development.

What was your favorite field trip as a child? As a teacher? As a child, my favorite field trip was going to Exchange City. That place was AMAZING! I remember that my job was working in the newspaper station as a reporter. We each had our own jobs in the community and earned a salary to spend throughout the city. I wish there was something like this around these days for kids to experience the real world.

How did you become interested in teaching? If you were to ask my mother this question, she would respond that I always wanted to be a teacher. I think it was around 3rd grade that I probably started to think about teaching. My mom was the elementary school secretary, and I loved spending time there over the summer playing school with some of the other staff kids. When I was in high school my only job was various babysitting gigs in our community and helping out with summer athletic camps. I just always loved working with kids and could not see myself in any other career.

What was your favorite grade/subject growing up? My favorite grade was 5th grade. I remember our teacher being really fun and letting us do these

My favorite field trip as a teacher would be the team building ropes courses that we take our 6th graders on each year. It really made them work together with people who they often do not interact with; they have to be able to problem solve and communicate with each other to be successful at each station. I saw some of the quietest kids come out of their shell and show their leadership potential. You teach second grade -do you have a favorite second grade memory? That seems like so long ago! The one thing I remember doing in second grade was a lot of mad minutes! Seriously, I think we did them every day for the entire school year. 8

JLT’s new mission focuses on child welfare as impacted by poverty and community instability - what do you see as big issues facing today’s children? The biggest challenge for me the last few years is meeting the social and emotional needs of my students. I see more students who are diagnosed with mental health disorders. You would not believe the anxiety that I see in these 7- and 8-year-old students! Often times, if I do not address these needs, it is even harder to help them make academic gains. When I started working in my building about 13 years ago, our socioeconomic status of student families was much higher, within a few years those numbers had decreased. We had more students on free or reduced lunch, and our building was able to qualify as a Title I school. Since 2014, our percentage of economically disadvantaged students has been between 38-44% of our population. Those early learning years are so important, but if families cannot provide or meet those needs academically, socially, medically, etc., it puts those kids at a disadvantage right at the start.

Since 2014, our percentage of economically disadvantaged students has been between 38-44% of our population.

Why did you join JLT and what has been your favorite activity to be a part of?

I was looking for a way to get involved in the community and do more volunteering. My good friend, Jennifer Sourk, was actively involved in Junior League and suggested I come to a recruiting event. I enjoy volunteering, but Junior League had so much more to offer me as an individual, community member, and leader. While going through the new member classes many people suggested getting involved with a council that would hone new skills. I decided to join the funding council because I had little experience in that field. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy fundraising. I helped plan galas, sand volleyball tournaments, a leadership conference, and last year’s Kentucky Derby party. Before joining JLT, I had never given an interview and within a few years, I made a couple of WIBW Red Couch appearances and had given other interviews for TV. This 9

was completely out of my comfort zone, but I really ended up enjoying all of it! Grade school has changed a lot since we attended - from technology to curriculum to extra-curricular activities - how do you motivate your students when there is so much to learn each day? This can be really tricky, because every student’s motivation is a little bit different. Building those relationships with your students from the moment they walk in your door is so important. Getting to know their interests, the latest dance craze and lingo, games, etc. helps to make those connections with the students. I really try to find a good balance of instruction that allows them to work at their style and pace so they don’t feel overwhelmed and gives them ownership in the learning as well. If you had $250 to spend in your classroom, how would you spend it? Last year, I started to implement more STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) activities throughout the year. We have STEAM Fridays every other week and it is usually based on a theme or topic. The students are in charge of their learning on these days, and I get to watch all of their creative thinking grow. These hands-on materials can be pricey and need to be frequently replaced. I have gotten grants from Donors Choose each year, but there is always something more that could enhance these experiences. It’s the nearing the end of the year and parents like me start to think of teacher gifts-what do teachers like (or not like as much) to receive? Some of my favorite gifts are from parents and students thinking about me, my family, and my classroom. Gift certificates for spa services are great to be able to pamper ourselves after a long year of teaching. Gift cards to our favorite restaurant and movie gift cards are nice too because we can use these with our families. Replenishing our supply of pencils, pens, dry erase markers, etc. for the next year is a good idea. However, my favorite gift each year is when the students write little notes and pictures about how much they enjoyed being in my class and what they learned. These notes are so much better than the mug, cup, or candle.



SPOTLIGHT Fall 2019 Jeri Hansen By Laura Vaughn

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeri Hansen for the Sustainer Spotlight. I first met Jeri in the JLT Book Club a little over 3 years ago, and have been running into her around town ever since! She is always quick with a smile, a warm friendly greeting, and never turns down the chance to have some FUN. Thank you for continuing to help sustain our League, Jeri!

How did you become involved in Junior League?

Tell us about you!

JLT Sustainers often talk about how meaningful League involvement has been on their lives. How has it impacted your life?

Karyn Barrett invited me to join JLT in 1989. At that time, JLT had a day provisional class and an evening provisional class. It was a fabulous opportunity to meet new friends and work on meaningful community projects - many of which were possible because of JLT funding.

I have been a Topekan since kindergarten, after my family moved here from Grand Forks, ND. I have three younger brothers and each of them is ornery to the core! During high school, I had grand aspirations for the stage. But even though I thought the theatre needed me, it turned out not to be the case (I can’t carry a tune in a bucket! Although, I did get to go to Europe with our chorus provided I promised to lip sync - and that was WAY before Milli Vanilli!).

The training I received through JLT forced me to speak to groups within League and develop a level of confidence that convinced me that I actually could make meaningful presentations to an audience. Many of the friends I made in JLT have helped me in my professional life as it is so much easier to pick up the phone - old school - or text a friend, as opposed to cold calling an individual for information or

After high school I went to KU (Go Jayhawks!) and then worked at the VA medical center here in town. In 1990, I went to work at Capitol Federal, and it was one of the best employment decisions I could have made. Because of the bank’s commitment to the communities it serves, I had multiple opportunities to do volunteer work all over town. I had the opportunity to work with the American Red Cross on a local, state, and regional level in the past in addition to the local Society for Human Resource Management and several task forces dedicated to HR and training related topics. I have volunteered with the United Way of Greater Topeka for 25+ years. I currently volunteer at the Family Service and Guidance Center and am on the Board for Topeka South Rotary and Topeka Civic Theatre. My husband Jerry (Jerry and Jeri!) and I have a blended family which consists of three grown children, two grandchildren, and two dogs. He works and I am successfully retired! 10

assistance. One of the more meaningful and treasured memories I have was the opportunity to attend a Junior League conference in Toronto, Canada.

technical skills in sewing, lighting or sound productions, building sets -- for example, developing coping mechanisms to overcome or at least deal with adversity; learn how to function as part of a team; and the importance of accepting responsibility for the tasks you are to perform based upon your role. These skills are invaluable for prospective employers!

Do you have a favorite Junior League memory/project? I fondly remember “pulling cards” for placements each year. I truly loved being the provisional training chair - the group that JLT recruited that year was a wonderful group of women who bonded immediately and many are still friends today.

What is your favorite musical or play?

You’ve been involved with Topeka Civic Theater (TCT). What is your role? I have found my work with TCT to be immensely rewarding. I have served on the Board for the last six years. I have been a member of the Finance Committee and have worked on the BRAVO and Art of Murder fundraisers. I have never been on stage, but I am currently enjoying the position of Past President! Do you think kids benefit from the performing arts, whether watching, performing, or assisting backstage? How does TCT help kids in our community? In additional to the fantastic productions on the Main Stage and in the Studio, the youth productions are so much fun to watch. I have seen children literally grow up at the theatre. It is so inspiring to see their confidence grow - whether from experiences on stage or through mastering the ability to properly set lights for a production or run the sound board. The youth have developed the skills to be responsible for their emotions, their behavior, as well as their costumes and/or props. In order to present a quality production, everyone involved with the show has to work together as a team. Time and time again I see people helping each other to achieve their common goal. Some see the theatre as a refuge - middle school years can be tough, but the theatre family truly is inclusive and accepting of those who may be perceived as nerdy or quirky. The theatre allows a place for people to be extraordinary! I believe that the experiences these youth have at the theatre help them develop skills beyond memorizing lines or acquiring 11

People often ask what my favorite production is, which is such a tough question! I am a big fan of the musicals: Les Misérables, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Rock of Ages are high up on the list. One of my wishes for TCT is to stage the musical Grease! I also love the farces - Unnecessary Farce is a must-see. Did you seriously just meet the BackStreet Boys?! Give us the deets! My daughter, Courtney, loves to go on adventures and sometimes she takes me along. This year we went to the Kentucky Derby and we saw the Backstreet Boys at the Sprint Center. Our tickets included a meet and greet - so we got a photo op! We even got to hug each BSB prior to the picture. We stood in the pit and had many high fives during the concert. Not only was it a great birthday present for my daughter, I think I scored some mom points too!




Vicki Schmidt Wins Gold Rose Award

The Gold Rose Award honors a JLT sustaining member for her ongoing positive impact on our community. It is the most prestigious award given by JLT and recognizes a Sustainer who has used her League training to contribute to the betterment of the Topeka and Shawnee County community. Many congratulations to Vicki Schmidt who was awarded the 2019 Gold Rose Award at the September General Membership Meeting. Schmidt was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas where she met and married her high school sweetheart, Mike. They have been married for 45 years, and share two sons and three grandchildren. After she graduated from the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy, and Mike finished his residency in Orthopedic Surgery, the couple made their home in Topeka. Since that time, Schmidt has worked for more than 40 years serving Kansas families and seniors as a local pharmacist. As a registered pharmacist, she has been active in advancing her profession at both the state and national levels. Schmidt currently works as Pharmacist in Charge for Tallgrass Surgical Center. Schmidt has served on numerous councils, foundations, and boards in service to her community. She has been a member of the Junior League of Topeka since 1988. Her League positions include service as the President’s Sustaining Advisor, Co-Chair of the most successful Next-to-New Sale to date, Chair of the Training and Education Committee, Chair of Community Research, and service on the Nominating Commitee and Board of Directors.

Due, in part, to her experiences in the Junior League and the connections she made, Schmidt ran for the Kansas State Legislature, winning the 20th District seat. She served in the Kansas Legislature for 14 years representing Shawnee and Wabunsee counties, where she became a voice for reform. Through her recommendations and implementation of her plan to make Medicaid more cost-effective in its drug rebate program, Kansas recouped $391 million. Schmidt continues to serve Kansas as the Kansas Insurance Commissioner. In January 2019, she became the first pharmacist sworn into that position, and she is the only pharmacist to hold a state-wide elected office. Schmidt is grateful for the opportunities and experiences that she has had to serve and to give back to her community.

The Junior League of Topeka helped me gain the skills I have needed to serve our community on a daily basis and now our state. I could not be more humbled to receive this award. - Vicki Schmidt


A Small League Making a Big Impact Nine JLT members traveled to St. Louis in September for the inaugural Small Leagues Big Impact (SLBI) conference. Participants at the two-day gathering of 125 women, representing 48 Junior Leagues across the United States, shared ideas, attended leadership development workshops, and contributed to the “UNSTOPPABLE STORY” of small leagues and their leaders. “Attending the SLBI Conference gave the ladies the unique opportunity to really get into the weeds with fellow Junior League members across the country on how to lead and train professional women with the added benefit of the betterment of our community,” said JLT President-Elect Kim Sixkiller. “Leading change is tough but absolutely necessary for us to progress!” JLT participants returned energized and ready to digin to new initiatives for the 2019-2020 League Year. “During our time in St. Louis we were given several great tools and takeaways to bring back to our League to engage our membership in the conversations and decisions necessary for them to shape the future of their League!” continued Sixkiller. Stay tuned to see the big impacts in store!

Off to the Races for Jockeys, Juleps and Junior League!

May 2, 2020

JLT was off to the races last May for its inaugural Jockeys, Juleps and Junior League event. Over 120 attendees gathered at Topeka’s Grand Overland Station to watch the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, peruse the silent auction, and showcase their Derby fashion. Awards were given for the most outstanding hats and attire, while attendees tried their skill at Derby games and sampled varieties of bourbon. JLT raised $6,600 to support its missions and programs. Jockeys, Juleps and Junior League returns on May 2, 2020 from 4 -8 p.m. at The Brownstone. Tickets are $75 until April 1 after which the price will increase to $85. Tickets include admission, heavy hors d’oeuvres and 2 drink tickets. Prizes for best dressed and best hat, a 50/50 raffle, and more fun await. Take your marks and get set with a ticket, now available at





Little Black Dress Initiative

JLT Illustrates How Limited Resources Impact Daily Lives JLT members took aim at poverty and community instability during their inaugural Little Black Dress Initiative (LBDI). The initiative brought together 30 advocates who agreed to wear the same little black dress or outfit every day for 5 consecutive days, October 14-18, in order to illustrate how limited resources impact an individual’s daily life. Advocates shared their journey throughout the week with their social media networks, driving followers to donate to JLT in support of the League’s training and immediate impact programs. “The Little Black Dress Initiative is a social media driven campaign seeking to shine light on what poverty looks like in Topeka and to raise funds for the mission and programs of the Junior League,” said Erin Aldridge, JLT President. “1 in 6 in our community live at or below the poverty level - 18% of which are children.” “Funds raised during The Little Black Dress Initiative will be reinvested toward our efforts to train civic leaders by supporting child welfare and helping break the cycle of generational poverty,” Aldridge continued. “We do this through training for our members and our immediate impact programs.” These programs include JLT’s toothbrush drive for Grace Med, period packs prepared and provided to local partners, and this February’s Capital Impact Leadership Summit for high schoolers in Topeka. At the Leadership Summit, students will have the opportunity to learn from others who have experienced poverty.

be super easy since I wouldn’t have to think about what to wear each day, but what I was not prepared for was how emotional the week would be!,” said Brie Parks, LBDI Advocate and VP of Funding Development. “There were so many times during the week were I would catch myself complaining - my legs are cold, this dress is itchy, I spilled food or a drink on myself, I want my yoga pants or jeans. Those were all things I started saying, said, or thought that week before stopping in my tracks with the ‘a-ha moment’ - that was the point!” This was a sentiment many advocates expressed - that there are people who live daily with limited resources. LBDI advocates were fortunate to get to go home every day to a roof over their heads, food in their refrigerators, a washer and dryer, a warm bed, comfortable clothes for every occasion, and access to medical care. Parks noted these minor inconveniences meant nothing in comparison to what too many in our community experience each day. JLT reached its goal of $10,000 raised to support its missions and programming. If you would like to learn more about how you can support the Junior League of Topeka please visit

“I started my week thinking it would 14

Above: JLT members with LBDI Advocate Alice Weingartner of GraceMed Below: Over 1,000 Toothbrushes donated to GraceMed

All Aboard the Colgate Bright Smiles Van! A “dental office on wheels,” the Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures (BSBF) mobile dental van has screened more than 10 million children nationwide since its inception in 1991. In September 2019, the van returned to State Street Elementary in Topeka where JLT members assisted the BSBF crew by educating the children on healthy dental habits. Dental professionals from Vaughn Pediatric Dentistry, led by JLT member Laura Vaughn, DDS, volunteered their time and performed two-minute visual dental screenings on the children. When a screening indicated a need for further evaluation, children were given referrals to local dentists. A visit to the dentist would not be complete without a “goody bag,” and the Colgate BSBF team provided each child with a bag complete with a toothbrush, toothpaste, and brushing instructions. Andie Kyros and Dan Mieszala of the Chicago, Illinois Colgate team staffed the state-of-the art van, one of nine in Colgate’s fleet, for this visit to Topeka. Later stops on this trip included Arrowhead Stadium and St. Louis. In total, the van accumulates 25,000 miles annually visiting under-served rural and urban communities. Each brightly-colored van is 32 feet long and equipped with two dental chairs. Friendly visuals and hands-on learning games ensure a fun and less intimidating dental experience. Interested in having the Colgate BSBF van visit your daycare, preschool, or school? The van is scheduled to roll into Topeka again in Fall 2020. Fill out a request at You can also follow the adventures of the BSBF van on Twitter at @ColgateBSBF or #BrightSmilesBrightFutures.


Are you interested in learning more about what it means to be a member of Junior League of Topeka? As an organization committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community, our membership requirements are geared toward achieving that goal! Our members are asked to attend monthly meetings, log volunteers hours in the community, and invest in the organization through annual membership dues. Each of these requirements are focused on furthering the mission of the Junior League in Topeka. Through these commitments, members receive training in leadership, organizational development, community needs assessment, mentoring, advocacy, communications, funding development, strategic planning, negotiation, networking, and more. Training, volunteerism, and social events benefit our members and build life-long friendships with others who share the same passion for community. If you would like to receive more information about membership in the Junior League of Topeka, please email All women 18 and over are welcome and we are excited to meet you! 15




How One Couple’s Compassion is Leaving a Lasting Impact on the Topeka Community By Erin Aldridge When Sara Wilhelm came to her husband Glendon in 2008 with an idea, they never imagined how their love of people would impact the entire community. That December, Sara, a Physician Assistant at Cotton O’Neil Pediatrics, had just seen a patient whose family had lost everything in a house fire two weeks before Christmas. The Wilhelms rallied a small group of friends and adopted the family for the holiday, providing not only Christmas gifts, but also household items and appliances to get them back on their feet.

and churches. The PWP is a 501(c)(3) organization in partnership with the Community Resources Council (CRC) in Topeka. “The PWP helps struggling families through the Christmas season and offers them a brief hand up, but it forever changes the lives of the givers,” explain the Wilhelms. “There’s nothing like being able to stack piles of wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree and hear squeals of excitement from the kids in the home. We’re so blessed to be surrounded with such amazing friends and supporters of the PWP.”

They modeled their idea off another Christmas giving event, Party with a Purpose, started by Pat and Connie Michaelis. That night a second Party with a Purpose (PWP) was born in Topeka.

The Wilhelms were honored in June as the recipients of the Junior League of Topeka’s 2019 Community Volunteer of the Year Award. This designation will ultimately benefit so many Topekans during the Christmas season through the 2019 PWP thanks to the generosity of the Junior League of Topeka.

What began as a quaint party held in the couple’s basement quickly grew over the years to an event at the Sunrise Optimist building, a location that can now barely accommodate the event. This gathering of friends has helped more than 1,000 people since 2008. Last year, on the 10th Anniversary, they adopted 59 families, totaling 289 people.

Glendon and Sara are natives of Seneca, Kansas, and celebrated 20 years of marriage in August. Glendon graduated from Kansas State University with an Animal Science Degree in Business in 1999 and has worked as a Sales Manager for Laird Noller Ford in Topeka for the past 20 years. Sara graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Baker University in 2000 and earned her bachelor’s degree as a Physician Assistant from Wichita State University in 2002. Over the years, starting in 1998, she has worked for Stormont Vail Health as a Medical Assistant, a Registered Nurse, and a Physician Assistant. In 2017, Sara was honored to be named one of Topeka’s Top 20 Under 40 by the Jayhawk Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America for her work as a PA and for the greater good of the Topeka community through the PWP. She also serves as a CRC board member and a member of the Advance Practice Practitioner Board at Stormont Vail Health.

While the Wilhelms claim that the work for the PWP gets done on a single night in December through the generosity of friends and family in the Topeka community, we know better; the Wilhelms work year-round preparing for the event. From organizing teams to finding sponsors and adopting families, and then pulling it all together for a party style atmosphere, the Wilhelms are the heart of this project. Once the plans are made and the date set, the Wilhelms invite their friends to bring teams of people who shop for the families the night of the party. The gifts are wrapped that night and ready for delivery on a later date by the team captain.

Glendon and Sara live in Topeka with their two children, Gavin (15) and Kinley (12). Donations to PWP can be made by contacting Glendon Wilhelm at gwilhelm@

Throughout the years the families adopted have come from The Christmas Bureau of The United Way of Greater Topeka, local school districts, 16

Below: JLT honored Sara and Glendon Wilhelm with the Community Volunteer Award at its June GMM for their devotion to Party with a Purpose. The award has been given annually since 1973 to outstanding volunteers in the community. Award Winners are given a donation to the charity of their choice on behalf of JLT.

SIP GATHER ENJOY! Award Winning Wines Outdoor Patio

Event Venue

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Junior League of Topeka

Throughout the Year





SPOTLIGHT Child Care Aware By Ashley Charest

Imagine a one-stop shop that focuses solely on childcare, both from the parent-need side, and the childcare provider side. A place you can call for a list of qualified centers to care for your newborn, or a place where you, as a childcare provider, can receive education and resources. In 1977, a group of women interested in childcare and its availability created such an organization known first as Everywoman’s Resource Center (ERC) and now known as Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas. In fact, we as Junior League women CAN imagine it, as we were the original organization that provided start-up funding for ERC, as a six-year grant totaling $52,500. JLT served at the creation table with the YWCA and League of Women Voters. Little did we know that what we only imagined at that time would grow into the multi-faceted organization we know today.

Are you looking for child care? Through a Child’s Eyes When you visit a child care program, look at the facility through your child’s eyes. ■■Are

there activities I will like? everyone having fun? ■■Is there a special place for my things? ■■Is

The Right Child Care Provider A gauge of quality child care is the relationships the providers have. Ask yourself: ■■Are

the providers involved and friendly? they interact well with the children? ■■Do they listen to the children and to you? ■■Do

Ask These Questions: ■■How

many children are cared for, and are they supervised at all times?

■■Have ■■How ■■Are

all providers completed a background check?

often is the program inspected?

staff trained to care for children?


the staff participate in on-going training?


the staff know first aid and CPR?


is a typical day like?


fun, age-appropriate activities are offered?


playground equipment inspected for safety often?


there an emergency plan?

Child Care Aware of Kansas is primarily known, community-wide, for its childcare referral system, in which it services the entire state of Kansas. At face value the idea is simple; parents call in and receive a list of childcare providers in their area, along with information about days and times available, vacancies, educational qualification, and training/accreditation status. Most of these requests come from brand-new parents. If a request does not pull at least three providers, Child Care Aware will not stop there. The team will call the parents and provide additional assistance to ensure that the widest swath of options is provided. One of the lesser known aspects of the organization (unless you are in the childcare business!) is the resources available to facilities and individuals employed in the childcare field. Across 33 Kansas counties, Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas provides professional development, coaching, and connection to others in their field. In addition, a resource lending library is available to all daycare providers. This allows providers to check out materials, developmental books, and entire “child education through play” boxes. These resources are the very first thing you will see when you walk into the organization’s offices. Some other lesser-known projects are: • Successful Connections, a program for at-risk pregnant moms, which provides valuable information about child development and childcare, along with facilitation connections with other support organizations such as TARC, Parents as Teachers, and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. • Data for communities, specific to economic development, which highlights childcare capacities and provide information to help new companies/ employees establish childcare for their employees in the area.

1-877-678-2548 Our Referral Counselors are available to provide you with the right tools to make informed decisions.


How can you most directly help Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas? The easiest way is to look in your house. If you have puzzles, puppets, building blocks, books (especially board books), costumes for dramatic play, or baby dolls that are ready for donation, bring them to the Childcare Aware office at 1100 SW Wanamaker in Topeka and allow Child Care Aware to make new “child education through play” boxes or supplement items that are over-loved. What is next for Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas, and how will it expand its ability to provide child welfare assistance to Topeka and Shawnee County? The organization plans to expand outreach to businesses to help them understand what those businesses’ current policies are related to the care of children and what practices exist that support a workforce which has young children. Additionally, there will be a self-assessment tool for the business. Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas also plans to increase its leadership role to daycare providers by providing more classes and opportunities to ultimately increase job satisfaction for the employees, daycare employers, and our local families that rely Child Care Aware’s services. Each year, ChildCare Aware invites local interior designers to design a room in a showcase house. The public is then invited to tour the redesigned home. Mark your calendars for April 18 - May 10, 2020 when the 2020 Designers’ Showhouse will be open for tours. Learn more about Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas online at or calling the statewide Resource Center at 1-877-678-2548.


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HEAD START Giving Topeka Kids a Head Start at Sheldon

By Ashley Charest Sheldon students, parents, and staff are expected to follow a school-wide expectation and practice the value that “It’s all about the……KIDS! K-Kindness, I-Imagination, D–Devotion, S-Safety.”

Head Start programs began in the 1965 as part of the “War on Poverty” to promote school readiness in children from birth to kindergarten entry in families with low-income. The programs were specifically designed to support the development of the whole child. Program supports include early learning, health and family well-being with 1,700 agencies across the United States. Topeka is lucky to have one of those agencies known as Sheldon Head Start.

Partnerships are very important to Sheldon to accomplish so much for their students. The most recent partners include: • Advisors Excel

Sheldon Head Start has been working to prepare 3- and 4-year-olds for over 30 years and gear them up for success in kindergarten and beyond. With 221 kids each year, Sheldon hosts 13 classes, each with a certified teacher and almost 50 support staff to care for the students’ nutrition, mental health, social interactions, and education.

• Antioch Missionary Baptist Church

The funding mechanisms are straight-forward. Head Start national level grants fund 100% of the direct costs such as teachers and curriculum for Sheldon. Topeka Public Schools USD 501 funds the indirect costs, such as the building facilities.

• Market Synergy

• Central Congregational Church • Countryside Methodist Church • Harvesters • Meyers and Stauffer • SkyZone • Temple Beth Sholom Topeka

What does a typical day look like for a Sheldon student? Well, some activities are very much like a typical pre-school with center and free play time, reading, spelling, math, and writing. In other aspects, activities look more like family learning. For example, Sheldon students work together to serve breakfast, lunch, and snacks family-style, which helps model collaboration and working together, as well as social skills. Sheldon Head Start also teaches the USD 501 Second Step program that focuses on emotional and coping lessons.

• Western Hills • YWCA Principal Jennifer Norton commented that at Sheldon, doing things together with the students’ families is very important. They often host cooking classes that bring parents and students together to learn about nutrition, cooking, and of course enjoying the yummy work results. Sheldon also hosted an event that allowed families to take their first family photo together and receive a copy for their home.





A FUTURE Give a Safe Haven By Ashley Watson In my opinion, there is no black or white answer for what foster care is. A cold, dictionary definition of “foster care” is the “temporary custody or guardianship for children whose parents are dead or unable to look after them.” But that’s not the best definition, is it? Foster Care is hard, it is messy, it is challenging, but above all it is rewarding. It is giving your whole heart to a child and watching that child walk away without possibly ever seeing him or her again. It is an experience not about you, the foster parent, but about the foster child. It is being a safe place, a more permanent place for a child with his or her own bed. It is about creating good attachment. It is about giving your whole self over to a child to make him or her feel safe and like the child has a permanent place. Not a permanent place in your home, but a permanent place in your heart. It is about giving a safe haven, temporarily, to a child who greatly needs it. How can one become a foster parent? First, do your research. Make sure this is the right step for you at this point in your life. You are not going to be able to help any children if you are not ready to help them. To become a foster parent, you must first be licensed through the Kansas Department for Children and Families. There are agencies which can help you through the process of fostering such as FosterAdopt Connect, Kansas Children’s Service League, KVC Health Systems, and TFI Family Services. Keep in mind, receiving a license does not happen overnight. Patience is your first test in the fostering process. The application process for licensing is intense and intrusive. There is

paperwork - cover letter, application, background checks, floorplans of your home, safety plans for your home, budgets, etc. - home assessments, and five separate training certificates to obtain. The training certificates are TIPS-MAPP, First Aid Certificate, CPR Certification, Medication Administration, and Universal Precautions. Is your head spinning? Fortunately for you, there are a whole slew of resources out there. Kansas Foster & Adoptive Parents Association (KFAPA) has a great resources tab on its website One of the trainings mentioned above, TIPS-MAPPS (Trauma Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence-Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting), is offered, free of charge, in Topeka at Faith Lutheran Church at 17th and Gage. Call the church office at (785)272-4214 for details on the next training. Scope of the Need In Kansas, 7,440 children were in foster care as of March 2019, including 742 in Shawnee County according to Kansas KVC, a private, nonprofit organization that provides family preservation services, foster care case management, and parent training, among other offerings. As of August 2017, according to the Kansas Department for Children and Families, there were only 2,755 licensed foster homes statewide. That is almost 4 children per home, the limit of foster children you can have at one time. There is a great need in Kansas compared to other states in the US. Comparatively, Nebraska, on average, has 3,500 kids in foster care on a given day according to Nebraska KVC. If you are serious about wanting to adopt, consider Jason Johnson’s blog to help you answer the hard questions. Johnson seeks to provide support for those on foster care and adoption journeys—whether just beginning to consider or in the thick of the experience. 23

“If someone were wanting to become a foster parent, what would you tell them?” “I would say if someone was wanting to become foster parents to take the leap. What if we all looked at foster care as a ‘yes’ until we heard a clear ‘no.’ I feel like most people wait to hear a clear yes! Also, the hardest part of the foster care journey is not the kids. It’s the system. The kids are amazing and ready and willing to be loved and supported. The very system that is designed to help these kids ends up doing the complete opposite at times. Last, your bio kids will be just fine. It was one of my biggest hurdles to overcome. How will this effect my kids? It has affected them. They have seen us open our lives and our hearts to the least of these. They have learned compassion and life values that we could not teach them any other way.” -


“I would tell people that you don’t have to be perfect to be a foster parent. It’s OK to make mistakes along the way. Be kind, understanding, and non-judgmental. Some days are easier than others. But when you can see the difference you make in a kiddo’s life it makes it all worthwhile. When a former foster kid reaches out to you years later and tells you how much of a difference you made in their life, it is a great feeling. Love, stability and patience is key. We have no regrets and encourage anyone thinking about becoming a foster parent to go for it. It was a great experience for us!!” - Stacey Cowan



IN TOPEKA By Ashley Watson

Child hunger is a big issue in America with one in six children at risk of hunger. Children who go hungry—particularly in the first three years—begin life at a disadvantage that can lead to chronic health conditions, developmental impairments, and social and behavioral challenges. The Feeding America Backpack Program has been around for over 15 years and is the largest domestic hunger-relief organization. The Feeding America Network partners with 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries to feed more than 450,000 kids every weekend. Not familiar with the Backpack Program or want to help? Check out In our region, Feeding America utilizes Harvesters – The Community Food Network to carry out its mission. Harvesters serves a 26-county area in northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri. The backpack program in Shawnee County is called “BackSnack” and 18,000 kids benefit from it every weekend. In Harvesters’ total region, 341,080 people are food insecure, 105,320 of whom are children.

What is food insecurity? The USDA defines food insecurity as a “lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Approximately 40% of the food insecure children in our region are not eligible for federal nutrition programs. What does food insecurity in Shawnee County look like? There are 7,930 children in Shawnee County who are food insecure, amounting to 18.4% of children in the county. Harvesters distributed 4,529,087 pounds of food in 2018. Interested in getting involved with Harvesters? Its 28th annual Check-Out Hunger campaign started November 1, 2019 and ends January 5, 2020. You have three ways to participate in the campaign. • Donate nonperishable food items in the barrels at your local grocery store; • Donate money at checkout by scanning one of the coupons at the grocery register. There are $1, $5, $10, or $20 denomination coupons available to be added directly to your grocery bill; • Donate money through Harvesters’ online virtual food drive at Harvesters also welcomes individuals and groups who are able to volunteer time. Click on “Give Time” on the Harvesters’ website to learn about the opportunities in Topeka and Kansas City. Food Deserts Another issue that is a factor in child hunger is a food desert. The dictionary definition of a food desert is “an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.” The “good-quality fresh food” piece of that statement is important. There may be a gas station close by, but does it have fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats? Not necessarily. Usually, gas stations offer fatty, sugary, and salty foods and pre-packaged snacks. If you live inside city limits and are more than one mile away from a grocery store that offers fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, then you live in a food desert. The closing of Dillons’ grocery store at 1400 SW Huntoon Street in Topeka in early 2016 created a food desert for Central Topeka. Some people living in the surrounding area do not own a car; they walk to get their groceries. Imagine having to walk over a mile to a grocery store, get your groceries, and then walk back home over a mile. You would only be


able to carry a few bags at a time. Many of us cannot even begin to know what that is like. We complain about carrying our bags from our car inside the house. Even better, we do not even get out of our car because we use a delivery service like Clicklist. Try carrying your bags for over a mile.

Help Harvesters!

Fortunately, there is a group in the process of bringing a new grocery store to Central Topeka: The Central Topeka Grocery Oasis. Recently, the organization was awarded a $12,500 grant by the Kansas Health Foundation. The Kansas Health Foundation is a philanthropy dedicated to improving the health of all Kansans. For more information about the Kansas Health Foundation, visit The grant will provide a specialist to complete a market analysis to see if the market is there for a grocery store to be built in Central Topeka. The market analysis will assist the team in proving to a grocery store chain that the market is there for the grocery store to make a profit. The Central Topeka Grocery Oasis is focused around nine communities, covering 2.6 square miles with approximately 11,000 people living in this area. Almost 50% of these people lack internet, 37% live in poverty, 35% have an annual income at or below $15,000, 35.4% have one or more disability, 23% lack a vehicle, and 16% of the households are single parent homes. If you are interested in helping the Central Topeka Grocery Oasis Group, please reach out to Marc Galbraith at (785) 383-7164 or

Graphic Courtesy of Harvesters

Sponsor a food drive at your workplace, school, place of worship, neighborhood, or civic organization. Most Needed Items: Food: • Canned vegetables (low sodium) • Canned fruits in 100% juice • Dried fruit (no added sugar preferred) • Canned chicken, tuna, salmon (packed in water) • Brown rice • Whole grain pasta • Dried beans or canned low sodium beans • Peanut, almond, or sun butter • Canned soup (chicken, tomato, or vegetable) • Cereal – hot and cold (whole grain, low sugar preferred) Household Products: • Soap • Deodorant • Shampoo • Toilet Paper Visit for a Food Drive Kit to help you get started and to learn more about the many ways you can help Harvesters.




CURIOSITY In Topeka and Shawnee County By Renae Carsten

“The obstacles to literacy in young children are multi-fold. This relates in part to our evolving society. For example, in Shawnee County only 31% of children have had a formal preschool experience; meaning nearly 70% are not ready for kindergarten,” explained Sherry Hess, TSCPL Early Childhood Learning Coordinator. “A high-quality preschool experience provides young learners with numerous opportunities to build school readiness skills; however it should be noted that for some children, their home environment is equal to this high-quality preschool experience.”

The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL) is dedicated to serving the Topeka community through its mission statement, “Sparking curiosity and connecting our community through literacy and learning.” Chosen from more than 9,565 public libraries in the United States and Canada, TSCPL was named the 2016 Library of the Year by the Library Journal. The award celebrates the library that “most profoundly demonstrates creativity, innovation, leadership and outstanding service to its community.” This “honor that resonates for a lifetime” earned TSCPL a $10,000 grant and national recognition.

Introduction of the Learn and Play Bus, a mobile preschool that travels throughout Shawnee County, is helping to fill this need and bring story time and various forms of free play to our children at locations throughout the community.

Each service and partnership entered into by TSCPL supports its five community impact goals which focus on: • • • • •

“Within our community, the TSCPL is one of several entities working to build school readiness. In fact one of the library’s community impact goals – Every Child Will be Ready for Kindergarten,” continued Hess. “The library is providing programs and services to build kindergarten readiness skills.”

Every child will be ready for kindergarten; Everyone will discover their passion for learning; Everyone will continue learning new ways to live their best life; Topeka and Shawnee County will be an engaged community of readers; and The library will be a learning organization committed to excellence in leadership, planning, customer focus, process management, and partner focus.

Early introduction to reading has been proven to better prepare a child to enter kindergarten and creates an advantage throughout a child’s entire education. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that reading, rhyming, singing, and talking to your child from birth profoundly influences literacy and language development, which are the foundations for all other learning. On its guidance website,, the AAP states, “unlike solid foods, it is never too early to start reading with your baby.”

JLT shares this passion to serve the Topeka and Shawnee County community and has partnered with the TSCPL on multiple projects. Most notably, the TSCPL Kid’s Library was the recipient of the Junior League’s $75,000 grant in 2012, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Junior League of Topeka. JLT also helped fund the initiation of the Adventure Mobile, a mobile learning center that travels throughout the Topeka and Shawnee County to bring learning into the community. Visit to explore the full list of classes, services and resources available.

“Another obstacle to literacy for young children is putting books into the hands of young children; consider that for many households a personal library for a child is not feasible,” said Hess. “The Dolly Parton Imagination Library build a child’s library. A child enrolled at birth in this program will have a personal library of 60 books.”

The importance of early literacy and kindergarten readiness has long been a focus of the TSCPL. It is a focus now being recognized as a “critical need” in Kansas by the Kansas Health Foundation.

TSCPL has partnered with United Way of Greater Topeka to bring the award-winning Dolly Parton Imagination Library to Shawnee County. 26


COMMUNITY The program sends your child a free age-appropriate book every month from birth to age 5. Currently 5,498 Shawnee County children are enrolled and 32,548 children are enrolled throughout Kansas. Register your child online at The TSCPL offers a wide variety of free services and programming to support reaching developmental milestones of early literacy. Baby Bookworms introduces the youngest library users to books through music, movement, and play, while Toddler Time, Preschool Storytime, and Musical Storytime engage children with fun, active learning. Classes are offered throughout the year, some with prior registration required and many with drop-in offerings. The most updated schedules may be found at “A recent partnership is with Westridge Mall. A Book Nook was opened at the mall; it has a selection of books and toys for families to enjoy while at the Book Nook,” said Hess. “The focus of the Book Nook is family engagement with an early literacy and play focus. Feedback has been very positive. Many families are stopping to play or share a story together.” While early introduction to reading is vital to foster educational skills and development, encouraging a love of learning and reading extends far beyond early childhood. Continue to engage with your children about what they are learning as they grow through early grade school into middle school, high school, and beyond. The TSCPL also offers activities and classes for older children and teenagers, providing them with support, community, and educational resources. Any child age 18 or under can stop by afterschool from 3:30-4:15 p.m. for a free snack, funded by Harvesters. Computers and workspaces are available for homework and projects. Curious Kids is a new feature from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, offering new activities daily, designed to spark imaginations. College and career assistance programs are also offered weekly for all Douglas, Wyandotte, and Shawnee County residents. Whether you visit the award-winning library, browse the wide variety of resources and activities online, or utilize its services throughout Shawnee County, take advantage of the variety of programs TSCPL has developed to spark your curiosity and support literacy and learning in our community. Visit for the events schedule, Learn and Play Bus schedule, access to community resources, parent education, Miss Humblebee’s Education Academy, and resources and reading activities by age group. 27

Learn and Play Bus

Only 31% of Shawnee County children have a formal preschool education. This early childhood learning space delivers the library’s services throughout Shawnee County. Families can come and go during the two-hour stops, which feature short story times, learning play with puzzles, art, blocks and imaginative play. Schedule available at

Adventuremobile During summer break, this mobile learning center stops at various locations in Shawnee County. Each season highlights a different theme, with different learning activities every week. Children can check out books, participate in activities, and socialize. During the school year, the Adventuremobile partners with local elementary schools.

Outreach Storytellers Storytellers visit daycare centers and preschools, bringing story time, learning and music to more than 3,700 children ages 3-5 each month.

Bookmobile TSCPL Bookmobiles make 23 stops a day, six days a week through Shawnee County. Visit for schedule and maps.



Imagination Library Register your child (age 0-5) to receive a free book a month from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.



TITLE A Company that

Gives Back From the Heart By Barbara Boudreaux

A title company is a witness to a community’s growth in good times, challenging times, and all the times in between. Title officers facilitate the transactions that bring buyers, sellers, lenders, and related parties quite literally to the table to close a real estate deal. Heartland Title, however, decided that it would not be just a silent witness to its community. Under the leadership of CEO/President Tom Lorson, Heartland Title has taken an active role in the betterment of the Northeast Kansas communities it serves. With nearly 40 years in the title company business, Tom Lorson has seen much growth and change in Northeast Kansas communities from strong real estate markets where houses sell in a matter of hours to economic hardships that leave lots undeveloped and neighborhoods partially built. Lorson began Heartland Title in 2004 after working in the title industry since 1981, and the company has grown to offices in Topeka, Junction City, and Manhattan. “At the end of the day it’s about a product, a service,” said TJ Lorson, son of Tom and Director of Operations and Marketing. “What sets apart good companies from great companies, I believe, at some level, is leadership.”

Heartland Title has embraced its motto, “Results that Move Your Heart,” as a mantra for not only how to transact a business deal, but also how to build-up community members, starting with the smallest residents. “We would not be here without this community and that is where our motto comes from. Start with kids, promote success, and it will keep growing,” explained Tom Lorson. “It’s more than writing a check and giving it to an organization. I think it is actually being involved, it is actually making a difference in a 10-year-old’s life,” remarked TJ Lorson. And make a difference the company does—from the Boys and Girls Club, Seaman Athletic Booster Club, Shawnee Heights T-Birds Youth Wrestling, Topeka Sluggers Baseball, to Washburn Rural Cheerleading, you will find the familiar Heartland Title logo sponsoring events and competitions. It recently sponsored Brew-Ha-Ha at the Topeka Zoo benefitting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shawnee County, one of the nonprofit’s biggest fundraisers. “I think of a quote by Sara Blakely, ‘Money is fun to make, fun to spend, and fun to give away,’” said TJ Lorson. “I whole heartily agree with her!” On one particularly fun and memorable summer evening in June 2019, Heartland Title gave youth players from two North Topeka Sunrise Optimist Baseball teams an experience to remember. The North Topeka Sunrise Optimist Club rented a SUV limo for the teams to ride in to a Topeka Golden Giants game on Heartland Title Night at the Bettis Sports Complex. The kids, dressed in their baseball uniforms, loved their first limo ride experience and the opportunity to watch a Mid-Plains League game from the stands, complete with ballpark hotdogs. Not wanting anyone to miss out on the game, Heartland Title provided complimentary admission

Above Right: Youth baseball teams enjoy their ride to Heartland Title Night at Bettis Sports Complex Center: TJ Lorson (center with pick axe) works with local relators on a Habitat build.


that night to all fans. “We want to be out there to help the community because if it weren’t for the community, we wouldn’t be here,” explained Tom Lorson. Heartland Title is a family business that aims to treat its clients, associates, and staff as family as well. “We are family to our customers, we are family to our staff. I feel that is where our mindset is,” said Tom Lorson.


“If we always keep in the back of our heads ‘home is a special place in every heart,’ we remember what we are really trying to get to and that is to make the process of the home transaction, buying and selling, easier for that end consumer, buying or selling,” continued TJ Lorson. When asked about the pitfalls the Lorsons have seen home buyers and sellers make, Tom Lorson remarked that not using a real estate agent when selling or buying is the biggest pitfall. “Whether it is a person’s first house or fifth or sixth, we try to have it go smooth. Without an agent, the party does not know what they do not know when it comes to inspections and documents,” said Tom Lorson, explaining that his role as title agent is not to advise but to facilitate and close the transaction. Those transactions have changed a lot since Tom Lorson began his title career. Out-of-state and “.com” lenders have become more prominent in mortgage lending, once dominated by local banks. Closings that used to involve face-to-face meetings of buyers and sellers now may take place remotely. Local builders who survived the 2008 housing crisis now do custom homes rather than large-scale developments. Much has changed, but Heartland Title’s approach has remained the same and will continue to do so.

Hello, neighbor!

“We are home grown and have faith that if you give to the community, they’ll give back,” explained TJ Lorson. The real estate market in Topeka is currently strong; there is not a lot of inventory and buyers are looking for properties throughout the city. TJ Lorson noted that Topeka has “good energy” with a low cost of living, growing downtown, redevelopment of vacant properties, inexpensive to play golf, and within an hour to Kansas City.

Brandon J Aldridge, Agent 2841 SE Croco Rd Topeka, KS 66605 Bus: 785-267-1428

“We have a family business, I’m staying here,” summarized TJ Lorson. And the Topeka community is grateful to businesses like Heartland Title committed to supporting the communities it serves!

Please stop by and say, “Hi!” I love being part of this community – and as a new State Farm® agent, I’m excited to get to know more of you. Whether you need insurance or financial services, I’m here to help life go right.™ CALL ME TODAY.

Buying, selling, or refinancing your home or property? Ask your realtor and/or loan officer to close with Heartland Title. 1601484


State Farm, Bloomington, IL



& GUIDANCE CENTER Children Deserve a Happy Childhood By Brie Parks

On a cold night in 2013 I walked into Family Service and Guidance Center (FSGC) for an 8-week parenting class feeling like I had already failed at parenting. I was at a loss for how to raise a child who’s EXACTLY like me, and I was desperate for someone to show me different methods to help our sweet 4-year-old process the big feelings that all 4-year-olds naturally experience. Years later, I am still singing the praises of the FSGC to anyone who will listen. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Pam Evans, Director of Marketing for FSGC, to learn more about what the center has been doing for Topeka lately.

Thanks for taking some time to talk with me about Family Service and Guidance Center! For those who have not used your services before can you tell us a little bit about the work you do in our community? Yes - We are a licensed community mental health center but what makes us unique is that we are the only one in the state that specializes in meeting kids. Three of the most commonly treated issues here with kids of all ages are behavioral issues that come out of anxiety, depression, ADHD along with many other areas. How do you support both the child and his/her family? When a parent brings a child in with a concern our team will discuss the challenges and concerns the parents have and will sometimes even reach out to teachers and schools to try to get a full perspective on the challenges and the severity. The clinician prepares an individualized treatment plan for the child, complete with goals and action steps, and goes over the plan with the parents and child. Treatment is very individualized and really depends on the needs of the kids. We offer a variety of therapy types including: •

Individual Therapy – the one-on-one work with the kids

Family therapy - this is important because of the communication and teaching parents how to better support their kids during their rough times is critical

Group therapy and sessions

Another way we provide support is through a youth development programs in some USD 501 schools and as an after-school program. We also have a very specialized anxiety treatment program and case management for children with more severe struggles. We have staff that go out into the schools and work with children who have Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs) and that’s just a little bit about the work they do with local schools. Above: Happy Bear has been visiting students age 3 to 6 for over 30 years to teach them about a subject that is never easy to talk about: sexual abuse. Students learn about “good touch” (ex. a hug), “bad touch” (ex. hitting), and “mixed-up touch” (sexual abuse) in an age-appropriate, nonthreatening, and easier to understand way.

It sounds like your team is a tremendous support to schools! It seems like every day we ask more of teachers and school administrators; for them to have this partnership must be wonderful! Absolutely. It is really about addressing the needs where we can best support the kids. In all of our programs, it 30

is about teaching coping skills or other basic skills that many of us take for granted in order to help the kids. It is critical to not only teach the skills but to help them practice them, especially as their brain is developing. In the first 5 years of a child’s life 90% of brain development occurs so it is really important to catch issues children may be having early so we can help teach their brains how to process while they are forming. That is one of the reasons why we have a therapeutic preschool right on our campus.

“A party experience like no other!”

A therapeutic preschool! That is fantastic! While we are speaking about support for kids and their families – I have heard you also have a new initiative around teen suicide prevention. Can you tell us a little bit about the preventative work you’re doing?

Professional DJ & Photo Booth Services

This initiative started last Fall by bringing in Kevin Hines, a suicide survivor who attempted to take his own life by jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Today Kevin travels the world sharing his struggles and how he works to overcome them. That event was a huge success which led to more so when we kicked off this initiative, we knew it would be imperative to have kids involved in it! We got a group of high school kids together from all the different school districts and brainstormed with them and listened. We have a group of passionate kids who are ready to start doing work in their schools! Recently we challenged them to a T-shirt design contest centered on Youth Suicide prevention. We gave them some loose criteria and they were really excited, but the kids came back and asked if they could do stickers instead - to put on their laptops or other places. They felt that their message would reach even more people this way so we said yes. Absolutely! We are still going to do shirts for the core group of kids but then the stickers for everyone else.

Weddings | Parties | School Dances Corporate events 785-289-2919

As a member of the Junior League of Topeka, a training organization, I just LOVE this and can only imagine all the skills these kids will take away from this experience. Thank you so much for sharing a small glimpse into the amazing work FSGC is doing in Topeka! Well thank you! Parenting is not easy, especially in this day and age. There are so many more challenges that kids and adults face. This is why we developed the Real World Parenting Series where we offer free learning opportunities to parents in the community. As we were developing the series, we looked at the concerns that bring parents and families to FSGC for help. There were many common challenges, so we created presentations to address those topics and give parents tips, tools, and information to help them navigate the parenting journey.

Above: Kevin Hines shares his journey with students at Seaman High School and (Below) Shawnee Heights High School.

For more information on Family Service and Guidance Center please visit or if you or someone you know could benefit from the services provided, call (785)232-5005. Learn more about Kevin Hines’ story of hope, healing, and recovery at




DIFFERENCE Big Brothers Big Sisters By Chelsea Hopkins

Eric Maydew, BBBS of Shawnee County Area Director

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is one of the largest youth mentorship organizations in the US – providing one-on-one relationships between children 5-17 years old and volunteering adults. By providing guidance, friendship, emotional support, and mentorships, these volunteers live out the BBBS motto, “making a difference, one child at a time.” I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Eric Maydew, BBBS of Shawnee County Area Director, to learn a bit more about the program and how it depends on the support of our community to function. Eric’s main responsibilities include fund development, recruitment, and program oversight. With a full-time staff of only 4 or 5 individuals running the local office, BBBS of Shawnee County organizes funding and matching of Bigs and Littles. At any given time, BBBS of Shawnee County has approximately 240 to 260 active matches through three different matching programs. • Site Based Matching consists of a relationship where the volunteer spends time with the youth at school or an alternate designated location. • Community-Based Matches participate in one-on-one activities outside of a designated location. This option gives the matches an opportunity to cater the relationship to their liking. • Plus Matches are a hybrid of Site-Based and Community-Based where the matches spend time at school during the school year and in the community during school breaks. For children interested in entering the program, parents are the number one referral source. Services are free with no financial burdens to the families. Many children are also referred by school counselors, teachers, and principals. If a child is recommended for a match through BBBS, there is a brief application process, in-home interview, and a match review.


The in-home review is to gauge what children are struggling with and what their needs are, so BBBS can better match them with an appropriate mentor. Although children are not declined through BBBS, if there is low risk or simply behavioral problems, they may be referred to YMCA or Boys & Girls Club – which tend to be more appropriate. A typical BBBS child tends to be more anti-social in group settings. On the other end of the spectrum, if Big mentors do not specialize in certain situations, the child may be referred to other programs as well. These situations are all measured through risk assessment tools BBBS has in place throughout the matching process. For those wanting to become a Big, the process is a bit more rigorous. The first step is to visit, choose your location, and the type of match you wish to participate in. From there, BBBS of Shawnee County will contact the mentor for an information session, application, references, criminal background and registered sex offender checks, and home visits. The information is then sent to a screening committee to match Bigs and Littles through the “Best Fit Matching Process” that will ideally pair two individuals with a longstanding match potential. While the minimum commitment of becoming a Big is a year long match, the average match retention rate for Shawnee County is around 29.5 months! In Shawnee County alone, there are approximately 120 children waiting to be matched with a Big, with more children being recommended to the program on a daily basis. If you are not able to devote your time to becoming a Big, there are many other ways to help out Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Shawnee County. The organization has three annual fundraising campaigns: A Bourbon Affair and Brew HaHa, both held in Topeka, and For Kids’ Sake, a national & statewide campaign. You can also become a Partner of Potential by setting up a recurring donation to help sustain current mentoring relationships. For additional information on BBBS, visit kansasbigs. org.

Why I Became a Big….. I always enjoyed working with kids - from coaching soccer, to being a camp counselor during college summers, to squeezing babies every chance I get. Big Brothers Big Sisters seemed like the natural program for me to become involved with when the opportunity presented itself. My Little and I tested the waters with the site-based program initially. When we realized we wanted to see one another outside of her school, we transitioned to the community-based match. Since I do not have any children of my own, this gives me a great chance to do some of those kid-friendly things I never grew out of, while making a big impact on the life of my Little as well. As she has gotten older, life’s circumstances have kept us from seeing each other on as regular of a basis as we would prefer, but when we do get together, we pick up right where we left off. There have been many times when my Little has let me know what is going on in her life, what is troubling her, or areas where she may be struggling. I went through most of these experiences too at one point or another. It is a seamless conversation for us to have - and guidance I am comfortable giving. I believe it gives her hope that someone else has been through similar situations and made it out okay. Not only have I seen my Little evolve over the last few years into a fine young lady, but our relationship has also made a huge impact on me. BBBS did an awesome job of matching us – it has been great fit! -

Chelsea Hopkins

Banking like a


Member FDIC


Above: JLT Member Chelsea Hopkins and her Little

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By Sarah Richards, Ed.S.

Imagine you are walking into a classroom full of young children. You see them coloring, building with blocks, playing dress-up, and pretending to cook a meal. Some children are laughing, some are arguing. Some children are sharing secrets, and others are working side-by-side. It may look simple: The kids are playing. While that may be an accurate observation, play is so much more complex and consequential than we often realize. Play builds critical skills that individuals will need for the rest of their lives. When children aren’t given the opportunity to play, they are missing out on crucial opportunities to build these critical skills. There is growing concern among experts, educators, and parents that our preschool through early-elementary learners are not getting the play their brains and bodies need for proper development. Play builds skills in each domain of human development: It builds physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and communication skills. Children learn to negotiate, to problem-solve, and to regulate their bodies and emotions. They learn to create, to disagree appropriately, to think critically, and to persist when something is difficult. All of this is done in an environment where mistakes are safe, abilities are expanded, and children learn about their own strengths. The research is clear on these points. But the research isn’t always translating into developmentally-appropriate practices in our classrooms. There is often a push for reading in early childhood. Schedules are created around teaching academic skills rather than play and social skills. We know that physical activity stimulates brain activity, but whole-body movement is frighteningly scarce, and recess time is shrinking. When children engage in developmentally appropriate activities, they feel successful and begin to fall in love with learning. When presented with activities their brains and bodies are not ready for, they equate learning and school with frustration and boredom.

Kennedi, daughter of JLT Member Lisa Schwarz Dinkel, imagines herself behind the wheel.

So, what can be done? The future of our world depends upon the success of our learners today. Often, parents of young children want to practice academic skills as much as possible, through tutoring, homework, and extra reading or math practice at home. While there is certainly a time and a place for these activities, I argue that the brains and bodies of our youngest learners are often not ready for even more academic work after a long day in school. Activities that build background knowledge, strengthen the parent-child bond, and foster curiosity are even more important. Read to your child. Research plants and insects together before going on a nature walk. Follow a recipe together. Go to the zoo or a museum and talk about what you see. Learn about colors through mixing paints together. There are so many other learning activities for which our children are actually developmentally prepared. When visiting schools or learning centers, ask if there is an emphasis on play in addition to academics. Ask if there is a social/ emotional curriculum used. Pay attention to what kinds of play are taking place. Advocate for play in our community and in our local schools. Make sure ample recess time is provided. Ensure that school leaders understand the importance of play in the classroom. In summary, I am hopeful that the movement back toward play-based learning is not just a trend, but a paradigm shift in the way we think about educating our youngest and most impressionable learners. If we want to create adults who are lifelong learners, who can get along with others, problem-solve, regulate their emotions, and think critically, it is imperative that we understand the vital role play has in learning and that we advocate for play in the classrooms of our children. Sarah Richards, Ed.S is a graduate of the University of Kansas and works as a school psychologist.

On the case, Lorelei and Arabel, daughters of JLT member Jill Gary role play as detectives. 35



CENTER The Making of the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center

existing museums around the U.S. to gather ideas. “Failure was never an option,” explained Harrison.

By Jenay Weekly During the economic turndown of the early 2000s, Topeka can be grateful there were visionaries such as Joanne Morrell, Susan and Kent Garlinghouse, and my interview subject, Kansas Children’s Discovery Center (KCDC) cheerleader Joanne Harrison. They agreed that “now was the time to do something for the children of our city” and that having a children’s museum might make Topeka a more attractive place to live. Joanne Harrison used the words “dynamo” and “tireless champion” to describe Joanne Morrell and credits her with the idea for the Discovery Center. Along with board chair Kent Garlinghouse, the initial board began its quest to create and fund an innovative and excellent children’s museum for Topeka. Board members started with a colorful brochure, sharing their vision with anyone who would listen. Of course they ran into resistance! Downtown Topeka was declining at this time. People were not impressed with the idea of supporting such a large project. But the board persisted. Eventually, people began to warm to the idea and agreed that PERHAPS a children’s museum could be an asset to the city. Joanne Harrison attended six national conferences, learning as much as she could about children’s museums. Board members traveled to

With the help of videographer Jeff Carson from Gizmo Productions and songwriter Dan Linquist, a video was created to market the KCDC to the community. The board found many gracious Topekans who held fund-raising parties in their homes. As funding continued to grow, finding a location for the museum became paramount. Downtown was suggested and eliminated. Space in a shopping center was also vetoed. The question was asked: “Where in Topeka do children and families like to go?” The obvious answer was “Gage Park!” In a unique partnership, the city of Topeka offered an unused corner of the park for the museum at the sum of $1.00 a year for life. At last, THE perfect location was found! The board chose to work with an experienced master planner and a creative exhibit developer, both located in Chicago. The board members took delight in adding creative ideas to the exhibits. After reviewing numerous plans from three architectural firms, a young firm from Lawrence was selected. Ground could not be broken until funds were in place for a construction loan. A $600,000 Mabee Challenge Grant was received, and Topeka stepped up to meet the goal! Joanne Harrison stressed the words “excellence, innovation, creative and beautiful” in both the design and materials for the building. The board voted unanimously to include the best of everything presented to it. The KCDC was designed to be a jewel in the city of Topeka when it opened in 2011. The museum is child-sized and family friendly, so that upon entering, children will be delighted to explore and not feel intimidated. There are no directions telling how an activity should be done. Instead, kids are free to try out the exhibits and learn by doing. The center is full of windows and light, letting the outdoor environment in. Children can explore, play, and be creative as they try out the various activities. The open atmosphere is pleasant for adults as well, and there are opportunities for interaction between adult and child. In recent years, the outdoor portion of the museum has grown and contains numerous opportunities for physical exploration. A zip line, a pirate ship, and bike paths are just a few of the offerings. Focus on the outdoors is a current trend in America’s children’s museums, and Topeka’s KCDC is respected across America for its attention to its green space.


KCDC supporters also want to remove accessibility barriers for low income families. Kansas families that qualify for state food assistance may present their EBT or WIC card and identification to receive admission for up to four people at $3 each. Families may also check out free admission passes at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. Thanks to the generous support of local businesses, “Free Family Fun Nights” are also offered on the third Thursday of the month from 4:00 -7:00 p.m. Special exhibits keep the museum fresh for repeat visits. Through January 4, 2020, “Kenya’s Kids” allows visitors to discover what life is like for children in Kenya today, comparing the similarities and differences between their lives and Kenyan children. Weekly events and programming provide a variety of STEAM-based play and discovery.

Today, Dené Mosier, whom Joanne calls “Chief Officer Extraordinaire” (CEO) plus her dedicated staff, board, and volunteers, believe that every child deserves a rich and diverse museum experience. Special programs are in place so that EVERY family can experience the wonders of the museum. Children who are medically fragile may set up a private play time as part of the “Medical Warriors” program; this allows children with compromised immune systems to experience the museum without the crowds. Children with autism spectrum disorders are allotted special hours as part of the “Puzzle Pieces” program where the lights and sound are turned down and therapy dogs provide soothing interactions. There is also an initiative to provide a place for children of incarcerated women to play and visit with their mothers as part of the “Play Free” program.

During my interview with Joanne Harrison, it was obvious how passionate she is about the KCDC, and she is rightfully proud of her part in its creation. Thanks to a committed group of Topeka citizens who recognized a “magic moment in time,” thousands of children and families will enjoy the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center for decades to come. Have YOU visited yet? What are you waiting for! KCDC is located at 4400 SW 10th Avenue in Topeka’s Gage Park. Hours, admission, and special exhibit information can be found at or by contacting

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A Day of Joy Outside the Prison Walls By Barbara Boudreaux

More than 1.7 million children in the United States have a parent in state or federal prison. Of incarcerated women, 80 percent are mothers and of these mothers, one in five has a child under the age of 5. Children are often called the “hidden victims” of crime. When a parent is incarcerated, a child serves a sentence, too. Through no fault of their own, children experience a daily separation and scattered visitations with their loved one. Reunions often take place in an environment intimidating and confusing to the child. A visit is in a loud, crowded room or behind a pane of glass; possessions brought into the prison facility are limited for safety reasons. There are security and screening procedures that may confuse or scare the child. The overall experience does not lend itself to family bonding and lacks the physical touch essential to a child’s development. The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center (KCDC) is hoping to change this experience. In October 2018, KCDC hosted its first “Play Free” day. Children with incarcerated mothers, or in some cases grandmothers, were invited to come to the museum for a day of fun and play with their moms in the safe and engaging atmosphere of KCDC. It is a day of normalcy outside the prison walls during a challenging time in both the child and mother’s life.

“Today is about joy, and that’s what you see when you come here. You see the most incredible, broad joy. Children who in some cases haven’t seen their mother in a year and a half, and they come here and they get to reunite. They spend a whole day together, exploring and having fun,” said Dené Mosier, President and CEO of KCDC at a Play Free day. “We already have this great facility that sets up these opportunities for families to celebrate together, to play together.” On “Play Free” days, the mothers anxiously await the arrival of their children, some children traveling to Topeka from as many as eight hours away. The families are given time to catch up and transition at the child’s pace over breakfast together before a full day of educational play and bonding begins. The participants play in the museum’s exhibits, create art, explore the outdoors, and share another meal together at lunch. “My favorite part of the day was being able to walk on the trail and just have one-on-one time to talk,” remarked an inmate. A photographer captures the memory of the special day for each family, with family photos given to the mothers and children. “My daughter said, ‘this is the best day ever!’ It was wonderful to experience such a memory,” said an inmate. When custodial caregivers return in the afternoon, they spend time with the mothers and are given resources on how to support children of incarcerated parents. To promote positive transitions, the children finish their day before the mothers are transported back to the prison facility. “It meant everything to me. I feel like a real person again and my son and I could just have time,” explained an inmate. “I don’t have the proper words to express how wonderful it was.”


Play is particularly important for children who have experienced trauma. Having an incarcerated family member or an absent caregiver are conditions identified as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The term ACEs describes types of abuse, neglect as well as household dysfunction or traumatic circumstances that occur to individuals under the age of 18. The CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study examined the relationship between childhood experiences and reduced health and well-being later in life. The study concluded that a higher ACEs score increased a child’s risk for disease, injury, violence, and poor educational and employment outcomes. Play Free promotes a healthy bonding between a child and his or her incarcerated caregiver. It strengthens the attachment that makes children more resilient. “These children through no fault of their own are serving a sentence as well. And so if we together as a community come together and alleviate just a little bit of the burden for these children, it is really worthwhile, it is impacting our future and that matters,� said Moiser.

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KCDC funds the Play Free program through generous private donations and receives no financial funding from the correctional institution. Learn more about the program and how you can support this initiative at Neither the company nor its agents give tax, accounting or legal advice. Consult your professional advisor in these areas. Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company*/West Des Moines, IA. *Company provider of Farm Bureau Financial Services LI179 (12-18)





Angie Grau, Owner, Paper June

By Brie Parks

In the heart of NOTO lives a quaint children’s book and creativity shop called Paper June. When you venture inside, an overwhelming sense of nostalgia surrounds you with memories of the stories you read as a child and your trips to the library and bookstores. I typically find myself there with my daughters as they call dibs on the beautiful reading tent or dance in front of the large display window. However, their favorite part of the store is the art studio in the back - drawing on the chalkboard wall or painting, making themselves right at home. And that is easy to do when you are in the company of Paper June’s owner, Angie Grau, whose personality is warm and welcoming and leaves you feeling like you have been friends for ages. Paper June is such a fun store! My girls and I love your events, exploring new stories, and painting! For those who have not been into the store yet, tell us about it. Paper June is a children’s book and creativity shop. We want to encourage kids to be more creative and imaginative and we strive to draw out their creativity through our selection of books and toys as well as the art studio where we offer art classes to nurture kids who are already interested in artistic and creative activities. I hand select every item in the shop with thoughtful insights from Charli, my 7-year-old daughter, and my two team members.

I also always loved to write and draw. I would spend hours in my room sketching or writing really embarrassing poetry or lyrics. Ha! I grew up in a small town so there weren’t many opportunities to nurture that creative side until high school art. Fast forward to me becoming a mom and realizing that Charli is not a ”toy kid.” I tried to find opportunities to encourage her, but Topeka does not have a lot of art classes for kids, and the ones we did have were during the day when I was working. I found myself talking to friends about my frustrations and how cool it would be to have a children’s bookstore that was also an art studio. This ”wouldn’t it be cool” idea kept popping up. So when I was on maternity leave with my third child, Yummers (aka William), I decided to focus on one goal (other than snuggling, feeding and changing lots of diapers!). I decided to work on a business plan for my idea.

How did you came up with the name Paper June? I wanted to name my business after my mom, my biggest inspiration and, hands-down, one of the best people to ever grace this earth. My mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just weeks after I moved away for college. She passed away three months later. My mom devoted her life to her kids and to those she taught. She was hard on the kids with lots of potential because she knew who they could become, and she was kind to the kids who

What called you to create this business? Both of my parents were teachers. Growing up, there were books in every room of our home. I can remember snuggling up against my mom as she read to my brother and me. Listening to my mom read and seeing both my mom and dad reading books on a regular basis fostered a desire to read, and I fell in love with books! I knew that I wanted to share this same loving experience with my kids. Photos courtesy of Tobias Harvey, CULT 40

needed a little more love. I remember she would keep a box of extra coats, mittens, gloves, and scarves to give to the kids who needed them. When there was a tragedy in town, the kids asked for my mom to sit with them. She didn’t even teach some of these kids, but she was there for them around school when they needed someone and she spent time with them after school. My mom was more selfless than I’ll ever be and she genuinely cared about the community. Losing her has been difficult. She represents so many wonderful things and I wanted to honor her memory through Paper June, and I wanted to continue her legacy of making a positive impact on kids in the community. My mom’s name was Debra June; hence, Paper JUNE. Her favorite bird was a hummingbird. It was also the favorite bird of my mother-in-law who passed in 2015. Our icon represents both of them. The word paper was actually recommended by my friend Sara who also introduced me to a shop with a similar business model. Paper June. The more I said the name, the more it grew on me. Paper makes literal sense as books are made from paper and many art pieces involve paper, but I came to love the abstract meaning. Paper is blank. It’s nothing. And from nothing, you can create something truly beautiful.

And that is how Paper June came to be. What advice would you have for other women entrepreneurs? I have two pieces of advice that continue to make a difference for me. Do it scared. Find a mentor. Every major step I’ve taken with Paper June has been taken despite feeling nervous and afraid. I was afraid to go to Ethan + Anna Children’s Boutique and speak to [the owners] Kim Adair and Aimee Rosenow, who were complete strangers to me. I was definitely nervous to travel to Dallas with them only a month or two later. I was afraid to tell my husband I wrote a business plan and wanted to do a pop-up shop. I was mortified to be on Facebook live - still am! Deciding to open our own location was terrifying. And every time I host a story time or art class, I’m scared no one will be there. Do it anyway. Sometimes you’ll fail, but sometimes you’ll succeed and it feels GREAT! I didn’t know what a mentor was until a few years ago, and then I didn’t know how to find one. I’m very thankful I walked into Ethan + Anna and met Kim and Aimee. I truly believe Paper June wouldn’t exist if they had not opened their hearts to me and my idea. Find another business owner who nurtures and inspires you and ask if he or she would be interested in a mentorship relationship. Being an entrepreneur is lonely. A mentor can give you focus and help you prioritize so you grow professionally and personally.

Continued on page 42 41



In your experience, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting a business? Passion

Winter Wonderland

Kansas Children’s Discovery Center

Drive through a winter wonderland of lights at Lake Shawnee Campground now through December 31.

Discover what life is like for children in Kenya at the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center’s Kenya Kids special exhibit now through Jan. 4.

Santa Visits

First Friday Artwalk

Value/Need Drive First - Are you passionate enough about this business idea for it to become everything? At least in the beginning. It’s like when you get pregnant and have a baby. Your world becomes about this new, beautiful thing. It’s all anyone wants to talk about. It’s all you think about when you’re awake. You wake up in a panic in the middle of the night thinking you forgot something or remembering that something needs to be done or just fearing that you have no idea what you’re doing. You have to be very passionate about the idea or you’ll burn out quickly.

Second - Are you providing value or meeting a need with this business venture? Are you improving people’s lives by starting this venture? You could be improving the quality of life, saving people money, or providing them with an opportunity that doesn’t exist in our community right now. Do your research and make sure the need is large enough and the value is great enough for your business to be sustainable.

Finally - How badly do you want this business? You can be passionate, but have no drive. That was me for years while I existed in my “Wouldn’t it be cool...” loop. I was not ready to put in the work. Are you ready to prioritize the business over your spouse and kids while you’re getting it off the ground? (Not forever!!) Are you willing to be uncomfortable and to push your limits? It’s not going to be easy. I know everyone says that, but you will not truly understand that until you are in the middle of it all and the only one to pull you up is you (and that mentor I mentioned earlier. And me! Email me. Message me on Facebook. Stop by the store!), but you get it. This business is all on you. You can do it! But do you want to?


Santa makes a weekly visit to Downtown Topeka’s Winterfest, Saturdays beginning Dec. 7 through Dec. 21, complete live reindeer and horse-drawn carriage rides along Kansas Avenue.

Arts Connect First Friday Artwalk Jan 3, Feb. 7, and March 6. NOTO, Downtown, Westboro, and Brookwood come alive with street performers, vendors, artists, and music.

Laugh Lines Kansas History

Laugh Lines at Topeka Civic Theatre Jan. 3 & 4 and Feb. 14 & 15. Outrageous comedy sketches, improv, and audience participation will keep you laughing through cold winter days.

Celebrate Kansas’ statehood on Jan. 29 with a tour of the State Capitol or visit to the Kansas Museum of History.

Harlem Globetrotters

Kansas Silent Film Festival

Cheer on the Harlem Globetrotters when the visit the Stormont Vail Events Center on Feb. 10.

Enjoy Silver Screen classics at the Kansas Silent Film Festival Feb 28 & 29. Washburn University Campus.

Paw Patrol

Women's History Month

Set sail for adventure with the Paw Patrol crew in “The Great Pirate Adventure” March 21-22 at the Stormont Vail Events Center

Celebrate Women's History Month by visiting the Upward to Equality: Kansas Women Fight to Vote exhibit, opening March 20 at the Kansas History Museum.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors, Commit to Unplug


By Barbara Boudreaux

A natural playground is a play environment that uses elements from the Earth such as

At a time of when children are suffering higher levels of stress, depression, and risk factors for diseases previously seen only in adults, children are also experiencing a disconnect from the natural world around them. In its Generation M2 report, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that children ages 8-18 spend on average over 50 hours a week on a device or in front of a screen. To compound this, children now spend on average only 30 minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play. Inside, behind a screen, today’s children are less connected to nature than prior generations.

tree logs, tree stumps, shrubs, boulders, and ponds and minimizes the use of manmade components Children are empowered to move around freely using both their motor skills and imaginations.

The benefits of outdoor play are multi-fold to the body, mind, and spirit: Body. Increased aerobic activity builds healthy bodies, raises levels of vitamin D, and improves distance vision and lowers the risk of nearsightedness.

Natural playgrounds accommodate different ages and abilities with a variety of play options. Children can engage in constructive

Mind. Outdoor play boosts academic performance and enhances creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.

play building from natural materials, locomotive play carrying materials, solitary play in alone time and contemplation,

Spirit. Children who spend more time outdoors have improved relationship skills and reduced levels of stress, anger, and aggression. They connect better to both people and nature.

exploratory play as they discover new elements in the world around them, and dramatic play using the environment to engage imagination.

Take learning outside by providing fun nature experiences. Be still and looks for birds and animals, hear the wind blow through leaves, and examine the insect world that goes unnoticed on a tree trunk. Time in natural environments and role models who care for nature will guide children to care for those environments too. Outdoor play in childhood can be the building block to environmental stewardship in adulthood.

In Topeka, find 4.5 acres of natural playground elements at the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center. Its certified Nature Explore Classroom offers a rock climb, treehouse, pond, musical instruments made from natural materials, and fun for children of all ages.

So how can we entice kids away from the screen and out into nature? Let’s do it together! The Children & Nature Network recommends making a commitment as a family to get your kids (and yourself!) unplugged and out into nature. Take a family walk, explore a trail, play a game of tag, or share a meal outdoors. You will be taking action to improve their health and wellness—and yours!





Experience Gifting in a New Way this Holiday Season By Barbara Boudreaux Children’s Theatre Tickets. Topeka Civic Theatre (TCT) & Helen Hocker Theatre offer a variety of children’s shows. As a bonus, a season pass in TCT’s Kids Club provides a discount to TCT Academy classes or spring/summer break camp registration. Topeka Zoo Membership. A Family Basic Membership provides a year of fun, member discounts, reciprocal membership at zoos around the country, and fast-pass entry for the popular Boo at the Zoo event. Kansas Children’s Discovery Center Membership. Give the gift of year-round imaginative play, exploration, and access to children’s museums across the country with a Discover Plus One family membership to the Discovery Center.

A Shawnee County Parks & Rec League or Class. Try out gymnastics, ballet, t-ball, soccer, kickball, and more with classes for preschoolers through seniors. A four-week class or five-week league is the perfect way to try a new activity and determine if it is a good fit. Ballet and Dance Classes. Jeté, pirouette, arabesque, and more in a dance class with Ballet Midwest especially designed to introduce young dancers to classical ballet and dance. In April 2020, the “My First Ballet” series returns, a perfectly tailored ballet performance for young audiences. Summer Camp Registration. Topeka abounds with week-long summer camps that fill up quickly in the winter. Theatre, art, sports, ninja, and golf camps await to provide fun summer adventures. Coordinate with the child’s caregivers and offer to sponsor a summer camp experience. Create Your Own Masterpiece. Local favorites Dandelions!, The Firehouse, Prairie Glass Studio, Paper June, Potwin Pottery, Leaping Llamas, and Board & Brush offer a variety of classes and parties for children to explore their artistic side. Monthly Subscription Box. From kids’ cooking boxes, science kits, to journeys afar without leaving your home through Little Passports, extend the holidays all year, with a new adventure arriving by mail each month. 44

‘Tis the season to give, and give we do especially for children during the holiday season. Toys, clothes, electronics, bigger and bigger boxes wrapped in shiny bows waiting to be torn open. Many times the “getting” for kids soon turns into a pile of stuff, and that stuff can quickly accumulate into a pile of less loved toys and random toy pieces waiting for a foot to step upon them. Gifting experiences, however, can provide lasting memories, acquired skills, undiscovered talents, and even support local businesses. We invite you to consider these local experience gifts for the young children (and young at heart) on your holiday shopping list.

Share Your Love of the Game. Are you a Jayhawk, Wildcat, Ichabod? Introduce a child to the excitement of a live game experience and you may find a new fellow fan. Dive Into Swim Lessons. Be prepared for summer -Topeka Swim Association offers year-round swimming lessons and swim team prep for kids ages 3-16. An Experience for Others. Children are eager to help others in needs. Allow them to experience giving first-hand by volunteering with them at a food bank or animal shelter. Alternatively, gift them with a set dollar amount to buy supplies off the wishlists of local animal shelters, food banks, or homeless shelters. The Gift of Time. The most precious commodity we all have is time. What the children in your life may appreciate most is the experience of you spending time with them. A one-on-one day together can provide lifelong memories.

Give a child the experience of your time and you may find you, too, get an experience you will always remember as well.


., Home of Ballet Midwest


arbara’s Conservatory of Dance is a family-friendly studio for all ages dedicated to the joy of movement through the study of classical dance.

The most wonderful time of the year can also be a stressful time of year for families and caregivers. Here are some tips to manage family stress during the holidays. 1

Now enrolling!

SET A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT. Sales and Black Friday deals add up, make a list, check it twice, and keep to your budget expectations. You will find yourself grateful come January bills.


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Ballet & Pointe Pas De Deux Liturgical Lyrical

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Modern Tap Jazz Broadway Jazz

• Hip Hop • Conditioning • Boys’ and Mens’ classes

COMMUNICATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS. Let older children know when you expect them home for family time. Tell generous family members if you are limiting toys or would prefer to not have certain toys under the tree for your children.


STICK TO FAMILY ROUTINES. Reduce chaos and anxiety by following your family routine as closely as possible through the holiday season. Missed naps, late bedtimes, and meals on the go can make for grumpy families.


785-272-5991 • 4300 SW Huntoon, Topeka, KS 66604 • info@

DO LESS, ENJOY MORE. Sending cards, baking, finding the perfect gift for all, and attending events. We go overboard trying to do it all when less can be more enjoyable. Pick the events best suited to your family and forego the others.


We hope you have enjoyed this issue of Capital Impact. May 2020 be a year of peace, joy, and magic for you and yours.

DON’T PUT YOUR CHILDREN ON THE SPOT. It is natural to want to share their talents, but do not insist that they perform for relatives. This can make them overly anxious.


ENJOY THE TIME YOU SPEND WITH YOUR FAMILY. The season is about presence, not presents. Play games, bake cookies, take a ride to view the holiday lights, and enjoy each other.



Junior League of Topeka

Take a walk to look at neighborhood light displays. Dance with your children to holiday music. Not only will it help compensate for extra holiday cookies and eggnog, but movement stimulates the production of feel-good serotonin. 8

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF TO RELAX. Put on fuzzy socks, holiday pjs, and a comfy bathrobe and enjoy a few moments of silence. Begin and end each day with 5 minutes of something you want to do.


AVOID EXPLOSIVE FAMILY TOPICS. Redirect if they come up.


DO YOUR BEST. Everything will not go as planned and that is okay! Holiday mishaps can be the source of cherished memories and stories to tell at future holiday gatherings.





Local Hikes and Nature Trails to Explore with Kids By Sarah Carnahan

Want to get outside with your family and connect with nature? Hikes and nature trails are great ways to do just that! See birds and wildlife, hear the rustle of the trees in the wind, and feel sunshine on your face as you reconnect with yourself and your family without venturing far from home. Here are five local trails and paths to begin your adventure!

runs along the creek. Cross a stream that can only be crossed by steppingstones—jump from stone to stone and be prepared to carry the littles over. Lake Shawnee - 3137 SE 29th St, Topeka, KS 66605 Lake Shawnee has about everything one could want to do outside. A paved walking and biking path circles 6.6 miles around the lake. If planning to walk the whole path, remember to plan plenty of time and bring plenty of water. There are many places to rest along the way including three playgrounds, the Ted Ensley Gardens, and various picnic shelters. During the summer, plan your route to end at the new Adventure Cove where paddle boats, canoes, water trikes, and a beach await your enjoyment.

Kaw River State Park/Cedar Crest/MacLennen Park - 300 SW Wanamaker Rd, Topeka, KS 66615 Located in Southwest Topeka, this is a great place to let kids expend some excess energy. There are several trails which vary in difficulty. For the little ones, take the gravel path around the grasslands. This will take you by the fishing ponds and the Governor’s Mansion. Talk with them about the different insects and creatures they see. For bigger kids or more adventurous littles, consider exploring one of the trails through the woods.

Landon Nature Trail - 1515 SE Monroe St, Topeka, KS 66612

Shawnee North Community Park - 300 NE 43rd Street, Topeka, KS 66617 This park is perfect when you have limited time and a need for fresh air. There is a paved walking path that loops around the softball and soccer fields and the playground. The playground has swings and slides, a perfect place to stop and relax while the kids play. There is also a nature trail that

At 18.4 miles this trail is not for the faint of the heart! The 4.5 miles within Topeka’s city limits are paved, the rest of the trail is crushed stone. Shaded and quiet, you easily forget that you are in the middle of the city. It is a long trail and unless you have very energetic kids, doing the entire trail might be ambitious. However, the trailhead starts at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, so plan a visit there and enjoy a nice picnic and walk after. Konza Prairie - 100 Konza Prairie Lane, Manhattan, KS 66502 About an hour drive from Topeka, this is a beautiful day adventure for the whole family. Konza Prairie is an active biological station maintained by K-State for long-term research. With three trails to choose them, you will go through wooded areas, cross a creek, and see amazing views of the Flint Hills. Leave your pets at home, as most of the area is dedicated to prairie conversation and research; anything our furry friends may leave behind can disrupt the ecosystem of the prairie. While you are in Manhattan stop by the Flint Hills Discovery Center to learn more about Kansas’ geological treasures.

Above and Above Right: JLT Member Laura Vaughn’s children, Nolan and Callie, love to explore the outdoors. Photos taken by Emma Highfill. 46

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