Banquet illustrates a ‘thriving’ county



November 21, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Perhaps it takes an outsider to see the difference Thrive Allen County has made to the area.
“Of all the counties we serve, Allen County is unique,” said Brenda Sharpe, CEO of the REACH Healthcare Foundation, Kansas City, Kan.
“You have an energized population that is really trying to make a difference in the lives of the underserved,” she said. “There is something different happening in Allen County from everyone across the state.”
Sharpe spoke at Friday night’s Thrive Allen County annual meeting.
The REACH foundation gives about $5 million in grants to six counties between Kansas and Missouri each year. Local beneficiaries over the past several  years include Hope Unlimited, the Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center, Thrive Allen County, SAFE BASE and TFI Family Services.
Sharpe credited Thrive Allen County as the impetus for bringing such funds to the area.
Its efforts in combating poverty and poor health outcomes ring a bell with Sharpe, who hails from the western Kansas town of Dighton, population 1,300, which is “dying on the vine,” she said.
The closing of its elementary schools is the death knell for her hometown. Meanwhile, nearby Scott City, which is building a new high school and hospital, is garnering population from its outlying districts.
REACH recently gave $62,000 to Thrive for its daily operations.
“We believe in you,” she said. “Healthy lifestyles do lead to a thriving community.”

SEN. JEFF KING, echoed Sharpe’s praise for Thrive, saying it is the model for “Together We Succeed,” the economic summit held Thursday which drew a large crowd from 17 counties to Iola.
“Thrive has shown that what we want to do in a large region has already worked in Allen County,” King said. “We want to work together to better the lives in southeast Kansas.”

JUST SHY of 300 people gathered for the fourth annual dinner at parish hall of St. John’s Catholic Church.
The night’s theme, “Celebrate Success,” recognized those who have contributed to Thrive’s growing influence across the county.
“We’ve affected more than 2,000 people,” said David Toland, executive director of Thrive.
That reach has made a $2.5 million economic impact on the area through all programs funded by various foundations.
Besides the REACH Foundation, Thrive also receives funding through the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Kansas Health Institute and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, as well as private donations and revenue earned from participation in programs.
Its budget this year is $292,186 — which actually is down $100,000 — Toland said, due to a continued weak 
economy, which affects foundations’ investments.
“It’s been a year of tightening our belt,” Toland said, which has led to intensified fundraising efforts, including a “Thriver” program in which fans can become financial “friends” with their gifts.
On a broader scale, Thrive also is backing the creation of the Allen County Community Foundation in which donations will create a pool of money to fund area nonprofits such as Hope Unlimited, SAFE BASE, the Bowlus Fine Arts Center and Thrive.
“We’re waiting on word from the Kansas Health Institute whether a $500,000 grant will help us kickstart this effort,” Toland said.
Leaving the community foundation as the beneficiary in one’s will is crucial to its funding, Sharpe said. REACH also has donated $25,000 toward seed money for the community foundation.

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