HUMBOLDT — Joe Works’ philanthropy was recognized Tuesday by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City with its Healthy Allen Award.
A $5,000 grant was attached. Works designated the money to benefit Hope Unlimited, an Iola-based nonprofit that provides support to victims of family violence and sexual assault throughout the area. It has had a 24-hour-a-day presence since 1984.
Steve Roling, president and CEO of the Kansas City foundation, made the presentation. Humboldt community leaders, as well as members of Thrive Allen County and HCF applauded the selection of Works.
Eileen Robertson, a Humboldt community advocate, was among those who nominated Works for the recognition.
“The easiest thing to do was just tell the truth” she said about Works’ many efforts to make Humboldt a better place to live. “Joe’s exemplary modeling of doing the right thing has raised the morale of our citizens, improved mental health of the community, and inspired Humboldt with renewed hope for a healthier, brighter future.”
Roling, noting that he once worked for Ewing Kauffman’s philanthropic foundation, said Works reminded him of the Kansas Citian, who used his fortune, made in pharmaceuticals, to benefit the city.
“‘This is the way to live your life,’ Mr. Kauffman used to say,” Roling recalled. “And that you should treat all with dignity and respect, as you would want to be treated.
“All of our nominees for the Healthy Allen Award (Works was one of 17) are exceptional and work every day to help those in their communities. However, there was one who embodied the spirit for which this award was developed — Joe Works,” Roling said.
Roling pointed out that Works “has dedicated countless hours to eliminating barriers to quality health for his employees at B&W Custom Truck Beds, for his town of Humboldt and for all of Allen County.”
He cited things Works has done:
— Creation of a child care center for employees of B&W and the community at large. The Growing Place offers exercise opportunities, good nutrition and lifestyle programs. Works explained that the center served 60 children at the start, but had outgrown its original quarters — a 50 percent expansion is under way — and had taken advantage of space at Humboldt’s Christian Church. Also, an after-school program operates at the Methodist Church.
— Construction of a baseball park and an adjacent playground in the Sweatt Park complex, through donations of materials and labor. Works said winter weather was hard on grass and that it was being reseeded. Also, additional parking areas are being constructed and the park is getting last-minute attention as the ball seasons nears.
— B&W employees roofed the shelter houses at Camp Hunter, built horseshoe pits at Cannon Park and cleared land at the Neosho River Park to make possible construction of a handicapped-accessible platform for fishing. Works also saw to it that 40 trees, with trunks up to six inches in diameter, were planted.
— During the economic slowdown last year and into winter, Works dispatched B&W employees to work on city and church projects throughout Humboldt, as well as some elsewhere in the county. Those projects kept employees on the clock, when many industries would have opted for layoffs. The community assistance was recognized on national television.
At the plant, a wellness program was installed last year and during 2009, employees lost 600 pounds and have lost another 500 pounds through the first four months of this year. The plant has been smoke-free since November.
“The program also made our employees realize that they have some health risks, which they are working to correct,” said Sally Manbeck, Works’ assistant.
THE HEALTH CARE Foundation of Greater Kansas City entourage was in Allen County all of Tuesday.
Roling and others saw the playground constructed at Elsmore, met with Thrive officials and Allen County and Iola commissioners and visited the Elm Creek Community Garden, in addition to gathering at B&W to recognize Works. The foundation also has helped fund SAFE BASE, Iola’s after-school program, Hope Unlimited and southeast Kansas mental and physical health departments.
Allen County groups have sought 29 grants from the foundation since 2005. Of those, 13 have been funded, four are pending and 12 were denied. Total award to date for Allen County has been $900,000, a remarkable amount, Roling said, considering that Allen County’s population represents 1 percent of people living in the six counties served. Others are Wyandotte and Johnson in Kansas and three in the metropolitan area of Kansas City, Mo.
The foundation began with $400 million from the sale of Health Midwest hospitals, including Allen County Hospital, to Hospital Corporation of America in 2002. Each year 5 percent of assets are made available for grants and “our goal is to give as much as we possibly can,” Roling said, through leadership, advocacy and resources to those dealing with health needs of the unserved and underserved.
He said Thrive had been instrumental in encouraging local groups to seek advantage through the foundation.
“The first three years we had two or three grants applications a year from Allen County,” he said. “Last year we had seven and already this year we have had seven.”
Iolan Gena Clounch is Allen County’s representative on the foundation board.