Archive for Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Vaughn-Trent’s 25 years quite a feat

March 4, 2014

For 25 years Vaughn-Trent Community Services has been serving the needs of those less fortunate in the Bonner Springs-Edwardsville school district. What I believe to be the most vital factor is that it is operated with part-time employees and volunteers. In addition, the agency receives no federal or state money and is funded primarily by private contributions, other than a United Way grant to help those who need utility assistance.

I think residents should be extremely proud of the agency. It typifies the giving and concerned spirit of local residents. The Marion Vaughn Christmas Fund dates back to 1965, and helping less fortunate residents at Christmas is still a major project. The agency is a combination of the Western Wyandotte Action Group (WWAG) and the Christmas fund. The merger followed four months of discussions.

Vaughn-Trent was formed by local residents after an intense and angry fight with the Wyandotte County Economic Opportunity Foundation. In short, WWAG wanted all control of local assistance to come through KCK. Local residents wanted to control the local agency to make sure services were provided locally.

The merger of the two agencies was a great idea which provided additional and improved local services to the needy. Representatives of the two boards met several times, and the bylaws were prepared by attorney Charles Thomas and were adopted at a joint meeting in early March 1989. The name was selected to honor former Bonner Springs’ Mayor Marion Vaughn and former Edwardsville Mayor Lindy Trent.

Al Ramirez was first chairman. Other officers were: Ken Tewell, vice chairperson; Sue Stinnett, secretary; and Muriel Jared, treasurer. I had the honor of being on the first board representing the Chamber of Commerce. I’m still there representing the Chamber. Chuck McQuisten was the first manager. Debbie Lohmann is now the director, replacing Carol Geary, who retired. Last year the agency lost a dedicated supporter when Al Stuchlik died.

Vaughn-Trent has literally helped thousands of persons in the past quarter century. Vaughn-Trent operates a food pantry depending on local donations and, to my knowledge, has never run out of food. The agency provides utility assistance to persons in an attempt to prevent shutoffs. They have provided aid to transients who are passing through town. Over the years, Vaughn-Trent has worked closely with both police departments to help abused spouses and runaway children. The agency also works with groups to provide school supplies and give emergency aid to those who have had a house fire or other disaster.

The agency conducts an annual financial drive in the late fall and also seeks food for the nearly 250 baskets prepared by volunteers at Christmas. Vaughn-Trent operates the Hidden Treasurers Community Thrift Store on Oak Street. All profits from the store go to support the agency. The Rotary Club conducts a fund-raising auction each year, and the Vaughn-Trent board sponsors an ice cream social at one of the summer city band concerts.

Last year, the food pantry served 664 persons or 254 households with 12,585 pounds of food. Utility assistance was given to 149 households amounting to $13,426.68. The previous year 178 households received $18,336.78 in utility assistance. The agency is always expanding services and is co-sponsoring a series of programs designed to help persons seeking jobs.

Currently, Doug Clements is chairperson of the board and Jeannine Gallagher, long-time leader of the Christmas basket project, is vice-chairperson. Tillie LaPlante is treasurer and Jane Hanks is secretary. Other board members are Josh Brooks, Ray Cox, Peter Eggebrecht, Charles Grant, Mayzell Hickmon, Jonetta Mellot, Richard Tombs and myself.

The community can be very proud of Vaughn-Trent. It is a local group that works to solve local needs for the past 25 years and continues to modernize to meet changing issues.

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