Archive for Thursday, September 15, 2005

Baldwin hurricane relief effort gains steam

September 15, 2005

Although it's not sure what will come from local efforts, fund raising for Baldwin City's answer to the suffering brought by Hurricane Katrina are well under way.

The second of two community meetings to discuss what to do was Thursday on the Baker campus. It was led by Ken and Diane Wagner and there were a wealth of ideas and options offered.

A name was chosen -- Baldwin City Hurricane Relief Fund -- and the first official fund-raising effort was Saturday morning in the intersection of Sixth and Ames street where volunteers were posted to accept cash donations. That effort netted $1,005 in just three hours. A similar effort downtown during the Farmer's Market brought in several hundred dollars.

"I always knew that the community had a good heart, but what I've seen over the last weeks has been fabulous," Ken Wagner said to open Thursday's meeting. "We don't have to be a Kansas City or Dallas to make an impact.

"We started contacting people in the community to see what they wanted to do for people who have basically lost everything," said Wagner. "The response has been tremendous. I am proud to be a member of this community."

The community's efforts aren't going unnoticed, either. Diane Wagner has been in constant contact with Julie Pohl, the disaster coordinator for the Kansas East Conference of the United Methodist Church. Pohl has been impressed.

"I just wanted you to know that I am so proud to be a small part of what you all are doing," Pohl said in an e-mail to D. Wagner. "It is always amazing how much small towns can accomplish when they need to (larger towns should take a lesson). I keep your group in my prayers."

D. Wagner read the quote to the crowd of around 60 at Thursday's meeting.

"She said we're the only small community in the state that is doing this," said D. Wagner. "I feel really great about what we're doing.

"I just received an e-mail from Julie Pohl," she said in a widely-distributed e-mail Tuesday. "She still feels like there is a good chance we will be getting a family or two coming to Baldwin City. She urges us to be patient because it may still take some time. Once again she thanks the community of Baldwin for its support and assures us she is working on it."

That's the latest on the possibility of families coming here. It's doubtful that it will happen anytime soon, but the efforts are underway if it happens. K. Wagner said there were offers for three residences for displaced families. A van has also been donated for transportation. The list goes on and on.

There were also lists for everyone to sign up on at Thursday's meetings. They ranged from housing arrangements, employment, fund-raising, housewares, family mentoring, school supplies, etc. K. Wagner brought a laugh as he explained the lists which were circulating through the crowd.

"One thing I told Diane was we weren't going to create a bureaucracy and we've got 13 sign-up sheets," he said.

The process is well under way to coordinate the efforts for each category to provide relief. Another decision that came from Thursday's meeting was establishing a non-profit foundation and a board of directors to run it. The board consists of K. Wagner, State Rep. Tom Holland, Robin Bayer, Tony Brown, Pam Morrison and Kathy Gerstner. They will meet soon to start the decision making process. Also, Bayer is handling the effort to file the paperwork for 501 © 3 designation for the non-profit status.

Blaine Cone will be keeping the foundation's financial records. She will also be attending the board meetings as a representative of the school district. An account has also been set up at Baldwin State Bank for the donations. Other volunteers heading up different areas include Martha Wright, Leigh Anne Bathke, Jennifer Hayes and Karen Jacks has created the foundation's logo.

As for the first fund-raiser, the "boot drop" format used by the Baldwin City Fire Department to get cash donations at the intersection of Ames and Sixth streets was once again employed Saturday for three hours. Fire Chief Allen Craig, fireman Tim DeMott and volunteer Mary Pippen worked the area and came up with the $1,005.

Baldwin City's response to Katrina isn't limited to the newly formed foundation. All schools in the Baldwin district have been taking donations and the money continues to swell. It will all be put together next week to see what the total is.

Baker University has been at the forefront of the efforts, too. Collection of cleaning supplies and personal hygiene packages continues in the basement of Osborne Chapel. Those items are also scheduled to be sent south sometime next week, according to Baker spokesman Steve Rottinghaus.

There's also a possibility that college students who attended schools in the hurricane-ravaged areas could be coming to Baker. The university has also offered to help feed any families who might be relocated to Baldwin City.

"We will be offering food in the cafeteria for them when it's open," said Annette Galluzzi, vice president of marketing who represented Baker at Thursday's meeting.

Other churches and organizations are also working on relief efforts. A fund-raising dinner is in the works at one church for next week, but details weren't available at press time. Check the Signal's Web site at for updates. Bayer is also working on a Web site for the foundation and it will be linked to the Signal's site.

While all the work is underway, it's a wait and see game on whether a family or families will be relocated to Baldwin. D. Wagner wants to be ready if that happens.

"It could be a week, it could be two week, but this is crazy stuff and they could be here tomorrow," she said.

In the meantime, anyone wanting to donate money can send checks made out to Baldwin City Hurricane Relief Fund. For now, those can be sent to Wagner at 501 Lawrence St., Baldwin City, KS, 66006. Donations can also be made directly at the Baldwin State Bank, but for tax purposes the recommended option is to send them to the Wagners so they can keep track of donations until the foundation is in place.

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