The night began bold, only to gain strength by program’s end.
“In 10 years, Allen County will be the place you want to live in Kansas, if you don’t want to be in a big city,” proclaimed David Toland.
Since 2008, Toland has set the bar high as executive director of Thrive Allen County.
The challenge was enthusiastically embraced by the 275 attending Friday night’s sixth annual meeting of Thrive at St. John’s Parish Hall.
The facts bear up Toland’s optimism. Recent developments encouraged by Thrive include:
In three years, the county’s overall health ranking has moved up 8 points;
Smoking rates are down 2 percent;
There’s a 30 percent reduction of oral decay in Allen County children;
Venues for exercise and recreation have been expanded, most notably with the completion of the Iola-to-Humboldt Southwind trail;
More people are investing in the future of Allen County through its new community foundation;
The county is seeing a slight bump in new jobs;
The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas has expanded its presence in Allen County, adding medical care for the uninsured and indigent; and
The new Allen County Regional Hospital is completed.
Thrive itself has expanded, going from 1.5 positions – Toland and Humboldt’s Sunny Shreeve – to 4.5 positions, plus two part-time volunteers.
“As an organization – and I say this every year – we’ve never been stronger,” Toland said.
Dr. Brian Wolfe, chairman of the board of Thrive, said the night was to “celebrate Thrive Allen County as a partner in encouraging our county to be the best it can be.
“We are hearing from people outside and inside the county that there is a palpable energy happening here. You in this room are responsible for that energy and excitement.”
Wolfe noted that in addition to a focus on health, wellness and education, Thrive has branched out to include economic development and the battle against poverty as its mission.
“We recognize that economic development and issues of poverty go hand in hand. To that end, we are partnering with Allen County, City of Iola and Iola Industries, Inc., on economic development,” Wolfe said.
In regards to poverty, Thrive sponsors the Circles Out of Poverty program under the direction of Georgia Masterson, and the Rural Health Initiative. The latter works with the low-income, including the development of a network among healthcare providers and greater accessibility to health insurance for all citizens.
THE ANNUAL banquet also recognizes area citizens who have significantly contributed to their communities.
Joe Works, Humboldt, was given the night’s biggest honor for community excellence, recognizing his many endeavors to better not only Humboldt but Allen County as a whole.
“His actions reflect his appreciation for the importance of sticking together, especially when we live in a county of only 13,000 people,” said Alan Weber, a Thrive board member, in presenting Works the prestigious award.
“Joe and his wife, Janie, have changed Allen County in ways that positively impact all of us here tonight,” Weber said.
Works was instrumental in helping build the Southwind Rail Trail from Humboldt to Iola, a Thrive project.
As an entrepreneur, Works’ B&W Trailer Hitches is now the second largest private employer in Allen County.
As a boss, Works “treats his employees as family, and his dedication to his customers is unquestioned,” Weber said.
Works also serves on Humboldt’s board of education and has been a tireless champion of small town life.
He and wife Janie also began a preschool and daycare, the Growing Place, which “has become an important fixture in the educational landscape of the county as well as being a progressive employer. And their studio, Works of Art, has changed the landscape of downtown Humboldt, planting seeds that have the potential to benefit Humboldt in ways that we can only imagine,” Weber said.
JANE TWEEDY, a part-time Allen Countian, was named the Volunteer of the Year because of her tireless efforts toward her newly adopted cause.
“Jane came into our lives with a smile, a twinkle in her eye, and a burning desire to get things done,” said Tosca Harris, Thrive board member. “She has helped us with event registrations, taking notes, answering phones, and yes, clearing brush for months on the Southwind Trail. Though currently only a part-time resident of Allen County, this person nevertheless is a whirlwind of positivity that will take on any job and get it done. She believes in the spirit of Thrive Allen County, and has consistently demonstrated this through her willingness to help us make good things happen.”
Volunteers are a main staple of Thrive’s success, Harris said. This year, volunteers recorded 5,000 hours of service, up from 3,000 compared to last year at this time.