Charitable, community programs for those in need are nothing new to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. Now, the nonprofit group is attempting to start a new program designed to help people learn about services available to them in Leavenworth.
Here, Sister Vickie Perkins discusses new and existing programs, local needs, and praises the community for its support.
1. Why did Sisters of Charity decide to launch a new program to help people navigate the multiple systems that provide help and services to Leavenworth residents in need?
"We gather as a community every six years to set the direction for the next six years. When we met in 2010, the idea of looking at the needs in Leavenworth came up over and over.
"So, a task force was formed to do a needs assessment and then see where that led us. As we talked to agencies and to people living in poverty, it was clear that there are a number of services provided, but often people didn't know what the services were, where they needed to go, or what they needed to bring with them.
"Agencies often said it would be very helpful if the application was filled out before they came. After talking with all of these groups, it seemed clear that some type of clearinghouse was needed to help people navigate the various systems."
2. The Sisters and Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Associates have been surveying the needs of local residents for several years. What have been some of the findings?
"One of the greatest needs is in transportation. Since there is no public transportation, people who do not have a car have to walk or talk someone they know into taking them for very basic services, such as to the grocery store.
"That is why we will provide transportation to the store several times a week from Welcome Central, once we open Jan. 27. Jobs are a big issue, so we hope to try to assist with this in some way.
"Access to services is another issue and that will be one of the main things we will address at Welcome Central."
3. Can you tell us about the last project established, Cristo Rey?
"Cristo Rey is a national system of schools that serve only low-income students. The school goes out to the business community to get employers to hire a team of students for entry level jobs.
"The business pays the school for the job and that helps cover the cost of educating the student. Besides a college prep education, the students experience on-the-job education — learning job skills, job etiquette, how to dress professionally, time management, etc.
"These skills are transferable, so they become very helpful in college. Cristo Rey Kansas City was the 13th Cristo Rey School opened. There are now 26.
Page 2 of 2 - "Every graduate of Cristo Rey Kansas City has been accepted into college."
4. Is the local community helpful to the programs introduced by the Sisters?
"I have been amazed at how open and how incredibly helpful the local community has been.
"It is wonderful to see what so many people are doing here in Leavenworth and how willing they are to reach out to those in need.
"We certainly couldn't do this on our own. It gives me courage to try things when I watch what others are doing here in Leavenworth. In October, we invited people from agencies and churches to a meeting and we had 50-60 attend.
"The response to what we wanted to do was very encouraging."
5. How can community members help you the most in your new endeavor?
"What we need most are volunteers — to drive, to welcome people, to help fill out applications, to listen, to be with people, etc.
"This won't work without that."
— Rimsie McConiga