Archive for Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Shawnee Community Services fund-raiser enters the next phase

December 28, 2005

The small building at 11110 W. 67th St. is more than cramped.

When Shawnee Community Services Center wrapped Christmas gifts for the needy this year, the presents and giftwrap had to be shoved in the office on top of files. Donations have to be taken to warehouse space in Lenexa to be sorted, before coming back to the center for the needy.

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The warehouse has to be used to store the desks for an education program that the center doesn't have the space to implement, as well as lights that have been donated for a new building. It must hold the food the center gathers so that needy families can get essential foods, and 200 families can have a holiday dinner.

Useful items that have been donated sometimes go to waste; they must be thrown away because the center cannot afford to rent more space to store them. It spends $2,000 a month to rent out the warehouse space already.

"Anybody who's been here knows that we are desperate for space," said Evelyn VanKemseke, center director. "If we are going to continue to handle the gifts that people give us and do our resources efficiently, we have got to have the space."

But the center is continuing to move closer to expanding its facility and improving its services. VanKemseke said the center has its expansion plan set up in three phases to build a new, 15,000-square-foot facility, which was designed for free by architect Richard Bills.

"The plan is to help the less fortunate with a hand-up more efficiently," VanKemseke explains.

The first phase was to acquire property for a new building, a one-acre lot adjoining the center's current facility on the west, though it took five years to convince the property's owner to sell. To buy the property, the center gathered donations of $64 or more from all of its patrons over the last 15 years to get a $35,000 down payment.

VanKemseke said the minimum donation amount was inspired by the amount someone once told her it would take to build a new facility for the center: $640,000.

The center is now gathering $500 donations from 86 churches that regularly help the center; four of the churches have already sent in their donations.

More than 20 banks are participating, as well, and Gold Bank has already donated $2,000. Altogether, Van Kemseke expects these donations should add up to $120,000 for the property.

Owning the land will allow Shawnee Community Services to obtain a construction loan and move forward with the construction phase, hopefully in the early months of 2006. VanKemseke said that donations from other charitable organizations in the area should help pay back that loan.

The center also needs continued support in phase three, when it will move into the building and begin an endowment to acquire the money to make the organization self-sustaining.

So the center is asking the community at large for continued support. VanKemseke knows the help is out there: it has come through so many times before.

"There are so many wonderful volunteers in the community, and when they decide they like your vision, they're there to help," VanKemseke said.

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