The Kansas Rural Communities Foundation was formed in 2006 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable corporation with a mission to enrich the quality of life in all Kansas communities. KRCF Director Kally McConkey says former Wamego Telecommunications employee Mike Rice and former Pottawatomie County Economic Development Director Bob Cole were two of the individuals instrumental in the establishment of the Foundation when it was determined “there was a need for a foundation to serve a broader area than just Wamego.” With charitable assets currently reaching nearly $2 million, she says the KRCF has over 75 funds primarily in 16 counties in northeast Kansas, although it has served rural communities throughout the state including Ellis and Norton. The Foundation exists to help concerned individuals mobilize charitable giving to support the betterment of Kansas communities and organizations, according to its website; it assists many rural Kansas communities in providing or continuing essential services, such as health care, telecommunications, education, environmental protection, libraries, community centers, parks and recreation, and scholarships. “We’re here to serve the whole state,” McConkey adds.
The following is the first in a series of stories about funds held at the Kansas Rural Communities Foundation. For more information, please contact Kally McConkey, Executive Director, at 785-456-8444 or [email protected].
Wamego Telecommunications, Inc. Fund
When Paxico, Kan., population 213, needs additional funding for its annual Blues Festival that brings thousands of people into the community to enjoy world class music, food, and small-town hospitality, a grant is requested from the Wamego Telecommunications, Inc. (WTC) Donor-Advised Fund at the Kansas Rural Communities Foundation in Wamego, because WTC is committed to helping improve the small communities which it services.
Wamego Telecommunications, which began providing telephone service in 1912 and currently offers the latest phone, cable and internet technology to Alma, Belvue, Flush, Louisville, Paxico, St. George, St. Marys, Wabaunsee and Wamego, was one of the first funds established in the Kansas Rural Communities Foundation (KRCF), a nonprofit corporation through which individuals, families, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and private foundations create funds and make gifts to help their hometowns thrive.
Wamego Telecommunications created a substantial perpetual endowed fund, the largest in the Foundation, to benefit people throughout its entire service area. In an endowed fund, the money is invested and only the earnings are distributed each year. The fund also is donor-advised, allowing WTC to choose which organizations receive grants from the available monies.
The WTC board directs how the funds are granted out each year and non-profits must submit grant applications. Wamego Telecommunications’ Suzanne Hemphill serves as a KRCF board member and says the projects the WTC donor-advised fund supports are varied, from a veterans’ memorial in a public park to a hospital expansion campaign to a project providing street lighting in a small town.
“We really try to support all the major causes, whatever is important to the community at the time; we try to get involved with and speak with citizens in the communities we serve,” Hemphill says, adding WTC also considers it important to give back to the educational efforts of youth in each community it serves and every year five scholarships are given to high school seniors throughout the area.
Some of the other entities supported by WTC include the Columbian Theatre in Wamego, the Flint Hills Shakespeare Festival in St. Marys, the Wamego High School Honor Flight, the Pottawatomie County Humane Society, the St. George Recreation Commission, the Advance Pottawatomie County economic development campaign, the Wamego Historical Society, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Wabaunsee and Pottawatomie Counties, the Wamego Public Library, the Community Health Ministry, the Wamego Recreation Department, and community food banks. Disbursements range from $500 to $25,000.
These are a sample of the things WTC does with the grant money; they help support health and education and enhancement of life for people in the communities they serve.