As we look back at 2017 there is so much to be proud of in Allen County.
This was the year of ribbon cuttings. Velo+ bike shop opened in April, and 54 Fitness in Moran came to fruition. In May the LaHarpe Playground sprang to life. And in September, Thrive cut the ribbon on our newly renovated Kress building after the year and a half process of moving and construction. (If you have yet to see our newly renovated space, stop by and let us show you around!)
In February Thrive staff made multiple trips to Topeka to speak at rallies for expanding Medicaid and to testify in front of the House and Senate Committees. The KanCare Expansion Bill was passed by both the House and the Senate, only to be vetoed by Governor Brownback. The House was not able to override the veto, but our work to expand KanCare continues.
The Downtown Iola Summit was held in February, where more than 120 people gathered to have a positive, goal-oriented discussion about growing downtown Iola. Committees were formed to keep the energy from the Summit moving. Since then work has been done to add plants to the square, the hydrants have been given a new coat of paint, and the downtown merchants have come together to create more events around the square to drive traffic to their stores.
In May, Thrive rolled out the Allen County Bike Share program. What started with 10 bikes in two locations in Iola has grown to 25 bikes in 6 locations throughout Allen County. These bikes have been used by people to get to work, the bank, doctors appointments, tour trails and even the emergency room at the hospital. This program has been a resounding success and we will continue to grow the bike share program in 2018.
In June Thrive was awarded the Kansas Department of Commerce’s 2017 Business Appreciation Month Award of Merit by Barbara Anderson on behalf of the governor. Iola was chosen as Kansas Trail Town of the Year in July for our ever-growing trail system that includes Lehigh Portland Trails and the Southwind Rail Trail.
The Marmaton Market kicked off their member drive in July with the event: God, Country, Groceries. The Marmaton Market is working to convert Moran’s current grocery store, Stub’s Market, into a Co-op, which makes it member-owned by the community. To date they have just under 100 members and are making great progress to save their grocery store.
In May we had a team of 5 members representing the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) visit Allen County, as we were one of 11 finalists for the RWJF Culture of Health Prize. We were able to introduce the RWJF team to community members throughout the county over a two day period. On September 19 we were joined by the CEO of the RWJF, Dr. Richard Besser, who announced that Allen County was one of 8 RWJF Culture of Health Prize winners in the nation! Dr. Besser, along with Senator Jerry Moran and the CEO’s of the Healthcare Foundation of Greater Kansas City, REACH Healthcare Foundation, Kansas Health Foundation, Sunflower Foundation, and the Kansas Health Institute were all in town for the celebration and community tour that followed..
October saw the first Opioid Summit held in Allen County. Thrive convened partners from across the county to discuss the Opioid problem and ways we as a community can work together to combat it. Thrive also hosted the Kansas Health Foundation Board of Directors in October, touring them around the county to show them what their investments have done to improve our community.
November was the beginning of the fifth year of Open Enrollment for health insurance. Thrive had 6 Navigators to assist community members in understanding and signing up for insurance plans. Our Navigators had nearly 350 appointments between November 1 and December 15, enrolling 175 people.
On November 17, Thrive held our 10th Annual Awards Banquet with a record 550 guests in attendance. We had a wonderful night of celebrating the growth of our organization over ten years, the accomplishments of the past year and the hope we have for Allen County in future years.
December saw the beginning phase of construction of the Washington Ave. pedestrian bridge which will connect downtown Iola to the Lehigh Portland Trails. December is also the end of construction for Iola’s new grocery store, G&W Foods, which will open on January 5, 2018. This keystone initiative of Thrive’s Economic Development began in 2013 and is the final step in the redevelopment of the Allen County Hospital site.
Thrive has been proud to have staff give presentations at conferences throughout Kansas and the United States this year including: the Partners for Smart Growth Conference in St. Louis, MO; the Rural Opportunity Conference in Junction City, KS; the International Trails Conference in Dayton, Ohio; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize Celebration in Princeton, NJ; the Kansas Public Health Association Conference in Manhattan, KS; and the Massachusetts Trail Conference in Leominster, MA, among many others.
We definitely had a full year, and are very proud of all the accomplishments made in Allen County. Our work continues, and we look forward to 2018 and all the progress, growth, successes, stories and community partnerships it will bring.