River of Refuge newsletter, June 2023

ROR Clears Hurdle in Pursuit of Mental Health Funding

This file photo from Facebook, featuring donated art for our community room, reminds us of how mental health counseling for ROR families could also brighten their lives.

ABOVE: This file photo from Facebook, featuring donated art for our community room, reminds us of how mental health counseling for ROR families could also brighten their lives.

The drive to work part-time at McDonald’s is an excellent attribute for a teen, but we advised against it for a young lady who was living with us recently. She was part of a six-person family headed by a single mom, and the girl needed to focus on bringing up her barely passing grades.

And you know what? That’s exactly what the 15-year-old student did once River of Refuge provided her needed stability. With A’s and B’s, she got that job as the family stayed with us for more than six months.

This story came to mind as we worked on our application for 2024 grant funding through the Jackson County Children’s Services Fund (CSF). This is an exciting opportunity for us — we have not always made it through the first cut as we did this year — because we desperately want the funding to provide mental health counseling for the kids who live with us as their parents work the program.

Another submission for the grant is due this week, and we are crossing our fingers that we make it through to the next round, which entails an in-person presentation to CSF staff later this year. Award announcements are scheduled for October.

The 15-year-old’s turnaround reminded us that personal triumphs are critical measures of our success. Her story came to mind as we contemplated ways that we would measure progress should we receive the CSF grant.

The experience with that 15-year-old also reinforced how transformative the CSF funding would be. Our plan is to use the grant to pay for approximately 72 hours of family and youth counseling provided on-site by clinical social work master’s students and licensed therapists monthly.

Even with her academic success, it was clear that the teen and her mom would benefit from mental health counseling. But as is often the case, the waiting list at community providers was many months long.

It’s a tribute to the dedication of our staff that one of our case managers dug into her own pocket to pay for reduced-rate counseling through a private practitioner she knows. Unfortunately, the mom was not on board with the plan, and that meant the teen did not have a ride to the counseling sessions.

That is why the on-site counseling we would offer through the CSF funding would be so beneficial to our families. There would be no more transportation issues or long waits for services.

A Q&A With Our New Numbers Guy

Timmy Hensel (left) and Clark PickettWe’d like to introduce you to Clark Pickett, our new bookkeeper. He has settled in after joining us in February. Clark brings to River of Refuge years of finance experience, and we’re excited to have him on our small team. He is pictured, at right, with our former bookkeeper, Timmy Hensel. We will miss Timmy in this capacity, but we know he’s staying involved with ROR in other ways. We appreciate Timmy and his years of service, wisdom, and history.

Below is the Q&A we conducted with Clark via email:

What is your professional background e.g. positions you held prior to joining ROR?

I spent more than 30 in finance in various industries, including three years in nonprofit, 20 years in insurance, and 10 years in manufacturing, publishing, and warehouse/distribution.

Please provide information about your family that you would be willing to share e.g. spouse, kids, etc.

Married with two children, each married and living near the East Coast. Six grandchildren, 3 years to 12 years old.

Where were you born and raised?

Dairy and grain farm at Rose Hill, near Wichita, Kansas.

What brought you to the Kansas City area?

To attend graduate school.

What is it that interested you in becoming the bookkeeper at ROR?

It is a part-time position that lets me keep my hand in accounting at an organization supported by many people at my church since ROR’s founding.

What would you like to achieve in the position?

Accuracy, efficiency, and good relationships while doing that.

What do you like most about the mission of ROR and the services it provides?

It helps people help themselves.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Wonder, and read about, who will be on the Chiefs team next season.

Fun in the Garden

Everything is coming up roses in our community garden! Well, not exactly. Our beds have produced the first crop of the year, and as you can see from the photos below, our families are .. uh .. digging the results. As of this week, we have harvested 212 pounds of herbs and vegetables, including parsley, cilantro, turnips, and garlic along with several varieties of lettuce and onions.

From the Director

Like many organizations, we had to get creative when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Our fundraising solution was to initiate a family-oriented, pet-friendly outdoor event at Boulevard Drive-In Theatre in Kansas City, Kansas. The idea proved to be a show-stopper! So we have continued it, with the latest version taking place on June 14.

This year’s movie was the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder, so we had a candy-themed evening. We are still calculating the income and the expenses, but we had a great night at the box office. The event will likely raise nearly $50,000.

Our event has not suffered the fate of many sequels. Attendance this year was the best yet, and many attendees were brand new to River of Refuge. The beautiful weather was a welcome change from last year’s event, which took place on the hottest day of the year.

The menu was delectable, as always.

Operation BBQ Relief provided the main course, Simply Frosted added desserts, and Touring Taps offered adult beverages. We also provided unlimited movie treats and popcorn.

Our apologies to any dieters in the crowd. Leaving hungry just wasn’t an option.

And you know what? Having Nigro Brothers as our charity auctioneer was almost like a show in and of itself. What a joy these guys are! We can’t thank them enough; their hard work resulted in higher revenue for terrific live-auction items and fund-a-need.

We also had the pleasure of hosting some of our families. None of them had been to a drive-in theatre, so what a treat for them!

We thank all our sponsors, donors, attendees, and volunteers who made this event possible.

If you could not make it to this event, don’t worry. We have a formal gala scheduled for Nov. 2 at the Grand Street Cafe on the Country Club Plaza. Watch our Facebook page for more details as the event gets closer.

Until Next Time,
Pamela Seymour, Executive Director