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Rural Voices Youth Contest 2022-2023 Scholarship Winners Announced

image of 2022-2023 Rural Voices Youth Contest theme and logoCongratulations to the 2022-2023 Rural Voices Youth Contest winners!

About the Contest

The NCRPC sponsors the Rural Voices Youth Contest each year to engage high school seniors in North Central Kansas in thoughtful reflection on rural Kansas and to promote a discussion among citizens based on their insights. The 2022-2023 theme was “Rural Kansas…Working Together.”

Rural Kansas: Cooperation and Dedication

By Jane Letourneau

“What’s your load of limestone?” This seemingly odd, yet relevant question for the parishioners of St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish, has been asked over this past year because of a restoration project that began in 2022. A little over one hundred years ago, the same church in the small, rural community of Beloit went through a similar process; but the parishioners had to hand-quarry limestone to build it. Since the beginning of the recent restoration, parishioners of the rural community have come together and are asking themselves and each other what their contribution, whether a financial gift or one of physical labor, will be.

In the year 1900, construction began in the little town of Beloit to build a better, more beautiful Catholic church. Restoration efforts were led by Monsignor Hietz, and his lofty dreams may have seemed like outlandish tales to some. With determination, his dreams were eventually
fulfilled, but it was not by his own drive and determination. The whole community of St. John’s Catholic Church put their heads together, and got to work. It was no easy task as the church was built with limestone that was quarried from nearby farmland. “ Tools and equipment in the early 1900s were primitive. Imagine quarrying thousands of loads of stone with hand tools and hauling stone and sand in horse-drawn wagons over trails and dirt roads” (Duskie). As was stated in an article about the project, “Anton Eilert assisted in the construction by hauling rock from a quarry eight miles northeast of Beloit. He hauled not only the thirty loads, stipulated by the pastor, but, because of his age, he was unable to quarry rock, so he compensated for this by hauling eighty loads”(Duskie). In the year 1904, the massive church was finished. Sacrifice, grit, and teamwork were major influencers and direct contributors to the success of Monsignor Heitz’s lofty dreams. Without the strong community of Beloit working together, it would have been impossible.

Fast forward nearly 119 years later, and a peaceful Sunday afternoon in Beloit was disturbed by the wailing of fire truck sirens. The upstairs church library was on fire, and a curious and anxious crowd had gathered in the parking lot across the street. Thankfully, the fire had been discovered before spreading to the rest of the church, but the damage had been done. Smoke had filled the space, and the stairs leading to the library and beautiful choir loft were charred. The emergency was, of course, unexpected and sudden. But it fueled a series of discoveries about the state of the more than one hundred-year-old church. And the question loomed: should the parish patch up the damage, or begin again and work together as their ancestors had years ago?

The decision was made to tackle complete restoration of the beautiful building rather than do a temporary patch-up job. Fundraising began, and a significant amount of money was needed for the project: three million dollars. But St. John’s parish community was ready for the challenge. Shae Johnson, the Communications Director for St. John’s Parish stated, “…when we started the campaign in May of 2022, we started with around $300,000 from the fire fund that rolled over into the restoration fund. With that in mind, we got to the 2 million mark in August of 2022, so it took 3 months to get there. It took 7 months to raise $2.9 million… from May 15 to December.” Working together was not only demonstrated in that of financial giving, but also physical labor. Needing a temporary location for the church, an old Dollar General store that had been out of business for several years was selected. Though it was not ideal, the space was large enough and it was decided to move all of the old church pews into it for seating. The job was completed in just one afternoon, and Shae Johnson again stated that, “Approximately 140 helped with the Dollar General move.” It has been inspiring and encouraging to watch the small parish community in Beloit, Kansas work together in such a way by their donations, physical labor, and campaigning efforts along the way.

This event is only a glimpse into the generosity and hard work of rural Kansans. As a whole, we are determined, strong, and ready to help each other in times of need. I have witnessed several instances where someone new has moved to my community, and a huge amount of help comes pouring in to make their transition from one place to another as pleasant as possible. Whether it be moving furniture or making meals, the generous support to those who are new in town is often overwhelming. Rural Kansans also are ready to help a neighbor with their work; especially when harvest is in full swing. With generous hearts and a willingness to serve, Kansans can be seen supporting one another in many instances, and welcoming one another with gracious attitudes.

My community of Beloit, and more specifically my parish community of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church has done an inspiring job of working together in the past year and a half. Without the love for our church and cooperation with one another that has occurred, the financial support and physical labor that has come pouring in would not have been possible. Rural Kansas was seen working together in the early 1900s when Monsignor Heitz decided to restore St. John’s church for the first time. The labor that has gone into our restoration looks different now than it did one hundred years ago. But it is obvious that Kansans are still working together in many inspiring ways as St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish works toward complete restoration. Not only our parish community, but all of rural Kansas can be seen helping one another when support is needed in instances such as helping a community member move in, and assisting a neighbor at harvest time. The restoration of St. John’s Church is only a glimpse into the ways that Kansas can be seen helping one another and building strong communities around cooperation and dedication.

Work Cited

Duskie, Rev. Monsignor John A., P.A., J.C.D. “Our Church A Mighty Fortress: The History of St. John the Baptist Parish, Beloit KS 1869-1982

Rural Kansas… Working Together

By Kady Toole

I wrote a book. In fact I have written and illustrated two children’s story books. As a self-published author for the last three years, I have been marketing and selling these books on my own, without the help of a traditional publisher. Currently I have sold over 2,000 books, and all but a couple hundred have been direct sales, not sales from online places like Amazon, or other online dealers. Although I’m not making millions, I am making enough to cover all my publishing expenses and put away some money for college. Overall, I consider this experience of creating and marketing children’s books a success. I want to share with you why I think this success has been possible: because of the support of my North Central Kansas community.

I wrote and illustrated my first book as a sophomore in high school in a project-based learning class. The encouragement I received from family and friends as soon as they saw my finished product motivated me to pursue publishing my book. The project was a high-school wide endeavor and finalists were chosen to present in front of the high school. Those finalists were featured in our local paper: The Washington County News. And that’s how it all started… Once the news got out, my book took off. I had people stop me in the grocery store, talk to me at ball games, catch me on the street when I was out walking my dog… All of them wanted to congratulate me and purchase my books.

Because of my books I have realized the beauty of living in a small community. We are a family. I am their native daughter. My success is their success. They talk about their neighbor, the girl from their school, their student, their friend’s daughter, the Kady Toole girl from their town, the girl from their county and even the girl from their state who wrote and illustrated the children’s books. They share my story with others and are proud of my accomplishments because I am “one of theirs.”

Let me share some specific stories of how my community has rallied around me in this process.

I have lived on the same street in Washington, KS since I was six years old. I have played on this street, shared cookies and treats, and visited with our neighbors all of those years. They have watched me grow up and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Down a few houses on my street lives my wonderful neighbor Patty and her husband. This 80-year-old fireball has been a pillar of our community for years. She is personally responsible for selling over 30 of my books. She has shared them with her daughter who jumped on the bandwagon and now shares books with her friends in her Arizona community. She’ll call or text me and say, “I need some more of your books.” Who needs a publishing house when there are Patty’s right next door?

Traci is our elementary school’s self-proclaimed “library lady.” She knows everyone, everywhere. Traci reads my book to her classes, keeps a plush doll of the dog in my book in the library, initiates asking the school board if I can sell my book at our Scholastic book fair, and tells people about me whenever she can. Because of Traci, I have my book in school libraries in Germany and all over Kansas. Because of Traci, I even ended up doing a school author visit at Hickok Elementary School and now over 40 kids in Ulysses – in the southwest corner of Kansas – own my book.

The stories aren’t just limited to people, local businesses have enthusiastically supported me as well. The Washington County Hospital purchased copies of my first book to put in their “new baby” baskets. The Friends of the Library club purchased books for prizes for the summer reading program. Styled by R, a local boutique, invited me to do my second book release in their shop downtown as it was a perfect location. The list could go on and on.

This community spirit of helping out one of their own goes beyond just my small town – it extends to my county and all of North Central Kansas. Marcy, the librarian from Marysville, KS – a slightly larger community just 20 minutes to the east, featured my book in the very first Story Walk presented by their library. Their local high school KAYS Club raised the funds to put in a Story Walk in the city’s park, and instead of choosing a classic book, they chose mine – because I am a local author that they wanted to support. What a blessing! And this blessing just kept on giving. Because of the Story Walk, I was asked to speak at the Marysville Rotary club and to give a presentation on creating and marketing my book. And because of that presentation, Blue Valley Technologies out of Home, KS – a tiny town just east of Marysville – chose my book to include in their Christmas Giving Tree baskets this year for over 100 families in the area.

I have visited over 20 public libraries, 6 schools, 6 day cares, 3 preschools, 7 area clubs, had 6 book signings, and even participated in a parade in the last two years. I have been in our local paper at least three times, been interviewed by local radio 5 times and been on the Topeka television station once. All because I am a local author and illustrator, and people are excited to share what is going on with my book. This is the beauty of our North Central Kansas community. They truly want to see me be successful.

Although big cities would have more people available to hear about and purchase my books, I do not believe that I would have experienced the success in those locations that I have had being a member of my small North Central Kansas community. The sense of family and being “one of their own” leads my community to share and promote my books with pride because I am one of theirs. In a big town I am just another person trying to make a go of it. I live in a town of under 1000 people and although there is no way of proving this, I am pretty sure most of those households own one of my books.

I hope others see what I am doing and realize that they can jump out on their own and try something unique, knowing they will be completely supported and encouraged by their community. Not just through their words but also through the enthusiastic purchase and use of their product or service. I truly believe that my success is directly related to being a member of my small, rural, North Central Kansas community.

I am truly blessed and honored to be a part of my community, and my goal is to do everything I can to make these wonderful people proud of the books I create. Their encouragement and support make me want to do the best I can, not for myself, but because I represent them. I represent what North Central Kansans can do because we do it together.

Check back in Fall 2023 for details on the 2023-2024 Rural Voices Youth Contest.

Results Positive for Home Ownership Pilot Program in Washington County

Financial incentives offered through the Washington County Home Ownership Pilot Program assisted in the purchase of 10 homes in the county from June to December 2022.

The program provided home buyers with down payment and closing cost assistance. The total value of the 10 homes purchased was just over $1.9 million, with $125,000 coming from the pilot program.

Grant funds for the program were provided through a contribution from the Patterson Family Foundation. Loan funds were provided by the North Central Kansas Community Network, Co. (NCKCN)-Four Rivers Business Loan Pool. North Central Regional Planning Commission (NCRPC) administered the program. NCKCN is an affiliate of the NCRPC.

“We were grateful to have the generous support of the Patterson Family Foundation helping to make this program possible,” said NCRPC Home Ownership Program Manager Keegan Bailey. “Strengthening rural housing is a key to success for our communities.”

Survey results of home buyers who accessed the program indicate positive local impacts.

“Employment was listed as the greatest reason for moving at 87%,” Bailey said. “We were also pleased to see a high percentage of young home buyers with 73% of home buyers under the age of 30.”

Other notable outcomes include 93% of home buyers reported the program was a factor in their decision to purchase a home at this time, 67% bought their first home, and 67% graduated from a high school in one of the counties in the NCRPC service area — including Clay, Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Marshall, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic, Saline and Washington.

Similar pilot programs have been completed in Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic, and Saline counties and the City of Marysville. Future plans include the expansion of pilot home ownership programs to each of the remaining counties in the NCRPC 12-county service area, pending the availability of funding. Results of these pilot programs will be used to develop a permanent regional relocation program.

Learn more about the Home Ownership Program initiative.

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Peters Recognized for Service to Regional Homeland Security Councils as Fiscal Agent

image of Lisa Peters receiving Outstanding Service Award for 2022 from Kansas Emergency Management Association

Kansas Emergency Management Association President Kathleen Fabrizius (left) presented NCRPC staff member Lisa Peters (right) with the Outstanding Service Award for 2022. (Courtesy Photo)

NCRPC staff member Lisa Peters was presented the Outstanding Service Award for 2022 by the Kansas Emergency Management Association at the end of last year. Lisa is NCRPC Assistant Director and serves as Homeland Security Coordinator. The NCRPC is contracted to provide fiscal agent services to six of the Regional Homeland Security Councils in Kansas. This award recognizes exemplary service to the Homeland Security Program and the counties and communities it serves.

Homeland Security Program project investments address the planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercise needs to help build local and regional response capabilities and encourage citizen safety and preparedness. Cybersecurity has increasingly become a focus for projects and became a major point of emphasis in 2022 for Peters and the Regional Homeland Security Councils she helps to administer.

“Unfortunately, the threat, frequency, and cost of cyber attacks for county and local public safety organizations grows every year,” Peters said. “A percentage of all of our projects are now earmarked to address cybersecurity issues. There was a learning curve as regional councils determined how best to approach the challenges, but projects are now underway with the goal of improving cybersecurity resiliency of the involved counties.”

The State and Local Cybersecurity projects are funded by grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Free Virtual Training Courses Now Available

Topics Cover Remote Work, Rural Grocery Stores, Nonprofits

NCRPC is now hosting free, virtual training courses covering a wide range of topics. Courses available on the training website include a remote work series and a comprehensive rural grocery training series. In addition, some recorded nonprofit board development trainings that were offered in 2021 and 2022 are also archived on the site.

These courses were made possible, in part, through a U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant awarded to the NCRPC.

Learn more and check out what is available by visiting the training site.

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Reminder: Unique Entity Identifiers (UEI) from Needed for Many Grants

Many State and Federal awards require entities to have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) assigned by the Federal System for Award Management website (

“The State has been rolling out new funding opportunities that have a short application window. All applicants are required to have a UEI# at the time of application,” said NCRPC Community Development Director Bri Beck. “If you think your organization will ever pursue State and/or Federal funding you should register for a UEI# as soon as possible. While the process to register for a UEI# is typically simple it can take a while to receive.”

The Unique Entity ID is a 12-character alphanumeric ID. The Federal government transitioned from using the DUNS Number to the UEI in 2022. If you already have your UEI#, make sure you are also fully registered in SAM and, that once you are registered, you do not let your account go inactive. Registration at the official SAM website is free. Do not be confused by look-alike websites offering to register on your behalf.

Recent changes have been made to enhance system security and deter fraud. has partnered with to implement multi-factor authentication for registered users. When users go to and log in, they will be asked to create a account. During initial registration, users will be asked to enter an email address. Be sure to use your existing SAM email address to create the account. Access to a working phone number (mobile or landline) is also needed to register as will send a security code.

For more information, contact the NCRPC or visit our website for assistance.

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

New Clinic in Beloit Offers Health and Wellness Services

Loan Programs Assist Start-up Business

image of Astra Healthcare & Wellness, LLC

Astra Healthcare & Wellness, LLC, located at 116 E. Main Street, Beloit, Kansas, recently opened. (Courtesy Photo)

Starting a new medical clinic in rural Kansas was a project that owner Alan Curtis had thought about for some time. That dream became a reality with the opening of Astra Healthcare & Wellness, LLC located in downtown Beloit, Kansas, in January.

The clinic offers a comprehensive range of primary care services to patients including routine wellness exams, urgent care, and assisted medical weight loss. It also provides specialized services in aesthetic procedures including botulinum toxin injections, facials, and medical skin peels. A medical grade skincare line is also available.

Alan Curtis is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). He most recently worked as a Surgical Nurse Practitioner at Mitchell County Hospital. Prior to becoming licensed as an APRN, Curtis worked for more than 15 years as an ICU nurse in larger cities including Lincoln, Nebraska; Las Vegas, Nevada; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Denver, Colorado. Raised on a farm near Smith Center, Kansas, a desire to return to his rural roots are what led him to move to Beloit in 2019.

This start-up business project was made possible through assistance from the NCK Business Down Payment Assistance Loan Program, Mitchell County E-Community Loan Program, bank financing, and investment by the owner. As a result of the project, two full-time positions were created including the owner and another full-time licensed medical professional.

Learn more about the NCRPC Business Finance program.

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Community Connection 2023

In Case You Missed It: NCRPC Community Connection Zoom Scheduled

Join Us for Conversation and Learning on Funding Opportunities, Collaboration

A virtual NCRPC Community Connection event set for April 12 will give stakeholders in the region another opportunity to hear about the latest in grant funding opportunities.

Two in-person events took place in Beloit and Ellsworth earlier in March.

“We had great feedback from those who participated in our previous Community Connection events and we wanted to make that information available to others in the region who were not able to attend,” said NCRPC Strategic Development Advisor Deb Ohlde.

In addition to discussing funding options, participants will learn how North Central Regional Planning Commission can partner with local communities and organizations to help them achieve goals.

The NCRPC provides assistance to a variety of sectors including cities, counties, non-profits, rural water districts, schools, small businesses and entrepreneurs. Anyone is invited to participate.

The Zoom will begin at noon on April 12 and will last approximately 90 minutes. Preregistration is required to receive Zoom login instructions.


To register, go to the Google Form or click the link below.

Sign Up for the April 12 Community Connection Zoom

More Information

For questions, please contact the NCRPC Community Development team at 785-738-2218 or send an email to Deb Carlson Ohlde, NCRPC Strategic Development Advisor, at

Banquet Celebrates Past, Looks to Future

image of Doug Griffiths during the keynote address at the NCRPC 50th Anniversary Banquet

Keynote speaker Doug Griffiths shared his perspective on community challenges and successes.

NCRPC capped off the year with a 50th Anniversary Banquet on November 10 in Beloit.

Approximately 120 people from throughout the region attended the event, which was also hosted on behalf of affiliate North Central Kansas Community Network, Co. (NCKCN).

One of the evening’s highlights was the keynote address by Doug Griffiths, community strategist and author of two best-selling editions of “13 Ways to Kill Your Community.” In his presentation, he outlined seven of the 13 ways in which he said communities may undermine their success — sometimes without even knowing it.

  • Forget the water – quality and quantity
  • Don’t attract businesses
  • Don’t engage youth
  • Deceive yourself (Don’t assess your community’s need or values)
  • Live in the past
  • Don’t cooperate
  • Don’t take responsibility

He shared brief anecdotes and lessons learned through his work advising and consulting with communities. Regarding engaging youth, he shared that the nature of youth is to go off and explore. The goal is not to keep them from doing that, but to give them a reason to want to return.

“We have to stop being so negative about our communities,” Griffiths said. “We also need real engagement. It is not a matter of how you’re going to be effective but how you’re going to stay relevant.”

Griffiths closed by challenging the audience when it comes to taking responsibility. “If we want a solution, we have to go back to community building and helping each other,” Griffiths said.

NCRPC Executive Board Chair Tom Claussen (left) presented John Cyr with the inaugural NCRPC Lifetime Public Service Award.

Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of the inaugural Lifetime Public Service Award to John Cyr. He dedicated his career to the region, much of which was spent as NCRPC Executive Director, and he is passionate about rural development and North Central Kansas. The NCRPC Executive Board plans to present an award annually to an individual, group or organization that has been distinguished by contributions to communities in the region over many years.

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

On-the-Job Training Program Provides Opportunity for Workers and Employers

Employers may be eligible for reimbursement to help cover job training costs of candidates meeting certain criteria.

On-the-Job Training offered through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) offers up to a maximum of $3,000 per year for two years to compensate employers for the cost associated with training and loss of production for newly hired employees.

Adults meeting certain priority categories such as veteran status, low income, or basic skills deficiencies may qualify for training assistance. Programs are also available for dislocated workers and youth ages 16-24 who are not attending school.

Potential examples of occupational skills training for adults may include on-the-job training for city water operators or local businesses training new hires in a skilled profession.

“I feel like On-the-Job Training is the best type of training because it is generally hands on, very company specific, and an earn and learn model that works,” said Tucky Allen, Business Services Director with Kansas WorkforceONE. “The end goal is a career/good job for participants.”

To learn more about WIOA On-the-Job Training and to determine eligibility, contact Tucky Allen at Kansas WorkforceONE at 316-303-2906 or by email at

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Weatherization Assistance Program Helps Decrease Utility Costs for Client

“Lifesaving.” That was the single word a weatherization client recently used to describe the help received through the Weatherization Assistance Program. The NCRPC administers the program for 41 Kansas counties.

Edward’s central Kansas home had a 36-year-old rusted out furnace that needed to be replaced. His monthly budget was tight after he was forced to retire early due to health issues. When his electric bill became overwhelming, Edward began to seek assistance and applied for the Weatherization Assistance Program.

Weatherization helps reduce energy costs for households by improving the efficiency, health, and safety of their homes. Through the program, a new energy efficient furnace was installed in Edward’s home. Other improvements included the addition of 1,384 square feet of attic insulation, 1,058 square feet of sidewall insulation, and other small measures that addressed health and safety concerns.

“Since the work has been completed, the house feels different,” Edward said. “It is warmer, and a transformation in overall comfort has been recognized.”

His electric bill immediately decreased by more than $40 each month and he is expecting to see bigger savings as the seasons change.

Eligibility for the Weatherization Assistance Program is based solely on income. To view maximum income guidelines or learn more, visit the NCRPC Weatherization page.

Please note that due to program demand, there currently is a wait list for services.

Energy Saving Tips

Winter weather is here! According to the U.S. Department of Energy, home heating uses more energy and costs more than any other system in your home. For energy saving tips, go to the Office of Energy Saver.

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.