Kansas Common Sense
Nov 30 2020
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Recognizing This Season of Giving
I hope you had a safe Thanksgiving with your family and were able to connect with your loved ones. I want to thank the many dedicated Americans who are serving our community, state and nation over the holiday season – from the medical personnel on the frontlines of our hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic to the men and women in our military protecting our country at home and overseas. Thank you for your dedication to serving others and for the sacrifices you make each day.
This year, we have faced many unexpected challenges, but there is still much to be thankful for throughout this season.
During this pandemic, I have seen many Kansans go the extra mile to help their neighbors. This week, I joined two of the many food distributions efforts across Kansas to help families in need during this holiday season.
Volunteering with Operation Food Secure
On Tuesday, I joined Operation Food Secure (OFS) in Topeka at the Oakland United Methodist Church to distribute food boxes to families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, the USDA was authorized by the CARES Act to distribute agricultural products to those in need through the Farmers to Families Food Box program. This program supplies boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and meat products from local Kansas farms to families in need.
OFS has developed a distribution model to address hunger and food insecurity across eight northeast Kansas counties. They have successfully built a network of over 80 community and faith-based organizations to bring food “the last mile” into these areas of need and have distributed over 57,000 food boxes. Even as the “breadbasket of the world,” our state faces significant challenges related to food security, and I appreciate the efforts of everyone volunteering and working to help those in need during this pandemic.
A special thanks to Executive Director of Topeka Rescue Mission Ministries Barry Feaker and Director of Operation Food Secure Marissa Dake. Your willingness to serve those in your community facing hunger is commendable. Read more about OFS and my visit here in the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Participating in the 14th Annual El Dorado Turkey Drive
On Wednesday, I visited the Butler County chapter of the The Salvation Army to help distribute donations from the 14th Annual El Dorado Turkey Drive before Thursday’s festivities. Organized by Graphic Concepts, Inc. and the Butler County Sheriff’s Office, this year’s drive collected 375 turkeys and non-perishable food items to provide Thanksgiving meals for local individuals and families in need.
Congratulations to Graphic Concepts President Sally Owens, Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet and their employees for successfully leading this community-wide effort. Thank you to Salvation Army Major Patricia Johnson and her team for organizing a smooth delivery of donated goods. It’s great to see Kansans doing their part to serve their neighbors in need. Special thanks to the citizens of Butler County who stepped forward to help create a special Thanksgiving meal.
Assessing COVID-19 Spikes throughout Kansas Counties: Visiting Stormont Vail Health
I met with Stormont Vail Health CEO Dr. Robert Kenagy and Kansas Hospital Association President Chad Austin in Topeka this week. We discussed the challenges they are facing due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the region and the need for more nurses and medical staff. Our hospitals are making incredible efforts to care for COVID-19 patients while facing staffing difficulties due to the considerable community spread of the virus. As we head into winter, and with cases spiking, it is important for the federal government to provide stability through funding and reimbursement guidelines. I will continue working to ensure our health care providers have the federal support necessary to effectively fight this pandemic. Thank you to all Kansas health care personnel for your sacrifices and dedication to keeping our state safe.
Our hospitals are working hard to meet the needs of our communities, but they need each of us to take a personal responsibility to help stop the spread of COVID-19. I want to encourage all Kansans to take precautions to keep you and your families safe, including wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and frequently washing your hands.
Visiting Wichita’s Child Advocacy Center
I visited the Child Advocacy Center in Wichita this week to meet with members of the Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC). The ICAC is a multi-agency endeavor to investigate and prosecute those who sexually exploit children through the use of technology. Unfortunately, the ICAC has seen an increased caseload since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
One of my top priorities as the chairman of the subcommittee that provides resources to the Justice Department is to make certain Kansas law enforcement and their partners have the tools they need to keep our children safe from online predators. During my visit, I announced a federal grant from the Justice Department that will support two law enforcement positions dedicated to ICAC. These additional resources will help the ICAC better protect this vulnerable population and bring to justice the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
Thank you to all of the officials who joined the tour today and for your continued cooperation to investigate these crimes, including Wichita Chief of Police Gordon Ramsay, Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennet, Executive Director of the Child Advocacy Center, Regional Director for the Kansas Department of Children and Families Tom Buell, as well as Wichita Police Stg. Jeff Swanson and Lt. Sarah Oldridge who work with the ICAC.
Applauding the Agreement to Clean Up Salina’s Schilling Air Force Base
This week, the Salina Public Entities (SPE) reached an agreement to provide the Salina community with $67 million to remove toxic substances from Schilling Air Force Base. This is an issue I have worked with Salina on for more than a decade, and after years negotiations between SPE, the Department of Defense and the Army Corps of Engineers, I look forward to seeing these funds be put into action to remove harmful substances and keep the community safe for future generations.
Thank you to Tim Rogers for his dedication in seeing this decision through for the Salina community. Read more from the Salina Journal by clicking here.
Kansas Agricultural Research Provides Global Benefits
This week, I joined Kansas State University agricultural scientists and the Farm Journal Foundation at Lund Farms for an important conversation regarding agricultural research and development.
I was pleased to see firsthand how their research and innovation is translating into improved crop yields, profitability and sustainability. These efforts are vital for our ability to address food insecurity, and I’m proud that Kansans continue to answer the call to feed the world. Thank you to Tyler and Eric Lund for hosting this informative event and to the ag scientists at K-State for their hard work and continued leadership in international development.
Read more from KWCH by clicking here.
Preserving Kansas with the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts
I met virtually with members of the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts (KACD) for their annual conference earlier this week. The association is committed to conserving Kansas’ natural resources, leading the charge in preserving Kansas’ natural resources and wildlife for the next generation. During the virtual meeting, I discussed water conservation efforts and how natural resource management is a key component to our economy and quality of life. The importance of agriculture production in rural Kansas and the need for sustainable conservation practices will make certain these farms and our communities can thrive for years to come.
Thank you to KACD Executive Director Dan Meyeroff for inviting me to speak, and thanks also to the many members of KACD for their efforts to support sustainable conservation efforts.
Thanking Travis Hansen of Bio-One
While in Topeka, I met with Travis Hansen, owner of the Topeka-based Bio-One Franchise, to thank him for his efforts to help the Andbe Home nursing home in Norton after their coronavirus outbreak in October. Travis and his team members made the long drive to northwest Kansas earlier this month to offer their services free of charge to disinfect and sanitize the facility. Kansans continue to amaze me with their generosity and support for one another during these challenging times, and I was pleased to be able to express my thanks to Travis in-person.
Joining Wheatland Electric
This week, I joined Wheatland Electric Cooperative for their virtual board meeting. We discussed how companies are adapting to the new circumstances created by the pandemic, the challenges that local businesses continue to face each day to hire new employees, as well as security issues the United States faces overseas.
Thank you to Katie Eisehnour for inviting me to join this discussion, Rhei Thurman for helping organize this virtual meeting and Wheatland Electric CEO Bruce Mueller for facilitating this discussion.
Touring Open Road Brands
While I was in Wichita this week, I visited a startup manufacturing and distribution facility for Open Roads Brands, a locally owned company that designs highly specialized decor products for national brands such as Coca Cola, Disney and John Deere, among others. The decision to move production from China to Kansas was made shortly before the pandemic hit, and even with the many subsequent challenges, 20 employees have been hired since the beginning of the year, along with installation of new equipment.
Open Road Brands is another example of how Kansas-based organizations have taken a leading role in bolstering U.S. manufacturing, allowing us to compete globally while simultaneously benefitting our local communities. Thank you to Open Road Brands CEO Joe Hayes and his team for the informative visit. Your commitment to employing Kansans throughout this pandemic and all of its uncertainties is commendable.
Flipping the Coin at the 2A State Championship Game
On Saturday, I was honored to flip the coin for the 2A State Football Championship between the Hoisington Cardinals and the Rossville Bulldogs.
Congratulations to both teams on your incredible seasons, and congrats to the Bulldogs on the state championship! Thank you to the Kansas State High School Activities Association for inviting me to be a part of the game in Salina.
I stopped in Belleville ahead of this weekend’s Small Business Saturday to talk with residents and business owners in the community about how their small businesses have adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses in towns like Belleville and across the state are the backbone of Kansas’ economy and at the center of our communities, and they have been hit hard during this pandemic.
I admire and appreciate the determination of business owners and entrepreneurs who are working hard and adapting to keep their doors open, just like Belleville’s The Feathered Nest pictured below. Thank you to our small businesses for all you do to support our communities.
Visiting Dwight and White City
I visited Dwight and White City this week, and I was able to talk with residents about the issues they face as a small community and how I can help them in Washington. Both towns were settled as railroad companies continued to expand westward from Topeka following the end of the Civil War. One of my priorities as a United States Senator is preserving our rural lifestyle and small-town history. Thank you to everyone who took time out of their day to speak with me while I was in town.
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
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