St. John, KS – The plaster dust was flying in the air on Second and Main Street Tuesday morning, June 21st in St. John. A group of 27 Bike & Build cyclists from around the U.S. contributed volunteer hours at Gray’s Studio and in the County Annex throughout the day that assisted Stafford County Economic Development in housing project efforts.
“Not only did we accomplish a remarkable amount of work in one day, but I also think it is reaffirming that this group chose our community and the projects we are undertaking as worth their time to stop and contribute,” said Carolyn Dunn, Executive Director of Stafford EcoDevo. “The work we are doing in revitalization, entrepreneurship development, and even in promoting public health are a part of why they have pledged their time and money here.”
Gray’s Studio is the inspiration that Dunn speaks about when educating others on the soon to be built Launch Pad Business Incubator that will be located at the Northwest corner of Main and Second Street, across from Gray’s Studio. Both of these buildings have two levels of space; an open area on the main level for business development and an apartment upstairs for entrepreneurs to live at a minimal to no cost amount. Gray’s Studio is a historic building undergoing major renovations and will focus on arts-based ventures, while the Launch Pad Business Incubator will be new construction and be available for any type of business that will fit in the 1350 square foot building.
This Bike & Build crew removed plaster and exterior walls’ lathe Tuesday morning to further the renovations on the interior of Gray’s Studio. Following their morning in the heat and dust, the crew went back to the Oddfellows Lodge for a lunch that was prepared by the Jolly Workers 4H Club and some local Boy Scouts.
After regaining some energy from the morning, the group headed over to the County Annex building where cabinets were assembled for the Launch Pad Business Incubator apartment kitchen and bathrooms. By having the group assemble these cabinets it saved approximately two thousand dollars over what would have been spent on buying pre-assembled cabinets. Bike & Build contributes hours of labor when they stop for workdays along their route across the United States.
“There is so much energy when this group gets to town,” said Stafford County Economic Development Program Director, Ashlee Bevan. “It’s just neat to share with these 27 bicyclists, mainly from the east coast, what we’ve got going on in our county of 4,200 people in the middle of Kansas.”
For most of the bicyclists, this was their first time ever being in Kansas. Eco Devo introduced the group to a typical evening in a wheat field during harvest. Everyone had a chance to ride in a combine and ask local farmer Brian Dunn many questions while chowing down a local entrée of homemade bierocks.
“It’s incredible, the generosity and just the welcomness of everyone we’ve met and the experience to learn from locals along the way, like we did in the wheat field tonight,” said Nicholas Allen, a 2014 University of Virginia graduate.
Ryan Bush, a 22 year old Bike & Build cyclist from Chagrin Falls, Ohio chimed in, “These small communities are just very open and welcoming. They’re small towns we’d never go through otherwise if it wasn’t for this [Bike & Build] experience.”
For more information about Bike and Build visit www.bikeandbuild.org and for Stafford County Economic Development visit www.staffordecodevo.com.
St. John - Every week during the school year, a group of 4th, 5th and 6th graders walk in the street from the Ida Long Goodman Memorial Library to the County Annex building for the Life After-School Program. On a daily basis, St. John residents can be seen walking in the streets because there are no safe or existing sidewalks.
“I am for and would support any measures that would make a child's transportation safer, whether that be walking, riding a bike, scooter, skates,” said Chief Adam Sayler of the St. John Police Department. “In my experience, anything that makes it safer and easier for children on where they should travel, such as a bike trail, a designated path, sidewalk, is beneficial. It is also beneficial for vehicle drivers to know that the streets will be clear of children and pedestrians.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s statistics on pedestrian or bicycle crashes:
“In our streets, it’s not a matter of ‘IF’ a child or pedestrian will be struck by a vehicle, but “WHEN”,” said Ashlee Bevan, Program Director for Stafford County Economic Development and Live Well Stafford County. “We believe that sidewalks and safe walking paths are not merely for walking but should be a priority of safety and well-being for our community.”
With the help of a $2,500 grant from Kansas Health Foundation in 2015, Stafford County Economic Development hired an engineer with BG Consultants who identified sidewalks in desperate need of repair in St. John and designed improvements for the Frist Street corridor. Although sections of sidewalk in the Master Walk and Bike Plan are being repaired and replaced, there are other areas frequently traveled that have not yet been improved.
"People may believe that every driver on our roads will always, every single time, pay attention,” Bevan said. “But it only takes one person to get distracted and that reality can change for us."
About the Live Well Stafford County
Live Well Stafford County is a volunteer-based health coalition dedicated to improving the health of all Stafford County residents by building local infrastructure that supports walking and biking to maximize safety, economic, accessibility and environmental benefits. LWSC is invested in community education to promote healthy lifestyles and improve the overall quality of life for all residents.
Joining Stafford County Economic Development for the summer as an intern placed by Ogallala Commons is BreAnn Anshutz. BreAnn is a native of Stafford County and graduated from Macksville High School in May.
“We are thrilled to have BreAnn on board this summer,” said Carolyn Dunn, Executive Director for Stafford County Economic Development. “Her experience in photography she developed through projects in 4-H makes her a good fit for the work we have planned this summer to tell Stafford County EcoDevo’s story in a more visual way. We also love to involve the talented young adults from our area in the work we do. We are looking forward to an active and productive summer!”
As an intern, BreAnn’s primary focuses will be taking photos and creating a video promoting Stafford County and Stafford County Economic Development; creating a database of all Stafford County Alumni; running the Stafford County Economic Development Photography Contest at the Stafford County Fair; as well as promoting Stafford County and Stafford County Economic Development on various social media platforms.
In the Fall, BreAnn will attend Kansas State University to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering.
Stafford County Economic Development
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