Journey to better childcare options in Stafford County lead list of top stories for the year – St. John News


By Shelbi Stultz Newspaper Operations Assistant

CherryRoad Media

People are important in Stafford County. For the St. John News, most of 2022’s top stories and articles revolved around people – students and their awards, elderly and their activities, business owners and their successes. Choosing a top story for the area as covered by the News for 2022 however, has to be the marked success of steps leading to childcare access and opportunities in Stafford County. The rest of these stories in our Year in Review are all important, but look for the tidbits about children and how communities in this area work to care for them, that is where the future lies, and these people involved with this issue are getting it right.

FIRST QUARTER – January, February, March Housing solutions topped this quarter for St. John News coverage and readers.

Former Executive Director and current Strategic Project Manager at Stafford Economic Development Carolynn Dunn challenged fifth-year architecture students at Kansas State University to design an eco-efficient and affordable home for rural Kansans. This Kansas State prototype was funded by a $40,000 K-State scholarship, as well $100,000 from EcoDevo grant funding. After coronavirus related delays, it was finally completed by August 2021 by Professor Michael Gibson and several of his architecture graduate students. This Net+ home and a proposed nine replicates others that are in the process of being funded by additional grants and loan packages such as the HOME program, the Federal Homebank, the Sunderland Foundation, and other grant groups.

The Stafford County Board of County Commissioners commended Stafford Couty Fire Department Director Marshall Sanders and his 60-member volunteer crews for work performed during 2021, and rightfully so. With more than 1, 385 training hours, and nearly the same amount of actual fire-fighting time logged on more than 94 emergency calls that included grass fires, vehicle and equipment fires, structure fires, vehicle accidents, citizen assists and EMS assists, the level of commitment from these teams was notably phenomenal.

Golden Belt Telephone brings tech services to St. John area. A recently completed a project to bring wireless broadband to rural Stafford County cost $800,000 and was made possible with SPARK grant funds. GBT’s service area includes 3,200 square miles.

A lot of planning has gone into a new career pathways course for students at USD 350 St. John-Hudson High school and while the end-goal, opening a Tiger Coffee shop in the school somewhere is worthy, the journey to get there has it’s perks as well. USD 350 business teacher Natalie Clark, Lisa Cornwell, CTE Coordinator, WBL Coordinator and Tabra Ward, sensory scientist at the Stafford County Flour Mill in Hudson have collaborated with others to bring this idea to reality.

SECOND QUARTER – April, May, June Not all small towns can boast about having enter

tainment activities available that most citizens may enjoy regularly, But St. John can. The pool and skating rink seems to be the top hits of the town. The pool is located at 901 N Main Street in St. John, KS 67576. Ask the kids at school and they will tell that another fun thing to do in St. John is to go skating at the skating rink. The skating rink is located at 215 E 3rd Avenue in St. John.

Wild at Heart Bees, locally owned by Tom and Pam Turner, started their business in 2017. The company has grown to the 150 hives that are out at this time. Local honey is for sale at their store in St. John.

A team of senior students planned out a career fair for St. John-Hudson High School. English teacher Joanna McAlister helped students every step of the way, especially with the initial start of this project. After having all students in 7th through 12th grade fill out a form of available careers they would be interested in, each student on the team had to contact and individual in the line of work from the top choices. To help with this skill, students created a script they could follow for both telephone and in-person interviews.

The USD 350 St. John-Hudson Junior High Girls Basketball Team won the Central Plains League this year. Team members included: Head Coach Taci Axman, Gentri Bright, Karly Rockenbach, Lily Brummer, Mia Meyer, Reagan Bonner, Jayln Fisher, Tara Dowling, Manager Cora Martin, Assistant Coach Alisha Mawhirter, Jenny Gracia, Averi Fisher, Bree Fisher, Lily McAlister, Manager Maylin Sanders. The Tigers record for the season was 15-1. In their 2022 CPL Championship game vs. Lacrosse the final score was 30-24.

Stafford County YEC (Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge) was held Wednesday, March 23, at 11 a.m. at the Stafford County Annex. Teams of Stafford County youth entrepreneurs presented four-minute presentations and answered questions posed by a panel of three judges. A business plan executive summary was sent in prior to the competition and scored. Tiger Coffee took first place and were awarded $750.

The Juniors and Seniors of St. John High School (USD 350 St. John-Hudson) presented their annual spring play in the High School Auditorium on Saturday evening, April 23. The name of the play this year was CLUE (High School Edition), based on the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn, written by Sandy Rustin. Additionally, perhaps you may have seen the Paramount Pictures Motion Picture, CLUE, which was based on the Hasbro board game, CLUE. The Original music is by Michael Holland. This play is a hilarious comedy, and all stage people know a comedic play can often be much more difficult to produce than a traditional drama-based play.

The residential carpentry class of St. John High and local volunteers were conscripted to build a greenhouse for Joel Delp’s Human Environmental Resources Class in September of 2021. Also, any other class who wanted to have a project that included the greenhouse would have access to it. The Human Environmental Resources Class set up an aquaponics tank to store over 50 Blue Tilapia as a main project. The class also started a small number of crops.

The SJN Bank of Kansas has allowed USD 350 to use the building located at 205 East Fourth in St. John rent-free for the last three years for the Parents- as-Teachers program. The bank has now officially donated the building to the school. The building opened as a daycare in August following the remodel.

The City of St. John agreed to contribute $65,000 to the Child Care Committee to bring in a modular classroom building that would allow for two day cares to operate out of it. After forming the Stafford County Child Care Committee n August 2021 and after several months of work, the Committee has developed a plan to open more daycare facilities in the county. The Committee conducted a county-wide childcare needs assessment in September and October 2021 to help understand the true daycare needs of Stafford County families. Staffor County is at a true tipping point, if families cannot find adequate and safe childcare, they will relocate.

The St. John Jubilee Historical Scavenger Hunt began at 9 a.m., Saturday, May 28, at the Information Booth near the fountain in the Square and ended before the start of the annual Jubilee Parade. This new event was the collaboration of creative student minds and city leaders who were on board with bringing something new to the annual St. John event. The St. John Square was the central location for the most of the 2022 St. John Jubilee activities, so adding in the St. John Jubilee Scavenger Hunt at the Information Booth located near the fountain in the Square was a great addition to the community festivities planned for Memorial Day Weekend fun.

Danny Smith Basketball Camp was held at St. John High School June 6-16. There were approximately 70 students who participated. Participants came from St. John, Pratt, Cunningham, Fairfield, Pretty Prairie, Macksville and Great Bend. One of the highlights of the camp was a visit from Dean Wade, NBA basketball player and graduate of St. John High School. There were smiles to go around for all those who stayed around to meet wade in person.

THIRD QUARTER – July, August, September The skies were beautifully illuminated with red, white, and blue fireworks on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of July. The Monday holiday extended the celebration in this little town. There were three firework stands open on July 1.The St. John cheerleading squad raised money for their cheer program.

The heat was on for Stafford County Fair week, July 12-16 this year with temperatures climbing over 100 degrees on several days, but 4-H members and their families, plus many other community supporters came out to “Rise and Shine” (this year’s theme) in the moment and make the best of the weather conditions.

The St. John City Swimming Pool was free to all this summer thanks to the Trinity Community Church’s ministry. With the weather hitting a high of 113 degrees brought out the most swimmers the pool has seen all summer. There were 68 swimmers on the hottest day of this year! The swimming pool averages 30-40 simmers a day according to pool manager, Stephanie Smith.

St. John AV Production, Dear A, was chosen for the All-American High School Film Festival. The AAHS Flim Festival is the largest student film festival in the world. Entries came from all 50 states and internationally. It will be held October 21-23 in New York City. The Public Service Announcement was also a winner of the Kansas Turnpike Authority Put the Brakes on Fatalities PSA Contest, American Youth Film Festival Contest, and the winner of the Emagine Media Festival. The Public Service Announcement will be screened at the AMC Empire 25 Theater in Times Square and the selected films will be honored at the Teen Indie Awards in Brooklyn. More than $500,000 in scholarships will be presented to student filmmakers. This is one of the highest honors a student film production can earn.

Lack of housing has become an increasing issue in Stafford County. The current housing stock is generally old, not in good condition, and of lower value.The construction of new houses significantly decreased during the 1960’s and never really rebounded. This lack of new development paired with properties falling into disrepair hand having to be demolished has resulted in a net loss of 225+ houses over the past twenty years.

The St. John City Square was again in the backdrop for a multitude of special vehicles for the Cruise the Square Car Show held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 27. Car show enthusiasts form St. John and surrounding areas gathered around the square to show and talk about their cars, trucks, bicycles, and even an antique John Deere tractor. A broad rang of entries were in the car show representing time from 1930’s to the 1980’s. Awards were given for the top three in each class. The proceeds raised were to benefit the St. John Jubilee Fund.

Some brave workers who are not afraid of heights have been up to something at the top of the town water tower; making improvements that have been in the works since September of 2020. Just about two years ago, St. John City Council members had come to the decision that the 50,000-gallon water tower was in need of repair. On August 15, the water tower was drained so that workers could put on the new roof the following morning. Most of the City of St. John experienced low water pressure to no water for about 20 minutes, but it was par for the course of repairs.

FORTH QUARTER – October, November, December Macksville High School celebrated Homecoming 2022 on Friday, October 7 with the traditional royal ceremonies, a community parade and a rousing football game. Crowning ceremonies before the football game elevated Ryan Kuckleman to king status and Lupita (no last name provided) to queen. The Macksville Mustangs then commenced to a 50-0 stomp over LaCrosse, with a game that featured a high-octane offense with 20 points in the first quarter, 30 points in the second quarter (all by Macksville), and game-over at halftime.

The South-Central Community Foundation has been charged to disperse 100 percent of the donations raised at the St. John-Hudson’s Youth Creations Art Auction. More than $11,000 will be gifted to the St. John-Hudson USD #350 school, area students, and local staff as a result of the art auction that took place on May 27 during the Jubilee in St. John. The generosity of 24 donors helped make 2022 a record-breaking year for the fund-raising event during the St. John Jubilee.

The St. John Homecoming Hall and Museum sponsored a Homecoming Festival in the Town Square in St. John on October 22 to honor and celebrate the culture and history of Stafford County. The museum’s intent to preserve the artifacts and stories of all families who have lived in this county came to fruition as many local people as well as visitors from afar came to the Saturday celebration.

During a whirlwind tour of more than 95 counties, and counting, Katie Sawyer, candidate for Lt. Governor in partnership with Attorney General Derek Schmidt for Governor, stopped in Stafford County. On Wednesday, October 26, after spending time with Carolyn Dunn and Stafford County Economic Development, Sawyer made a special stop at St. John High School to visit with the students who are making Tiger Bank a reality.

USD 350 held a Veteran’s Day Program at 9 a.m. on November 11 at the school in St. John. Students of all ages participated.

On November 28, five area teams competed in the St. John-Hudson High School’s Annual Scholars Bowl Invitational Tournament: Central Plains, Ellinwood, Macksville, Pratt-Skyline, and St. John-Hudson. It as a true community event with many local volunteers and helpers. The USD 350 junior varsity and varsity team members rearranged and set up rooms for the tournament, parents and guardians provided cookies for hospitality, and the district ordered Tiger Town Pizza for the event. SJHS staff and community members form Stafford and St. John volunteered as judges and moderators. Mrs. Norton, lunch lady, provided hospitality as Cassie Martin, parent and a member of PTO, greeted teams as they arrived.

Elderly citizens have enjoyed a full year’s of activities as sponsored and organized by Sandy Smith and crew at the Sunflower Senior Center. The Witt’s Community Center, home of the skating rink and Sunflower Senior Center, was host to a recent Christmas celebration, dinner and Bingo event on December 14. More than 54 area seniors participated in the gathering.

Work continues on childcare options in Stafford County as USD 350 plans a facility within the school grounds, a building is undergoing renovation in St. John and the Stafford County Economic Development Team, led by director Kathleen Norman, work to meet the ever-growing need for childcare in the local communities. In mid-November both halves of a pre-fab home that will be constructed for a childcare facility arrived in St. John and were placed on a lot pre-approved for that purpose.

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