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Local_news
Giving From The Heart

LOUISBURG — Even after 21 years of organizing Louisburg’s From The Heart adopt-a-family Christmas program, Debbie Randolph still experiences moments that stop her in her tracks.

One of those moments took place Saturday, Dec. 14, as she was preparing for this year’s gift distribution.

A text message popped up on her phone from a number she didn’t recognize.

“When I moved to Louisburg back in 2001 you picked me as your angel,” the message said. “I will always remember you. I was the one you got all of the Pooh stuff for! Thank you for always leaving a giving impact on me!”

Randolph instantly remembered the 12-year-old girl and her father, who she helped 18 years ago.

“Omg I have tears pouring,” Randolph texted back. “Thank you so much .. Blessings, love and hugs always.”

It’s messages like those that remind Randolph what a difference the program is making for families in need living within the Louisburg school district boundaries.

Each year, Randolph collects applications from local parents who need a little extra help providing Christmas for their children. Community members then step up to adopt the families and purchase Christmas gifts for the children.

Anonymity is a priority throughout the process. The families are labeled only with a letter, and those shopping for gifts only know the child’s age, size and a list of “needs” and “wants.”

This year, there were 40 families that needed to be adopted. Randolph said that number is down a bit, as there usually are about 50 families in the program.

Churches like Queen of the Holy Rosary-Wea, businesses like Landmark National Bank and individuals like Debbie Apple and Mark Williams stepped up as always to adopt families.

School groups also got involved. The Louisburg High School cheer team adopted a family, and Louisburg Middle School math teacher Rachael Terry continued her tradition of working with her sixth-grade students to adopt a family, Randolph said.

The Louisburg American Legion also adopted a veteran’s family.

The donated presents were all wrapped and recently dropped off at First Baptist Church in Louisburg, which has provided its space for the program’s distribution day for a majority of the program’s existence.

Randolph and her assistant Vicki Hites, who she has known since fourth grade, were busy on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 18, as the gifts were compiled and delivered to families at the church.

They were joined by several members of the Louisburg Ministerial Alliance, including First Baptist pastor Jesse Smith, Elm Grove Baptist pastor Jan Smith, Faith Chapel pastor Jon Clayton, Immaculate Conception monsignor Robert Bergman and other volunteers.

Kami Minor, associate pastor of youth and children at First Baptist, got into the spirit of Christmas with a Santa hat that said: “I believe in Jesus.”

After helping families pack up the gifts, the pastors offered to pray with them.

None of the family members who showed up Wednesday went home empty-handed. In addition to the gifts, the Louisburg Lions Club provided bags of fresh fruit and other goodies. Groups at Immaculate Conception provided Price Chopper gift cards, and members of the Knights of Columbus from the Catholic church in Wea provided turkeys and other food items.

As tends to happen each year, there were a few hiccups, including the fact that the recent winter storm delayed the arrival of some of the presents. But Randolph said she no longer stresses about them like she did earlier in the program’s existence. She said she has learned that everything always seems to come together.

“It always works,” Randolph said.

One of her favorite memories about things working out involves Sister Helen Smith, who passed away in September and used to be the principal at Queen of the Holy Rosary School in Wea.

Randolph said Smith once suggested creating a family and purchasing gifts to set aside in case they received a late application. As it turned out, they did get a last-minute application that year from a family that matched the created family exactly.

“I still get goosebumps when I think about it,” Randolph said.

Although Randolph operates the program very much under the radar, she recently was honored publicly by being named the 2019 Citizen of the Year during the Louisburg Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner in November.

Randolph said she appreciates the recognition, but her favorite part of doing what she does is helping local children. She’s also looking forward to possibly being reunited with one of those children as she is working to set up a time to meet up with her “angel” from the past who texted her and will be in town over the holidays.


Local_news
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Local politicians weigh in on Trump impeachment

PAOLA — State Rep. Jene Vickrey, a Louisburg Republican, called the U.S. House’s actions Wednesday, Dec. 18, to impeach President Donald Trump “a bad day for America and a bad day for the Democrats.”

President Trump was charged with two articles of impeachment — abuse of power for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election bid in 2020 by damaging Democratic rivals, and for obstruction of Congress for allegedly hampering the impeachment investigation.

On Wednesday night, the House voted 230-197 to impeach on the article alleging abuse of power. Two Democrats joined all Republicans in voting against it. The House then voted 229-198 to impeach on the article alleging obstruction of Congress. Three Democrats joined all Republicans in voting against it.

“What it comes down to is the (presidential) election always is in hands of the independent voter who is looking for honesty (from the candidates),” Vickrey said. “There’s nothing honest about this impeachment.”

Vickrey, who described himself as a loyal Republican, said he realizes that all Republicans are not perfect, but he said there is no denying this action was clearly a partisan impeachment by the Democrats.

“Our Founding Fathers warned about the dangers of a partisan impeachment, and they would not be in favor of this (impeachment) today,” Vickrey said. “I think this is going to be a huge problem for my Democratic friends.”

A Founding Father and first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 65 that “In many cases (impeachment) will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins, a Republican representing Kansas’ 2nd District, also described the impeachment as a partisan action. Watkins filmed himself while he was walking to the House floor to vote Wednesday night.

“Historic night. Here soon we’re going to go impeach the president of the United States. I’m of course a no vote because I think this is all a sham,” Watkins said. “It’s been about partisan politics the whole time. The world is a better place — Kansas is a better place because of the last three years of his presidency, but it’s too bad. We should be above that. Impeachment was never intended to be part of the political instrument. So we’ll see. Anyway, a sad day for America.”

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat who represents Kansas’ 3rd District, described the impeachment as a somber moment. It is only the third time in the nation’s 243-year history that the House has voted to impeach a president.

“I will vote in favor of both articles of impeachment against the President. This is not an action I take lightly. It is not what I came to Congress to do,” Davids said in a statement she released Wednesday before the vote. “But the evidence uncovered during the House impeachment inquiry is overwhelming. And the facts are uncontested.

“President Trump used the office of the Presidency to solicit foreign interference in our elections for his own personal, political benefit,” the Congresswoman said. “His actions endangered our national security, violated his oath of office, and undermined the security of our elections — the very basis of our democracy. It has left me with no other option than to vote in favor of the articles of impeachment.”

Former Democratic state senator and current Osawatomie resident Doug Walker also described the gravity of the moment.

“I think it’s sad that we had to get to this point,” Walker said. “We have a president who thinks he is immune to the rule of law.”

Walker said that if Trump is innocent, he could have provided documents and called witnesses to prove his innocence. Instead, he obstructed Congress by denying that testimony and evidence.

“If Obama had done this, he would have been impeached long ago,” Walker said.

Walker said he’s also concerned that, based on comments by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, he doesn’t believe a fair and impartial trial will take place in the Republican-controlled Senate where a two-thirds majority vote would be required to remove the president from office.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not commit on Wednesday about not sending the articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate, expressing her concern over having a fair trial. She urged McConnell to agree to the parameters for the Senate trial that the Democrats have called for, according to news reports.

Trump denounced the impeachment on Wednesday while speaking at a campaign rally in Michigan.

“With today’s illegal unconstitutional and partisan impeachment, the do-nothing Democrats — and they are do-nothing, all they want to do is focus on this — what they could be doing, are declaring their deep hatred and disdain for the American voter,” Trump said. “This lawless partisan impeachment is a political suicide march for the Democratic Party.”

U.S. Rep. Watkins said the Democrats didn’t like the outcome of the 2016 election, so now they are trying to impeach.

“After three years of obstruction and resistance, Democrats brought forward articles of impeachment that prove once and for all this entire process has been nothing more than desperate political theatre,” Watkins said in a written statement. “The facts show President Trump has not committed an impeachable offense. I was elected to Congress to deliver results for Kansans — not waste their time and tax dollars on a baseless witch hunt designed to delegitimize the 2016 election and divide our nation.”

While not agreeing with Watkins’ stance on the impeachment, former state Sen. Walker did agree the country is divided.

“It was divided before this, and it is going to be divided after,” Walker said.

Walker added that he believes this impeachment process will ultimately hurt the Democratic Party, but he believes it is the right thing to do.

“There has to be checks and balances,” he said.


Local_news
DAR members honor Washington’s crossing of the Delaware

Editor’s Note: The following article was submitted by the Marais des Cygnes Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Two local DAR members, Betty Bendorf and Jody Lane, have ties to George Washington’s historic crossing of the Delaware River, which took place Christmas night in 1776.

What do an octogenarian retired farmer born in Chillicothe, Mo., and a Generation X software developer born in Des Moines, Iowa, have in common, other than their love of animals?

The answer lies in a 243-year-old event which continued to rattle the mightiest nation on Earth and eventually opened the door for mankind to enter a new realm of dignity.

On this Christmas night, we reflect over 12 score and 3 years to 1776, when General George Washington, in dire need of a victory as desertions were on the rise and enlistments were terminating at year’s end, took bold action by crossing an ice-filled Delaware River and engaging in a surprise attack on Hessian troops encamped at Trenton, N.J.

This was the first of several decisive battles occurring in what is now called “Ten Crucial Days,” from the end of December, 1776, and the first week of January, 1777, between the Continental and British armies. Frederick the Great called Washington’s leadership in these battles “the most brilliant in the world’s history.”

Two soldiers, Pvt. Titus Mershon and Col. Thomas Turbett, who marched over nine miles from their encampment in the dark and bitter cold, boarded boats on the west side of the Delaware River, dodged dangerously large ice chunks on their way to attack an Hessian encampment just to the east of the river, and then disembarked to produce overwhelming positive battle results, are the binding tie for these two ladies.

Titus was one of only six Americans wounded in this battle and was in good company, as future president James Monroe, who would become the first wounded combat veteran to serve as president, was also among the wounded.

Other prominent figures who took part on the American side were future President James Madison, future Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, future Vice President Aaron Burr and future Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.

Both Titus and Thomas continued to serve under General Washington in the Continental Army from its first to last battle.

Betty Bendorf is Titus Mershon’s sixth generation descendant, and Jody Lane is Thomas Turbett’s eighth generation descendant.

We don’t know if Titus and Thomas were friends or if they even knew each other, but we do know they were comrades in arms, sacrificing for the same cause.

Both Betty and Jody are proud of their heritage and have honored their ancestors by joining the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a women’s service organization.

If you are interested in researching your ancestry or DAR, contact the Marais des Cygnes DAR Chapter on their Facebook page or email ANN.LC.BENTON@gmail.com.


Government
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Breaking down the issues at Osawatomie State Hospital

OSAWATOMIE — Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers and state Rep. Mark Samsel visited Osawatomie State Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 17, hoping to learn more about the mental health facility. By the time they left, they had compiled a full slate of issues that could be tackled during the upcoming legislative session.

Several of the state hospital’s employees attended an informational meeting in the auditorium, and Rogers and Samsel were given seats of honor on the stage next to a panel of OSH representatives, along with Osawatomie Mayor Mark Govea.

Govea said he’d like to see a growing partnership between the city of Osawatomie and the state hospital, with the city perhaps one day providing power and other utilities to the campus.

State hospital officials on the panel included Dr. Kristin Feeback, the new superintendent; Dr. Merma Gustillo, clinical director; Samantha York, social work specialist; and others.

Samsel, a Wellsville Republican, said the state hospital needs to be a priority in Topeka.

“It’s hugely critical, and I’m happy to support it and get it back moving in the right direction,” Samsel said.

Rogers, a Wichita Democrat, admitted that mental health is somewhat of new territory for him as he previously worked as an agricultural banker, but he said he is eager to learn about the issues and bring them back to Gov. Laura Kelly.

“Rebuilding the state is what we’ve been tasked with,” Rogers said. “We want to make sure every Kansan is healthy.”

Discharge planning

Feeback said several of the issues they are experiencing are related to discharge planning, and she asked York to elaborate from the perspective of a social worker.

York said one of the issues is that Medicaid is shut off for patients while they are at the state hospital, which usually results in them staying longer than necessary while they wait for the Medicaid submission application to be processed upon release. She suggested allowing Medicaid to be paused for patients and not completely shut off.

She also said housing resources are limited for patients who aren’t necessarily a fit for the state hospital but don’t have any other option. She mentioned a need for group homes or other intermediary housing.

At the state hospital campus, York said programs focused on teaching patients independent living skills such as cooking and how to manage time, money and medications would go a long way toward helping get patients discharged without returning.

“A transitional program, even if housed on campus, would be beneficial,” York said.

Substance Abuse

Gustillo said many of the patients at the state hospital are dealing with substance abuse and medical problems in addition to psychiatric issues.

The hospital, though, no longer has a substance abuse program, and Gustillo said it can be hard for many of the patients to find a program once they are released.

The cost of medication also makes it difficult to treat psychiatric issues, she said.

“One patient recently said marijuana is much cheaper than the prescribed drug,” Gustillo said. “That is a big problem.”

Another state hospital employee spoke from the audience and reiterated that drugs are a big issue with patients.

“Kansas has an epidemic, and it’s meth, not opioids,” she said.

Another employee urged the state officials to implement drug prevention programs at the high school level, including information about how dangerous the drugs are.

“These kids don’t know how much research is out there,” she said. “We have to start talking to kids about it.”

Rogers asked for the state hospital to provide the Legislature with statistics regarding the drug issue so that better decisions can be made at the state level.

Law Enforcement

Osawatomie Police Chief David Stuteville attended the informational session at the state hospital, and he brought up an ongoing concern that has become an issue at police departments across the county.

Stuteville said officers may pick up a person on the street who appears to be a threat to themselves or others but hasn’t yet committed a crime. That person will be held at the police station until a bed opens up at the state hospital, but Stuteville said that can take days, and it is a strain on the resources of local police departments.

“It’s not only a dangerous situation for officers but also the patient,” Stuteville said. “It’s not fair to these folks to sit on a booking bench for four days while waiting for a bed. It’s a huge liability.”

Stuteville said he realized, though, that it is a difficult situation without an easy answer. He suggested perhaps setting aside a certain number of beds for law enforcement.

“Truthfully, I don’t know the answer,” he said.

Rogers sympathized with the situation.

“It is a really tough position to be in,” he said. “It’s definitely something we need to work on.”

Nursing

A couple of nurses at the state hospital raised concerns during the meeting about state statutes that prevent them from putting their hands on a patient that is out of control.

The nurse said the statute, as it currently is written, includes situations involving a patient that is incontinent and may need assistance getting into a shower, or even someone who has an irrational fear of getting into the shower.

“Our society expects nurses to provide that care,” one nurse said. “We need to fix that statute.”

Rogers said he will work to look up that specific statute and research the situation.

Another nurse said state statutes also do not allow them to force medications on patients. She used an example of an insulin-dependent diabetic who suddenly decides they don’t want to take their medication.

“We can’t say anything unless they have a guardian,” she said. “We are powerless.”

Moratorium

State Sen. Caryn Tyson, a Republican from Parker, made a surprise appearance toward the end of the panel discussion when she asked from the audience when the moratorium on admissions will be lifted.

“We have to get more beds in Kansas,” she said.

The state hospital is licensed to house about 200 patients, but Feeback said staffing and other issues began to come to the foreground about five years ago when the census at the hospital reached about 260 patients.

Also, in 2015, a 42-year-old male patient was accused of raping a 21-year-old female employee at the state hospital.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services suspended voluntary admissions and issued a moratorium that has limited admissions to less than 170 since 2015.

The issues caused the hospital to lose Medicaid certification in January 2016, a move that resulted in the loss of about $1 million a month in federal funds. After the state hospital renovated the 60-bed Adair Acute Care facility, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recertified the Adair Acute Care unit in 2017.

Feeback said the rest of the hospital is licensed, but it is not CMS certified. That portion treats patients with private insurance or no insurance.

In 2017, there was some discussion by KDADS officials about privatizing the operation of the hospital and building a new multi-million dollar complex, but the construction cost was estimated to be between $100 and $170 million.

Feeback said she is working to make sure there will be enough staffing if the moratorium is lifted.

“When the moratorium lifts, a projected increase of potentially 40 percent could result as voluntary patients will be considered for admission,” she said.