Our BRAND NEW, STATE-OF-THE-ART facility is complete, and now we need YOU to be a part of our growth and success! BMW/Volkswagen of Topeka, a high-end, luxury automotive dealership is looking to add a qualified AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIAN to our team! BMW/VW of Topeka offers a unified team environment, great benefits, and ongoing training, and support for its employees.
If you are in alignment with our values of integrity, transparency, professionalism and teamwork- now might be the time for you to accelerate your career as part of the best company in automotive retail. Apply today or refer a qualified friend. You can apply directly by visiting the following www.soaveautomotivegroup.com/careers or you can respond directly to this ad with your resume. We look forward to hearing from you!
Job Responsibilities include but are not limited to…
· Test drive vehicles to test components and systems
· Ability to use diagnostic tools and special service equipment.
· Diagnose, maintain, and repair vehicle systems including engine, transmission, electrical steering, suspension, brakes, air conditioning, etc.
· Perform work specified on the repair order with efficiency and in accordance with dealership policies
· Communicate directly with the Service Advisor so that customers can be informed if any additional service is needed
· Provide an estimate of time needed for additional repairs
In addition to competitive pay, we offer our associates the following benefits:
· Health, Dental, Vision, Life, and Disability insurance
· 401(k) plan with company match
· Paid Time-Off
· Employee Vehicle Purchase Program
· Professional work environment, with job training and advancement opportunities
· At least 1 year dealership experience
· Must own hand tools
Job Type: Full-time
by DR. LINDA MOORE
Happiness is often more elusive than it needs to be. That’s possibly because what actually makes us happy is quite different from what we are told in articles, newspapers, books, and especially in advertisements. History reminds us that the 1950s portrayed housewives literally embracing new refrigerators. And, thus, the message of “the ’frig makes you happy,” along with other appliances, and with things in general, gained a more universal foothold.
Many of us grow up with an acquisition frame of mind, and research tells us that early attitudes can set us on the wrong track. Is there a right track? Debatable. However, consider some baseline thoughts and examine that question for yourself.
In The Happiness Hypothesis, Dr. Jonathan Haidt provides this formula for happiness.
H = S + C + V
Translation: (H) Happiness equals your set point (S) plus your circumstances (C) plus voluntary activities (V).
Research indicates your “set point” is something you are born with. It’s that emotional spot you typically gravitate back to – eventually – when something wonderful happens to elevate your mood or when something devastating occurs that throws you into disappointment, even depression. Regardless of the up or the down, the theory suggests that you gradually move back to the emotional space you inhabit most of the time. The good information, again, according to research, is that it’s possible to move that set point in a positive direction. How?
With meditation. Meditation has been demonstrated to positively impact the left brain and, gradually, over time, it can move your set point in a positive direction. That is significant payoff. Haidt also quips that the set point can be altered with the medication Prozac … and I imagine that would, indeed, work, short term, for some – though not at all reliable or recommended here. The long-term and safe benefits are derived from meditation, minus negative side effects.
“Life circumstances” include things that are less likely, or harder, for most to change: gender, IQ, history and background, education level, career/employment, and, for some, even where you live. This, then, is the least likely part of the formula to change … tweaking, perhaps possible.
In contrast, “Voluntary activities” … how and where you choose to spend your time … have an enormous impact on your happiness level. This part of the formula includes family, friends, volunteer work, hobbies, and any activities that have connection and meaning. The more you do the things that bring you pleasure and personal satisfaction, the happier you are likely to be. If that seems ridiculously obvious, just take a minute and check what percentage of your time is spent actually doing the voluntary things that make you happy rather than a “quest” for what you believe (or are being told) brings happiness.
Since the voluntary activities make the most impact on happiness levels, detailed exploration of what and how are examined in another formula. Consider the acronym PERMA, from the research of Dr. Martin Seligman in Flourish.
You can use these five areas of “living life” as a checklist for what you’ve incorporated successfully in your life. Examine the areas you know you need to work on; perhaps push to a higher level or acknowledge those that are important to you. The goal is to assess for a bit of balance. Or, sometimes more achievable in our busy lives, “integration.” Ask yourself what you need to include that is missing? At least a little more often. What needs more emphasis or attention? What do you need to embrace as truly important, not to be taken for granted?
I’m a huge advocate of checklists and inventories, because visuals do help. Consequently, I suggest identifying a page for each item in PERMA. Then list what you currently do that falls into each category. Then list what you have historically done but perhaps stopped for some reason.
Next, what do you aspire to do that you’ve not yet done? And, finally, what do you believe you could put into practice within the next 30 days? After making the lists, sit back, take a deep breath (maybe even meditate, since research says it helps), and just see how you feel. Check yourself to imagine what needs to change to increase your happiness level. And when that is possible.
One more basic piece of research: People earning under $50,000 to $75,000 yearly are typically unhappier than others. If obvious, perhaps more surprising, people who make more are typically not happier than others. Hmm! If the financial payoff isn’t a happiness guarantee, the information might make all the difference in where to put your energy. If not that convincing, perhaps it’s useful in at least contemplating and evaluating what you do that you might consider letting go of … as well as more frequently embracing what you know you do that works. Regardless, do what makes you happier!
by RYAN GEDNEY | photos courtesy of HOK
As excitement around the World Cup lingers, designers of soccer stadiums are exploring how these venues can keep up with and even contribute to the sport’s rapid growth in the U.S.
A recent Gallup poll showed that soccer’s popularity has tripled over the last decade. Founded 25 years ago, Major League Soccer now is the country’s fastest-growing professional sports league, ranking above the NBA and NHL in average per-game attendance. And the typical MLS fan is part of a demographic that is highly sought after by marketers and pro sports leagues. For adults ages 18 to 34, soccer was the favorite sport for 11 percent of those polled – tied with basketball and second only to football. The fan base is young, diverse, highly educated, and passionate about the sport.
At the recently opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta United FC has shattered MLS attendance records. This year, in just its second season, Atlanta United boasts nearly 39,000 season-ticket holders, is averaging more than 50,000 per game, and for its 2018 home opener, reported a crowd of 72,035 – a single-game high for the league.
MLS is making progress in signing more top players from around the world and increasing its TV ratings. For now, though, much of the league’s growth is being driven by providing dynamic game-day experiences in its stadiums. The fan experience also is key for the Division II United Soccer League (USL).
As architects, we’re exploring new ideas for creating soccer-only stadiums that will provide memorable fan experiences that augment the action on the pitch while contributing to the business success of these franchises and leagues.
SO, WHAT DOES THIS LOOK LIKE?
Scalability: Many MLS and USL teams have outgrown stadiums originally designed for another sport or small, community facilities shared with other users. We can future-proof the next generation of soccer-only stadiums by integrating scalability and flexibility that will enable them to change and grow along with the sport. This embedded flexibility allows for easy adaptation for high-profile games and events while extending the life of a venue. At Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Atlanta United has frequently exceeded initial anticipated capacities, this scalability to easily toggle between soccer, football, and other events has been vital.
Sophisticated fan base: Soccer boasts a unique fan base, capturing a high proportion of the country’s millennials and women and children who follow sports. Though the MLS and USL are relatively young, their fans already have high expectations for a hospitality-driven game-day experience – and will pay for this.
Today’s soccer stadiums can appeal to these fans by offering a wide variety of premium seat offerings; experiences that engage fans with the action and athletes; interesting vantage points and social gathering spaces; a technology infrastructure that enables fans to stay connected to their networks while immersing themselves in the game experience; and localized, high-quality food and beverage options.
Building tradition: Soccer fans take the sport seriously and are eager to participate in game-day traditions. The stadium, itself, can enhance these experiences, which could range from setting aside areas for tailgating to providing a special section for the most avid supporters. Our design teams collaborate with team owners and their fans to understand their routines before, during, and after games.
District development: As America’s growth-sport evolves, so, too, is the approach owners are taking to the neighborhoods and real estate surrounding a stadium. On game days, stadiums can be the most electric spaces in a city. Yet many will lie dormant for days at a time between events. Opportunities to build new soccer-specific stadiums on urban sites are enabling architects to look holistically at the broader district experience and attempt to use the venue to engage and serve the community 365 days a year.
We’re working with the USL’s Louisville City FC to design an easily expandable soccer stadium that will anchor a 40-acre, mixed-use development adjacent to Louisville’s Waterfront Park. Here, in addition to a world-class stadium where fans can build a robust soccer culture and celebrate the sport, the goal is to create a shared living room for downtown – a public gathering space that contributes to the urban fabric.
Stewart Lane: Nostalgia often comes with a price. The temples of old where memories were made and personal history created tend to fall short of our expectations. Fortunately for us, the Golden Ox is a rare exception. A revitalization of a bygone time where the best cuts of lamb, beef, chicken, and pork were the stars of the show and served with the respect they deserve.
Emily Lane: After closing its doors in 2014, the team of chef Wes Gartner and Jill Myers (Voltaire and Moxie Catering) decided that they were willing to take on the challenge of bringing back this Kansas City icon under their management. Upon our visit, we were pleased to experience not only an excellently prepared meal but also the ambiance one would expect at the original restaurant. Almost a 1960s “Mad Men”-esque feel, with dark wood, punched-tin lighting, and rich, warm colors in the linens and fabrics, you instantly feel transported to another time. It seemed almost too perfect; there was a man sitting at the table next to us in a large white Stetson. With a glass of dangerously potent cowboy punch in hand, the scene was set for our meal.
SL: The Golden Ox pays homage to its roots without being stuck in the past. Classic starters are elevated to the modern table. The rumaki, a dish with Tiki origins, is built with bacon-wrapped water chestnuts dusted with brown sugar and chicken livers grilled perfectly, placed on a bed of warm, sautéed pineapple. The textures of crisp, smoky bacon, moist and tender livers, the snap of water chestnuts, and the warm pineapple come together in each bite. The steakhouse classic Oysters Rockefeller pairs the house-smoked bacon with plump, juicy oysters, spinach, onions with a touch of Pernod, and toasted breadcrumbs. The oysters arrive straight from the broiler, bubbling around the edges, on a bed of rock salt.
EL: Our meal was coursed out in a timely fashion, and whenever we looked up, pausing for what might be next, an enticing dish would appear. The staff was attentive and thorough in the descriptions of the menu and bar items and ready and willing to share recommendations. There’s something so steakhouse about Caesar salad and shrimp cocktail preceding the main course; so naturally we had to sample those dishes.
SL: The Caesar salad gets an upgrade befitting of the environment, featuring crisp romaine leaves tossed with a light and creamy dressing, thinly shaved shallots, sundried tomatoes, shaved parmesan, and house-made croutons. The salad is finished with a few delicate white anchovy filets draped over the greens. The chef even put his own twist on shrimp cocktail in the homemade cocktail sauce with shredded horseradish and diced green olives.
EL: I couldn’t help but think how much my “meat and potatoes” father who hails from Pennsylvania would have loved every aspect of this traditional menu, but at the same time, it’s been elevated so even the finest foodie would find it engaging and satisfying. I think that’s a good way to assess the client base we observed – you had tables of businessmen, couples of all generations, and families sharing stories (and bites of food) across the table. It seemed everyone felt at ease in this warm habitat.
SL: Steak is, of course, the focal point on the menu, which features flat iron, skirt, filet, dry-aged bone-in ribeye, porterhouse, and, of course, the KC strip to name a few. Chef Gartner proudly touts the local cattle farmers who supply the steaks. We opted for the namesake KC strip, and it was perfection. Textbook medium-rare inside with a crackling crust and a crispy fat cap on the edge, finished with a delicate béarnaise sauce. Handbattered onion rings and a loaded baked potato with house-smoked bacon completed our steak experience. But there are more than steaks meeting the flame here. Emily couldn’t resist the Scottish salmon with a citrus beurre blanc sauce and fennel caper slaw, which was executed with the same finesse and care as any steak.
EL: And what’s a meal without dessert? I loved how they took a nod from the original Golden Ox menu of the ’60s and featured a classic banana split as one of the dessert options. We opted for another classic – the strawberry shortcake – and it was every bit as nostalgic and indulgent as I could have wanted. On our way out the door, I asked Stewart, “When do we get to come back?” We hope the Ox keeps its doors open for years to come.
by PATRICIA O’DELL | photos by TOM STRONGMAN
Tom Strongman’s 49-year career as a photojournalist started with a click of a button on the sidelines of a college football game next to his father, who was also a newspaper photographer.
“When I was around 15 years old, my dad had me come along to the University of Illinois football games to be his caption writer. I would squat down behind him, and he would take a picture of something and tell me what frame it was and I would write it down,” remembers Strongman.
Eventually, his father expanded his job description.
“The next year, he got a telephoto lens and he would let me use his Rolleiflex. He’d say, ‘Stay by the line of scrimmage, and if they run your way push the button.’”
Strongman followed his father’s lead, pushed the button and ended up with a picture on the front page of the sports section of the Decatur, Illinois, paper. He was 16 years old.
“That triggered my interest,” he says.
He joined the yearbook staff, where he was assigned group shots of the athletic teams and clubs. While this did not give him a lot of creative freedom, he’d caught the bug and went on to pursue his journalism degree at the University of Missouri with a major in photojournalism. After graduating in 1966, he worked at the local paper in Flat River, Missouri, for a year waiting for his girlfriend – and soon-tobe wife – to finish school, and then the newlyweds headed west to Colorado.
Strongman took a job with the The Free Press (later the Sun) in 1967. He’s modest about his assent in the ranks.
“I was there a year or two before I became chief of photography. There were a bunch of old guys who retired, and I ended up with the job.”
Seven years later, it was off to a bigger market with smaller mountains for a stint with the Denver Sentinel suburban papers.
“I had great experiences. I worked at papers where I could cover city hall, and I might have had to lay out page one. But I was ready to be a photo editor.”
In 1979, Strongman moved to Kansas City as assistant photo editor at The Kansas City Star. He became the art director of the Sunday magazine and eventually director of photography.
“I wasn’t really shooting that much. I was focused on administration – managing and hiring people. That’s when I started doing car reviews,” he says with a smile. “Then I talked my way into becoming automotive editor.”
While Strongman loved cars – both writing about them and driving them – he didn’t have the opportunity to do much photography whose subjects didn’t have wheels.
“When you’re working professionally, there’s so much emphasis on being objective,” he says. “It took me a long time to stop thinking about that and just make an interesting picture. Now I have the opportunity to play around, fool with an image in Photoshop. It’s fun!”
Despite his 49-year career behind the camera, Strongman finds himself reaching for his iPhone.
“I don’t hesitate to use my phone now and then. Sometimes things happen and it’s so easy to take the picture with your phone. It has its limitations, but it’s so easy to use.”
Whether he’s using his phone or a more sophisticated camera, this willingness to explore new technology and subjects has opened up Strongman’s photography to include nature and family and friends.
“I live near a small lake, and I started walking my dog by there in the morning. The fog would be coming up over the water or the sun would be rising and I’d be able to get a picture.”
His images ended up in a Shutterfly book for the home association owners who live nearby.
“The technology keeps evolving and I’m still curious about it,” he says. “I feel photography means more to me now than it ever did. I find I’m more involved now than I ever was.”
Strongman notes that the freedom to focus on what catches his interest – in a moment or over a longer stretch of time – has been one of the joys of retirement.
“I came from photojournalism where images were not manipulated, so there was a lot of pressure to be perfect. Now, I’ve stopped being so judgmental. I may take a picture of dozens of sunsets and, ‘That’s enough.’ But I’ve decided to have fun. If the sunset is cool, I’m just going to enjoy it and take the picture.”
Besides capturing nature and objects, Strongman has become the photographer of record for his family. He is a fixture at his three younger grandsons’ sporting events and makes photos available to their teammates and their parents.
“When I was working for newspapers, we’d look for that little interesting nugget about somebody’s everyday life that wouldn’t normally be in the paper. I used to think those pieces make the story even better.
“When we were young photographers we’d say, ‘I’d rather make a meaningful picture of an everyday event than everyday pictures of meaningful events.’ I still feel the same way.”
by STACY DOWNS | photos by LAURIE KILGORE
The brisker weather of autumn is just around the corner, so it’s nearly time to cozy up and hunker down at home.
Perhaps in your own favorite spot.
“I love it when homeowners can carve out a special space just for them,” says interior designer Sara Noble of Noble Designs. “It allows them to design a space that is not only functional for their specific needs, but it also lets us play with an aesthetic that really fits their tastes.”
PLANNING YOUR SPECIAL PLACE
You don’t have to have a man cave or a she shed to carve out your own nook at home. To get started, whether it’s planning on your own or with a designer, the most important thing to determine is how you want to use the space – whether it’s for work, play, or both. “This helps us determine what functionality must be built into the space,” Noble says.
Perhaps you have some favorite artwork or furniture you want to add in.
“After that, it’s always fun to look at what inspires,” Noble says, “whether it’s clippings from a magazine, Pinterest boards, or Instagram saves.”
TRENDS IN PERSONALIZED SPACES
What Noble loves about design right now is that the lines between traditional masculinity and femininity are blurred.
“Blush is being used everywhere, and men aren’t scared of it,” she says. “Women love dark colors for a more moody feel.”
But when Noble and her team get the opportunity to design for just one gender, it’s fun to play up that man cave and women’s lounge.
“For men, it’s great to use rich color, stains, and paint everything including the trim for a cozy feel,” she says. “For her, it’s shades of pink and softer curves.
The Westmeyers are not new to house renovations. They have moved and improved numerous houses but this one is different. Their new home in Hallbrook is more of a permanent residence – and it should be. The bones of the home are gorgeous. This classic colonial-style home has large white columns and an all-brick facade that create the feeling of old Southern charm. The inside, while well done, was a bit dated.
So the Westmeyers called Noble to help implement their vision. The formal living room is a perfect ladies lounge. The mix of crystal and blush gave the space a formal, soft feel. It’s perfect for tea or cocktails.
The theater room was more of a cozy room good for sports events or the latest movie. While the molding was added to give the space a feel that fit the rest of the house, the dark grays and plaids were added to make it his space. It’s cozy with flannel gray upholstered walls. And while it’s a great guys’ space, truth be known, the whole family is happy down there.
by KELSEY CIPOLLA | photos courtesy of KEEP THE SPARK ALIVE FOUNDATION
Sometimes you choose a cause, and, sometimes, tragically, a cause chooses you. That was the case for Sylvia and Nathan Harrell, whose teenage son, Chad, died by suicide on June 12, 2017.
“When Chad died, our first innate reaction was that we wanted to dig a hole and we wanted to curl up in a ball and bury ourselves in that hole as deep as we possibly could,” Nathan says. “But we also knew, based on what we were going through, that we would not be able to lay our heads on our pillow at night if we did not do something to help.”
Through their Keep the Spark Alive Foundation, the Harrells are honoring their son’s memory while raising funds for suicide awareness and prevention initiatives. The foundation’s inaugural golf tournament in May raised more than $150,000 for the Blue Valley School District’s K–12 resiliency and suicide prevention and awareness curriculum. The family also started a support group for teens who have lost a loved one to suicide.
Unfortunately, the Harrells are just one of many local families whose lives have been touched by suicide. Missouri and Kansas are ranked 13th and 15th in the nation when it comes to states with the most deaths by suicide, and the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics show suicide rates are on the rise.
SUICIDE AND TEENS
In recent years, suicide among teens has become particularly prevalent – between 2006 and 2016, there was an almost 70-percent increase. In addition to the program at Blue Valley, a growing number of schools are also incorporating Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City’s You Be You campaign, developed in collaboration with Bernstein-Rein Advertising.
The campaign is designed to reach teens with a positive message of self-worth and value and includes a website with resources, school-specific videos, social media, posters, stickers, T-shirts, and more. Student organizations at each of the schools help roll out the campaign and host events that align with its message, says Sarah Link Ferguson, Jewish Family Service’s mental health coalition coordinator.
“We want students to really establish buy-in and become advocates for other classmates who they see are struggling,” she says.
You Be You launched last year at 13 schools on both sides of the state line and will be in 23 schools this fall. One of the biggest takeaways from focus groups conducted during the first year was the need for programming and resources for parents. Students said they were comfortable talking about mental health among their peers but were afraid to talk to adults, including their parents, because they didn’t necessarily seem to want to hear it or know how to respond.
Link Ferguson is now working to develop resources for parents with program partner Speak Up, a local foundation created by two families who lost loved ones to suicide that works to bridge the gaps between community, schools, and parents.
Rennie Shuler-McKinney, director of clinical services at Shawnee Mission Health’s Behavioral Health Center, encourages parents to start having conversations with their kids early, to create an environment where they feel comfortable telling you what’s going on.
“Teenagers, just as their brains are developing, don’t have that ability to really think down the road into the future,” she explains. “They see the here and now as the absolute.”
Although it can be difficult for people struggling to see any hope, Shuler-McKinney says those who do seek help are able to find relief from some of their symptoms.
Kevin Timmons, co-owner of Nick & Jake’s, wants to better connect local youths to mental health resources, after his son, Nick, the restaurant’s namesake, died by suicide last year, Timmons and company created the Nick’s Voice Fund, which aims to create a dramatic effect on the suicide rates in the Kansas City area. Through Nick & Jake’s annual golf fundraiser, Fore the Kids, more than $450,000 was raised, funding immediate psychiatric help at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“We wanted to try to put kids in a position where there’s a better chance to talk to psychiatrists about their problems,” he says.
FINDING SUPPORT, FIGHTING STIGMA
One of the biggest barriers to suicide prevention and awareness continues to be that suicide is so stigmatized. “When we don’t talk about something, we can’t change something; we can’t make something better,” says Kevin McGuire, the mobile crisis response team leader for Johnson County Mental Health Center and co-chair of the Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition.
Although deaths by suicide receive attention immediately after they happen, McGuire would like to see conversations and preventative efforts happening beyond crises. Creating opportunities for those conversations is the focus of the Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition, which serves as a hub for suicide prevention in Johnson County and the broader community, working to provide education and resources and to help remind people that suicide happens here, whether we like it or not.
Local support is also available for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Bonnie and Mickey Swade founded Suicide Awareness Survivor Support (SASS) after they lost their son Brett in 2003. Although they found attending a support group helpful, they decided to start their own specifically for those who have lost loved ones through suicide. Today, there are groups throughout the metro.
“A suicide support group is not like just a grief support group, because when you lose someone from suicide, you have all kinds of questions: ‘What could have happened?’ ‘What did I do wrong?’ ‘How could I have stopped the suicide?’ You have more questions, I think, than someone who has lost a loved one from cancer or some other disease,” Bonnie says.
In addition to the support groups, SASS hosts events like Hope for the Holidays and an annual day of healing to provide therapeutic opportunities for survivors of suicides.
“You never really get over the loss,” Bonnie says, “but you get through it.”
photos by ANDREW FAILS
The Kansas City Auto Show took the stage at Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City a little earlier than usual this year, because opening night was February 28. From the opening to the closing on Sunday, March 4, the brands that we represent were on display.
The Auto Show this year could boast a 15-percent increase in attendance from the previous year, and the Bartle Convention Hall housed over 435 cars on display to the automotive aficionado.
From the 16-car Mercedes-Benz display, through Porsche, Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati, and Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vans, the display, supported by Aristocrat Motors and Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City, was once again the star of the show.
“This is an annual event that showcases the retail automotive industry in the Kansas City market, and we are proud to be able to represent the very best of that market with our brands and our associates,” stated Marion Battaglia, president of the Soave Automotive Group. “This year the work our staff did at the show and the quality of our exhibits were actually recognized as ‘Best-in- Show’ by the people who counted the most, the show visitors.”
by KELSEY CIPOLLA | photos courtesy of PHOENIX FAMILY
There are no cookie-cutter solutions at Phoenix Family. Instead, staff is on site working on thoughtful, personalized solutions for residents every day at the 35 properties the organization partners with in service of Phoenix Family’s mission: Empowering people living in low-income housing communities with the support they need to gain stability and achieve self-sufficiency.
“What that means for each of our individual residents can be very different, because one of the things we really pride ourselves on is that we are meeting people where they are, and that can be a high level of self-sufficiency, or it could be they were previously homeless or near homelessness,” says Executive Director Kimber Myers Givner.
Residents are facing steep challenges. In the Kansas City area, the wait for affordable multi-family housing is two to three years, and the average yearly income of the households Phoenix Family serves is $6,900, well below the federal poverty level for even an individual.
When people move into a residential community that Phoenix Family serves, they become eligible for the organization’s services, which are facilitated by an onsite coordinator. In multi-family communities, the heads of the household may need helping furnishing their new apartment, developing career skills to help them find a job or get a better job, learning about financial literacy, or finding a path to getting their GED. Phoenix Family also provides home education, which covers subjects like housekeeping and parenting.
For kids, Phoenix Family offers a free literacy-based after-school program called HIKE. Children who enter the program are tested in five core areas and receive a curriculum specific to their needs. An onsite reading specialist and volunteers work with kids on the areas that need improvement. The program also supplies participants with a meal.
In senior living communities, programming is focused on balanced living, which includes mental and physical health, providing residents with home help services and helping them navigate Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Every site has blood pressure and blood sugar screenings once a month in case people aren’t able to get to their doctors, and fresh produce is delivered monthly, since many communities are in food deserts, and seniors may not have access to transportation.
If it sounds like Phoenix Family works on an almost staggering number of fronts to help residents, it’s because that’s what is required, Myers Givner says.
“I wish there was one thing that if everybody did it, he or she wouldn’t be in poverty, but it’s a multitude of factors,” Myers Givner explains.
Over her 20 years with the organization, Myers Givner says she’s met many residents who she could relate to, people who were successful and then lost everything.
“One of the things overall that I wish people knew was that nobody wants to live in poverty. It’s not something somebody really chooses,” she says. “At many times, choices might lead to that, but a person also may have not been equipped from the very beginning either from an education standpoint, from a professional standpoint, a literacy standpoint, to have those tools in his or her toolbox to be successful.”
And although we might not notice it, poverty exists in our own backyard, Myers Givner says, noting that Phoenix House has communities throughout the metro, including in Johnson County, as well as in Iowa.
In total, Phoenix Family serves 6,000 residents each day, despite having an annual budget of only $3 million and 57 employees across all program sites as well as in the home office. Because of the organization’s small staff size, volunteers play a vital role.
“Volunteers are so critical to the success of our programs, not only on the youth and the family side, but also the senior side,” Myers Givner says.
Volunteers are given the chance to help the organization in a way that fits with their personal interests and goals and work directly with residents so they get to see firsthand the difference their efforts make. Those personal connections between volunteers, staff, and residents are a big part of what makes Phoenix Family successful. Relationships often continue even after residents move out and move on, allowing Phoenix Family to see how they go on to thrive.
Myers Givner warmly recalls watching one of the kids she worked with early on in her career give a commencement speech at her graduation. Others check in, telling her about buying homes, graduating college, and their other adventures.
“Those successes, that we’re connected to people even after they’ve exited poverty, that is amazing,” she says. “A lot of programs are very temporary and very transitional. I think what’s unique about Phoenix is that we’re so invested in their lives on site, that even when they’ve left the property, we continue those relationships.”