TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly announced today that $300,000 has been awarded to the 12 Rural by Choice Champions (Rural Champions) announced last year in collaboration with the Office of Rural Prosperity and the Patterson Family Foundation to address local challenges in their respective communities. The funding will allow these communities to move into the implementation phase of their projects.
“Throughout my time in office, my administration has worked relentlessly to advance economic development, build affordable housing, and expand child care availability to ensure prosperity reaches every corner of the state,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “This funding allows Rural Champions to drive success in rural communities that until now did not have the resources necessary to complete these projects.”
Over the past ten months, the Rural Champions have been bringing together volunteers and community organizations, uncovering additional resources, and building conversations around their unique challenges. The Champions have identified and developed steps to make progress in their communities.
The twelve Rural Champion organizations are being awarded $25,000 each to assist in those steps through project implementation grants. Rural Champions have developed creative programs to provide direct impact in their communities, such as housing incentive programs, mini-grant programs for child care providers, beautification mini-grant programs, and to leverage additional grant applications.
“The Rural Champions are marshaling resources and removing barriers to progress by getting community buy-in right from the start,” Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “The relatively modest funding support will have an enormous impact moving forward as the communities resolve critical local issues.”
The Rural Champion projects include:
- City of Kingman, Kingman County: Create a mini-grant fund to help provide matching funds for child care providers to purchase supplies or equipment
- Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation: Continue supporting efforts of the child care coalition
- Grow Clay County: Work with the school district to remodel classrooms for child care and provide furnishings, toys, and supplies
- Oberlin Unified School District 294: Renovate and transition a home into a child care center and market the child care coalition
- Graham County: Establish a travel and tourism organization and marketing materials and develop a county leadership program
- Wallace County: Support existing business improvement mini-grant fund and expand marketing efforts of programs
- Junction City Main Street: Market and promote the Main Street Market and purchase equipment to improve events
- City of Harper and City of Anthony: Create housing incentive programs for property owners
- Linn County: Fund housing incentive programs
- Morton County: Mental Health Champion, Renovate access centers, mini-grants for continued maintenance, and support efforts in sharing resources at schools
- Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation: Create mini-grants fund for community placemaking and beautification projects
- Community Foundation for Independence: Development of trails as well as walking tours and beautification
“This program is fueling local initiatives driven by Rural Champions who are passionate about being change-makers in their communities,” said Dr. Kevin Prine, President and CEO of the Patterson Family Foundation. “Our Foundation is pleased to be a part of this collaborative effort. We’re excited that Rural Champions are developing roadmaps that can be used to help address these challenges in many other rural communities.”
“We are very excited about the work these 12 Rural Champions have put into their projects,” Office of Rural Prosperity Director Trisha Purdon said. “This network of Champions will continue to grow, and the knowledge gained will be shared with communities facing similar challenges across the state.”
As Rural Champions continue their work to combine their learned experiences to develop the guidebooks through this process, the Office of Rural Prosperity will continue to provide assistance on these projects through 2024 to implement and carry out these programs. You can learn more about the Rural Champions and find out how to follow their projects here.