Jennifer White, SOS helps fight human trafficking in Wichita

Jennifer White

Previously published in the Wichita Eagle
Article by Amy Geiszler-Jones
Photo by Jaime Green

Ever since she learned about human trafficking happening in Wichita, Jennifer White has been helping raise awareness about the issue and helping groups who work directly with victim survivors.

White founded ICT SOS in 2011 after reading a newspaper article about human trafficking. As the mother of two daughters, including one who was 12 at the time – the age that many enter human trafficking – she was compelled to do something, she said.

“I am a mom and a lover of all things Wichita. I’m raising my family here and I want our community to be as safe as possible for all who live here,” White said.

As she became educated about the issue and about those who work with victims – like the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County, law enforcement agencies, hospitals and the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center – she realized there was room for a nonprofit that could help them. A group that could provide funds to buy a plane ticket for a victim to rejoin her family or go to a rehabilitation center. A group that would talk to churches and other organizations to tell them this is a problem that needs attention. (White said she’s still often asked, “Does that really happen in Wichita:”) A group that would put together a prevention and awareness curriculum to share in the schools.

White, a former financial adviser who became the full-time executive director of ICT SOS in 2016, often describes ICT SOS as a liaison between the community and professionals, helping support and fill gaps.

Its “fresh start bags” program began when a police officer contacted her to get some items for a young girl the police were helping. The bags contain clothing, hygiene items, a journal or comfort item – a toy or blanket – and a gift card for a meal. The group also provides clean start baskets for youth transitioning from foster care or juvenile justice custody into their first dorm or apartment. A list of needed items can be found on the group’s website.

Through its annual 5k Race 4 Freedom, which started in 2013, ICT SOS has raised $150,000 to help programs that serve at-risk girls and victims of trafficking.

In recent years, ICT SOS has stepped up its prevention and awareness curriculum offered in several Wichita-area middle and high schools. ICT SOS has a full-time education coordinator and a team of volunteers, including detectives, a lawyer from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and social workers, who work with teachers to provide the three-to-five hour curriculum. In 2017, the curriculum reached 1,300 kids; in 2018 it nearly doubled to more than 2,500, White said.

“We are working not only to combat the issue of human trafficking, but ultimately end it altogether,” White said.

Find out more about the group by visiting

The Russ Meyer Award for Community Leadership

To be awarded to an individual who is making a positive impact in our community through demonstrated excellence in leadership and outstanding initiative to create solutions for critical issues facing the Greater Wichita Area.

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Sara Bagby, Watermark Books and Cafe earn accolades

Sarah Bagby

Previously published in the Wichita Eagle
Article by Amy Geiszler-Jones
Photo by Jaime Green, The Wichita Eagle

While a love of books was instilled early in Sarah Bagby, being a business owner wasn’t.

“I grew up in a house of readers,” said Bagby, who owns Watermark Books and Cafe. “I didn’t grow up in a family of entrepreneurs, so the reading part was natural, the ownership wasn’t.”

While it wasn’t a natural skill, Bagby has become very successful at running an independent bookstore. Last year, Watermark Books and Cafe was named the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year among businesses with 25 or fewer employees. This year, it’s among the five nominees for the national Bookstore of the Year honor bestowed by Publishers Weekly. The winner will be named in March.

Her success can be attributed to several things: her passion for Wichita, literature and authors; her forwardthinking and strategic planning that’s helped her thrive in a business pressured by national chains, Amazon and electronic books; her staff of likeminded book lovers; and readers in the Wichita community.

Bagby started working part time for the independent bookstore in 1981 and by the mid-1990s, she was the store’s owner.

The store has become much more than a bricksand-mortar independent bookstore.

“It’s a place where people can go and find community,” said Bagby. And she likes that.

About a dozen book clubs meet monthly at Watermark, Bagby said, and local groups often use one of two basement meeting spaces – one decorated with a mural of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and the other featuring authors’ signatures.

She and her staff coordinate about 60 events and book signings, ranging from local authors to national favorites such as John Grisham, David Sedaris and Elizabeth Gilbert. Watermark has become known for not only bringing in big-name authors, but helping put emerging authors on the map. Most of the events are held at Watermark; events with a larger draw are held at other venues.

“I have this dream that every time we host a John Grisham or Liane Moriarty, all the hundreds of readers in attendance go home and read the same book,” said Bagby.

Watermark collaborates with other organizations to spread literacy and produce more readers. Working with the Wichita Community Foundation, Watermark helps send authors to Title I elementary schools – which have a high percentage of students from low-income families – and distributes free books. It also partners with The Opportunity Project to provide about 800 hardcover books for free to kids.

A previous board member of the American Booksellers Association, Bagby is starting a term on the Book Industry Charitable Foundation board that provides funds to bookstore colleagues experiencing unexpected financial hardships because of emergency or medical circumstances.

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Wichita Animal Action League lives up to its name

Sarah Coffman

Previously published in the Wichita Eagle
Article by Amy Geiszler-Jones
Photo by Dana Beitey, Newman University

When Sarah Coffman saw a baby kitten dart under a car, she took action.

She retrieved the kitten, tucked it inside her shirt and got back in her parents’ car to await their return, hoping her rescue would go unnoticed until they got home. She was 9 then, and that kitten was among the many hundreds of animals who have found homes thanks to Coffman’s efforts.

In November 2013, Coffman started the Wichita Animal Action League as a state-licensed, foster-based animal rescue. Since then, WAAL has rescued more than 2,000 animals, Coffman said. Last year, the group saved 696 animals at risk of being put down, with 659 finding new homes. Potential owners can find adoptable pets on the group’s website and its Saturday adoption site at Towne West Square.

WAAL has even rescued ducks, she said.

But WAAL doesn’t just focus on rescuing and rehoming pets in the community. It also helps current owners facing difficult life situations keep their pets. WAAL works with the Wichita Family Crisis Center to provide housing for pets of domestic violence victims while the owners transition into safe situations. It also works with pet owners using InterFaith Ministries’ homeless shelter – the only Wichita shelter that accepts pets – to provide supplies, grooming and other resources, if needed.

With its Spay It Forward voucher program, WAAL has subsidized spay and neuter procedures for the pets of more than 300 owners, said Coffman.

It’s all because Coffman believes in taking action. It’s what led her to start WAAL and ensure the nonprofit’s name included the word action.

Back in 2013, Coffman, who has a bachelor’s degree in integrated marketing and communications from Wichita State, was working at an advertising agency when she saw a Facebook post about the plight of an abandoned dog.

“Someone needs to do something about this,” she remembered thinking as she read the post. She realized she could be that someone.

As the executive director of WAAL, she oversees a part-time employee, 40 volunteers and about 100 fosters – the WAAL Warriors, she calls them – and coordinates the care of the animals, some of which need extensive medical care. Coffman plays an integral part in raising money for WAAL, which is funded solely by private donations.

“Much like the Boy Scout code of ‘leaving it better than you found it,’ I’m motivated by making the world a little easier to live in for the people and animals that will be here long after me,” said Coffman, who has two cats and three dogs. “I get to fulfill my childhood dream of helping animals with my skill set. It’s my way of giving back and the most rewarding thing is seeing the happily ever after” when a pet is adopted.

The Sr. Tarcisia Roths, ASC, Award for a Not-for-Profit

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Elizabeth Meister – Teen starts CPR Training Program

Elizabeth Meister

Previously published in the Wichita Eagle
Article by Amy Geiszler-Jones
Photo by Bo Rader

When Elizabeth Meister was looking for a capstone project as part of her volunteer efforts, she wanted to find a project that could make a difference in people’s lives.

What she decided on may make more than a difference, it could help save people’s lives.

More than a year ago, Meister, now 17 and a senior at Wichita Collegiate, launched Project Heart to Heart, or H2H, teaching hands-only CPR to students and adults.

A Cleveland Clinic survey released in February 2018 found that while half of Americans said they know CPR, only one in six knew that hands-only CPR is the recommended method. Only one in 10 of the 1,000 people surveyed knew that the correct compression rate is 100-120 pushes per minute. The Bee Gees’ classic disco hit “Stayin’ Alive” has the perfect beat, according to the American Heart Association.

Because she’s taken both babysitter and lifeguard training and has volunteered with the American Heart Association, Meister has been CPR-trained.

“My younger sister, Emily, was my motivation and inspiration for my project,” Meister wrote. “She was born with a cardiac arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm.”

Meister and her mother, Lori, who is her co-trainer, have trained approximately 2,000 students and adults and have taught an additional 7,000 about the importance of CPR, Meister wrote. They’ve gone to schools and public events like Wichita Thunder hockey games to train and spread the word, said Meister, who is also a volunteer for the American Heart Association.

She strongly encourages people to not be shy about visiting the H2H table, which has “faceless, slightly creepy mannequins. There is no shame in learning or refreshing a life-saving skill.”

Meister already has a long list of organizations and efforts for which she volunteers. As an officer of Collegiate’s Pro-Humanitate volunteer club, she helps coordinate volunteer activities for herself and her fellow students. Her family is active in volunteering with Catholic Charities and the Lord’s Diner.

Meister, whose father, Gregory, is a physician, said she is considering a career in medicine. Several of her academic projects also involve health-related issues, like her H2H volunteer project.

As part of a robotics and innovation class, Meister is working on developing a prosthetic flipper for a sea turtle named Montel at the Florida Keys Sea Turtle Hospital, which she and her family have visited while on vacation in the Keys. In chemistry, she’s on a research team examining and analyzing harmful vapors produces by an e-cigarette. The group will present their research findings at a University of Kansas medical forum in April.

Read more here:

The Brian Bergkamp Student Service Award

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Doug Lockett – Professional Volunteer

Douglas Lockett

Previously published in the Wichita Eagle
Article by Amy Geiszler-Jones
Photo by Jaime Green

Doug Lockett has been called a “professional volunteer” by those aware of the time he invests in providing a free meal once a week to more than 100 people, helping run a community radio station and doing repairs for free for seniors.

A man with a sense of faith, a big heart and an infectious laugh, Lockett is known to many in northeast Wichita simply as “Brother Doug.”

Lockett, 61, said he started volunteering at age 14 when his “mom didn’t want me sitting around for the summer” in his native Kansas City. So he started teaching a photography class at a local YWCA, sharing the technical skills he’d picked up from his dad, a professional photographer. He’d picked up his people skills by accompanying his mom as she volunteered with senior citizens and other community projects. “She was an activist,” recalled Lockett.

After high school, he became an air traffic controller in the Air Force and was a DJ on the side. After he was discharged, he started a career in restaurant management and now uses those skills to run The Underground Cafe, which offers a free hot meal once a week to anyone who stops by.

Operating out of the basement of a church at 1156 N. Oliver, The Underground Cafe serves more than 100 meals every Wednesday night. It has even served as many as 300, Lockett said. Lockett, who took over running the cafe about six years ago, spends about 25 hours a week doing the ordering, prep work, cooking and coordinating the volunteers.

“I serve a decent meal since I’ve got skills,” said Lockett, followed by a laugh. He’s whipped up chicken cordon bleu, meatloaf, fried chicken and more.

Originally founded to provide a meal to homeless vets, the cafe now serves anyone regardless of income or status. “It’s more of a fellowship,” said Lockett. Patrons have included international students attending nearby Wichita State and busy moms who just want a night off from cooking.

Lockett also uses those cooking skills to serve a monthly meal to seniors living at a retirement community in northeast Wichita.

A self-employed licensed contractor, Lockett also spends about eight to 10 hours a month doing small repairs for free for seniors.

With his background as a musician and DJ, Lockett also serves as the volunteer manager for KSUN 95.9, a community radio station that runs out of the basement of the Sunflower Community Action facility at 1751 N. Ash. He coordinates the on-air talent and is on the air himself on Sunday mornings as part of the station’s Sunday Buffet lineup, which offers music of different genres..

When asked what motivates him, Lockett replied, “Just waking up every day is motivation. If you can’t do something for someone else, then why are you here?”

Read more here:

The Ivonne Goldstein Award for Community Volunteer

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Medical Loan Closet makes it easier for patients to get needed supplies

Lloyd Hanna

February 20, 2018

Beard-building Lance Minor also growing his business

Lance Minor

Minor created the original recipes for Aero Plains’ beer. Minor and his partners have also listened to input from customers who want more variety, recently hiring a new head brewer, Troy Bervig. They’re working with a local branding agency, Gardner Design, to improve their labels and recently purchased equipment that will allow them to switch from bottles to cans. That, in turn, will allow them to release new beers more often.

Besides the Marines, Minor says another experience profoundly affected his life today. In 2014, just as he was preparing to launch Aero Plains, he contracted swine flu and spent seven weeks in a coma. “I realized that whatever connections I made with people, whether long-lasting or fleeting, I wanted to make those connections positive. Hold the door for people, help them with their groceries, stop and help someone change a tire, buy a round of beer for strangers.”

Aero Plains has raised money for the Mental Health Association, Hands of Hope, Wichita’s Littlest Heroes and women’s advocacy groups. Minor sits on the board of the Field of Brews fundraiser for Starkey, Inc. He and Aero Plains are enthusiastic participants in the Delano Fall Fair and other neighborhood events.

His goal for 2018, besides growing Aero Plains: grow his beard, although not for purposes of appearance. Minor has entered Aero Plains in the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation head shaving event that raises money for childhood cancer research. While others shave their heads, Minor said, “I’m growing out my beard from September 2017 to April 2018 – because I can’t grow hair on top of my head.”

Kevin Mullen focuses on close-up work with Wichita’s needy

Kevin Mullen

February 20, 2018

Their company has transformed east Wichita, creating dozens of developments with thousands of homes in them over the past three decades. Tallgrass, Wilson Estates, Lakepoint, The Waterfront, Garden Walk … the list goes on, literally, with the company’s newest developments, Brookfield and Firefly.

As good as he is with numbers, Mullen’s real satisfaction comes from seeing his company take an empty landscape and fill it with a thriving neighborhood, using as much of the landscape’s creeks, woods and natural features as possible. Maybe it’s a link to his father, Robert, an architect and artist.

“We feel like our model of neighborhoods have changed the way Wichitans think when buying a home,” Mullen said.

Mullen has not joined many boards through his life. He describes himself as direct, driven and not inclined to talk situations to death. However, he accepted an invitation to join the board of the Lord’s Diner in 2009, after the recession left him with a little time on his hands. He helped the organization expand from its original site on north Broadway into a second location in south Wichita and three mobile food trucks, increasing the number of meals served daily from about 500 to 2,500.

Twice a month, he dishes up food at the truck parked at the Atwater neighborhood center in northeast Wichita. On those nights, he says, he’s just one of 6,000 volunteers from all faiths and backgrounds who pitch in to make the Lord’s Diner work.

He recently left Lord’s Diner board and joined the board of Catholic Charities. True to his nature, he plans on doing more listening than talking while he figures out where he can do the most good. He’s also been active in developing the Stryker Soccer Complex in northeast Wichita and helping Kapaun Mount Carmel, which his children attended, build a new gym.

Mullen said any success he’s experienced would have been impossible without his partner, Jack Ritchie, and his wife of 43 years, Nancy, another K-State Wildcat with whom he has four children and six grandchildren.

“I like to believe that my family and company have made Wichita a better place,” he said. “It’s a team effort. It’s not about me.”

Don Barry awaits long-anticipated opening of new downtown library

Don Barry

February 20, 2018

Do-everything Hailey Colburn works to help younger girls

Hailey Colburn

Article by Joe Stumpe – Eagle correspondent
Photo by Bo Rader – Eagle photographer

February 20, 2018

It’s hard to imagine today, but Hailey Colborn struggled with self-esteem as a youngster. Yes, the reigning Miss Kansas Teen USA, former Northwest High class president and ballerina who danced the role of the Dew Drop Fairy in “The Nutcracker” last year.

A self-diagnosed overachiever, Colborn says she wanted to be as good a classical ballerina as possible. “I continually felt like a structure in need of improvement.” Colborn credits her family, an “incredible support system” and a nutritionist with helping her learn to take care of her mental, physical and emotional needs. The upshot was “a drastic improvement in my relationship with the world as a whole.”

Colborn, the Brian Bergkamp Student Service Award winner who will graduate from Northwest in May, started a program called SelfPosi three years ago to help girls with some of the same issues she faced. Originally part of a platform for a pageant she was competing in, she first tried SelfPosi out on fellow students at Northwest. Realizing the message was needed even more by younger girls, she has directed her efforts toward middle schools.

She books her appearances, recruits others to help with presentations and uses her passionate personality to make her audiences are participants in the process. “I’m surprised by how open the girls involved are willing to be,” Colborn said. “They share very personal anecdotes and really engage with the presentation.” She credits her mother – “someone with an already packed schedule” – with helping her stay organized. Hailey hopes more people will come to realize “that self-love is such an important issue that so many girls struggle with as they grow.”

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A program she organized last April at McAdams Recreational Center drew more than 50 girls ages 10 to 16, who took part in workshops on issues underlying self-esteem free of charge.

Hailey is the daughter of Kevin and Denise Colborn. When not maintaining a 4.0-grade point average or volunteering for extracurricular activities, she enjoys hanging out with friends and her two dogs. She’s also a “literature fanatic” – particularly when the writers are F. Scott Fitzgerald or Toni Morrison.

One of the proudest moments of her life to date was when she was admitted early to her top choice, Princeton University. Another was when she presented SelfPosi at her former middle school, Wilbur. “I will never forget a young girl that came up to me afterwards as I was leaving, looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Thank you. I really needed to hear that today.’ ”