Russ Meyer Community Leadership Award, named after longtime aviation advocate, philanthropist and community leader Russ Meyer, is given to an individual making a positive impact in our community through demonstrated excellence in leadership and outstanding initiative to create solutions for critical issues facing the area. The 2020 recipient is Diana Schunn, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County. The Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County is dedicated to working with child victims of abuse and their caregivers.
Jennifer White, SOS helps fight human trafficking in Wichita
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 ictsos.org.
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.
Kevin Mullen focuses on close-up work with Wichita’s needy
February 20, 2018
In his professional life, Kevin Mullen builds nice homes and neighborhoods for people who can afford them. In his personal life, he helps feed people who can’t.
Mullen considers himself lucky in both respects.
“Some of us lead a very sheltered life,” says Mullen, the president of Ritchie Associates, who became active in the Lord’s Diner a decade ago. “I’m one of them. There’s just so much joy in helping people, watching people come up and get a meal and see the smile on their face. You know you’re actually doing something.”
Mullen grew up in Hutchinson, earned an accounting degree from Kansas State University and worked as a CPA for three years before going into the real estate development business with Jack and Dave Ritchie. Today he and Jack Ritchie are partners.
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.”
Fred Berry of Berry Companies, Inc. – 2017 Russ Meyer Award
The Russ Meyer Award for Community Leadership, named after longtime aviation advocate, philanthropist and community leader Russ Meyer, is given to an individual making a positive impact in our community through demonstrated excellence in leadership and outstanding initiative to create solutions for critical issues facing the area. Continue reading “Fred Berry of Berry Companies, Inc. – 2017 Russ Meyer Award”