Archive for Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Town meetings target city financial challenges

September 24, 2003

Like people, cities suffer growing pains.

That's why the First Baptist Church is sponsoring community forums that explore health, social and spiritual concerns in Tonganoxie.

The next forum will be held at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 2, in the community room at Tonganoxie City Library. Everyone is encouraged to attend.

The Rev. Weldon Jolly, pastor of First Baptist Church, said at the first forum, held earlier this month, 20 citizens talked about Tonganoxie's resources and needs.

"There was a consensus in the terms that Tonganoxie is apparently a great place to live, and for the few that work there it's a great place to work," Jolly said. "But like any other community, with the growth and so forth, there are already concerns about problems that may not be imaginable now. But as growth occurs, those challenges tend to loom absolutely larger and larger and grow in importance."

Toni Minor agreed. Minor, who is a social worker, lives in Tonganoxie and is a member of First Baptist Church. She is a University of Kansas professor in the School of Social Welfare.

"I think some resources were identified in the community," Minor said.

Chief among them was transportation for the elderly, as well as housing for the elderly and affordable housing.

And, of course, she said, there are the concerns of a shifting demographic.

"The population here is aging," Minor said. "But also, the whole community here is changing. It's becoming almost like a bedroom community."

Minor praised Tonganoxie's assets, including the parks and swimming pool. But city residents will likely express the need for more benefits as the population continues to grow.

"There's a whole different family that's moving into Tonganoxie now. They want a recreation center and movie theater and things that we don't have."

Help with resources

Debbie Holloway, an eighth grade English teacher at Tonganoxie Junior High School, said it's important to provide resources to help parents and teens better communicate with each other.

"I know we have Parents as Teachers for the younger kids, but I'm talking about the older child," Holloway said.

She said workshops could be geared to help parents understand the importance of communicating with teens.

She used the example of discussing health issues with teens.

"Sure, we can pick up a pamphlet in the doctor's office and give it to them, but do people ever take the time to really go over and review everything?"

Or, it could be simpler than that.

"Like how to really enjoy them," Holloway said.

The resources to help are likely out there, she said, adding that the dilemma is in how to get them to the right people.

What are the concerns

At the first meeting, Jolly said, those attending were asked to write their concerns about the city's specific needs.

"Our mission is to build on the strength of the community and the families that live in the community," Jolly said.

"And as a church, we commit to promoting the well-being of family through promoting community programs, community development and strategic planning."

When the notes participants handed in were read, a significant number addressed the lack of public transportation for the elderly.

A general need was the concern that there is no one resource in town where people can go to learn about all the available services, Jolly said.

And, when it comes to mental health, Weldon said, he knew of no behavioral counseling services offered in Tonganoxie.

Jolly noted that those who attended the first meeting included Tonganoxie school superintendent Richard Erickson and Tonganoxie mayor Dave Taylor.

"We were very, very pleased that they saw fit to come and, hopefully, they'll be at the next meeting, as well," Jolly said.

Minor said she hopes that as word spreads, more people will come to the meetings.

"I see it as a good start," Minor said. "It shows a lot of promise."

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