I had the opportunity to travel to Iola, Kan., (located in Allen County, Kan.) this week and meet with several grantees that HCF has funded over the years. I also met with the mayor of Iola and with Judge Creitz, chief judge of the 31st Judicial District.
I grew up in a very small town, so going to Allen County is always a treat for me. There is just a special warmness that makes everyone you meet feel like they are your friend. If you ever need to be inspired, go to Allen County because these folks know how to get things done.
David Toland, executive director of Thrive, grew up in Iola, moved away for college and worked in Washington D.C. for several years before he and his wife decided that they wanted to move home and raise their new family in a small community.
The board of Thrive recruited David to take the leadership position of this new organization, and he and his team have done remarkable work.
Eight years ago when I started going to Allen County, things looked sure different than they look today. Now you see community gardens everywhere. You see seniors exercising in a refurbish community center. You see young dentists – who have been recruited to Iola – taking care of the oral health needs of the underserved. You see bikes everywhere and the farmers market is doing a thriving business. You see school children learning about nutrition, cooking and gardening as part of their school experience. The chief judge has started a drug court, and he graduates his first class later this year.
I could go on and on… the county health ranking has improved dramatically over the last three years, and in my opinion this ranking will do nothing but get even better in the years to come.
I tip my hat to David and to the citizens of Allen County. You are an inspiration to the rest of us!