Thursday, August 29, 2019

Animal shelter breaks ground on $8 million expansion



by Mary Wilson

Kansas City’s largest no kill animal shelter is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year in a big way. Wayside Waifs has broken ground on a construction project that will add 20,000 square feet of space to the pet adoption campus.

The $8 million project includes an Education and Training Center for large event hosting, dog training classes, youth education programming, and staff offices; along with a Canine Behavior Center, the second of its kind in the nation, that will exclusively serve shy, fearful and high-energy/arousal shelter dog behavior transformations.

On Thursday, August 22, Wayside Waifs held a groundbreaking ceremony, inviting guests, volunteers, and the community out to their grounds to celebrate the future of the shelter. Wayside Waifs President Geoff Hall said that the organization couldn’t have survived the past 75 years without the partnerships formed over the years, including with animal welfare organizations like Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, KC Pet Project, Great Plains SPCA, and Spay and Neuter Kansas City, as well as local municipalities in the metro.

“We are very, very grateful to be in the wonderful community of Grandview, Missouri,” said Hall. “Grandview is a partner of ours with whom we have been working with to provide animal impoundment services for many, many years, and we work together to solve problems to improve the lives of both people and animals.”

Through the years, Hall said Wayside has continued to grow and improve. The organization is housed on a 50-acre campus, surrounded by nature, with a roughly 50,000 square foot shelter. Homeless animals come to Wayside for various reasons, and last year a total of 5,600 animals were adopted out, with 2019 on pace to reach that number again this year.

Wayside Waifs considers preventative work to be just as important to their organization as the adoption of animals. The team created the No More Bullying program several years ago, and today it is taught in 34 cities in 20 states throughout the country, with the goal of changing the lives of kids to go on to be productive members of society with both animals and people.

Hall said that around three years ago, Wayside’s board of directors gave the executive team a task to begin envisioning what was next for the organization.

“We recognized that there is a dearth of facilities to help both prepare the future of a newly-adopted pet, specifically a dog to have a happy life and a home, as well as dogs that perhaps have had some damaging experiences at the hand of a human being,” said Hall. “These animals traditionally had a very high rate of euthanasia in shelters all throughout the country. We knew that we could do better.”

After investigation of how to handle these types of dogs, a plan was created to help address behavior issues on two ends. The capital campaign that Wayside is launching, and broke ground on last week, is for two buildings. The first will be to replace the current community room that is insufficient for the needs of today, which includes an 8,000-square-foot addition to the campus to house classrooms, dog training space and office space. 

“Our staff has grown to 75 employees,” said Hall. “We have 1,400 volunteers. We have no place to put our internal working groups, let alone external working groups.”

There are dogs that come to Wayside who are either shy and fearful or have high arousal and low impulse control and both, according to Hall, can be difficult to live with in a home.

“We also think that these animals deserve a chance,” said Hall. “We recognize that one of our limiting factors, regardless of the size of our facility, is that it is chaotic in the shelter.”

A brand-new K-9 behavior center will be built on the property. The 9,000-square-foot facility will allow Wayside to be able to provide a controlled environment to help those dogs be more calm, focused and resilient to life with people. Wayside Waifs is partnering with the ASPCA, who recently completed a similar facility in North Carolina.

“I’m proud to say that Wayside Waifs and Kansas City will be the second facility of its type in this country,” said Hall.

Partners on the project include A.L. Huber Construction and SFS Architects. Tom and Jill Turner and Dave and Sandy Johnson are leading the fundraising campaign efforts, with $7 million of the $8 million in project costs already secured through private endowments and other efforts. The expansions are expected to take approximately 10 months to complete.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Students from Ruskin lead discussion on neighborhood safety





by Mary Wilson 

Prior to the back-to-school rally held on Saturday, August 10, residents from Hickman Mills were invited to a panel hosted by the Community and Police Relations team (CPR) in south Kansas City. The team was put together by a group of active members of the community to improve the relationship between the police and young people in the area.

The questions for the panel were student-driven, with Ruskin High School recent graduate Walter Verge and junior Ebony Ross leading the discussion on their own concerns regarding crime, violence prevention, police perception and building relationships between community and law enforcement. Invited to be on the panel were Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, 5th District Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, 3rd District At-Large Councilman Brandon Ellington, South Patrol Division Manager Daniel Gates and Hickman Mills Superintendent Dr. Yolanda Cargile.

“Earlier this year, only a few months into 2019, there were more homicides reported in Kansas City, Missouri than the beginning of any year for the past nine to ten year,” Verge said as he began the conversation. “There have been at least 126 homicides with at least five (victims) younger than the age of 16. One question I have for my community and its enforcers is what is being done? How can we deplete the statistics and rates of homicides?”

He added that he believes in order for the community to prevail, its members must unify and work together to solve the problem. Mayor Lucas said that he thinks there are two core issues: community and prevention.

“How do we make it so we have a community where people have opportunities and education,” Lucas said, “and things that are different than being involved in crime? We need to make sure we find those who are causing trouble in our community and make sure we address those issues so that there aren’t folks who are creating more threats, more violence for us long-term. The biggest thing that we need to do is prevent these types of things from happening.”

Lucas added that it comes down to having influencers in the lives of young people who believe in them, and tell them that they can be someone greater than they believe they can. He said that he would like to see more investment in alternative activities for young people in the community.

“Things like a youth council for our city,” Lucas said, “so we have folks who not only have activities, but are helping create them. I do recognize that what you and I see as fun on the weekends may be different, and I may be stuck in a 1998 view of fun. I want to make sure that the city, where it can, is invested in those opportunities.”

He said that the schools are the main connector when it comes to implementing new programs and activities for youth.

“There is no better place for us to catch people, to give them ideas, to show them their worth, to tell them how special they are than in the schools,” said Lucas. “That’s one thing that I think we can do.”

Dr. Cargile agreed, and said that as a district, their role in ending the violence in the community starts with education. They have tools in place as educators to teach restorative practices and conflict resolution. She agreed that the community effort starts in the district and in the schools.

“We partner with a resource on conflict resolution to teach our students mediation skills without violence,” said Cargile. “That has been a big initiative in the district for the last few years. We’ve seen a decline in our discipline issues, and we continue to provide training to the staff to provide them the tools to equip our students with the skills that they need to work their issues out without violence.”

Gates said that the police department is very good at gathering data about crime after it occurs, and using the data to be proactive and provide heavier enforcement in areas where necessary. He also added that he recommends community members with firearms secure them inside their homes when not in use in order to prevent them from getting into the wrong hands.

“We see a lot of theft from cars,” said Gates, “where people leave weapons that they own in their vehicle overnight in front of their house. I understand about wanting to be safe and feeling safe with having your own firearm and having access to that legally, but you have to make good decisions. Leaving weapons in your car overnight in front of your house is probably not the best decision.”

He suggested that students who may hear of something or witness something potentially threatening or dangerous speak out and address the issues with the KCPD officers who are in their schools.

“We can’t do this alone,” Gates said.

The TIPS Hotline has increased awards for community tips in order to help motivate individuals with information to contact police anonymously.  Those with information are urged to call 816-474-TIPS.

Advocate Welcomes New Sports and Community Editor


by Stephanie A. Wilken

They say ‘If you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ My new position as the Sports and Community Editor for the Jackson County Advocate is exactly that.

In my journalism career, I’ve covered everything from city council to health care, education to the military. I’ve won awards for my work, and one story even ended up in supporting documents for a Supreme Court case. I’ve broken news that changed laws. I’ve written about the good, the bad, and everything in between. But nothing in this line of work compares to meeting the people whose stories I get to tell. The people are my favorite part. Being a journalist means every day I get to learn someone’s story, learn something new, and then share that with the community. It’s more passion than work.

I am grateful for this opportunity with the Advocate because sports is in my blood. Raised in Central Florida, I was in the pool before I was six months old, which translated to swimming competitively year-round. Being a Floridian also meant an opportunity for my grandparents to give me a set of plastic golf clubs as a toddler, which let to me becoming, like most adult golfers, frustrated; but the challenge and love for sport keeps me coming back.

In middle and high school, I added softball and track and field to the mix along with water polo and cross country. These days, I take my distance running to the next level training for a 50K. Most people in my life say ultra-running is insane (translation: I’m insane). And I don’t blame them. But for me, it’s the challenge. It’s the training. It’s the hard work and strength I need to tell myself I’ll survive running 31 miles on trails in the woods. It’s a chance to push myself further than I have before. And I do it for the love of sport.

There aren’t many sports I haven’t played (or tried to play). Most recently, I’ve played rec league softball, kickball and cornhole. The latter is definitely not the most physically demanding, but, hey, some people make a career of it. Alas, my dreams of professional cornhole will have to wait; I have to turn this column in to my editor.

A lifelong football fan, I finally got to play in 2018. I participated in the Alzheimer’s Association RivALZ football and fundraising program where I was named Rookie of the Year, playing cornerback and second-string wide receiver alongside some very talented and philanthropic women together raising more than $350,000 to fight Alzheimer’s since its inaugural game in 2009. Playing on the field gave me an even greater appreciation for my favorite sport.

Today I cheer for the Chiefs. Growing up in the South and a College Football Only Household™, I was excited to adopt the Chiefs in 2009, five years before moving Kansas City. Somehow I didn’t grow up a Dolphins fan, not too surprisingly; I didn’t grow up a Bucs fan, and, thankfully, my timing was just off and I never became a Jaguars fan. Kansas City is home now, and I couldn’t be happier.
Anyone who’s known me for more than five minutes knows I am proud alumna of the University of Central Florida. My Knights have had a fun run the last couple of years, but I know what it’s like to love a 0-12 team, too. Needless to say, fair-weather and bandwagon fans aren’t my kind of people.

Recently, UCF’s AD Danny White has gotten some press for his philosophy on scheduling. A lot of people think they know best when it comes to who UCF should play and at what venue. I admire him. It’s not easy to stand up for what you believe in, and it’s his job to. He wants to run with the big dogs and he believes in the program. That’s my AD. I love a good rivalry, I love competition, and I love a little good-natured chatter. I love both the underdogs and the athletes who dominate. I value good work ethic and good sportsmanship.

Naysayers also aren’t my kind of people. As the first female sports editor in the Advocate’s 65 years, I understand that traditional sports journalism is dominated by males. I’m honored to blaze this trail. And I promise you this: I work hard, and what I don’t know, I will learn. Get to know me, and you’ll see a person who’s passionate about sports and lives a motto of “do work.”

I’m here to tell your stories. To share what’s happening in our community. And to follow our student athletes as they work hard and push themselves for the love of sport.

Shoot me an email at swilken@jcadvocate.com or say hello on Twitter at @SWilkenJCA. I can’t wait to meet you.

Friday, August 9, 2019

New catering shop to open in downtown Grandview





by Mary K. Wilson

Visitors to Grandview’s historic downtown will soon smell the barbecue in the air. A new catering business is set to open, and the smokers are ready to be lit on the property now home to Any Event Catering at 506 Main Street.

Owner Casey Lueck is busy making finishing touches on the inside of the building, which he says he wanted to look old-school, sort of like a farmhouse. He has completely refinished the interior, including a storefront, a full commercial kitchen and barbecue equipment on the back patio.

“I’ve been in the lumber business my whole life, and I’ve always cooked,” said Lueck. “Since I was doing all of this anyway, I just decided to make money doing it. That’s literally how it got started.”

He purchased his first meat smoker around two decades ago, and fell in love with barbecue. While at work one day, he decided he didn’t want to work for someone else anymore, and put together a plan. Lueck’s parents, Greg and Vicki Lueck, live in Grandview and found the building on Main, which Lueck wasn’t sure would be big enough for what he wanted to do.

“When I got inside, it was 1100 square feet, and was bigger than I thought,” said Lueck. “So, here we are.”

While he waits for final approval on certain aspects of the business from the City of Grandview, Lueck has been working to complete minor things that don’t require permits.

Any Event Catering will have a country store at the front, where Lueck will sell homemade barbecue sauces, salsas, beef jerky and an assortment of homemade goods, including breads and desserts. He’ll also sell meat out of the store. After smoking or grilling, all the meat will be available to buy frozen with instructions on how to heat.

“I like to stop into stores like that, and that’s what I wanted to have here,” said Lueck. “It is catering. People won’t be able to come into the store and order a sandwich. But, if they call ahead, the next day I could have whatever it is they need.”

Lueck has a unique catering style, which he refers to as stop-and-drop, where he can serve meals for a small meeting or a large party. He offers to deliver the food, or customers will be able to stop by his shop to pick up their orders.

He also plans to serve food at area events or business locations, like the new winery in Peculiar, where he can showcase his talents and grow his customer base.

His recipes come from his family, and he will continue to cook the food that he grew up with. As a kid, Lueck remembers visiting Wilson’s Meat Market in Grandview, and he said that is similar to the feel that he recalls visiting that shop.

“That was an awesome place, and that’s what I want to be,” said Lueck. “We’ll be so much more than a barbecue catering place. I don’t want to be categorized as strictly catering. Of course, we cater, but I want people to know that we’ll do more.”

A self-proclaimed workaholic, Lueck is anxious to open his doors to the public. He looks forward to the opportunity of working with other businesses in the downtown corridor, where he can help provide food for different events.

“I wanted to be able to go to work every day and have it feel like it’s not work,” said Lueck. “It hasn’t felt like work so far. I’m excited to start cooking. The food is good and the barbecue is good.”

Any Event Catering prides itself on being family-owned and operated. When you walk through the door, you’ll see Lueck, and possibly hear his 12-year-old son, Aiden, playing video games in the back room. He looks forward to being a part of the downtown community and having the locals join his food-loving family.