Saturday, September 12, 2015

Year of AmeriCorps VISTA service provides impact | by Angela Gaughan

In July the CCSR WSU VISTA Fellows Project recognized the first four VISTAs who completed their year of service in July. The year of service profoundly impacted each one of the VISTAs.

Danny Barrera served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Circles of Hope program through Peace Connections, in his hometown of Newton. Through his VISTA service experience, Danny was impacted by the positive changes happening to the people who were being served. Danny entered service with the intention of pursuing a graduate degree post-service, but was debating between a Master’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Social Work. As a result of his VISTA service experience, Danny started coursework at the University of Kansas this month.

Austin, Chloe, Katelyn and Danny
The hands-on experience Austin Burke received with the Public Health Initiatives team at the WSU Center for Community Support and Research (CCSR) provided him with the skills to get a technical assistant position in research for Social and Scientific Systems in Raleigh, North Carolina. The research team he was hired to work with is involved with a GuLF study in public health through a contract with NIH. This ties into the hands-on experience he received at CCSR working with local health department to help them become accredited, along with researching what is happening with community health workers across the state.

 “My experience as a VISTA directly assisted me in getting the job, said Austin. “I had a diverse and valuable year that set me apart from other candidates.”

Before Katelyn Hilger started as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Communities in Schools Wichita/Sedgwick County she was considering several paths including medical school and Seminary, among other things.  Following her experience of tracking donor data, recruiting volunteer mentors and compiling resources she applied for a position at COMCARE of Sedgwick County as a crisis case manager with the Community Crisis Center Emergency Services hotline. She is now working in that position.

A VISTA with Rainbow’s United, Chloe Stevenson said, “I originally went to college with the intent of graduating early and going to hair school. When I didn’t graduate early, I changed my plans after graduation and decided to try marketing to see if it was worth pursuing rather than cosmetology school.” 

Through her year of service on the development and marketing team at Rainbows, she commented that it became clear that marketing was a great fit for her and she wanted to pursue the field further. In Chloe’s position she had the opportunity to network with members of Rainbow’s Board of Directors. It was through connections she made that Chloe was hired as a brand coordinator with the advertising agency, Apples & Arrows in Wichita.

Monday, September 7, 2015

5 Good Reasons to Attend the 2015 Recovery Rally | By Lael Ewy

2015 Recovery Rally:  September 25, 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the State Capitol, South Lawn in Topeka

  1. It’s a great place to meet other recovery-minded people. We may not all have the same story, but sharing experiences of recovery and hope creates mutually-supporting networks that help make recovery possible for everyone!
  2. It’ll be a star-studded event featuring Kansas’ own actor/producer/screenwriter David Dastmalchian, who has a recovery story of his own. In 2014, Animals the feature film he wrote and starred in, received a Special Jury Price for Courage in Storytelling at the South by Southwest Festival.      
  3. It’s a great place to celebrate Recovery Month. Recovery Month (September) is a nationally-recognized time to come together and celebrate the victories of those living lives of recovery and their supporters.
  4. All the cool kids will be there. The Recovery Rally brings together individuals and organizations who promote peer support and recovery-based work across the spectrum from small Consumer-Run Organizations to big Managed Care Organizations.
  5. Your presence will make a difference. There’s no better way to express that we are the evidence that recovery is possible than to make our presence known. The national motto of this year’s Recovery Month is “visible, vocal, valuable,” and the Recovery Rally gives us a chance to tell the world.

And a special bonus reason for CROs. The Center for Community Support and Research will pay mileage for one vehicle per CRO to and from the Recovery Rally—yeah, we think it’s that important. Just RSVP me at or Sam Demel at at least a week before the rally (so, by Sept. 18) so we can file all the paperwork and stuff.      

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Staff Development at Riley County Health Department | By Brenda Nickel (Riley County Health Department) and Sonja Armbruster

Building on the Past and Looking to the Future 

In March 2015, the Riley County Health Department (RCHD) led its inaugural all staff training with facilitation support from the Public Health Initiatives Team at Wichita State's Center for Community Support and Research. In December 2014, after surveying local health departments, Riley County department directors and presenting the importance of professional and leadership development for public health professionals, RCHD received permission from the Board of Health to hold quarterly in-service for all staff closing the department during those times.

RCHD staff started the training with a timeline activity where staff learned about their peers and the history of the department. After a short review of major public health milestones, Riley County staff mapped their daily activities to the 10 essential services. The afternoon closed with a focus on teams and culture change. In the evaluations, staff reported that the most helpful parts of the event included:
  • Learning about the history of public health and how much we do for our community.
  • I enjoyed the 10 essentials and how evident it is that we meet those needs and expectations well.
  • The timeline was an excellent tool to get to know others in the Health Department
  • It was helpful to learn about all employees because I am new to the agency
  • Seeing how what I do daily fits into the 10 essential services.
CCSR Public Health Initiatives develops people and organizations to improve the Public Health system in Kansas; empowers people through training, support and coaching; develops organizations through strategic planning, agency performance improvement and capacity building; and strengthens systems by facilitating statewide collaborative initiatives, peer learning, and creating opportunities for change. For more details on facilitation and other services offered by CCCSR contact Director of PHI Sonja Armbruster at or or 316-978-3988.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Applying my social media skills | by Allie Acridge

I thought I knew about social media, but I knew it from a personal view, not a business or company view. I started my internship at the Center for Community Support and Research (CCSR) during my last semester at Wichita State. I didn’t know anything about CCSR, but I was interested in applying my knowledge of social media to an organization before I graduated.

I quickly discovered that CCSR had a number of different projects happening at the same time. It wasn’t long before I would get something put in front of me to post; it would be too long or uninteresting. It was a challenge to take certain things and make them “social media usable”. Especially since CCSR has a specific audience; it wasn’t students, or the general public, but the nonprofits and community coalition members they work with the most.

Part of the plan was to get employees who used social media to interact, i.e. liking, commenting, sharing and retweeting. Some were on Facebook and others on Twitter. It was interesting to see how people use different social media platforms for different things. I found it common for people to keep Facebook for their personal communications and use Twitter for business and networking communications.

Blogging was not new to me. I’ve done it for a class and I’ve seen plenty. I had the chance to create blogs, edit blogs, and post them on Twitter and Facebook. I think the more I did it, the easier it was. I expected some in-depth, very detailed information for blogs. Some blogs were deeper than others. I found it challenging was posting them on Twitter and Facebook. It was hard to get people to click on the link to go to the blog and read it.

To learn more about what CCSR does I went through every pamphlet and the website and took bits of information and put them on Twitter. I posted one a day for a little over a month. The posts had good feedback. I saved them to be used again because they provide a good, well-rounded look at the organization.

I hope my time at the Center for Community Support and Research helped them. It was fun learning more and also applying what I knew to an organization.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Empowerment and Capacity-Building: It’s About ‘Us’ | Teresa Strausz, MSOD, LMSW

Empowerment and Capacity-Building are words and phrases I hear (and use) in my work almost daily. I often hear these terms used to describe something that is given or provided as if they were commodities that can be wrapped up like a gift and handed out to those in need of them. Those of us in the business of empowerment and capacity-building feel good about this version of the story. We are helping. We are making lives, communities, and organizations better.

February 20, a group of dedicated Wichita State University students and Wichita State VISTA Fellows attended the inaugural WSU Civic Leadership & Service Summit co-sponsored by the Office of Student Involvement and the Center for Community Support and Research. After a couple of hours of panel discussions and workshops about civic engagement and service learning, participants selected one of two sites in which to engage in service. One of the sites, Rainbows United, Inc. provided an opportunity for volunteers to engage with youth with different abilities to make paper chains. The activity was to not only provide the youth with opportunities to engage in a fun activity with the visitors, but also for the volunteers to learn first-hand what it is like for persons with different abilities to be involved in such activities meaningfully.

What a lesson. The tender moment at which this youth and volunteer connected to mutually help each other. That is empowerment. Both gave and received a gift. Empowerment is less about what we do and more about what we do with those with whom we are working. The end result? Beautiful!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Finding relief and acceptance from support groups | Zachariah McCallister

Recovery can be a long, complicated process which everyone goes through in different ways.  Recovery happens for different reasons:  it could be medical, emotional, or about self-improvement.  My recovery occurred because of the brain trauma and nerve damage I received from an accident a few years ago. I have made great progress, but there are some things I wish I had done differently.

A regret I have is never trying to connect with others who have experienced brain trauma.  There were times I felt isolated and alone because of my situation.  During these times my family and friends had a hard time trying to understand the support I needed.  They could not see what my injuries were or how they were affecting me.  I could not figure out how to describe what had changed and what I needed.  There were times when the easiest thing to do was to avoid everyone. 

Two years after my accident I started realizing which changes would likely never heal.  I decided to look for a support group.  Even though I found some, I did not attend one.  I tricked myself into thinking that my experiences were unique.  I also felt guilty asking for help when I was mostly okay.  My mind changed and my ability to think was difficult, but I could still walk, talk, and do most of the things I enjoyed doing.  As I look back, not reaching out for help was one of the biggest mistakes I made.

I missed so much by not joining a support group.  Comfort, support, and understanding can be found in a group of people with shared experiences.  You do not have to be guarded or worry about being judged.  Knowledge and wisdom can be gained from the stories each person brings to the group.  You are seen as a whole person who needs support and you are more than a diagnosis that needs medication.  You and the group decide what you need to feel better and how to meet those needs.

Last fall marked the ninth year after my accident.  I finally got the chance to visit two support groups because of my work at the Center for Community Support and Research.  I felt relief to be around people who understood me, even though I had already worked through most of my challenges.  I no longer felt odd.  My personal experience has strengthened my resolve to recommend support groups when someone tells me they feel alone and are facing a difficulty.  Some things in life are already hard to get through, why try to get through them alone?

Editor’s Note: Zachariah is currently in the second semester of his Wichita State University social work practicum at CCSR.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Dee Snider's Rock & Roll Christmas Tale" in Chicago | Seth Bate

KICT/Wichita, Kansas, listener Seth Bate recently won our killer prize package to catch the Broadway-bound metal musical, Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale in Chicago. Seth wrote us to share his (and wife Jenny’s) experience...check it out:

Seth Bate
We can’t say enough about what a great time we had as the winners of the “Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale” contest. At first, we were afraid we wouldn’t be going at all. The Wichita airport was fogged in, and we were told our flight was cancelled. As it turned out, we were barely delayed. You can’t stop rock & roll!

Friday night, we had an amazing four-course meal at RPM Italian from the housemade ricotta starter to the cannoli for dessert.

Saturday we visited the National Hellenic Museum, which we have wanted to see for a long time, and ate and shopped in Greek Town. Then we went to be in the throngs of shoppers at the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. Everywhere we looked there were taxis advertising “Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale,” and you can tell the whole town is excited for it.

The show itself is everything you could want in a Christmas story – equal parts Jean Shepherd and Gene Simmons. We were in the front row looking directly up at Dee in his distinguished narrator’s chair. The stage graffiti even says “I heart Jenny,” which we decided was a good sign. Producer John Yanover checked on us many times before and after the show, and everyone we talked to knew our contest entry story. It was like we were the celebrities.

As soon as the show was over, [Dee’s wife] Suzette Guilot-Snider ran over to greet us. Believe us, you know when you have been hugged and kissed by Suzette! Dee spent a generous amount of time with us, signed everything we brought – including my 1983 12” single of “The Kids Are Back” – and we were on our way.

If you can possibly make it to Chicago this holiday season, go see “Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale”! And remember that metal miracles do happen!

Horns up,

-- Seth Bate and Jenny Muret Bate

Shared from The House of Hair, linked here: