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Students Engage at 2nd Annual McPherson Housing Conference
On September 29, 2022, Central students and staff served the community at the 2nd Annual McPherson Housing Conference. This was an opportunity to engage civically in a local context as well as network with leaders from around the state. Dr. Lara Vanderhoof, Central’s Chief Academic Officer, has been connected to this group since the origin of this conference giving students access and opportunities to serve.
This year the focus of the conference was to bring individuals from across the community to learn and network to best address housing issues across the county. Topics which were covered this year were housing policies, a panel focused on developers and investors, as well as other sessions focused from social services and housing stability perspectives.
Central Christian College of Kansas provided support to this conference as seven business students assisted with the conference logistics from registration, refreshments, and lunch oversight, conference tear down as well as helping serve all conference participants with their needs during the conference sessions. The students were able to network and participate in all keynote speaker sessions as well as all break-out sessions.
When asked about how this conference came about Dr. Vanderhoof shared the following history:
When I reflect back on the last several years as this conference has developed, it is clear that civic engagement is not an option or a check mark to fill in the box, but rather, an opportunity to give back and invest in others. My encouragement is to pray and find out where God is leading you to engage and invest in others. This conference is one of the ways I have seen that play out recently in my own life.
During the pandemic, I was serving as a volunteer on the City of McPherson’s Emergency Response Team for COVID-19 matters as well as with United Way of McPherson County to provide direct care and response to those in financial need. As a result of serving on these two committees, it was clear that many individuals in the community were in great need. As I listened to the needs and lived experiences of individuals who had lost so much due to pandemic it became clearer and clearer that I needed to do more. This led to bringing together various people from the city of McPherson such as the Mayor and the City Administrator to address the increasingly important deficiencies in our community.
These conversations grew into non-profit organizations from around the county that started to meet via zoom to problem-solve and develop a response to the growing economic needs that were developing for individuals and families. These meetings facilitated discussion and narrowed the focus of what we could do long-term beyond providing money to those in need, but to further develop a long-term action plan. The discussions brought the group to focus on two main issues: access to child care and affordable housing in McPherson County. After many discussions and analysis it was decided that the group would focus on the issues of low-income, affordable house issues. Through this, a conference entitled “McPherson Housing Conference: No Place Like Home” which was held on October 1, 2021.
The Housing Conference focused on two overarching themes: those who receive services, focused on low-income individuals and families, and housing development, including county and state leaders. For example the local city administrators, representatives from South Central Kansas Economic Development District, Kansas Department of Commerce, Rural Development, Housing Assistance Council, and the Kansas Housing Resource Corporation (Executive Director, Ryan Vincent) participated. In addition, housing stability, breaking the cycle of housing instability, trauma and children, and solutions were addressed. The first year had approximately 50 attendees, which we saw more than doubled this year.
In the end, when we discover a need, we are called to serve. I am encouraged that one idea during a stressful and overwhelming period in our nation’s history has translated into a tangible way to bring awareness, action, and results that benefits our community. This conference offered our students, community, and those in need, an opportunity to collaborate and develop a stronger and more stable future for those in need. The best advice is to take action and be willing to engage and respond when there is a need.
ABOUT CENTRAL CHRISTIAN COLLEGE OF KANSAS
Central Christian College of Kansas is a regionally accredited institution offering undergraduate and graduate-level programs. Central strives to offer Christ-centered education for the whole person – heart, mind, soul, and strength. Its history dates back to 1884, and it is located in the friendly town of McPherson, Kansas. Central is a strategically small college that offers over forty areas of residential study and a thriving online program for non-traditional students.