How I use Facebook to help my community

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When I was serving as Chamber director, I had made it my goal to get our community connected and supporting all the great things happening here in Excelsior Springs! By creating a Facebook Group for our community, over the last two years I have fed the room information each day by sharing our community’s businesses, organizations, and citizen’s posts into the room on a regular basis.

Each day I monitor over 400 community pages in order to help them get their message to a broader audience. Being an administrator of over 20 different community Facebook Pages, I knew that before having the group when making a post, I would have to rely on whatever organic reach that post received, or pay to have it get out to the audience I needed to see it. By sharing it to a group that has a concentrated local audience, I’m guaranteeing each entity that their message is getting further to the people they want to reach the most.

With that being said, I don’t have the group room set up so that just anyone can gain admittance. I have an approval process when a request comes in that I go through. If a person is connected to multiple group members within the page already, I will often add them. If they’re not connected to anyone, I visit their page to look for any local clues that I might find letting me know their location. I work to keep the members of the group from the local area as much as possible. We currently have 3,937 members and the group is growing larger each day.

Here’s a list of some of the things that I try to provide the community information about daily:
– Local and area events
– Local news article links
– Pictures of Excelsior Springs
– School information
– Local ads and sale offers
– Hiring opportunities
– Obituaries
– Community organization and business posts

The group has also provided a way for citizens in the community to ask questions such as asking for recommendations, finding out about what’s happening in the city, communicating when there are emergency situations like power outages and severe weather, and somewhere they can get immediate answers. I work to connect each of the inquiries coming in each day with someone that can help them find a resolution.

Managing the group at times is not always easy. I have a strict policy of the group room not being used negatively against the community or any entity in particular. The room is to be used to promote business and community, not work against it. I also don’t allow for it to be used as a swap shop room (a group room where you can sell your own personal items) because there are plenty of rooms like that out there already for that purpose.

I have seen the room be used to help solve crimes, promote community events, find lost pets, raise money for individuals facing serious health problems, and more. It’s been a great resource for our community to connect, support each other, and have community-wide conversations.

If you are interested in joining our group room, put in a request by clicking here! 

 

Summer Art Camp Fun

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Summer is the best time for camps and in Excelsior Springs, there’s no lack for getting involved! Starting this week, Mackenzie will have two weeks filled with day-long art classes, which she’s been going to for the last three or four years. The Art Camp was started by Roberta Hammer, a local artist who Mackenzie takes lessons from weekly throughout the year. She inspires the students to try different mediums and often inspire them with the nature that surrounds them here daily. Roberta is the heart and soul behind the Art Camp at the Good Samaritan Center and the ongoing Art Room that meets weekly on early-release days from school. We are so grateful to have her in our community giving her time!

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This year Jason, my husband, was asked to co-teach the camp and also help with another upcoming art camp to be held at the Good Samaritan Center. Jason has his doctorate in film and animation and has some fun projects lined up to offer the students this week. He, too, is an artist, everyday making custom signs, bags, watercolors, mobiles, or working with Mackenzie on various projects.

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There are a number of ways for students to get involved and have fun during the summer here in Excelsior Springs. Whether it’s going to the various art camps, drama camps, reading programs at the library, bible schools, activities in the parks, or swimming at the community center, there’s plenty for kids to do here at home!

Life of a Fundraiser

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Every next level of your life will demand a different version of you.

It’s kind of ironic to me that no matter what direction I have turned in my life, I have always ended up being a fundraiser in some way. I guess as someone whose attitude toward money is that it’s paper and nothing more, it has helped me to get over the fear of asking someone for it. It hasn’t always been easy. I remember running for office and calling family members to ask for a donation to my campaign and being turned down. Despite those things hurting me at the time, it gave me what I needed to separate myself from it emotionally when I then had a stranger say it to me.

Now that I’m fundraising for my hometown community, it’s important to me now, more than ever, to be successful in the endeavors I put forward to raise money. When your project list consists of things like incorporating a shower for the homeless to use or providing a licensed professional counselor to give better care to our students, I’m always living with that pressure to find a solution.

Here is a list of projects that are currently on my mind, and I’m writing grants for:

Good Samaritan Center of Excelsior Springs

– Window replacement for better energy efficiency throughout the Center’s building
– Doors throughout the building needing replaced
– Lighting for better efficiency throughout the Center
– Flooring that is in need of replacement
– Establishing an ADA bathroom on the first floor
– Replacement of the parking lot, which is used by both the Center, Broadway Bargains Thrift Store, and the community
– Creating a HI-SET (GED) classroom for clients to get their diplomas
– Funding for client services, such as food, housing, utilities, counseling, transportation, access to healthcare, etc.
– Renovating space into shower that can be used by homeless clients or those without water
– Establishing a washer/dryer program for families that need to clean their clothes
– Funding for hygiene products that are necessary for keeping employment and general health, but aren’t covered under SNAP benefits
– A new roof on the Center

Excelsior Springs Educational Foundation

– Art kiln for the Middle School
– 3D printers for the elementary schools
– Funding for the Robotics team to go to competitions
– Early Childhood Center sensory room
– HVAC equipment for the Career Center – needing an 8 ft. sheet metal brake and lock former
– Licensed professional counselor for the district
– Parents as Teachers educator, supplies, and training
– OAE screening devices for hearing tests
– Early Childhood transportation
– Flexible seating throughout the district
– New science labs for the middle school and high school
– Early Childhood Center playground

If you have any resources that could help with any of these projects, I would be grateful for your assistance!

Excelsior Springs Solar Eclipse Festival

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On August 21, 2017, the sky will darken as a solar eclipse takes place over our entire nation. In the path of complete totality is our little town of Excelsior Springs, so we are using it as a way to celebrate! The City is planning a festival in conjunction with the event and inviting vendors, artists, and entertainers to come for the viewing of this historic event!

For months we have been putting together plans for the big day. Luckily, our festival falls right on the tail end of the annual BBQ Fly-In, which features hundreds of barbecue contest vendors that will embark on our downtown. The barbecue festival committee has been instrumental in offering the solar eclipse festival with resources for our event. They’re providing electricity, amenities, and sponsoring costs for solar eclipse glasses. We are truly grateful to their sponsorship and support!

Click here for more information on the BBQ Fly-In on the River! 

In addition to the vendors that will be set up around the circle drive at the Hall of Waters, those visiting can also attend a question answer session with Jackie Beucher, Vice-President of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City on Sunday. For a complete schedule of events (that will continue to be updated as we get closer to the big date!) click here!

There are a number of different area events taking place at the wineries, Watkins Mill State Park, and in Kearney. We hear the Elms Hotel is booked but there are still quite a few other lodging opportunities for those wanting to come to Excelsior for a stay at that time. Click here to see lodging options!

My husband, Jason, designed a fun logo for us to use for the event, inspired by the Mayan tiles that adorn the Hall of Waters:

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If you are interested in participating, either by being a vendor or providing entertainment, please reach out to me and let me know! Our vendor applications can be found by clicking here.

Here’s a cool map showing the state and all the places that will be in the path of totality provided by the Excelsior Springs Museum and Archives:

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Here in Excelsior Springs, we should have a viewing time of 2 minutes and 40 seconds! That’s amazing compared to the rest of the country! We will also have solar eclipse glasses available for safe viewing for everyone! Here’s a map showing the times across the nation:

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Because school will be in session, Red Cross Pharmacy of Excelsior Springs is purchasing safe viewing glasses for all of the students and staff that day! Teachers are planning fun activities around the event to make it memorable for the students.

If you have ideas on what you would like to see for the festival, please let us know! Many thanks to Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Powell, City Councilwoman (and my Mom!) Sonya Morgan, Jim and Cheri McCullough of the BBQ Festival Committee, DEP Director Lyndsey Baxter, and the Excelsior Springs Police and Fire Department for being a part of the organizing committee for this event! It’s sure to be a great time!

My Top 5 Tools to Organize

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

I’ve been asked to do a workshop helping people schedule and put together a plan to get things done. Organizing my thoughts and putting them into action is something I’ve always thrived on. The satisfaction of crossing something off the list was all the motivation that I needed to then move on to the next thing. When I was in school, they required us to have planners that most of the kids complained about because they felt it was thrust on them. Not me, though. I embraced that planner and used it for all it was worth!

There are multiple tools that I use to now stay organized. A mix between online and offline methods that I’ve grown accustomed to over time. Here’s a list of my favorites and how I use them. Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments! I always love exploring new tools to help me organize!

Tools4Wisdom (Amazon, $35)

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This is my planner that I found on Amazon. I love it and it’s what keeps me most organized! I use the monthly planner to list all of my activities throughout the month. As soon as I know a specific date and time, it goes in the monthly section. Then each Sunday, before a new week starts, I pull what’s on the monthly calendar for that week over to the weekly section and schedule it in. I list all of my goals along the bottom to work in tasks related to them throughout the week. Then I plan out three tasks to tackle each day. I also schedule in chores and cleaning each day, so that there’s not a lot to do on any one day in particular. Here’s a sample week from my planner:

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Trello (Free mobile app and online website)

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Trello is amazing because I can take all of the projects that are on my list and organize them in a way that I can create to do lists, deadlines, set reminders, and prioritize my tasks in a way that I can’t do on paper. On Trello you create cards (as many as you want!) and then you can easily move them around, set goals within goals, and share with your coworkers even! This is a great tool for project management.

Our Groceries (Free mobile app)

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This app is amazing because you can share it with your spouse and it’s in your phone for easy updating. Not to mention, it’s free! You literally add the things that you want at the grocery store (you can categorize them based on meat, dairy, etc.) and then when you put them in your cart, you mark it off the list. Within the app it will save your items that you’ve put in, so that it’s easy to choose those options again without all the input.

Teacher Planner (Amazon, $7.75)

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I’m no longer a teacher, but using this Teacher’s Planner to organize my social media planning is amazing! It’s great because where the subjects would be for school, I’m able to put in each of my clients. Then there’s plenty of room for me to write in the posts that I will plan for them throughout the week. I take Sunday afternoon/evenings and plan out an entire week’s worth of content for each of my clients. Then I go and schedule all the posts, so that I don’t have much to maintain throughout the week and can focus on my other work. I make part of my routine on Sunday’s to go back to the previous week and track all the analytics from the results of each post. Then I tweak what I’m doing in the next week to what worked the best before.

Ampad Project Planner (Amazon, $6.59)

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The Ampad Project Planner is probably the planner I’ve used the longest to stay organized. I absolutely love the way the layout inside is set up for taking notes, making reminders, and setting goals. I literally have years worth of these and each serves as a great representation for where my brain was at at the time! I’ve kept them all as journals of sorts. I have all my meeting notes listed out in these books and refer back to these books for all kinds of projects that I’m working toward. I love that there’s a side column where I can list out action items I want to take, research topics that I want to look into, or side notes that I want to stand out, such as phone numbers, emails, etc.

What do you use to stay organized? What methods do you have in your life that keep you motivated and moving toward progress? Feel free to leave your comments below!

 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

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Every morning you have two choices: continue to sleep with your dreams, or wake up and chase them!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Today I’ll be meeting with a small group of local citizens who are committed to working on finding solutions for our homeless problems here in Excelsior Springs. A year ago in July, a group began meeting to discuss the realities of what we’re facing when it comes to the issue. It was originally believed that there were around 12-15 a year that were homeless in our area. However, the past year we have come to have a better understanding of the true situation.

According to the Balance of State report in Missouri, that does a point in time collection of homeless figures from agencies working on the ground in the state, showed that our region (Region 4) is the second most highest in the state with homeless. In 2016, there were 235 households reported as being homeless in the region that is made up of 16 counties. The county that Excelsior Springs is in, Clay County, had by far the highest reporting number of homeless, with there being 146 homeless. The number one reason for homelessness was due to unemployment and being unable to pay rent.

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(Source: Governor’s Committee to End Homelessness, Winter 2016)

In looking at the figures of those who were sheltered during the year, compared to those who weren’t, I can see that women are being sheltered far more than men, with 68% of them being women, 31% being men, and 1% being transgender, according to the Winter 2016 report. This may be because the largest reason for women seeking shelter is due to domestic violence, which accounts for 41% of the reasons for families seeking shelter.

Of those who are living unsheltered, men make up the majority with 69% living in cars, on the streets, in campgrounds, or abandoned buildings and houses. 45% of these men are listed as unaccompanied youth and 34% show some kind of substance abuse problem.

Knowing these facts, we get a better picture of the needs that our community has when it comes to homelessness. The Missouri Housing Development Commission each year chooses a community in the state to conduct a program called Project Homeless Connect. This year, they’ve chosen Excelsior Springs, due to the high number of homeless counts in Clay County. The local homeless coalition at that time then turned their attention toward this one-day event that is designed to give direct access to services for the homeless and work to get them into stable housing. They’ve given the Good Samaritan Center of Excelsior Springs a $10,000 grant to use in marketing and service costs for individuals. That is scheduled to be at Lewis Elementary School on Friday, October 27, 2017. For more information or to volunteer, please click here.

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So while the homeless coalition’s attention has been on organizing this one-day event, our homeless are still on the street waiting. That is why today a small group of local leaders will be meeting to discuss long-term possibilities in offering solutions for our community. We plan to take a good look at the data that we have and work toward finding solutions.

 

 

Monday, June 5, 2017

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Today’s flowers feature hosta blooms in front of the Boulevard Florist on Elms Boulevard in Excelsior Springs. Thanks to owner Juree Short for planting them for us to enjoy!

There are a number of different projects that I’m currently working on here in Excelsior Springs. Aside from my role as the Educational Foundation Director, I’m also giving my time to The Good Samaritan Center of Excelsior Springs and the City, where there are never short of opportunities for getting involved.

Here are some of the current projects that I will be focusing my time on this week:
– Annual communications plan for the educational foundation
– Researching grant opportunities for both the educational foundation and Good Samaritan Center
– Meeting with the new principals for the elementary school my daughter goes to. Serving as the Vice-President for the Parent/Teacher organization and ready to plan out the new year!
– Completing a grant opportunity through the Department of Agriculture for a parking lot replacement needed at the Good Samaritan Center
– Working with a committee to conduct a Project Homeless Connect event in Excelsior Springs on October 27, 2017
– Getting ready for the Solar Eclipse Festival on August 20-21 in downtown Excelsior
– Helping my husband, S. Jason Cole, develop a business plan for his many talents