Seven Hills Art Camp

For the past four years our daughter, Mackenzie, has been attending the Seven Hills Art Camp that is held during the summer. For the first time, they expanded it to two weeks this summer. The theme for the first week was wings, with a focus on birds. Mackenzie’s favorite part was making bird kites! The camp was founded and taught by Roberta Hammer, family friend and local artist. Throughout the year, Roberta also hosts an art class weekly at the Good Samaritan Center and gives lessons on various art methods to the students of various ages.

This year, Roberta asked my husband, Jason, if he would co-teach the camps with her. He enjoyed getting to be a part of the experience in teaching the camp! Here’s a feature of some of their work together over the past two weeks:

They made a giant nest that was big enough for all of the campers to fit in!

These photos above were all taken by Dr. S. Jason Cole. :)

The second week of Art Camp was themed “Pollinators”

Jason taught all of the students how to make their own insects out of wire by bending and shaping it to look like their pollinator.

My husband Jason taught the students lessons in stop-motion animation. Here are some videos from the two weeks:



To see another feature on the Seven Hills Art Camp, click here! 

Touring the Ennovation Center business/food incubator

Yesterday I joined some of our city’s leaders on a tour of the Ennovation Center that is located in Independence, Missouri and serves as a business and food processing incubator for our region. There they’ve taken an old hospital and converted it into space that is leased out to business entrepreneurs, providing all the tools they need in order to succeed! Our city is looking at the concept in order to reimagine some of our older properties that have, over time, become blighted and unusable.


Xander Winkel, “Entrepreneurship Enabler”, as he calls himself, gave us a full tour of the Ennovation Center’s facility. Right away you could sense his energy and passion for the work that he does there. He explained to us that the center is run as a non-profit and has a 501(c)(3) status. It serves companies in the early stages of their business plans so that they don’t have to initially take on a lot of debt. This allows the business owner to try out their plan and see how it goes first. He explained that a majority do not go on, but now they’ve learned that it’s not for them without the debt that would otherwise be involved without the center.


Multiple kitchen spaces are located throughout the center and are leased hourly by those involved in the program. The incubator is for business use only,  and not open to the community. Those involved have to be able to show an economic return in the form of jobs or development in order to continue. Xander explained that along with the program is direct access to business consultants who work with each of the members of the program on their business plan and development as they grow.
This is a gluten free room that is separate from the other areas of the incubator. Mostly baking is done in this area. Syrup production for soda that has to be separated from the other areas for food production laws and this space allows for that.
IMG_7432 (1)
Cooler spaces with cages are available for lease as well. Xander assured us that most of those in the center play nice with their manners taught to them in kindergarten, and they share and don’t take others things. If they have that kind of behavior, they would be removed from the program, so they don’t see a lot of problems with the shared space experience.
The space is open 24/7 so that it works for the schedule of the entrepreneurs. Some work a regular job all day and then use their evenings and nights to come in and work on their business plan.
Training is offered on particular pieces of equipment throughout the facility. Most have cooking experience, not business experience. That’s why they have tools in place to work with them on turning their talent into something profitable.
Taking us then upstairs in the center, we were introduced to the business side of the incubator. Xander explained that in the business side, many service providers, non-profits, and technicians are the ones using the space mainly. Those that have been maybe working from home or a coffee shop and is looking for a more professional place to meet clients or have a space for production is a good fit for this program.
Entrepreneurs have access to a commercial copier and are charged separately. Phone and internet, as well as access to the business consultants are included with the lease.
Xander explained that they have to demonstrate that they’re starting a business and are committed to that. And they have to be somewhat coachable, as well as fit well with the other companies that are there. He said very few have had to be let go. Mainly they won’t be able to make a payment or know it won’t work.
I loved looking in to this workspace to see a playpen and toddler set up with their mom. This is exactly the flexibility that many women would need in order to see their business dream come true. Allowing an open space for people to work and have their needs met, while not taking a risk that might set them back decades if they were to fail or choose not to continue, is an investment into the future of our people. I’m grateful to live in a community that is open to thinking about ways that this could work for us. I’m honored to be included.

How I use Facebook to help my community

Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 9.29.58 PM

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! 


Tuesday, June 6, 2017



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.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 8.14.19 AM

(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.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 8.27.24 AM

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.