MANHATTAN, Kan. – What was going on in Kansas in 1970? A new program called Kansas PRIDE was created to increase community vitality across the state. The program provides recognition, funding and leadership development for Kansas community volunteer improvement groups to celebrate their successes and address challenges unique to their community. As the Kansas PRIDE Program enters its 50th year, it is still going strong with partners in the Kansas Department of Commerce, K-State Research and Extension, and the Kansas Masons.

The program has done much over the years to help Kansas communities grow and complete  projects to enhance the local quality of living. Volunteers assess community needs, then set forth to bring positive changes. The program assists their volunteers with grants from Kansas PRIDE Inc. and the Kansas Masons, along with providing workshops, guidance, resources, and a reporting database as a way for communities to communicate and share ideas. Kansas PRIDE has helped communities foster hometown pride and a renewed spirit for making their community great.

Some local PRIDE groups have helped bring entertainment to their communities, while others facilitate cleanup and community spirit. The projects may make a community cleaner, safer, and create events that draw residents and tourists, and may bring new businesses to town.

One town, for instance, has a thrift store operated by PRIDE members, with the proceeds going back into the community. Other communities have used PRIDE grants to open grocery stores or farmers markets, to renovate buildings that will house a new business, or to purchase new park playground equipment for children to enjoy.

“The Kansas PRIDE Program has made a huge impact on our town,” said Laura Musil, of Blue Rapids. “It has empowered citizens to work on numerous projects to make our community more attractive and viable. It is a vehicle to work with our city government, to come alongside them and work for the betterment of our town.”

“Before we were part of PRIDE, I think many thought it would be getting in the business of our hardworking city council and stepping on toes,” Musil said. “They have, instead, welcomed our volunteer efforts. The more people involved, the better! It provided a way for volunteers – and there have been many – to contribute, because we all want to improve our town. It is the PRIDE program that has given us a way to do so, and given us incentive to move forward on making Blue Rapids shine. I can’t give enough thanks to the PRIDE Program and its directors for their helpfulness and support.”

There have been PRIDE communities in all sections of Kansas throughout the years, said Jaime Menon, co-coordinator of Kansas PRIDE: “As you drive across the state you can see the impact PRIDE has had on communities. There has been a PRIDE community in all 105 counties in Kansas, with over 400 communities being enrolled in PRIDE at one point or another in our 50-year history.”

Thirty-four communities have been with PRIDE for more than half of those 50 years, Menon said. The volunteers and the people who work for Kansas PRIDE care about the communities around the state. They all want to create a higher quality of living across Kansas.

To find out about upcoming 50th anniversary events and how your community can benefit from the program, follow Kansas PRIDE on Facebook or by subscribing to its newsletter via its website. More information is also available by calling 785-532-5840 or email [email protected].