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MCCF Honors 2023 Philanthropist of the Year Jo French and Organization of the Year McPherson Housing Coalition

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By McPherson County Community Foundation

 

McPHERSON, Kan. — On Tuesday, McPherson County Community Foundation hosted a celebration in the honor of the 2023 Philanthropist of the Year Jo French. French received her award for her work with the opera house and with Apartment 6 Retail and Consignment. 

Jo moved to McPherson with her family at the age of six. McPherson is the only community that she has really known. She attended school and later raised a family here. She started work at Sterling Drug in 1978 as a chemistry clerk in a pharmaceutical plant. She later started work at Pfizer where she stayed for 43.5 years in production until she retired in 2021. 

In October 2021, she started to volunteer at the McPherson Opera House Apt. 6 Resale and Consignment Shop. She volunteers 2 days a week, 3 hours a day. Jo works more hours per week than almost any of the other volunteers. While there, she is responsible for straightening up the basement area and putting out new items for sale. She also volunteers at the Opera House on show nights as a ticket scanner or usher. Jo assists the Opera House Office Manager and Events Coordinator, Jolie Green, in recruiting volunteers to work at the shows, as well as bringing in new volunteers.

Two years ago, Jo started volunteering at the American Legion as a member of the Ladies Auxiliary. She helps at many of their events: burger nights, veteran’s nights, steak nights, wine tastings, Bingo, car shows, and the Toy Run. Jo also brings baked items when needed for these events.

In addition to volunteering, Jo collects items for the Veteran’s Hospital and helps the American Legion put up and take down the flags on national holidays at the cemetery. She also donates to Toys for Tots.

Jo is not just someone who volunteers to fill her time. She takes pride in the work she does for these non-profit organizations. She works diligently for many hours to preserve these organizations in our community. Her fellow volunteers say she is a great worker with a good attitude, and she gets the job done. Her volunteer work makes a positive difference.

She is a great Philanthropist because of all the charitable hours she gives to these non-profit organizations. Jo sets such a good example for all of us. She is community minded and patriotic.

The award for organization of the year was presented to the McPherson Housing Coalition. The Housing Coalition has been the focus of national attention with the completion of their Oak Harbor Cottages. 

Through MHC’s Oak Harbor Cottage’s non-congregate shelter, children and families have found a safe place to land when they find themselves without housing. They are assigned a case manager and wrapped with services during their stay. Families receive mental health counseling, legal assistance, health care, educational guidance, and job coaching through partnerships. They have a case manager who works with families to develop goals while they move toward permanent housing. This unique program provides a safe home for those facing homelessness and the resources needed to assist families in finding and keeping permanent housing.

MHC is preparing to break ground on the County’s first permanent supportive housing project. It will have one-, two- —, and three-bedroom units for those needing an affordable, energy-efficient home while receiving services to remain permanently stably housed as long as they remain income-qualified.

The MHC annual Brush Up Mac County program provides volunteer labor to seniors for yard work and safety items such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars, and more. There is no cost to the participants as the costs are covered by MHC, allowing seniors to stay in their homes and age in a place where they feel safe and surrounded by family and their community. This program is Countywide and has assisted over 30 homeowners annually for the past 15 years.

The MHC Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) allows the organization to quickly house families with rental and utility assistance while providing case management, and their tenant-based rental assistance programs subsidize rents for families whose income cannot cover the high cost of the rental rate increases—keeping families housed until they can find a higher-paying position or qualify for a Section 8 voucher.

In addition, they sponsor the McPherson County Housing conference on an annual basis. This event brings speakers from the local, State, and National levels to discuss housing options and the services available to McPherson County for those struggling with housing instability and for workforce housing to assist those vital to the community. In addition, this conference brings awareness to the housing situation countywide and the struggles of working families who cannot afford housing in McPherson County. In 2022, at the housing conference, it was apparent that communities could work together on the issues, and they formed the McPherson County Housing Task Force. The plan is to work together to ensure each community meets its specific housing needs, lowers costs, and entices developers/builders to our County.

MHC continues to establish programs countywide that stabilize families while bringing resources and programs into McPherson County. They have been active at the State and Federal levels, building relationships with agencies that can assist those in McPherson County while bringing awareness to the housing situation in Rural Kansas. In addition, State and Federal officials have recognized MHC for their innovative ideas, practical solutions that work, and out-of-the-box thinking that solves the most challenging problems.