Foundation Stories

We all know what 2020 was like and the Library kept going strong!  We had to rethink how to deliver services and materials during the pandemic and our donors kept rolling with the changes.   Online resources were as popular as ever and the Library buildings closed and re-opened with safe access books, materials, and computers.

Your support and charitable gifts were, and are, as important as ever as we adjusted and united. Highlights from 2020 included a pre-pandemic event: “A Conversation with Kevin Willmott and Steve Kraske,” a fundraiser to benefit Race Project KC.

Shortly after that, our gatherings went virtual and we celebrated the 1952 Society, the Foundation’s planned givers, and the Readers Circle, the donors who are the Library’s most loyal and generous donors.  We took to ZOOM with special guest Dr. Schuyler Jones, a renowned explorer and retired Oxford professor. 

Library Lets Loose- Virtual edition brought more brave Library lovers to a new adventure in events with 44 sponsors rallying with their support and more than 500 viewers joined in the fun online.

Throughout the summer and through the Black Lives Matter movement, Race Project KC came into the spotlight with donors making a point of supporting this program dedicated to social justice.

As the year wrapped up, our annual year-end donors came out in force and reminded the Library how much it is valued in the community.  Every dollar donated to the Library benefits our community through lifelong learning resources.

We are delighted and deeply grateful for your unwavering support.

Donors, Friends, and volunteers gathered virtually for a special appreciation event with author and cowboy storyteller, Jim Hoy, on Sunday, January 17.

Jim and his family are native to the Flint Hills of northeast Butler County Kansas.  His recently released book, My Flint Hills is his eighteenth book.  He taught literature and folklore at Emporia State University for 45 years in addition to a range of other endeavors and awards he’s received. 

Guests enjoyed his recollections of this home in the Flint Hills.   He has made a study of them—their tough terrain and quiet beauty, their distinctive folklife and cattle culture—and marshaled his observations to bring the Flint Hills home to readers in a singular way. My Flint Hills features essays describing Hoy’s Flint Hills, combining family lore and anecdotes of ranching life with reflections on the region’s rich history and nature. 

The appreciation event was organized by the Development Department that includes the Johnson County Library Foundation, Friends of the Johnson County Library, and Johnson County Library Volunteers.  Donors, Friends, and Volunteers contribute their time, talent, and financial support to further strengthen the Library’s lifelong learning resources.

View the recording of the author’s talk hereMy Flint Hills, and all of Jim’s books, are available at the Library. For more information on Jim and/or to purchase your own copy of his book, click here.

This year has been filled with challenges and the Library continues to rise to meet them. Online resources have expanded to meet patrons’ interests and the buildings are open with safe access to books, materials and computers.

Your financial support is more important than ever to meet the needs of our community. Every dollar donated to the Library benefits all Johnson Countians through lifelong learning resources.

Learn about a few of the programs and resources your charitable contribution supports.

Honorary co-chairs Cindy Wallis-Lage and Kent Lage greeted people from their home

Johnson County Library Foundation President Vickie Trott summed up one craving in 2020 as she addressed attendees at this year’s annual Library gala: “In these unusual times,” Trott said, “we need to let loose however we can until we can let loose in person again.”

And that’s exactly what happened Sept. 12, with the “virtual” Library Lets Loose celebration and fund-raiser. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event could not be held in-person and pivoted to online. Using the On24 platform, the Foundation hosted an event that still featured fun activities, capped off by a virtual dance club where people were encouraged to get their groove on from the comfort of their own homes.

“I am truly amazed at the ingenuity and willingness of so many people to look at the possibility to keep our Library Lets Loose event an ongoing tradition,” Trott told participants.

Honorary co-chairs Cindy Wallis-Lage and Kent Lage greeted people from their home. “Even in this time where we are sheltered in place a lot and we don’t get to go out to the places that we like to go, the Library is still there as a great resource,” Wallis-Lage said. “We hope you have a fantastic night and really remember how much the Library means to all of us.”  

In past years, the gala has attracted 44 sponsors and about 500 participants. This year, the event still garnered 44 sponsors and more than 500 attendees.  Feedback was very positive. The event was free to register but many people and companies still made generous donations. “As a Foundation, we are grateful for the brave Library Lovers who were willing to try an online fundraising event,” said Foundation Executive Director Stephanie Stollsteimer. “We are thrilled with the outpouring of financial support as well.”

The event, moderated by DJ Stann Tate, began with a reception and music by local acoustic guitarist and singer/songwriter Sean McNown. Andrew Olsen, beverage director with the J. Rieger and Co., demonstrated how to mix the “Library Lets Loose” cocktail. Participants could choose from a variety of experiences including a behind-the-scenes introduction to Library staff, activities for kids, and Trivia games. Some people had trouble finding the breakout rooms at first but tech support was quickly available.

The MakerSpace staff demonstrated the fascinating process of creating a wood block relief print, using an industrial roller and design by artist Shawn Sanem. The celebrity reader room featured local notables reading from favorite books; former Chiefs Hall of Fame offensive lineman Will Shields read from Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom.” “We love Libraries and believe every child should learn to read and have access to books,” Shields’ wife Senia said.

Author Candice Millard shared how, when she was about 10 years old, she got a free book from a small town Library, which she has treasured ever since. She chose the book because of its wonderful title: “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou. “I had never experienced books that could be incredibly moving, that could take you somewhere you have never seen or imagined and are beautifully written,” she said.

With fundraisers like Library Lets Loose, the Foundation continues to help provide Library resources to open people’s eyes, as Millard’s were, to the power of great books to transform lives.

Lynn Horsley

In celebration of Library Lets Loose we proudly present another segment of our “celebrity guests” sharing a Library story special to them. We hope you enjoy their stories, and join us online September 12 for more great fun!

Today’s special guest is Candice Millard, writer, reading an excerpt from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou.

In celebration of Library Lets Loose we proudly present the second of our 8-part video series of our “celebrity guests” sharing a Library story special to them. We hope you enjoy their stories, and join us online September 12 for more great fun!

Today’s special guest is Ben Bliss, tenor with The Metropolitan Opera, reading an excerpt from East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

Join our Honorary Hosts Cindy Wallis-Lage and Kent Lage for our signature fundraising event – this year at the eLibrary!

Since 2016, the Johnson County Library Foundation’s biggest annual event and fundraiser has been “Library Lets Loose,” attracting about 500 people to Central for an evening of games, music, dancing, food and fun. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, it quickly became apparent that such an event couldn’t be held this year. The Foundation briefly considered cancelling, but decided to forge ahead with a virtual event that people can enjoy from home.

“We have found that people want to support the Library and this event is a perfect fit for them,” says Foundation Executive Director Stephanie Stollsteimer. “This year has been so weighted by uncertainty for everyone. If anyone has the capacity to give, we can help them with a way to do that. We want to join everyone to cultivate the community spirit of the Library.”

This year’s event is scheduled for Sept. 12, and planning is well underway. More details will soon be available on the Foundation website.

In the past, participants have bought a $75 ticket. This year’s event will be free, although donations are always welcome and encouraged. Attendees will view a brief presentation, then move to a variety of virtual rooms offering storytelling, trivia, games, musical performances and other entertainment. “We’re hosting interactive activities where people can participate from their home,” Stollsteimer said. “Some of it will be live, some recorded.”

The event also relies on dedicated volunteers. This year the effort is led by honorary hosts Cindy Wallis-Lage and Kent Lage. Stollsteimer praised the hosts, both engineers, for their can-do spirit in the face of the pandemic. In a letter inviting event sponsorships, the hosts urged continued financial support to help sustain Johnson County Library as a vital community resource.

“The current world emergency has highlighted the value of readily available learning resources for our community during a time with so much uncertainty,” they wrote. “As a valued partner in our community, the Library has remained available 24/7 with online resources for education, news, and entertainment.” 

Kent Lage is an urban services manager with Johnson County Public Works. Cindy Wallis-Lage is a top executive with Black & Veatch, which is the lead corporate sponsor of Central’s MakerSpace. Both Black & Veatch and MakerSpace epitomize innovation, creativity and productivity — qualities needed now more than ever.

Cindy Wallis-Lage said that growing up in Topeka, she visited the Library every week and it instilled in her a lifelong love of reading. “That was my place to go, all through high school, it was that sanctuary,” she said. As she and her husband raised three children in Johnson County, libraries were a big part of their lives and learning.

She said continuing the Library Lets Loose event this year is worthwhile, “to show how the Library is very agile,” and an important resource for information about different cultures in our world. “We can continue to support the community, whether it’s walking in in person or doing it virtually,” she said.

Additional sponsors are welcome and can contact Stollsteimer at [email protected].

While COVID-19 poses unique challenges, Stollsteimer knows that the Foundation’s supporters, like the Library they love, are resilient and adaptable, and this year’s event will illustrate that. “We are all finding our way together,” she said. “Libraries and communities need each other, and we’ll persevere.”

The Johnson County Library Foundation had planned to gather April 19 at Central to thank members of the 1952 Society, who make planned bequests, and Readers Circle, the Library’s most generous donors.

Featured speaker was to be Dr. Schuyler Jones, a renowned explorer and retired Oxford professor who is said to be the inspiration for Hollywood hero Indiana Jones.

With the pandemic, it looked as if the appreciation event would have to be canceled. But the Foundation was undaunted and created a “virtual” gathering, with Jones present via “Zoom” from his Sedgwick County home.

“He’s an adventurer,” said Foundation Executive Director Stephanie Stollsteimer, adding that Jones, 90, was eager to try something new.

Jones described growing up on a Kansas farm without electricity or indoor plumbing but with wonderful parents and a love of reading. At age 20 he began his travels, which took him to Africa, Afghanistan and countless exotic ports of call.

“I’ve been extraordinarily lucky,” he told participants. Travel in the 1950s and 1960s was cheap and safe. Even in the remotest villages he was treated as an honored guest. He learned multiple languages and had amazing escapades, including tiger hunting with the King of Nepal. He eventually ran one of Britain’s most esteemed museums, the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford.

The “Zoom” presentation also featured Jones’ stunning photographs of the people, architecture and scenery he encountered.

For anyone wanting more about his story, Jones’ most recent book is “A Stranger Abroad: A Memoir.”

-By Lynn Horsley

Maker Angelica Sandoval

Black & Veatch MakerSpace makers are doing some amazing work producing CDC approved masks for front-line workers. They’ve assembled sewing kits from donated fabric from a company called Twirl Connect. In addition, they are making face shields from laser cut plastic and 3D printer plastic with supplies purchased by Black & Veatch.

Makers Angelica Sandoval and Nick Ward-Bopp are leading the cloth mask production effort.

“We knew that many Library  staff know how to sew, but we were not sure which materials to use, which mask styles were approved by hospitals, or how to identify hospitals in need,” Ward-Bopp said.

After connecting with Johnson County Emergency Management Services, the makers found that 100 percent cotton fabric is preferred, and the County is accepting donations at their Med-Act station.

With Twirl Connect’s donation of 150 yards of cotton fabric, he and Sandoval put together kits for staff that include fabric, patterns, and thread. Library Adult Services Manager Kinsley Riggs, with help from her mother, spent an entire weekend cutting the fabric for the kits.

As of April 7, more than 35 staff had sewn 517 masks.

“It’s not often we get to have that sort of direct community impact,” Ward-Bopp said. “I’m thankful to everyone who has stepped up to help.”

Donated masks are being delivered through EMS to Johnson County Developmental Supports and will be used for staff who continue to do residential visits.

“We want to help get masks into the hands of medical professionals, first responders, and anyone on the front lines who are treating or working in proximity with COVID-19 patients or public,” Ward-Bopp said. “Making a mask may not seem like a big act, but it could save a life.”

In addition to cloth masks, Makers Thomas Mailloux and Brian Oertel are coordinating the production of 3D printed parts for face shields. Six 3D printers run day and night in the MakerSpace, printing the headbands used on the shields with materials purchased by Black & Veatch. Several printers are on loan from the MakerLab at Johnson County Community College, and other community partners are pitching in with material and hardware to help the effort.

The machines can print two headbands at a time, and each print job takes seven hours, Riggs said. She estimates that the makers are making 18 face shields per day. Black and Veatch has provided most of the materials however, the team needs more supplies.

“Supplies for making masks and shields are starting to become scarce,” said MakerSpace Facilitator Brian Oertel. “It has forced us to be a little more creative in finding materials.”

Filament for 3D printing is becoming hard to find, as well as acetate inserts. Elastic has also been in short supply. Makers are prototyping creative solutions, like using Avery plastic dividers as inserts and pipe cleaners to create a moldable nose piece for the cloth masks.

“The goal is to provide products that can lengthen the life of medical grade PPE or provide people some barrier to infection,” Oertel said. “If we can’t be physically near others, we can still offer something to the community.”

The makers continue to search for creative solutions to supply shortages and will be reaching out to the private businesses for help. They will also keep doing what they do best – creating solutions where it seems like none exist.

“We are investigating printing other things beside face masks,” Oertel said. “There are designs out there for ventilation splitters, to allow multiple patients to use one ventilator.

“If we as makers can do anything to help those people dealing with the pandemic head on, we have to try,” Oertel said.

– Laura Hunt, JCL Internal Communications Manager

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