Stafford County Economic Development has been working hard the last 2 years to complete 10 houses that are in St. John, Stafford, Hudson, and Macksville respectively. These houses have government requirements for income and age and meet the need of a critical group in our community. We are now looking for a lucky person or family to move into the last house in Macksville. The 412 W. Halveson house has a large yard and has 3 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms. The other houses in the county are now called for. The house on First and Monroe in St. John was recently filled and the house in Hudson has someone moving into it starting in November. If you or someone you know needs housing in Macksville please contact Housing Opportunities Incorporated (HOI) our partner who manages the houses. Reach out to HOI by phone (620) 792-3299.
By Beccy Tanner
St. John’s century-old photo studio, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, is about to get an interior make-over.
The board at the W.R. Gray Photo Studio at 116 N. Main has created a partnership with Stafford County’s Economic Development office to help finish the building’s interior.
The building was constructed at the turn of the 20th century.
“We’ve signed an agreement with Eco-Devo to complete the restoration of the building,” said Carol Long, president of the Gray Studio Restoration Board. “Basically, it is just for that. It’s not a longtime administration agreement. It’s just to complete the building.”
Ryan Russell, executive director of Stafford Count’s Economic Development, said his office would help write grants.
“We are an administrative and fiscal sponsor,” Russell says. “So, what that means, is that we will help them find the money to do the project.”
For years, the building sat vacant and neglected until Long and others within the community began a concentrated effort in trying to save it.
That’s when it was listed on the national register and a new roof was installed. Then, the building’s exterior was painted: windows were repaired on the structure’s iconic northern skylight and, the interior was essentially taken down to the studs and beams.
Now, it is time to finish the rest of the work.
“They need help with the finishing projects,” Russell said. “And, we are going to be looking at selling some tax credits and obtaining grants.”
Long said the goal for the building will be turn a portion of the space into a residential artist apartment.
However, the bulk of space will be utilized for a classroom and special events.
“This is not some favor to Gray Studio,” Long said of the help provided by Eco-Devo.
“They are getting compensation for their work … The reason this has happened is that we need somebody to have their mind on Gray Studio all the time – somebody skilled and with connections to grant writing and organizations that build the grants,” she said.
“We needed people in the know.”
Long said that for the past decade, the members of the Gray Studio board have been working on getting the building completed.
“We want to do programs when the building is done,” she said. “The building will house a workspace for classes and maybe a place for a resident artist to work. It will have a little retail space and museum.”
The reason the photo studio is so important to Stafford County is because it documented the early families who lived in the area.
The Gray family took photos in Stafford County for 76 years.
The type of photography that the family used was glass plate photography, started in the 1850s and used up until the 1930s when Kodak’s Brownie camera and film became more accessible to most families.
William Gray moved to St. John in 1905 from Fall River. He operated the studio until his death in 1947. His daughter Jessie took over the business until her retirement in 1981.
In 1986, she donated the glass negatives to the Stafford County museum.
No one knew what they really had until Stafford County Museum curator and project director Michael Hathaway brought the 30,000 glass plate negatives up from the basement of the town’s old bank building and moved them into the museum’s library next to his office.
That was in 2004.
Gray had kept 11 ledgers dutifully noting each of the 30,000 photos.
Those business ledgers indicate his clients came from all over Kansas. Many of the photos include portrait sittings but also street scenes, crime scenes, festivals and, of course, who can’t resist a picture of oversized produce?
Now, with this new partnership, the building can be completed and it’s legacy can continue as an important landmark of Stafford County.
By Beccy Tanner
In its day, the old Quonset-style fair building on the Stafford County Fairgrounds was state-of-the-art.
It had an enclosed space, concrete floor, showers in the restrooms and giant electric fans that kept the air moving as fair-goers perused hundreds of 4-H projects.
That was more than 70 years ago.
In recent years as the steel framed-round top community building began to leak and rain water dripped on projects, the Stafford County Fair Board re-evaluated what they could do.
“The building’s roof had begun leaking and during heavy rains, it rained on photography exhibits and stuff like that,” said Billy Milton, fair board president. “We started looking into fixing the roof and got back an estimate that was going to cost between $30,000 to $40,000 to fix and that in 10 to 20 years, we’d have to do it again.
“We did not feel like that was the right area to pursue. It doesn’t make sense for us to be spend that much money. Our budget just is not that big to operate like that.”
A few weeks ago, the old 50 by 120-foot community building was removed from the fairgrounds.
And the ground has been prepared to receive a new building – a little bigger, 60 by 120-foot.
The construction will be more of a Morton-esque-style building.
The biggest hope and feature for it will be air conditioning, Milton said, and a more comfortable space for people to gather.
Using $250,000 in funds that was available to Stafford County to help stimulate the economy after the Covid pandemic, Milton said, the fair board was able to begin the process of replacing the old building. The money was awarded by Stafford County Commissioners with the stipulation it be spent by the summer of 2024.
“That led us to deciding to go ahead and replace the building,” he said. “It will suit our fair and the community a lot better than what we currently had … I have been on the fair board for the last six years and we’ve always kind of talked about wanting a new building – even back in the 1990s, there was talk about it.”
Milton said the fair board has partnered with Stafford County Economic Development to raise an additional $275,000 to pay for the building’s amenities – such as heating and air conditioning, a concession stand area with stove and refrigerator and install showers in the restrooms.
“The rest of it will be open for meetings, wedding receptions and reunions,” Milton said. “We entered into a fiscal sponsorship agreement with Stafford County Eco-Devo because our organization is not a 501-C nonprofit so that when people donate, they can still get the tax breaks and save a little bit of money with sales tax, also.”
The partnership allows for a tax-favored option.
People wanting to donate to the new building fund can do so by sending a check to the Stafford County Economic Development Office at P.O Box 233 at St. John, KS, 67576 or by calling 620-549-3527.
The checks can be made to Stafford County Eco-Devo with the words “Community Fair Building” in the memo portion of the check.
Donation levels include: Grand Champion level at $80,000 and up; Reserve Champion, $50,000 to $80,000; Champion, $20,000 to $49,000; Reserve, $10,000 to $19,000; Purple, $2,000 to $9,999; Blue, $500 to $1,999; Other and Add a Brick, $200 to $350.
A 4 x 8 brick with no clipart has three lines with 20 characters per line; the same size of brick with clipart has an equal number of lines with 15 characters per line; an 8 x 8 brick with no clipart has three lines with 20 characters per line; and with clipart, three lines with 20 characters.
People serving on the fundraising committee include Milton, Joanna McAlister, Barb Alpers and Sharilyn McNickle.
“Right now, with the amount of money we have, we have enough money to get the shell of a building. We can get it back to where we were before,” Milton said. “But the additional money will go towards plumbing, electrical, tables and chairs, a bathroom and kitchen area on the inside.”
Check out the schedule here and also the other festivities on their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/StaffordOktoberfest .
To add your Garage Sale to the Map, stop by Ida Long Goodman Library or call 549-3227
By Beccy Tanner
Stafford County’s two area community foundations are gearing up one of the largest global giving days ever – Giving Tuesday, which falls this year on Nov. 28.
Worldwide, it’s a movement that promotes “radical generosity,” according to the organization’s website: www.givingtuesday.org.
Locally, it means the Golden Belt Community Foundation and the South-Central Community Foundation are promoting local nonprofits and encouraging residents to give as generously as they can to support their favorite nonprofits.
For Golden Belt Community Foundation, this is their 10th year in promoting Giving Tuesday.
They have 100 local nonprofits participating in this year’s event.
“You can give to your favorite nonprofits and those funds can move directly to them or you can give to your favorite nonprofit endowment fund and that money can stay here with us and can grow that fund to continue to support that nonprofit organization,” said Teresa Powelson, program officer for Golden Belt.
The Golden Belt’s Community Foundation area covers counties in Barton, Pawnee, Rush and Stafford County.
In year’s past, the foundation raised more than $288,000 in Giving Tuesday.
“Last year was one of our biggest giving years,” Powelson said. “I think the thing that means the most to us is that we get to continue to support the nonprofit agencies in our community. This is a way that we can continue to help them grow, build their programs and serve the community just by allowing them to participate in Giving Tuesday.
“I think that’s one of the greatest benefits we can provide to the community.”
People who have participated in Giving Tuesday with Golden Belt before can expect to receive forms in the mail informing them of Giving Tuesday.
If they haven’t participated before and would like to, they may go to the Golden Belt Community Foundation’s Facebook page or website or stop by the foundation’s office in Great Bend to find out more information.
The office is located at 1307 Williams St, Great Bend, KS., 67530.
The website is www.goldenbeltcf.org.
The South Central Community Foundation in Pratt represents Barber, Comanche, Kiowa, Kingman, Rice and Stafford counties.
This is the foundation’s first year participating in Giving Tuesday and has 10 nonprofiit organiztions signed up to participate.
“It’s a big deal,” said Holly Launchbaugh, the foundation’s executive director of this year’s event. “It’s not just about the actual monetary donations but about giving back to your community, as well. It’s volunteering in every capacity. It has a lot of different meanings, for sure.”
Through a grant with the Patterson Family Foundation, which was established to reinvest in rural communities, the South Central Community Foundation is able to provide for the first time up to $70,000 in matching funds.
“We have a matching pool,” Launchbaugh said. “So, if we raise $70,000 or above, we will receive that full amount. Of course, if we received from the community, $30,000, that’s what we will get. So, it depends on how much you raise up to $70,000.”
Last summer, the South Central Community Foundation did a listening tour of each of its seven participating counties. The counties are, of course, all rural and all face similar issues with housing, childcare and the workforce topping the main concerns.
“When we received this opportunity to receive this grant, we really wanted to help out the nonprofits that serve our counties,” she said. “Helping our communities is something that we all support.”
The money goes straight to the nonprofit of choice.
“So, it’s really helping with whatever the nonprofit’s specific need is,” Launchbaugh said. “This is open-ended to let the nonprofit select where the money goes.”
The Patterson Family Foundation grant opened up an opportunity this year for the SCCF, Launchbaugh said. In the past, much of the foundation’s dollars was spent specifically on other grants or scholarships. The Patterson grant allowed the foundation to participate for the first time in Giving Tuesday.
People wanting to participate in Giving Tuesday can drop checks off at the office beginning Nov. 14th in Pratt or by mailing checks to the office. The office is located at 114 W. 5th, Pratt, KS., 67124.
“As long as the check is postmarked by Nov. 28, they will be counted for that matching grant this year,” she said. South Central’s website is https://www.sccfmatchday.org/.
This is our September 2023 Radio show with our director Ryan Russel
Stafford County Economic Development, Inc.
We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
311 N Broadway St, Saint John, KS 67576
PO Box 233, Saint John, KS 67576
To promote economic and population growth throughout the County by assisting our local businesses, engaging in community activities, and promoting Stafford County as a great place to live, work, and play.
We are an equal opportunity provider and employer.