United Way recaps success, elects new board members at Annual Meeting

For Immediate Release
March 27, 2014

UNITED WAY CONTACT: Mike McLaughlin, Communications Director
Phone: 785.228.5117 | Cell: 816.591.1592 | E-mail: mike.mclaughlin@unitedwaytopeka.org

TOPEKA, KAN. (March 27, 2014) – A recap of 2013 by Kent Townsend, board chairman, and the election of new board members highlighted the United Way of Greater Topeka ‘s Annual Meeting March 27 at the Capitol Plaza’s Manor Conference Center. Following United Way’s focus on Education, Financial Stability and Health, the meeting featured success stories from each area:

  • Shanna Russell, site coordinator for Pine Ridge Prep preschool, shared the story of how the school has not only given a chance to students who had little to no chance of academic success, but the partnership of eight organizations including United Way is transforming the Pine Ridge Community. United Way has made a 3-year, $375,000 commitment to the school which has been recognized with a Magna Award from the National School Boards Association. United Way has received Topeka Public Schools’ Friend of Education Award for its support of the school.
  • Arianne Gross, a single mother, shared via video her success in paying down credit card, medical and student loan debt through Housing and Credit Counseling Inc.’s HOPE program. Gross has improved her credit score so dramatically that she now qualifies for a home loan, a dream she held but wasn’t sure was possible.
  • Townsend read excerpts from a letter from Melissa Dedonder, a participant in the HEAT Up Topeka program run by Florence Crittenton under United Way’s Eat, Move, Live adult obesity initiative. Following a pregnancy, Dedonder used the exercise program to get off of her high blood pressure medication and control her risk for type II diabetes.

Townsend thanked United Way’s outgoing board members including:

  • Joe Aleshire – recently retired from Capitol Federal
  • Jeff Beasley – Westar Energy
  • Melissa Hungerford – Kansas Hospital
  • Kim Konecny – Westar Energy
  • Dave Kuzanek – Hill’s Pet Nutrition
  • Cherie McGinnis – Stormont Vail Healthcare
  • Jim Ogle – WIBW channels
  • Diane Pavelka – community volunteer
  • Janet Stanek –  Stormont Vail Healthcare

The 2014 United Way Board officers were introduced:

Chairman:                             Kent Townsend, Capitol Federal
Chair-Elect:                           Larry Robbins, Topeka Public Schools
Past Chairman:                     Scott Griffith, INTRUST Bank
Treasurer:                             Bebo Lowery-Born, retired from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas

United Way members then elected the following board members to new terms on the board:

3-year term:

  • Patrick Woods – Westar Energy
  • Rick Anderson – Washburn University
  • Marshall Meek – St. Francis Health Center Foundation
  • Gary Doyle — Retired I.A.M.&A.W. Local Lodge 378
  • Becky Holmquist – US Bank
  • Jacqueline (Jackie) Taylor – Capitol Federal
  • Rex Tessendorf – Payless ShoeSource

2-year term:

  • Mark Ault – Alliance Bank


United Way brings together people, companies and nonprofits to create positive sustainable change in our community. By focusing on education, financial stability and health, we help more children graduate and get stable jobs, help families become financially stable and improve the overall health of our community. United Way remains dedicated to Basic Needs including food, shelter, rent and utilities, health and prescription access and safety from domestic violence.

For more than 80 years United Way of Greater Topeka has been improving and changing lives. Since 1980, United Way has invested more than $105 million into the community.