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Patty LaRoche: Valuing Every Life

“If you are a victim of human trafficking, call this number.” So read this sign on every bathroom stall in the Las Vegas Airport. Just a few hours before, Dave and I had driven “Greg” to the airport in Kansas City. He had been in Fort Scott for a sex-trafficking meeting, and since we were flying to Vegas for our granddaughter’s graduation, we were able to give him a ride.

Greg is considered one of the brightest minds in the business. As a former member of the CIA, he had become interested in trafficking when he realized that the government was not doing enough. He now heads a non-profit foundation to aid in the felons’ capture.

I learned much. I learned that the problem is epidemic, with the United States at the forefront. I learned how the traffickers work. Greg referred to it as the “Romeo Event.” A young girl—typically with an absentee father and struggling mother—links up online with someone who promises to care for her. Within a few weeks a meeting is scheduled. The man entices the teen to return to his house/motel with him, and there he brutally beats her, rapes her and injects her with heroin. Within 48 hours she is addicted.

If she refuses to cooperate, the heroin is withheld. Greg said the girls he has interviewed tell him that coming down from the drug feels like every bone in their body is breaking. They beg for more. They are now the trafficker’s slave.

What surprised me was that 60 percent of the traffickers are women, “look-outs” at motels and houses where the girls are kept. Starting as trafficked women, they work their way up the chain of demand to become madams of the victims. A much easier proposition.

Greg cited a case in which four girls were rescued after being found trapped in dog cages in a motel room. A fifth girl was dead. The offender got 40 years. Not 40 years in a dog cage, which I said was what he deserved. Greg reminded me that Jesus changed the system of justice even though, he agreed, an eye for an eye, Old Testament style, seems more appropriate. Greg explained that he is involved in the computer side of catching the criminal and not the face-to-face encounters, because he doesn’t know if he is capable of that kind of forgiveness. I get that.

We discussed forgiveness and how hard (impossible) that is with traffickers. Greg said, “When someone is convicted of killing innocent people because he was driving drunk, everyone knows he didn’t set out to do that. But when men intentionally kidnap, beat, rape, inject with drugs and traffic, they are evil beyond description.”

As a nation, we have moved away from God, and when that happens, people become of little value. We teach children they originated as sludge. We abort our babies. We ignore the homeless man on the corner or the scantily clad woman on the street. We shun our Muslim neighbors. We turn over police cars while defending our right to protest. We attempt to assassinate our leaders as they practice for a charity baseball game.

Or we simply refuse to get involved. Greg said that if people just opened their eyes, much of the trafficking would come to a halt.

Next week I will share some practical ways we can make a difference.

Mercy Pharmacy Will Close Early for Inventory June 28

Submitted by Tina Rockhold

The pharmacy at Mercy Fort Scott will close at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 28, for inventory. Regular hours will resume at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 29.

“We want to make all our patients aware of the temporary change in hours on June 28, so they can plan ahead and not have ny interruption in their medication,” said Jennifer Dunshee, RPh. “We thank our patients in advance for their cooperation during our annual inventory process.”

Shortly before the end of every fiscal year, the pharmacy staff takes inventory of drugs and supplies. Mercy’s fiscal year ends June 30.

Commission Approves Plats for Redevelopment District

After months of research and planning, the redevelopment district at the former Woods location will undergo changes after the Fort Scott City Commission gave their approval during Tuesday night’s meeting.

“Tonight’s an extremely important night for the project,” said Joel Riggs of Super Market Developers, a subsidiary of Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc., which helps build or renovate independent grocers such as Super Savers, Woods and other Price Choppers.

Barry Queen of Queen Enterprises, LLC, said his company looks forward to bringing a Price Chopper to Fort Scott, adding he has connections to the area through his parents and grandparents.

“We enjoy the community,” Queen said. “We miss the grocery store…We’re excited about the project.”

The project will cost a total of about $9.4 million, with $2.55 million of that reimbursed to them through the city’s Tax Increment Financing and Community Improvement District bond, and will include an extensive renovation that will change the look of the building entirely.

“You will not recognize this building when we’re done,” Riggs said.

Preliminary sketches for the Queen Price Chopper
Preliminary sketches for the Queen Price Chopper

One of the largest changes will be the addition of a Dunkin’ Donuts on the south side of the building, including a drive-thru window. The pharmacy will not be brought back, but there may be additional retail or restaurant on the property in the future as well.

The plats approved by the commission includes the building and parking lot at 2322 S. Main Street as well as the land behind and south of the building near Tractor Supply, adding up to five acres of redevelopment property and 39,500 square feet of building.

With the city’s approval of the plat, lot lines and the resolution to issue bonds to the project, the investors said they hope to close on the property in July and hire contractors immediately to start the construction. If all goes as planned, the store could be complete by November, though it may not be finished until the new year depending on other contingencies.

“There’s so many people who can’t wait for it to open,” said Todd Ferrel, while other citizens attending the meeting said they look forward to having another competitor for Walmart and source of fresh produce and a deli option.

Riggs said they project the new business could bring in an estimated $25 million in sales tax over 20 years, as well as $3.6 million in real and personal property tax, while adding about 100 new jobs.

“We are proud to have you guys believe in our community and invest as you are,” City Manager Dave Martin said.

Commission Dismisses Rumor of Elm Creek Lake Sale

The Bourbon County Commission spoke with residents Tuesday who expressed concerns over the possibility that the county could sell Elm Creek Lake to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

During a meeting in early May, commissioner Jeff Fischer had shared a citizen’s suggestion that the county sell the lake so the maintenance would not be the county’s responsibility and a financial burden. No other discussion or decision was made during that meeting.

“There’s no plan to even discuss it,” commissioner Lynne Oharah said of such a sale. “It’s not going to be sold.”

Robert Query said the lake was created in 1936 as a backup water source, a place of recreation for the public and a source of employment, and he does not want to see that change.

“I am against the thought of selling it,” Fischer assured Query and others who came for confirmation of that fact.

Resident Gilbert Fleeman said he wants to see the lake remain public, county land for his children and grandchildren to enjoy.

Query pointed out there is a need for repairs of the lake’s dam, which has a number of leaks. He encouraged the county not to disregard such repairs as just another expense and decide to ignore it, adding he believes the money could be gathered through fundraisers and donations and not just from the county budget.

Oharah said they will look into estimates of what it would cost to fill in the holes.

Lowell Milken Center Awarded Freedom’s Frontier Interpretive Grant

Submitted by Jessica Schenkel

Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area and the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes are pleased to announce that the Lowell Milken Center is the recipient of an Interpretive Grant in the amount of $4,000 for the project “She Outranks Me.”

This grant funding will allow the Lowell Milken Center to design, produce and display a new exhibit panel in their Hall of Unsung Heroes that features Mary Bickerdyke, a hero from an era that greatly impacted Fort Scott and the Civil War.

The Freedom’s Frontier Interpretive Grant program was started in 2012. Since then, more than 90 projects have been awarded grant funding. Grant projects have been completed on both sides of the Missouri-Kansas border, in the 41-county region that comprises the heritage area. Projects awarded grant funding must interpret local history and connect to one or more of the three major themes of the heritage area: the shaping of the frontier, the Missouri-Kansas Border War and the enduring struggle for freedom. Grants range in amount from under $1,500 to $5,000. All awards over $1,500 require that the grant recipient show a local match of half the amount of the award. This match can be in the form of cash, or in-kind donations and staff and volunteer time.

Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area is one of 49 heritage areas in the U.S. Heritage areas are nonprofit affiliates of the National Park Service (NPS). They act as coordinating entities between the local organizations telling nationally significant stories and the NPS. Freedom’s Frontier was established as a heritage area on October 12, 2006, when signed into law by President George Bush. The heritage area’s management plan was approved by the Department of the Interior and the NPS in 2010. Freedom’s Frontier is headquartered in the Carnegie Building, 200 W 9th St., in Lawrence, Kan.

The Lowell Milken Center is a non-profit 501©(3) that works with students and educators within a range of diverse academic disciplines, to develop projects focused on unsung heroes. Once their projects are finished, they advocate the student’s unsung heroes by sharing them in the Hall of Unsung Heroes or their website so people all over the world discover their individual influence and obligation to take actions that improve the lives of others. The Hall of Unsung Heroes is proudly located in Southeast Kansas and showcases some of the top projects developed in collaboration with the Center.

“With the funds granted by the FFNHA, many students, teachers and visitors will have an opportunity to learn of Bickerdyke’s tireless efforts in providing the best health care possible during the Civil War and be inspired by her actions. We are excited about this grant and the ability to continue to share positive role models!” says Jessica Schenkel, administrative specialist for the Lowell Milken Center.

Grant applications are accepted from organizations within the borders of the heritage area which have signed a partner pledge with Freedom’s Frontier, and meet all other qualifications for grant funding. Applications are reviewed quarterly by a peer group from the partnership. Organizations are asked to complete their grant projects within a year of the grant award. For more information about Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, visit the Web site at www.freedomsfrontier.org.