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Cecelia Jenkins

Cecelia Jenkins

It is good news for Douglas County after the County Health Rankings were released.

Douglas County was ranked 7 out 102 counties in the state as one of the healthiest counties.

It has ranked in the top 10 since the first report was released 7 years ago.

A large part of the high ranking is due to organizations like ‘Just Food’, that help ensure everyone has access to better food choices, serving almost 200 families a day.

Executive director, Elizabeth Keever, said they try and purchase only healthy foods for their clients.

"And when we purchase food we always make sure that we're purchasing fresh food, lean proteins and when we do non-perishable products they're whole grains, they're low sodium canned vegetables and low sugar fruits."

It wasn’t a surprise to Keever when Douglas County ranked high in the County Health Report.

"Our clients are picking healthier produce every single day and we really seen the demand for healthy products increase."

However there are areas of improvement, according to Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino with the Kansas Health Institute.

"One is the rate of sexually transmitted infections and the other is the number of people who report binge drinking or drinking excessive alcohol."

Dr. Pezzino said those negative factors could lead to challenges for the community down the line.

Despite those low rankings, the county is in good shape overall.

A university employee is facing charges of malicious torture of an animal for allegedly ripping the tail off a school’s pet rabbit.

36 year old Shawn Zuehlsdorf worked for the University of Kansas and cleaned up the Hilltop Childcare Center.

Executive director of the center, Jeremy, Fite said it was a complete shock to learn Zuehlsdorf had done something so terrible.

"I saw him every night. He's one of the people who works in our building after we close, the kids are all gone. He's part of our cleaning crew."

The class rabbit, Carrots, survived the attack and will return to the classroom after a safe recovery.

"It's on a couple of medications and it's going to have some stitches some minor injuries and so he's being cared for”, said Fite.

The news was too disturbing for the young children, but they knew Carrots was ill but will join them soon.

Veterinarian, Jennifer Stone, said rabbits are usually gentle, so it still remains a mystery as to why Zuehlsdorf hurt Carrots.

Monday, 27 March 2017 18:22

Kansans rally for education

Kansans from all over the state spent 3 days walking to end up in Topeka to raise awareness about funding for public schools.

Participants began their journey in either Emporia, Manhattan, or Merriam and ended up at the Statehouse.

Many said it was a long and rainy weekend for them as they walked about 20 miles a day to get to the capitol, but it was all for a greater cause.

One participant, Sarah Oglesby, said she hoped this rally sent a message to legislators.

“We’re hoping that if we apply a little pressure and maybe say yes we really want this fixed that they know it’s important to Kansans to correct the failing budget.”

These budget cuts could impact many programs within public schools, and student Dymzio Allen is concerned.

“We could lose some things for our schools like art and stuff…we don’t have that much materials as we use to have.”

While education was the main focus of the rally, teachers and students were not the only ones present.

Participants said that while the walk has ended, the fight isn’t over.

As participants rallied for public education funding, lawmakers also held a public hearing on a new school funding formula. 

Concealed carry laws have been discussed a numerous of times.

A senate committee is currently working on a bill that would exempt public hospitals from the concealed carry mandate.

Public facilities like Bert Nash and the Lawrence Memorial Hospital would be affected if this bill does not pass, and are urging legislators to exempt them from these laws.

Representatives from these agencies say the safety of patients and the cost of putting in security measures are their main concerns.

COO of Bert Nash, Patricia Roach Smith, said many of these places could be impacted financially.

“It would have a financial impact ongoing because there would be security guards and ability to check everyone that comes in that seems like an extreme cost when it can be avoided.”

Senator Marci Francisco, who is on the Ways and Means Committee, said they are fully aware of the consequences.

“But I was very pleased that it was introduced and introduced in the ways and mean because they were aware of the significant costs.”

In addition to high costs representatives of these agencies believed combining weapons and patients who may be vulnerable is not the best decision.

“Sometimes emotions are running high those are the situations where we would prefer to avoid someone having access to a firearm”, said Janice Early from the Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

The cost to secure each hospital in the state would cost over 11 million dollars as each entrance would need to be secured.

The senate committee is expected to vote on this bill soon.

Thursday, 23 March 2017 18:38

KU fans bring business to downtown Lawrence

Downtown has been busy as people buy their last minute gear, and although the NCAA tournament is in Kansas City this year, that won't stop the crowds coming to Mass St. if KU wins.

It's where many will come to shop, watch the game, and celebrate., but the action and large crowds are not only exciting for fans.

General manger of Jefferson's says this time of year is great for business.

"Obviously it's great for our business if they continue to win and the flood gates open when mass street opens up like that and everyone's just having a good time and it's just a great atmoshpere and it's a lot of fun."

The tournament is expected to bring business in from all over.

Fans wouldn't have to travel far to watch the game, but many like Rachel Lietz prefer the atmoshpere on Mass St.

I'm hoping that happens again if we make it that far...but if we get to the elite 8 I'll still be happy to just come to downtown mass street and have fun."

It's normally one of the busiest month of the year for them when the team plays well.

Hotels in the area are also expecting an overflow of guests from Kansas City this weekend if KU advances. 

A very important vote that affects thousands in the state is expected to come this week.

CEO of Heartland Community Health Center, Jon Stewart, visited the capitol as an advocate for Medicaid expansion and said it’s something that needs to be done.

"Close to 5,000 right here in Douglas County could be impacted, but I think there's really strong agreement that we need to take action in the state”, Stewart said.

However if Kansas doesn’t vote to expand Medicaid, it would join neighboring states such as Nebraska, Missouri, and Oklahoma as states choosing to opt out of expansion.

Colorado and Arkansas currently have it.

Linda Shepard with the Kansas Health Institute also said action needs to be taken before the American Health Care Act is passed.

"I think what this does is just bring some more uncertainty into the whole question of states like Kansas who may be considering doing expansion at this time", Shepard said.

While a vote is expected soon both Shepard and Stewart said there’s a lot at stake.

If passed the American Health Care Act would cut funding for Medicaid expansion which would leave less of an incentive for states like Kansas to expand.

The deadline for states to expand Medicare is the end of the month, which is a change from the original deadline of 2020.

The 13th annual Ms. Wheelchair pageant wasn’t a beauty pageant, but rather a competition to select a role model and spokesperson for people with disabilities in Kansas.

All contestants are role models within their communities, which made choosing a winner a challenge, but only one could be crowned.

Women took the stage at this year’s pageant, wishing to change the perception of people with disabilities by sharing their own strengths and struggles.

Pageant contestant and this year’s winner, Deborah Young, said she doesn’t feel limited by her disabilities.

“What? I have disability? Ok. I guess so according to what society’s perceptions are. However I feel like I’ve been enabled from my lack of limbs”, Young said.”

Little girls were also inspired to chase their dreams and be role models and in the Little Miss Wheelchair of Kansas Pageant.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know some of the inspiring wheelchair mobile women, especially my mentor”, said Little Miss Wheelchair 2016 Aubrey May.

Replacing May is Sophia Beers as the new Little Miss Wheelchair.

This year’s winners travel throughout the state to educate various groups about people living with disabilities.

Young will serve as a mentor to Beers as they begin their journey as Ms. And Little Miss Wheelchair of Kansas.

Young will compete in the national competition later this year in hopes of becoming Ms. Wheelchair America. 
Friday, 17 March 2017 18:13

2017 Lawrence St. Patrick's Day

It was the perfect day for the St. Patrick’s Day parade.


During the first St. Patrick's Day parade center in Lawrence, 29 years ago, there was snow instead of sun.

Today was different as the crowd bursted with energy as floats passed by. 

Some even reserved parking spaces for the perfect view.

Jules Richardson was in the crowd and said she got there early.

“I got here about half an hour before the parade started, luckily my friends parked the night before.”

The kids, however had their mind on one thing, and that was candy.

The music, candy, and floats kept everyone entertained.

Even some four-legged friends got in on the fun.

It was a great way to start the day before cheering on the Jayhawks. 

The fundamental right of abortion was questioned at the Kansas Supreme Court.

In 2015 the State Legislature passed the Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Act.

That Senate Bill never went into effect after two doctors sought a temporary injunction.

Representatives from pro-life and choice listened as attorneys for both sides stated their cases.

Even Supreme Court Justice Dan Biles shared a concern he had with the law.

"Well you asked us to put our heads in the same frame of mind as a bunch of white men in 1859."

About 95% of 2nd trimester abortions are performed using this specific method.

Many fear that if this injunction is lifted many unsafe abortions could take place.

However this law has be brought forth in other states including our neighboring states of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri.

A decision has not yet been made on of the injunction will be lifted. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017 18:13

Community members discuss youth and race

The American Friends Service Committee hosted a panel discussion titled ‘Youth and Race: What is your role?”

It highlighted the many challenges dealing with race within our community, specifically the schools.

It was an uncomfortable topic to discuss, but many shared their thoughts.

Four educators with different backgrounds, but the same goals spoke on a panel sharing their experiences in the schools and universities in Lawrence.

Shannon Kimball with the Lawrence School Board said the district has come a long way, but the journey isn’t over.

"We talk a lot in our district about closing the opportunity gap so that we can therefore close the achievement gap that still exists for many of our students of color"

Another panelist, Jancita Warrington, said this discussion allowed for people to share different perspectives.

"To me it was very important to include the Native American perspective because of recent issues that have been addressed within the local school district here within the last few weeks"

It was a tough conversation to have but panelist Tai Amri Span-Wilson said your role is to not be a part of the problem.

"in an oppressive situation, I am also a part of that situation, so how I react to that situation, I can support it or I can help to bring it down."

The crown wasn’t as full as expected, but it still gave a chance for those in attendance to come together and gain knowledge through a meaningful discussion.

This was one of three panel discussions.

The next two are titled ‘Peace and Conflict: Do guns give us Peace’ and ‘Refugees and Immigration: What can we do?’

They will be at the Ecumenical Campus Ministries on April 13th and May 4th.

Anyone interested in attending is invited to join the discussions.

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