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Ballard receives Grant from Aetna Better Health of Kansas

After months of babysitting her granddaughters, Kim House received a call from Kyle Roggenkamp, the Kansas State SCSEP Coordinator

It was time to get back to work; This time at the Ballard Center pantry. Aetna Better Health of Kansas is the latest example, as the Overland Park organization awarded the Ballard Center with a grant for $2,500 through Aetna’s 2019 Partners in Community Grant Program.

The need for Ballard’s pantry is huge, and donations are vital in keeping the operation that assists so many clients in need up and running.

In 2019, more than 3,000 pantry visits were made, impacting 8,000 family members. A typical three-hour pantry day has anywhere from 15 to 20 visitors, and the Ballard Center can offer items each day for a balanced, nutritious meal.

The pantry is vital for House, too.

After receiving a ticket for driving with a suspended license, House was sentenced to more than 100 hours of community service, which she started at the Salvation Army in January 2018. However, she had to step away in the summer to babysit her granddaughters because her children couldn’t afford childcare.

But when she was ready to go back to work, there was no longer a spot at the Salvation Army, so House was sent to the Ballard Center to serve as the pantry supervisor in the fall of 2019. She still occupies the same position.

In addition to running the pantry, House was also one of 1,088 unduplicated clients served by the food and clothing pantry in 2019. Not only did she use the pantry for hygiene and clothing items for herself, House often took those items home for her three daughters, 13 grandchildren, and even sometimes her neighbors, similarly to other pantry clients.

“It’s very beneficial,” House said of the pantry. “One of my daughters pays an ungodly amount of child support, and she has another child and herself trying to live off what’s left. So, I get her stuff.

“I’m really grateful for that kind of stuff because it’s not cheap.”

House uses the pantry to shop for items for her nephew, who is recently out of jail and doesn’t have much.

“Ballard is the perfect place for him,” House said of her nephew. “He needs clothes, so I get him a few things.”

Keeping the pantry stocked with supplies and open to the public wouldn’t be possible without a great deal of generosity, and Ballard is eternally grateful for support from Aetna. 

The Ballard Center moved its food and clothing services, as well as utility and rent assistance to its North Lawrence Location. The choice-based food pantry is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; free clothing, personal care items, and diapers are available during this time. 

Most importantly, the Ballard Center can help those who need it most. In fact, 905 of the 1,088 recorded unique visitors are either at or below the poverty line. Ballard Center is a resource for community partners, too. Social agencies such as Lawrence Community Shelter, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, and Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department have all referred clients to Ballard Center.

The Ballard Center’s efforts are made possible by the generosity of the community, as our 983 pantry volunteer hours in 2019 are valued at $23,000.

And it’s been essential for people like Kim House, who is forever grateful for all the Ballard Center, thanks to donations, has given her. In addition to Ballard Center being her place of work, House can use resource services in the pantry like any other client.

“It’s kept a roof over my head,” House said with a smile. “I’m really grateful for that. I always pick up something for the kids.”