Living in a rural community presents its own unique opportunities and challenges, especially when many efforts must be supported by the work of volunteers.
The Kansas Sampler Foundation's biannual We Kan! Conference will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 7 at Meridian Center, 1420 E. Broadway Ct. in Newton. Organized by Marci Penner and WenDee Rowe, the theme for this year's conference is "What Should Kansas Look Like? Let's Start Shaping It!"
Around 75 percent of towns in Kansas have a population of fewer than 1,500 people, Penner noted.
"Most of those do not have a paid city manager or a paid chamber manager," Penner said. "Anyone who wants to help sustain their town, we will definitely have information for them."
The topics will be discussed in general group sessions, breakout sessions and some speed meeting sessions.
"The pace will be fast and positive and good thinkers will dominate the day as we not only look at issues from new angles but make plans to take action," Penner said.
Sessions for bringing diverse groups together, engaging unique voices and tourism will be led by community leaders and rural advocates involved in agencies or organizations across Kansas. By bringing in their peers, those who strive to make a difference in their town can see the possibilities of success.
"We try to bring functional and relevant information to these folks," Penner said.
Topics discussed at the conference will include marketing skills, such as understanding social media, smartphone video production, community communication and brochure design.
"Sometimes, just little shifts in how we think about things can make a difference," Penner said.
Some of the topics pertain to issues often mentioned as challenges to living in a rural community.
"We've heard that one of the things that keeps young people from moving to or staying in rural communities...is being able to get insurance in an affordable way," Penner said.
Another discussion will cover having daycare in smaller towns.
"How to deal with daycare and getting daycare into these rural communities is a huge issue. Everybody's looking for answers," Penner said.
The We Kan! Conference is aimed at those who work in their communities as leaders in the areas of economic or community development, tourism, entrepreneurship and commerce.
"What we try to do is look at issues that are common in rural communities," Penner said.
Kansas Sampler Foundation works to educate Kansans about Kansas and to support rural communities through networking.
"We hope to create action out of a lot of the topics, actions that will help and make changes," Penner said.
A "Sippin' and Supposin'" mixer will be held at 5:30 p.m. March 6 at Norm's Coffee Bar, 613 N. Main in Newton.
We Kan! Conference registration fees must be received by Feb. 26. The conference (including lunch and light snacks) is $75, and the mixer is an additional $15.
For more information or to register for the We Kan! Conference, visit http://www.kansassampler.org or call 620-585-2374.