Growing up mostly in the larger communities of Kansas City and Wichita, Flint Hills Design founder and CEO Joel Gaeddert admitted the idea of making an impact by getting involved at the local level was somewhat lost on him. That is, until he moved to Newton.
"I didn't grow up in a small town, but one of the things that I've appreciated living in one is that you do have the opportunity to have a real impact on the work that goes on, the quality of life and the community development aspects," Gaeddert said. "You can play an active role in a lot of these things that, otherwise, you might not be able to in larger communities or is more difficult in larger communities."
After graduating from Bethel College, Gaeddert decided to stick around and start up his business — designing websites and museum exhibits — in North Newton. One of the first websites his company helped designed was that of the Central Kansas Community Foundation (CKCF).
While Gaeddert wasn't too familiar with the mission of CKCF while working for the organization, board member Tim Hodge approached him about joining in that work a few years back, asking him to serve on the board. Gaeddert has been part of the CKCF board now for four years, currently acting as board chair, and has come to appreciate just how far-reaching the nonprofit's mission is in the area.
"The thing that resonated with me is that CKCF makes a pretty big impact," Gaeddert said. "The last number of years they've given away a million dollars to help people in this community or surrounding communities and there aren't a lot of other organizations that do that and have the reach they have to support the smaller nonprofits. I really value that and the process of selecting who gets the money involves a lot of community people."
On top of working with CKCF, Gaeddert serves as a board member with the Harvey County Economic Development Council — a much different experience.
During the course of the year, the CKCF is constantly working on grants to help support its partner entities. With the EDC, Gaeddert noted the cycle can be "frustratingly slow" from the start of conversations to any actual, potential development.
Still, having the opportunity to help make an impact on the community (both with a nonprofit and for-profit entity) is something Gaeddert has grown to appreciate through his years of involvement. In particular, he said he has been proudest to see the CKCF help support the efforts of partner organizations in smaller communities that might not have those opportunities if not for the structure of CKCF.
For Gaeddert, that work is exciting because those smaller organizations are often extremely engaged and energetic about their mission — a mission he now encourages others to consider joining.
"We're always looking for people who want to give back to their community and help support the work that's going on, and that could be through a number of different channels. It could be as a board member, but it could be as a grant selection committee member. It could be as a donor, obviously; it could be as a volunteer at any of the events," Gaeddert said. "There are a number of ways to get involved, no matter what your interests are in the community."
If you are interested in getting involved with the Central Kansas Community Foundation, visit www.centralkansascf.org or call 316-283-5474.