About once a week throughout my childhood, my mother would announce that dinner was “Furr’s Cafeteria Night.” We knew that was her fancy term for cleaning out the fridge.

Mom would line up the little bits of leftovers in colorful Tupperware on the counter. Back then, storage containers were not see-through, which meant when you opened them and peered inside you never knew what you would find. Mashed potatoes or Jell-O salad, it was like playing a leftover lottery scratch-off ticket.

My thoughts going into this column harken back to those nights, so here is a hodgepodge of news from our corner of the world.

Classroom Wish List started off small in 2015 and has grown to a point where it pretty much eclipses four weeks of the summer. This year we entertained 186 requests from every Harvey County school district. That number is down a bit from 2018, which could be due to several retirements of veteran teachers.

Educators are invited to submit a list of items they would purchase out-of-pocket for their classrooms. Mostly, those items are basic needs (pencils, crayons, facial tissues, etc). Sometimes, the requests are for art or science projects. My favorite item this year was a globe for a social studies teacher.

The purpose is simple and two-fold: give the students the tools they need to learn, and support quality educators.

Donations kicked off at the Fill the Bus event at Walmart on Saturday, Aug. 3. Shoppers braved the threatening rain to drop off items in the bus provided by USD 373. Teachers, district employees and children volunteered at the doors, helping shoppers understand where the donations would go. Their participation is a key to the program’s success.

Fill the Bus donations, both purchased items and cash donations, went even farther this year. Coupled with adopted classrooms and sponsorships by Midland National Bank, First Bank, Midway Motors, Hutchinson Community College, Central National Bank, Horn Automotive and private donors, we were able to provide items for all lists. We are proud to say this 100% rate has been achieved every year of the program thanks to this generous community.

Next up, my thoughts go to the Dunk Tank at Sand Creek Summer Daze on Saturday, Aug. 17. Fourteen “dunkees” took the platform ready to get doused, all in good fun to raise money for the annual campaign. Before you even ask, yes, every single person got dunked at least once.

Some took the plunge more often than others, especially when Harvey County Clerk Rick Piepho laid down his cash. “Dunkers” could pay $5 for three chances or $20 for a guaranteed dunk (walk up and hit the target). Rick figured out that he could pay the guaranteed dunk rate but get 12 chances. We quickly learned that Rick was apparently a pitcher in a past life, because that dunk tank got a workout when he was at the line. I realized I had not kept track of the number of throws he had made so far, and he quickly replied, “I’m counting.” Ridiculous question, Tina, of course he was.

The competition came down to a battle of the school resource officers, Jon Adkins and Gary Littlejohn. Adkins came in second last year and was determined to take the crown. But an anonymous donor stepped forward to push Littlejohn’s total well over the top. Adkins told me yesterday that he has no hard feelings, although he wouldn’t turn away a benefactor to help him win next year.

Last, Harvey County United Way said “goodbye” to two strong champions this month. The void left by both is palpable.

Loni Jensen, immediate past chair and former campaign committee chair, resigned from the board after five years of service, following a job change and move.

While the appreciation certificate only had enough space to list the leadership positions she held, Loni did much more behind the scenes contributing significantly to KidFEST and Classroom Wish List. The board is already working to fill her positions, but her shoes will never be filled.

And then there was the passing of Susan Bradrick. I suppose I leave this one to the last, because it is the hardest to write, and somehow the way she would want it. Never one to seek the limelight, Bradrick served as a stalwart champion of our work for at least two decades on the Community Investment Committee, and nine years of service on the board, including as board chair. Her daughter, Danielle Randall, now serves on the board and is carrying out her legacy well.

I wrote about Susan in a column earlier this year, when she hired me in 2012. Her contributions to the community through her dedication to Harvey County United Way will never be forgotten. The board is taking the steps to make sure of that.


— Tina Payne is director of Harvey County United Way. She can be reached at harveyunitedway@gmail.com.