by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — Topeka Gives: a fun day of giving.
That’s the name of an annual one-day event held this year on June 7. There, 157 charitable organizations from around the capital city came together to celebrate charitable giving, educate the public about services they provide and communicate and collaborate with other nonprofit agencies.
Created in 2013 as a one-day match fundraiser to coincide with the Topeka Community Foundation’s 30th anniversary, this year’s event allowed for a prorated maximum amount of $73,500 to be matched by the foundation and distributed to the various agencies. In 2015, the event raised more than $440,000 in donations, all of which went directly to aid Topeka nonprofit agencies. This year, the figure topped $496,000.
Catholic-based organizations like Catholic Charities, Corita’s Corner, Let’s Help, Inc., and the Marian Dental Clinic were among those participating.
For Denise Ogilvie, director of outreach at Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, the event provided an opportunity to not only raise funds necessary to serve its clients, but also the chance to raise awareness about its programs.
“People are always surprised at the number of ministries Catholic Charities has and the work we do,” said Ogilvie.
The organization provides services such as emergency assistance with rent or utility bills, pregnancy counseling and its Friendly Visitors program for seniors.
Linda Kehres, executive director of Let’s Help, Inc., agreed, saying she appreciated the opportunity the event provides to educate the public about the organization’s growing programs, like its Adult Basic Education/GED program.
“We have a wonderful GED completion program as well as a job readiness program,” said Kehres.
These help people break the cycle of poverty by teaching basic skills necessary to obtain a GED and gain employment. Both programs are growing rapidly and will require additional funds. As a result, Kehres was touched when the very first gift of the daylong event came at 6:46 a.m. and was specifically for Let’s Help, Inc.
“That’s pretty awesome,” she said.
Awesome might not be the word that Sister Marjorie Cushing, SCL, and Sister Angela Rose Barbieri, SCL, would use to describe the generosity of Topeka, although both Sisters said they’re often amazed by the kindness of Topekans.
The Sisters are two of 40 regular volunteers at Corita’s Corner, a ministry started in the 1950s, which provides sack lunches of sandwiches, chips and cookies to anyone who comes to its corner in downtown Topeka. Between 300 and 350 sandwiches are distributed almost every weekday, all of which are provided for through generous donations.
“Topeka is one of the most generous cities in the United States,” said Sister Marjorie.