Editor’s Notebook: Thank You Ellinwood!

By John Celock

A couple of weeks ago I was walking down Main Street in Ellinwood, Kan. to the Chamber of Commerce office. As I crossed Main towards the church, a local businesswoman came out of the church and asked me where I was headed and I said the Chamber office, she then offered me a ride. I reacted with somewhat typical New Jersey sensibility, “it’s only a block away and I like to walk.”

At the time I had my pinky and ring fingers taped after jamming my finger playing basketball. Seeing that, she asked why and I explained and that I was doing some writing that day and wanted to make sure not to use my pinky to type. A few minutes later, once I was at the Chamber office, she dropped in with some coffee to have while I wrote.

Kansas hospitality in action. I’ve seen it a lot in the 39 days I’ve spent traveling around Kansas this year. From Shawnee to Lawrence to Salina to Wichita to Dodge City to Topeka and everywhere in between, every Kansan I have met has been welcoming and willing to show me the state. Today though I want to just say a few things about Ellinwood, the central Kansas community where I had the opportunity to be based for my last three week trip in October and November.

Being based in Ellinwood, allowed me the chance to be based in a rural central Kansas community and to spend time really getting to know this part of the state. This includes the values that drive the residents, the community pulse and the economy of this area. I can say that my three weeks being based in Ellinwood taught me so much about this area and region of Kansas and I cannot say enough about the community.

The people of Ellinwood were incredibly welcoming to me during my entire time in town. They wanted to show off the best of their community during my time there and I can say that they did.

I saw on many occasions the community of Ellinwood come together for important events. One that sticks out is the annual German Buffet at St. Joseph School. Dozens of volunteers worked countless hours to put together this great fundraiser, making German sausage, various side dishes and putting together an extensive raffle. Hundreds of people jammed the school gym in order to dine on the sausage, German potato salad, homemade sides and enjoy an evening with their neighbors.

Various Chamber of Commerce events during my time in Ellinwood, brought out that community spirit so much. Those in the local business community wanted to talk about the direction their town was taking, work with each other and welcome this newcomer to their town. During a joint “After Hours” event with business leaders in Claflin, you can see how the two business communities were looking for ways to interact more.

I had the chance to speak to an all school assembly at Ellinwood High School while I was in town. During this assembly I talked about young elected officials and I used it as a jumping off point for talking about the importance of getting involved in your community now and later. The questions from the students and the interaction with them and the teachers was great and I was impressed by the students of Ellinwood.

During my time in town, residents were involved in planning for a coming Christmas celebration downtown and with discussion of various pending transportation projects. It was so easy to tell that everyone was vested in how to grow their community and make it a better place. How to bring in those from other communities and to become a Christmas hub. I will say it will be great to see Ellinwood compete with Dyker Heights, Brooklyn for Christmas lights spirit one day.

There is so much going on to upgrade Main Street in Ellinwood, new businesses are coming in, buildings are being refurbished and the Chamber of Commerce has new planters downtown. And I cannot write about downtown Ellinwood without mentioning the work Chris McCord is doing with the Historic Wolf Hotel and how he has improved this landmark and made it not only a great hotel but a vital community asset that will help grow Ellinwood.

So I just want to say thank you again to everyone in Ellinwood. In particular I want to say thank you to Rep.-elect J. Basil Dannebohm (R-Ellinwood) for being the one to introduce me to his hometown and the amazing people of this wonderful community. I also want to thank Catherine Strecker for inviting me to teach a workshop through her consulting firm on community engagement to grow small business. I do not want to mention anyone else by name so I do not leave anyone out. I do though want to thank everyone in Ellinwood for your hospitality and welcoming spirit. I enjoyed every minute I was in Ellinwood and I know I’ll visit again. Thank you.