A Memorial Tribute to Our Friend Rita J. Bicknell

Portrait of Rita J. Bicknell

The staff and Board of Trustees of the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas were saddened to learn last week of the passing of Rita J. Bicknell, a long-time friend to the Foundation. Today we choose to celebrate her by acknowledging her contributions across our community, to women’s health in southeast Kansas, and to the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas.

Rita J. Bicknell was a philanthropist throughout her lifetime. Rita was one of the founders of the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas in 2001 and served as Board President for several years of her nine-year tenure.

It was during Rita’s own cancer treatments in 2006 that she observed the imbalances in women’s healthcare. Being of curious mindset and with a giving soul, she began to explore and learn about these inequities. She was disheartened and saddened by the lack of financial resources to afford such things as transportation to cancer treatments, eyeglasses to perform a job effectively, or dental work needed to allow a woman to feel comfortable even applying for a job.

As she started having conversations with like-minded ladies, the scope of a life-changing project unfolded. In 2007, the RJB Women’s Health Fund Giving Circle was formed with the mission “To improve the health and well-being of women by supporting education, increasing awareness and sharing quality of life opportunities to benefit all women in the region.” In 2013 that mission was expanded with the addition of another giving circle, the Circle of Friends. To date, over $255,000 has been granted through the two Women’s Health Fund giving circles to organizations that meet the needs and challenges of women in our community.

Rita was grateful to the women who participated in the Giving Circle, and to the organizations who champion ways to help women one by one in our region. Rita’s vision will continue to be carried out by a group of compassionate women who are dedicated to the mission of the Women’s Health Fund.

The family has suggested that memorial contributions be given to the Rita J. Bicknell Women’s Health Fund. If you desire to make a memorial contribution, you can write a check to CFSEK with “RJB Women’s Health Fund” in the memo line and mail it to CFSEK at 100 S. Broadway, Suite 100, Pittsburg, KS 66762. Or you can donate online by clicking the Donate Now button above. Then, select the Rita J. Bicknell Women’s Health Non-Endowed Fund at the top of the dropdown menu, and pay by credit card or PayPal.

Today and always … Rita will be remembered for her philanthropy and as a generous and gracious lady!

Remembrances from Rita's Friends

To celebrate and honor Rita, we’ve collected comments from a few of the many friends who loved, respected and admired her.

Rita had a personal calling to help others and identify imbalances for women in our community. She wanted to learn why they existed, so she gathered “the girls” and we turned why into “Why not!” Alone we couldn’t change lives but together we are improving the lives of women one by one. I will miss Rita every day but our Giving Circle has much work to do. We will continue to learn about the ever changing needs and challenges of women in our region and leverage our charitable dollars to help lift them up.
— Lynda Wilkinson
Rita was a force of nature, especially when advocating for the needs of women, one of her many passions. Her legacy will continue to impact our lives well into the future.
— Kathleen M. Flannery
I’ve always told others – including Rita herself – she was the one woman who inspired me to work harder, do more and try to make a difference every day. She could be forceful, intimidating and determined but never for personal gain....she always wanted the best for those she loved and for thousands of other women she would never meet. I had the opportunity to contribute to her vision for the Giving Circle and she shared her personal battle with breast cancer and how fortunate she was to have access to the best resources. She wanted others to be so blessed and we talked about the gaps we both saw in southeast Kansas. Mothers who couldn’t read to their children because they couldn’t afford glasses, women with damaged teeth who couldn’t get employment and, just this year, how many couldn’t afford a potentially life-saving mammogram. Hundreds of women have had access to the best ultrasound equipment so important during a pregnancy, and have gotten their diabetes under control with monitoring equipment and have been screened for hepatitis transmitted during blood transfusions when they were young —all thanks to Rita and her vision of women helping women.. Rita is no longer with us physically, but her legacy of taking care of one other will continue on....one only need to close their eyes and you can hear her telling us to “get this done.” I, for one, could never tell her no.
— Krista Postai
Rita was a woman of deep faith who did everything in her power to make the world a better place for everyone, in particular the underserved. She enjoyed the fellowship of friends, and once led Christmas carols at a PEO meeting while wearing an elf suit. The world was a better place because of Rita.
— Kathy Stuckey
Rita was a genuine and caring person. She was always interested in listening or helping others, especially women in need. The RJB giving circle has an impact on lots of health issues for women. Over the years it has ministered to many women. Rita was also very excited to help one women at a time. I am thinking of a single mother in Florida that had no resources or help. She got a job in a beauty salon and Rita helped her get into a community free rent apartment. Rita mentored this young women and taught her how to save and stretch her few dollars. That is the kind of generous lady that I can call my friend. I loved her dearly and will miss her beautiful smile and spirit. Her essence lives on as the RJB giving circle continues the distribution of funds she started. Rest In Peace my friend.
— Gail Deatherage
I am grateful, thankful and blessed to have known Rita Bicknell and called her a friend for over thirty years. She was a force to be reckoned with when she set her mind to something. I share Rita’s passion for helping women and have seen the great impact grants from RJB Women’s Giving Circle have had on many organizations. We will continue her amazing work of supporting worthy causes to improve women's health and her lasting legacy of women helping women will continue.
— Frances Mitchelson
All of us in the Irene Ransom Bradley School of Nursing, Pittsburg State University, send our thoughts and prayers to Rita's family and friends. Her generosity and concern for those less fortunate will always be remembered. The essence of her giving spirit aligns closely with the core values that each of us in the School of Nursing hold dear to our hearts. Through her generosity, the education and simulation training our students receive will enable them to provide lifesaving techniques to immeasurable numbers of patients. We admire her and the work she has accomplished and we will always remember her with fondness.
— With deepest sympathy, Cheryl Giefer, Director, Irene Ransom Bradley School of Nursing
From her early days in Pittsburg as manager of Kansas Gas, involved in the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce through her work in starting the Community Foundation and the Rita Bicknell Women's Fund, Rita was involved in the community and showed her interest and compassion for others. She not only gathered others together with her vision, she took her time and researched how to help specific individuals. And always with a big smile and a word of appreciation to others. She really did make a difference.
— Vicki Dennett
Rita will be missed by so many. She was larger than life, so fierce with her kindness, love and convictions. Sending so much love to Gene and their family. Rest in peace beautiful lady.
— Tiffany Sexton

2020 Elm Acres Foundation Grant Applications Now Available

The Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas (CFSEK) is pleased to announce that the 2020 Elm Acres Foundation At-Risk Youth grant application is now available through May 11, 2020. The Elm Acres Foundation provides grants for nonprofit programs and services for at-risk youth. This year's grant application can be found on the Elm Acres Foundation page of our website and is due by May 11, 2020.

Keep reading to learn more about Elm Acres Foundation At-Risk Youth grants.

What is the Elm Acres Foundation?

The purpose of the Elm Acres Foundation, Inc. is to provide support to at-risk youth in the Southeast Kansas community (Crawford, Cherokee and Labette Counties), including supporting any entities that provide services for at-risk youth.

What are Elm Acres Foundation At-Risk Youth grants?

Since 2017, the Elm Acres Foundation has provided an annual grant cycle for programs and services for at-risk youth through the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas. In 2019, the Elm Acres Foundation awarded $19,387 to six organizations, with the amount of each grant ranging from $3,000 to $6,205.

The Elm Acres Foundation is interested in new, sustainable projects. Preference will be given to projects that will continue to sustain themselves once funding has been received or are one-time projects, and that have not been submitted to the Elm Acres Foundation previously.

The Elm Acres Foundation does not fund salaries or Capital Improvement Projects, defined as a permanent structural change or the restoration of some aspect of a property.

Past projects that received a grant from the Elm Acres Foundation include:

  • Special Olympics Kansas sponsored "Unified Bocce for Southeast Kansas," which allowed bocce teams to be established in SEK high schools allowing for adaptive physical involvement.
  • The Family Resource Center funded the Crawford County Diaper Stock project to provide diapers and wipes for low-income families with infants and toddlers in Crawford County.
  • Wesley House provided career development for students or job-seekers with disabilities.
  • Ronald McDonald House of the Four States developed a Teen Parent Resource Library for teenage parents with materials on parenting and life skills.
  • The Partnership for All Cherokee County Children assisted at-risk middle- and high-school-aged youth in state custody or foster care with the purchase of items needed to participate in extracurricular school activites and graduation.

For a full list of 2019 grant recipients, see our Elm Acres Foundation page.

Who can apply for Elm Acres Foundation grants?

Elm Acres Foundation grants are only available for 501(c)(3) organizations, educational institutions, units of government, and religious organizations. If you're uncertain whether your group or organization is eligible for a grant from the Elm Acres Foundation, please contact us for help.

How to apply for an Elm Acres Foundation At-Risk Youth grant

To apply for an Elm Acres Foundation grant, download the grant application (downloads Word document) from our website. Because our office is temporarily closed, once you've completed the application, return it to CFSEK via email to Sherri Stephens. Your application should be typed and should include:

  • Proof of nonprofit status if not already on file with CFSEK;
  • Your organization's mission statement; and
  • A list of your organization's Board of Directors.

Applications must be returned to CFSEK by May 11, 2020.


Rita J. Bicknell Women's Health Fund 2020 Grant Applications Are Now Available

The Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas (CFSEK) is pleased to announce that the 2020 Rita J. Bicknell Women's Health Fund grant application is now available through May 15, 2020. The Women's Health Fund provides grants through its two giving circles for nonprofit projects that further the Fund's mission of improving women's health and well-being. This year's grant application can be found on the Women's Giving Circle page or the Circle of Friends page of our website and is due by May 15, 2020.

Keep reading to learn more about Rita J. Bicknell Women's Health Fund grants.

What is the Rita J. Bicknell Women's Health Fund?

The Rita J. Bicknell Women's Health Fund is composed of two giving circles, the Women's Giving Circle (WGC) and the Circle of Friends (COF). The WGC was established in 2007, and the COF was created in 2013.

The mission of the Women's Health Fund is to "improve the health and well-being of women by supporting education, increasing awareness and sharing quality of life opportunities to benefit all women."

What are Women's Health Fund grants?

Each year, members of the WGC and COF review grant applications and approve grants for programs that further the Women's Health Fund’s mission. Grants of $2,000 or less are made by the COF, and grants of more than $2,000 are made by the WGC. Since their creation, the two giving circles have granted more than $250,000 for women's health programs.

Past projects that received a grant from the Women's Health Fund include:

  • The Pittsburg State University School of Nursing purchased "Pediatric Hal," a pediatric-patient simulator.
  • The Community Health Center of SEK developed and launched the "Mammograms Save Lives" breast-cancer-screening campaign.
  • Angels Among Us helped SEK cancer patients with any and all financial needs throughout their treatment process.
  • Through its "Healthy Family Bonds" program, Fostering Connections provided mental-health services to foster parents and other family members for increased family bonding.
  • The Crawford County Health Department provided space for breastfeeding families to nurse or express breastmilk at public events through the Lactation Station.

For a full list of 2019 grant recipients, see our Women's Giving Circle and Circle of Friends pages.

Who can apply for Women's Health Fund grants?

Women's Health Fund grants are only available for 501(c)(3) organizations, schools, units of government, and religious organizations. If you're uncertain whether your group or organization is eligible for a grant from the Women's Health Fund, please contact us for help.

How to apply for a Rita J. Bicknell Women's Health Fund grant

To apply for a Women's Health Fund grant, download the grant application (downloads Word document) from our website. Because our office is temporarily closed, once you've completed the application, return it to CFSEK via email to Sherri Stephens. Your application should be typed and should include:

  • Proof of nonprofit status if not already on file with CFSEK;
  • Your organization's mission statement; and
  • A list of your organization's Board of Directors.

Applications must be returned to CFSEK by May 15, 2020.


Disaster Relief Fund: COVID-19

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Updated June 25, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on our health, the businesses we rely upon, the strength of the global economy, and the way we live our daily lives. As we all continue to navigate through these challenging times, we want you to know that the Community Foundation is here to help as we all work together for our community.

The Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas has activated the Disaster Relief Fund for donations. The Disaster Relief Fund makes grants to non-profits to address needs caused by COVID-19 in our local communities.

To donate on-line, click the Donate Now button and select Disaster Relief Fund from the dropdown menu.

In addition to online donations, you can write a check payable to CFSEK and mail it to 100 S. Broadway, Suite 100, Pittsburg, KS  66762.  Please write COVID-19 on the memo line of your check.   

Reasons to make a donation to the Disaster Relief Fund – COVID -19 relief

  1. We can grant to any 501(c)(3) non-profit, city or county government, educational institution, or church responding to the effects of COVID-19.
  2. We have a personal connection with many charities in the counties we serve.  We will utilize our relationships with local community officials and our charitable organizations to determine the greatest need throughout the crisis.

Your donation will be serving the greatest need in our community!  We are all in this together!

June 25, 2020 Update: CFSEK Disaster Relief Fund Provides Grants to Area Non-Profits

 


CFSEK Office Temporarily Closed [UPDATE: We're Open Again!]

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As a precautionary measure, effective Thursday, March 26th, 2020, the Community Foundation office will be closed until further notice.

To do our part in social distancing and flattening the curve of the COVID-19 virus, staff are working remotely from home or having limited, staggered hours in the office. Although the office is closed, we are continuing the daily work of the Foundation, processing transactions and doing most of our normal business activity.

You can still contact staff by email using the addresses on our Contact Us page. If you call the office and get our voicemail, you'll hear a temporary phone number you can use if you need to speak to us by phone. 

To learn more about how the Community Foundation is responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, see "Disaster Relief Fund: COVID-19."

The Community Foundation staff and Board of Trustees hope you and your families stay safe and healthy!

Update: We're open again!

As of June 1, the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas office is open again! If you need to see us in person, you can find us in the basement of the Commerce Bank building in Pittsburg. We have hand sanitizer available for visitors to use upon entering our office.

Of course, you can still contact us by telephone or email if you prefer.

We look forward to seeing you!