This month's Unsung Hero is Stephanie Kallas, whose work to bring therapy dogs into Grain Valley Schools and four dogs in outside districts, provided an avenue to honor her brother Michael.
When Kallas began working to bring therapy dogs into schools, she was the Behavior Interventionalist at North Middle School.
"I worked with students who were struggling with a lot of issues, but mainly it was working with students to help them when their emotions were big. A lot of times, I found myself thinking 'Gosh, if I could have a dog here to work with them', because I'd seen the power of that with my own kids."
For four years, Kallas worked with building and district administration, working through many hurdles in order to be able to begin training the first dog, Bruce, to work in the school. Bruce is a Woodle, a combination of a Wheaton Terrier and Poodle, both hypoallergenic breeds due to their lack of shedding.
Just as Kallas had completed training with Bruce and was preparing to start the school year, her older brother Michael passed away.
"He struggled with mental health his entire life, and the one time I ever saw him comfortable in his own skin was when he was with a dog."
The way to honor her brother's memory became clear when she began thinking about the lengthy path she endured to get Bruce into the school.
"There's got to be some way I can help teachers get a therapy dog, because it was a really long, hard journey. You don't know what you don't know until you start getting into it."
So Kallas began Michaels Peaceful Paws to help other teachers with the training, insurance, supplies, and medical costs involved in taking on a therapy dog. The nonprofit organization has assisted in the training and placement of therapy dogs at each of Grain Valley's schools, and each dog's name honors Kallas's brother in some way.
Bruce is named after Bruce Springsteen, one of Michael's favorite artists, and Norah at the Early Childhood Center is named for another favorite artist, Norah Jones. Harold, at Grain Valley High School, is named after their grandfather.
When Kallas first introduced Bruce, she thought he'd be working with "the 2-5% of students that really struggle with mental health issues".
"What I really saw was kids were really motivated to work because they got the reward of getting to work with him. Kids felt more regulated. Kids who struggled to get to school were getting to school because they were motivated to get to see him, and help make sure he had water in the morning. Kids who were home sick would email me and say, 'Please let Bruce know that I am home sick, and I'll see him tomorrow.'. It just shocked me how much of a difference he makes," Kallas said.
"There have been a few instances where kids had to receive bad news, and Bruce was able to be there with them."
Kallas, who receives 10-12 inquires a week from other teachers and districts interested in having their own therapy dogs, is now focused on creating resources for teachers and districts interested in bringing therapy dogs to their schools. In addition, Kallas is also interested in developing a certification program for therapy dogs to ensure the handlers understand what it takes to advocate and care for the dog.
"A dog can't say, 'I'm exhausted'. And they absorb all of emotions they're taking in during the day. I worry that it gets to be such a fad, that there are not the standards and protections needed for the dogs."
Kallas emphasizes that therapy dogs are not service dogs, who are highly trained to complete a set of tasks for one person. "Therapy dogs are simply pets who are trained to help a lot of people make their day better."
To learn more about Michaels Peaceful Paws and follow along with Bruce's adventures, follow Kallas and Bruce on Facebook at Michaels Peaceful Paws.
Stephanie Kallas with her therapy dog Bruce relax at the end of a school day at Grain Valley North Middle School. Photo credit: Valley News staff
Community Blood Center (CBC) is the primary provider of blood and blood components to 70 plus hospitals and medical centers in the Greater Kansas City region. CBC will conduct a life-saving blood drive on Friday, September 23rd at Grain Valley High School.
“When individuals normally think of essential community services, they often think about fire and police departments.” Patsy Shipley, Executive Director of Community Blood Center said. “Community Blood Center and its donors are very similar to police officers and fire fighters. We make up a life-saving team that is here to meet the needs of local patients. Our volunteer donors roll up their sleeves and do so without hesitation.”
Grain Valley individuals can help by donating blood at the blood drive on Friday, September 23rd from 7:30am to 12:30pm. The drive will be held at Grain Valley High School, 551 SW Eagles Parkway. Donors are encouraged to make an appointment by visiting savealifenow.org/group and using Group Code: KCR8. For additional details, contact Dawn Eblen at (816) 352-2342.
In the Greater Kansas City area, one in three people will need blood at some point in their life and nearly one in seven hospital admissions requires a blood transfusion. This means, nearly 600 donations are needed every day to meet hospital demand, and with a limited shelf life, supplies must be continually replenished.
For more information regarding our donor centers and mobile blood drives or how to set up your own drive, visit www.savealifenow.org or call 1-877-468-6844.
The River City Players are calling all actors with or without experience. We will hold auditions for its Fortieth Anniversary Season fall mystery, The Pen is Deadlier by Fred Carmichael on Wednesday, September 7th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm; Thursday, September 8th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm and Monday, September 12th, 2022 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm.
Auditions will be held at the Trails Regional Library in their meeting room downstairs. Please enter through the backdoor for auditions. The library is located at 1008 Main Street, Lexington, MO 64067. Note: For more info, please visit our website: www.rcplayers.org or call or text Sharon at (816) 877-7114.
Audition nights also provide an opportunity to come out, meet the director, and express your interest in helping out backstage, be it in the role of a stage manager, lights & sound operator, concessions, or whatever else you might like to do.
Overview of the play:
This exciting mystery contains two murders with ever mounting excitement and explores the fascinating psychological overtones and undertones that impel the murder to the crime. Atop one of the fashionable Hollywood Hills, Clair Clarendon, top gossip columnist, reigns supreme over her helpless targets. Their lives and loves are ruled by her pen and it is not surprising that all of them could wish her dead. Ideal for college and little theatre groups, as it provides superb acting assignments for the whole cast. Audiences attending this play's premiere performances at the Dorset Playhouse, Vermont, were loud and long in their applause.
Horton, a young man in his late twenties, incisive and with a sharp sense of humor.
Mrs. Griggs, a middle-aged housekeeper.
Clair Clarendon, a sharp brittle and brilliant woman, knows what she wants and gets it.
Phyllis, early twenties, attractive, but somehow shy.
Virginia Marrow, young and extremely beautiful.
George O. Grenoff, an aging director with a sarcastic sense of humor born of his lack of great success.
Isabel Ilsley, no longer a leading lady, but still extremely beautiful in a hardened way.
Wilma Hood, a former ingenue but now with the lines and bulges of middle age.
Jeff Oxford, early thirties and very attractive in a “pretty boy” way.
Lieutenant Maples, a detective.
With fall just around the corner, plans for the Grain Valley Fair are coming together. The Fair will be held on the grounds behind Armstrong Park and the Community Center on Friday, September 9th and Saturday, September 10th. The Grain Valley Fair Community Parade will begin at 2:00pm on Saturday, September 10th.
Joe's Old Fashioned Family Fun Carnival will return again this year, and plans to bring two new rides, including a ferris wheel. The carnival also plans to include photo booths, and will be able to accept credit/debit cards along with cash for carnival tickets.
MO Country will be running the Beer Garden and plan to expand on the selection offered in the past.
According to Fair board member Mike Todd, there will be plenty of food options for fair goers. "Food Truck Alley will be full of some of our favorite trucks from Food Truck Friday, plus Burger Barn from Crossroads Church, and Joeshmoes will be partnering with First Baptist Church to bring some goodies.
In addition to a variety of crafts and vendors, a full weekend of entertainment is planned.
"We have a great music selection both Friday and Saturday including bringing back music all day long on Saturday this year. Great local bands including Grindstone and Dan Strack and the Pro Pickers. Plus, top regional acts The Steve Miller Experience, Poison Overdose, and Almost Kiss in full makeup," Todd said.
For more information on the Grain Valley Fair, visit http://www.grainvalleyfair.org or follow the Fair on Facebook (@grainvalleyfair).
Pastor Shawna Meierarend was appointed July 1st to serve at Faith United Methodist Church (UMC) at 1950 SW Eagles Parkway. Meierarend brings her experience working as a hospital chaplain at both Centerpoint and Research Medical Center. Meierarend also served as the Director of Congregational Life at Faith, providing congregational care, guiding the children’s ministry, and raising up new leaders in the church.
Meierarend is married to Wally Meierarend, and they have four grown children and four grandchildren.
“Our vision at Faith UMC is to create a place, a purpose, and a passion for all people. Pastor Shawna is a witness to this vision in so many ways,” Senior Pastor MIke Cassidy said.
“A longtime member of Faith, Pastor Shawna started volunteering in care ministry a few years ago. Because Faith had a place for her to experience a sense of purpose, she discovered her passion for caring for others in Christ’s name. The opportunity to preach followed soon after, with Pastor Shawna proving her unique perspective on scripture and a life in faith. We are thrilled to have a woman in the pulpit again in our community. It has been 20 years since Cheryl Bernard served at Faith. Pastor Shawna is an example to so many that there is a place for them as pastoral leaders in Christian ministry. She brings heart, passion, and a deep faith not only to our congregation, but also to the Grain Valley community.”
Faith UMC has been a part of Grain Valley since 1889. You can find Faith UMC online at valleyfaith.church.
Pastor Shawna Meierarend was appointed July 1st to serve at Faith United Methodist Church at 1950 SW Eagles Parkway. Photo courtesy: Faith UMC/Shawna Meierarend
Truman Heartland Community Foundation (THCF) has announced this year's Citizen of the Year honorees, selected by area mayors. Grain Valley Mayor Michael Todd has selected Robert (Bob) Headley as the 2022 Citizen of the Year.
Todd's nomination of Headley emphasized his impact on the City through his service as Alderman for eight terms:
"Robert (Bob) Headley selflessly served the City of Grain Valley in many volunteer capacities over his sixteen years as an elected official. His time as an Alderman for Ward 3 consisted of eight terms ending in April 2022. He was part of the board that steered and provided input that pushed the I-70 interchange project to completion, including securing funding for nearly $20 million in improvements. In 2022, before his final term expired, a $14 million bond issue for a new Police Station was approved, which was ultimately approved by voters. Bob believed in growth and preparing the city for future needs. Bob has been a big proponent of Parks and Recreation and has served as the Parks Board liaison for the Board of Aldermen for numerous years. Bob's presence and thoughtful decisions will forever be a part of Grain Valley's story."
The recipients will be recognized at the 27th Annual Toast to Our Towns Gala, presented by Blue Ridge Bank and Trust Company, on Saturday, September 24, 2022, beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center.
Area mayors chose these local philanthropists and volunteers because they lend their time, talents, and position to promote their communities. Although their areas of impact are varied, all of the Citizens of the Year honorees are united by a common goal, improving and enriching their local communities.
For more information about Toast to Our Towns Gala sponsorship opportunities, table reservations, tickets, or those being honored, please visit https://www.thcf.org/Toast-to-Our-Towns-Gala/2022-Sponsorship-Opportunities or call 816.836.8189.
The Jacomo Chorale is excited to announce the selection of Bryan Waznik as the Music Director and Conductor of the Jacomo Chorale. Bryan Waznik is a conductor, tenor, and educator pursuing an M.M. in Choral Conducting at the UMKC Conservatory. He is the founder of Sounding Board, a workshop dedicated to the development of new choral works and is a UMKC Conducting Fellow with Te Deum Chamber Choir and Spire Chamber Ensemble.
Prior to graduate study, Waznik resided in Minnesota, where he taught Vocal Music at Zimmerman Middle/High School in Zimmerman, MN. Along with his regular teaching engagements, Waznik has also served as a section coach for the Minnesota All-State Choirs and maintains an active career as a performer. As a Tenor, Waznik has performed with MPLS (imPulse) and The Singers: Minnesota Choral Artists and has had the opportunity to present a number of new works and masterworks around the Twin Cities. Waznik holds a B.A. in Music from Luther College.
The Chorale is also pleased to announce the selection of David Laurence as accompanist for the Jacomo Chorale. Laurence has been an organist and pianist since the 9th-grade.
The Jacomo Chorale is a community chorale, dedicated to presenting quality, enjoyable music for the residents of Eastern Jackson County and beyond. The Chorale is entering is 40th season and is actively seeking new and former members to join us. The Chorale will present its first concert of the new season in October, followed by a Christmas concert and a gala in the spring. For additional information, please contact Nancy White at (816) 355-0114 or email@example.com. https://jacomochorale.org/
Jackson County residents who are unable to pay past due rent and utility bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to apply for assistance through a partnership between the Community Services League (CSL) and the United Way of Greater Kansas City.
The collaborative is tasked with administering $25 million in aid from the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) for state, county, and municipal governments.
Additional financial assistance is available to the residents of Jackson County through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) for housing stability services to eligible rental households who demonstrate a risk of experiencing housing instability, have seen their income reduced by the COVID-19 pandemic, and earn a household income at or below 80% of the area median income. Rental and utility assistance payments are made directly to the landlord or utility provider on behalf of the tenant.
More information about the program, including eligibility requirements, an application checklist, and more, can be found at www.jacksoncountyerap.org. Detailed program information is also available for Spanish-speaking families at www.jacksoncountyerap.org/espanol.
Grandview Assistance Program (GAP), Raytown Emergency Assistance Program (REAP), Lee’s Summit Social Services and Hope House, in addition to CSL’s locations, are serving as application hubs with dedicated ERAP Case Managers.
Grain Valley News is thrilled to welcome three college intern reporters this summer.
Cole Arndorfer is a student-athlete at Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, Missouri where he is studying Media Communications while playing baseball. Outside of classes and baseball, Arndorfer, a 2021 graduate of Grain Valley High School, writes for the university newspaper and puts together stories and video for the university news program. Arndorfer is excited for this opportunity with Grain Valley News, saying, “I’m very thankful and I look forward to gaining some great experience in the industry this summer!”
Jake Hipsher, also a Grain Valley graduate, recently completed his first year of college, attending the University of Missouri-Columbia to study journalism and strategic communication.
"I am looking forward to gaining professional journalism experience in a community that I know so well," Hipsher said.
Ezra Whitaker, graduated from Grain Valley in 2021 and has lived in Grain Valley for most of his life. Whitaker will attend the University of Missouri-Columbia to study journalism this fall.
"I look forward to covering the news in Grain Valley," Whitaker said.
Internships are made possible through the support of our advertisers and sustaining members.
Have a story idea for our student interns? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grain Valley Police will offer a safe option to dispose of unneeded or expired medication during a Prescription Drug Take Back Day at 711 S. Main on Saturday, April 30th from 10:00am - 2:00pm.
The event is a part of the national DEA Take Back Day, which encourages citizens to safely dispose of medications to keep them from being abused, illegally sold, or improperly flushed, which contaminates the water supply.
Syringes will not be accepted.