Dear Chamber Supporter:
 
Halloween is upon us this weekend…or All Hallows’ Eve which is actually more correct. This day can trace its origins to several traditions…both pagan and Christian. In ancient Ireland, the Celtics celebrated the new year on November 1…October 31 was the night before and signified a time for winter to begin – a period in that era associated with a high death rate. Annually the Celts would celebrate with the Festival of Samhain (SAH-win) to commemorate the end of harvest and the beginning of the “dark time” of year. They believed that the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world break down during Samhain, allowing more interaction between humans and denizens of the “otherworld”.
 
In the Eighth Century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as All Saints Day…the night before is All Hallows’ Eve which has been contracted down through the years to “Halloween”. The pope designated it as a time to remember and honor all the Saints…most churches today use the first Sunday in November to remember those who have passed from the congregation in the last year. At any rate, at some point, it became a time to hand out treats, carve pumpkins and wear costumes…one more piece of trivia – 25 percent of all candy sold in America is sold at Halloween (who knew?!). 
 
Big Retirement Announcement:
 
A week ago on Friday, Wynndee Lee officially announced her retirement from the City of Ottawa…effective at the end of this year…WOW!! She had let me know a few days before the announcement was made…it really caught me by surprise when she told me the news. She is one of the longer tenured employees at the City, having worked there over 30-years through several different stints and also different titles. I’ll admit, Wynndee is one of my closest friends and biggest allies…she cares an unbelievable amount for this community and its success. Here’s the good news…she only changing jobs! Beginning in January, she will work for the Advancement Department at Ottawa University as a lead gifts officer. The City’s loss is the University’s gain…I’m just glad she is remaining in Ottawa and will still be a great Ottawa advocate. Congrats Wynndee…I’m happy for you!!
 
Pints for Polio:
 
Last night Rotary members partnered with Not Lost Brewery to drink Pints for Polio (pictures here)…Not Lost donated one dollar for every pint sold and Rotary matched the donation to go toward the eradication of polio worldwide. Polio actually dates back to ancient times when victims were pictured in hieroglyphics. Poliomyelitis never reached epidemic stages until the 1940s when the crippling disease was contracted by 35,000 people a year through the 1950’s. The United States has been polio free since 1979…vaccinations began in the early 1960’s. I remember getting my polio vaccination…maybe I was too little (only 5), but I don’t remember it being at all controversial. People were terrified of the disease…the vaccine (and now the eventual elimination in our county), were happy occasions. Globally the disease only remains in 2 Western Asian countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rotary International’s mission worldwide is the complete eradication of the debilitating disorder. Some of the money raised goes to improve conditions in countries where polio still exists and to support families affected by the disease. Ironically, there are still 2 people alive today in the United States in an iron lung…the machine which became the salvation for polio victims in the 1950’s (here’s a picture from a 1950’s polio ward). If you would like to donate, let me know…I’ll get you in touch with the right Rotarian to take your contribution.
 
Hope House Packing-Up and Moving:
 
Last summer, Hope House announced the purchase of a new building on 17th Street (205 W. 17th Street). This week they are making the move…here are pictures of their volunteers packing boxes and loading the items to be moved. Today (October 29) the magnanimous community organization welcomed everyone and served lunch to all comers (pictures here) to officially acknowledge the move and new building. They plan to have a grand opening yet in the future…today was to give the community a first look. Many community members have spent hours of their time on this organization…and a big kudos to them. They care for a population that needs a hand up and do it with a smile. If you would like to support their efforts with a cash or food donation call 785.242.4444. We are moving into a time of year when Hope House needs groceries, caps and coats, diapers and other necessities…the job they perform is unbelievable – I can’t say enough thanks!!
 
Couple of Quick Updates:
 
  • Many have seen the facelift at Maggie’s Popcorn and Nuts…here are pictures of before and after. I always like to mention when our store owners spruce up their place…and Maggie’s is a great downtown destination (and now with ice cream!). Stop in and say hi…popcorn or gift cards make a great holiday gift or thank you.
 
  • Did you realize beginning this week, 785 and 620 area codes (which is most of Kansas), must dial the complete 10-digit phone number when making a call? This includes when you call a local 242 number. Many will need to re-program numbers in their phones. If you have emergency alarm systems, they also will need to be re-programed. This is caused by the action of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)…just giving you a heads-up.
 
Ottawa Police Department receives Grant:
 
The Ottawa Police Department (OPD) got a nice grant recently…they received almost $151 thousand for the federal Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) to create a Crisis Co-Responder Unit staffed by a police officer and a crisis co-responder (full release here). This is fantastic…and the best news we’ve had in actually addressing the homeless population which can maybe result in solutions. Both of these new positions will work closely with the Elizabeth Layton Center and other community partners to address mental health, homelessness, safety programs and more. When there is the opportunity to in fact, commit resources to an identifiable problem such as mental illness and homelessness, then we begin addressing and solving the issue. Thanks to Adam Weingartner and his staff for this initiative…we not only owe it to those who need the service, but to the Ottawa community which wants desperately to solve and help those in need.
 
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA): 
 
Here is the proverbial “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow…now how to spend it. ARPA funds are being sent to all communities in America…Franklin County will receive $4.96 million – the City of Ottawa will get $1.86 million of that (the State of Kansas will receive a total of $2.6 billion). Trouble is there will be strict restrictions on how it is spent and learning the rules of what’s allowable will take time. Half of the money has been received and the other half is coming in July 2022…the caveat – communities have until December 2024 to identify how the funds will be used and December 2026 to actually spend the money. This will be a process and elected officials are just now getting their first indoctrinations to ARPA Funds. The City of Ottawa is discussing holding community meetings to talk about the use of the dollars…and of course too – it’s going to be interesting to see how the President’s new “Infrastructure Plan” plays out. We certainly don’t want to pay locally for something the Federal Government will pay for in another “funding initiative”. I know what you are thinking…it is us paying for the whole shebang in the end…don’t know what to say – but it’s all coming. I’ll keep you posted best I can!!
 
I’ve had over 2 inches of rain…great fall soaker – wish I had my garden fall plowed before this rain. I expect we will have a lot of nice fall weather yet to come. First frost next week…get your flowers inside!! I expect I will have a few grandkid Halloween pictures for you next week…talk to you then.
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000