LOGAN — Dane G. Hansen collected and sold mules to the U.S. Army during World War I. He was a highway contractor, paving roads across and through northwest Kansas and his hometown of Logan. He operated a general store and a lumber yard. He was a land owner and oil prospector. Mostly, he was a man dedicated to family and community. He was an entrepreneur who always was looking for the next way to serve his community and his neighbors. Hansen spent his entire adult life working for the betterment of northwest Kansas. Always a visionary, upon his death, he established the Dane G. Hansen Foundation to continue his legacy of service.
The Hansen Foundation is committed to providing opportunities for the people of northwest Kansas to enjoy the highest possible quality of life.
Today, seven dedicated trustees and a small staff work to continue Hansen’s legacy to create opportunities and enhance life in the vast plains and rolling hills that define the 26 counties served by the foundation. In doing so, the trustees follow these guiding principles:
• Healthy individuals form healthy communities.
• A capable workforce can build effective community economic opportunities.
• Education, both formal and informal, is the key for improved quality of life.
• Appreciation for our natural world positively affects human health.
• Leadership, management and volunteerism are essential ingredients of dynamic communities.
• Communities that are attractive in appearance and offer cultural opportunities are more likely to attract and retain residents.
Many in Kansas know the Hansen Foundation for its tremendous scholarship program. Hundreds of Kansas students have continued their education post high school at Kansas colleges and trade schools with the help of a Hansen scholarship.
Kansans might not be as familiar with some of the other important work being done by the Hansen Foundation.
The foundation is addressing economic issues in northwest Kansas by investing in workforce housing, and through the recently created Northwest Kansas Economic Innovation Center Inc. The NWKEICI will work across the region to address three important priorities: reversing the population drain, improving economic opportunities and strengthening critical community services.
The work of the NWKEICI goes hand in hand with another of the foundation’s initiatives, a partnership with K-State Extension to promote community vitality in northwest Kansas. This initiative offers both First Impressions and the Kansas Pride program. Interested communities work with a community development professional to first assess and then address community needs.
The foundation is investing in education, not just through the scholarship program, but also in the development of an entrepreneurial scholarship house at Fort Hays State University. A $3 million grant provided the bulk of the cost of the new facility, currently under construction.
Education reaches beyond the classroom. Last year, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the foundation, the trustees awarded a $1 million grant to the Kansas Historical Foundation to renovate the main gallery into an interactive education area at the Kansas History Museum, Topeka. Hundreds of students from northwest Kansas and across the state visit the museum every year.
Recognizing local residents are in the best position to know what the needs are in their communities, the foundation is working in partnership with community foundations and advisory boards in each of the 26 counties of northwest Kansas to take care of immediate community needs. The foundation has invested $100,000 in each county for grants to be determined by these local foundations and boards.
At a recent event in Hays, the foundation gathered individuals from community foundations across the region with economic development professionals and other community leaders for a one-day forum to share information and provide networking opportunities.
Finally, the Hansen Foundation continues to directly award grants for a variety of programs, projects and capital needs in northwest Kansas. A new online grant process has simplified the application. One need not be a professional grant writer to apply.
Other innovative ideas are in the works. Like the man who started the foundation, the trustees are committed to exploring new ideas and replicating success stories across northwest Kansas, always looking for another way to serve.
Betsy Wearing is the coordinator of programs, communications and new initiatives for the Dane G. Hansen Foundation.