By ELIZABETH GOLDEN
Northwestern Printers was handed a $5,000 check from Midwest Energy at the final celebration for the energy-saving MOKAN Take Charge Challenge, but it wasn't long before owners Marvin and Jennifer Rack passed the check to Kathy Taylor, principal of Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School.
The challenge ran from Aug. 1 to Jan. 31, and points were awarded based on the completion of various education and implementation tasks. Hays had approximately 20 businesses participating and battled three other cities.
Hays officially was announced the winner among Hutchinson, Warrensburg, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan. The city was awarded $10,000 from the Climate and Energy Project to be used for a sustainability project.
The Hays team decided to spend $2,000 on LED Christmas lights, donate $1,000 to Hays Arts Council and use the remaining $7,000 to install bike racks around the city.
Within the city challenge, Northwestern Printers came in first, closely followed by TMP and Holy Family Elementary School.
Quickly after receiving the check from Michael Volker of Midwest Energy, Jennifer Rack said they would like to transfer the money to TMP.
"I'm just really overwhelmed," Taylor said. "Marvin and Jennifer are such supporters of our school, and I didn't understand what they were doing (in winning). I kept thinking, 'Just let us win; we need it,' but I thought they must need it, too. I was trying to be a gracious loser."
Taylor plans to use the money for a new dishwasher, which will reduce water and electrical waste.
"Our dishwasher is easily 30 or more years old," Taylor said. "It was terribly inefficient, but we couldn't afford another one."
Minutes after TMP was handed the gift, Jennifer said she and Marvin would like to match Midwest Energy's amount and donate additional money to Holy Family.
Shirley Dinkel, a sixth-grade teacher, said the school needed an outside source of income.
"We've tapped our benefactors," she said. "We knew how badly we needed it. But when we didn't win, it was easy to be happy for them. (Marvin and Jennifer) deserved this. They're some of the best homegrown people you could have."
Dinkel is hoping the money is spent on new sinks and low-flow toilets.
"Today, a dream came true for us," she said. "That doesn't happen in the real world. We won a lottery today."
The Racks planned to give away their winnings since November.
"This was probably the plan halfway through when we realized we had some good competition," Marvin said. "We knew there was no reason for us to keep the money, because what we were learning and saving (energy-wise) was going to be very beneficial to us."
Marvin said the idea to match Midwest Energy's amount and give it to Holy Family was thought of approximately a month ago.
"They had a vision for what they wanted to do," he said. "And to see such a passionate vision and for it to be an energy-saving idea that would save them money along the road, we just had to help them out."