The Community Assistance Center of Hays has been seeking donations to fill its pantry shelves, and on Monday over the noon hour they got just that.
Chapter 939 of the Vietnam Veterans of America brought 170 pounds of beef to the center, including cube steaks, roasts, minute steaks and ground beef.
“We purchase hamburger every four months, so it’s really nice when someone gives us meat,” said Laurie Mortinger, co-director of the center. “We are always in need of stuff, but it’s not very often we get meat.”
The beef was a raffle prize for which the chapter sells tickets every year, said John Pyle, the head the local chapter and a U.S. Navy veteran who was in Vietnam in 1968.
“This year, one of our members out of state bought a whole bunch of tickets,” Pyle explained. “He told us, ‘If I win, donate the prize.’”
The winner was Nathan Stormet, who grew up in Hays and attended St. Joseph Military Academy then served in Vietnam as a U.S. Army soldier in the mid-1960s, Pyle said. Stormet bought $200 worth of tickets, which the members sold earlier in the year for three for $20.
The beef was one of five prizes awarded in the raffle, the proceeds of which go to scholarships for northwest Kansas high school seniors entering a college, university or vo-tech school.
This year, four $1,000 scholarships were paid in September to three schools attended by the scholarship winners in the 2018-2019 school year: Denton Schurr, Osborne, and Brendon Zweifel, Ellis, attending North Central Kansas Technical College, Beloit; Marlena Guzman, Hays, attending North Central Kansas Technical College, Hays; and Abria Fisher, Ellis, attending the University of Kansas.
When evaluating the scholarship applications last spring, Pyle said, it’s not the students with the highest grades that stand out.
“We are not particularly looking for the straight ‘A’ student,” he said. “Most of us were not straight ‘A’ students. Straight ‘A’ students get a lot of help. It’s the ‘B’ students who don’t get scholarships.”
Instead, the vets look for students who are active in their communities and in extra-curricular school activities.
To be eligible to apply, seniors must live in one of the 18 counties where there is a member of Chapter 939. Applications are sent out in January, and the winners are chosen in the spring.
“We want to see kids who give of themselves and are not just receiving everything,” Pyle said. “Income is a factor too. We’ll put a lot of weight on need.”
Besides Stormet, other prize winners of the raffle were Greg Crawford, Zurich, Scott Jordan, Hays, Toni Jensen, Ellis, and A.J. Pfannenstiel, rural Ellis County. The first name drawn chose from a Springfield XDS 45 semi automatic handgun or one of four beef boxes.
The beef was donated by one of the chapter members. The 14-year-old local chapter meets the third Monday of every month at the Hays VFW Post 9076.
Besides the meat, the shelves at the Community Assistance Center are well stocked since its Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat food drive earlier this month. The pantry is filling about 130 to 140 food orders a month, Mortinger said, so there’s continued need.
The drive fell a little short of previous year’s due to bad weather the evening when food was collected, she said. There are other factors too.
“With the economy, things have slowed down,” Mortinger said. “We’re out of saltine crackers already, and we’re out of the generic baking mix, and pancake syrup.” Other needed items include Sloppy Joe mix in a can and spaghetti sauce. What’s on the shelves now has to carry the center through until spring, when letter carriers for the U.S. Postal Service do their canned food drive.
Thankfully, Mortinger said, there are those in the community who donate when the need outpaces the stocks on the shelves.
“Hays is very generous. I think we have a good community of support,” she said. “I just want to say thank you to the community.”