Meeting allows for attendees to speculate on Topeka’s future

Kelsie O'Connell

The United Way of Greater Topeka met with students and faculty at Washburn University on Oct. 27 to discuss the topic of “What is your vision of Topeka?”

The meeting, which was hosted by Student Human Resource Management, took place in the Shawnee Room of the Memorial Union.

Attendees did not have to be a member of Washburn’s SHRM organization in order to participate at the meeting. In fact, Dan Schultz, president of Washburn’s SHRM, encouraged attendees to invite other students and faculty.

“I am a part of Washburn SHRM on campus. I just joined this semester,” said Erica Strathman, a student at Washburn. “I think it’s valuable to learn things about different organizations and how they run.”

Both students and faculty attended the meeting in hopes of learning more about the United Way. To begin, Schultz started the meeting off with a brief introduction on behalf of the guest speaker, Miriam Krehbial, CEO and president of the United Way of Topeka.

Krehbial began by asking attendees if they have ever heard of The United Way. Although a majority of hands were raised, Krehbial soon discovered that not many people knew what the United Way actually does.

According to a handout received by each participant, the mission of the United Way is to create positive sustainable change in the Topeka community. Although the speaker spoke on the efforts of the United Way, the floor was open for discussion and sharing any thoughts on the organization were encouraged.

Krehbial said she’d heard many answers to the question of what United Way does. Among many, one person had once said, “No I’m not going to give to United Way. They actually lost my luggage once.”

This example gave participants in the seminar a laugh and also a comforted feeling of knowing they are not alone when it comes to misunderstanding what the United Way does.

The United Way works and partners with organizations to raise money for important causes, as determined by the volunteers.  Working with organizations like the NFL, the entire idea of the United Way is centered around the volunteers who do work.

“All of the decisions on who gets money and how much is all done by volunteers,” said Krehbial. “As staff, we are not paid to make those decisions. What we’re really paid to do is help our volunteers meet the mission of the organization and be successful. None of our work would be able to take place without our volunteers. That is something that will never change.”

Being involved is a key concept in changing the vision of Topeka and also determining that vision, according to discussion held at the meeting. Through open floor discussion, members threw out ideas on how to get involved and to make a difference.

The next meeting will take place on Feb. 23, 2011 at the Vogel Room with William Beteta, executive director of Heartland Visioning.