PHOTOS: Power Players in the Topeka community and beyond

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Pastor Tony & Dr. Rita Stanley

The Stanleys came from Kansas City as a planted Harvest Church West Branch. They are constantly pushing us to be better people of God and providing for those in the community around us. Every year Harvest Church does "Feed the Harvest" where we feed those that don't have a thanksging meal. Not only this every year but he goes to the schools to have lunch with the kids and provide a listening ear for the youth! He is a very loving and upstanding man of God!

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Lazone Grays, Jr.

First submission

No one in Topeka knew Lazone when came to town in 1990, but today many will point to something he has successfully championed for; or against,over the years. It can be said that any one of policies he has spent time working on, advocating for and getting passed has not only made our city better, but has opened new doors of opportunity. 

As a volunteer advocate for policies, practices & procedures that provide tangible results, Grays has connected and negotiated with mayors, governors, city managers, corporate executives and national leaders to bring resources back to the most neediest neighborhoods in the community. And not just in Topeka alone.

From economic development to workforce training to tackling the digital divide, Lazone has remained a steady voice at City Halls and our Statehouse; and practices what he preach in his own efforts as a practitioner. He has volunteered countless hours over two-decades supervising juvenile offenders on community service to give each a different outlook in life, and has counseled many entrepreneurs; who now benefit from policies he championed in 2002 regarding the countywide sales-tax for economic development.

To Grays credit the City of Topeka chose to Ban-the-Box on its job application and to re-appropriate public funds for a summer youth employment program; the city/county now dedicates 10% of its annual $5M sales-tax for economic development to support disadvantaged individuals, entrepreneurs & neighborhoods; and because of his formal and informal advocacy, our city has a functional Coworker/Makerspace, will soon have a trade skills & learning center on the Eastside of Topeka, efforts are underway to address any digital divide in the county, and countless numbers of entrepreneurs have had access to training, technical assistance, microloans and other incentives that had never been available. And this is just to mention a few outcomes of his selfless work to community.

And while some do earn a great income doing work that Lazone does as a volunteer, it's apparent that after 25yrs of service money isn't his motive, but leaving a Topeka better than he found it is.

In his own words, he's "changing the narrative"

Second submission

 Lazone has been a driving voice for the minority and at risk communities for many years assisting with guidance and providing direction and support for those who need a step up. A constant voice of strength speaking from a position of knowledge and wisdom speaking at the city council meeting and other local and state poverty and minority programs and think tanks. He is a quality individual who is the CEO of the local IBSA support group. A man whose mission is to help others with a step-up to keep their head up and focus on better days. Topeka is so fortunate to have a man of his commitment to the less fortunate and distressed working tirelessly to make the world and community a better place for all.

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Steven Massey

 Elder Massey is constantly pushing to make Topeka a more inclusive, more creative, and a far more positive place for Topeka’s youth.

Each week, Massey runs from his day job to his favorite place: working with young people. Whether it’s his Highland Park High School Rhythmic Belles; his “itty bitties” through his non-profit; or involvement with his church, Massey’s energy levels are bottomless in providing safe places to nurture the creative.
As he drums up fiscal support for a building where he can provide year-round instruction in the arts, Massey will continue to be a champion for the arts no matter what part of the city he is in.

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Tara Wallace

 Every time I turn around Tara is doing something to make Topeka a better place. She is a clinical social worker and therapist who never stops fighting for the children and families she serves. With a passion for ensuring people from all socioeconomic groups get mental health treatment, she often provides services that never get reimbused by Medicaid. Tara recently spoke free of charge at Seaman Middle School in an effort to help the school become trauma informed. Staff at the school were so moved by her presentation that many were in tears. She leads the newly formed Kansas African-American Foster Care and Adoption Coalition, one of the many ways she works for racial equity as she works to combat the overrepresentation of kids of color in the child welfare system.

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Ron Gwaltney

Ron is active on the TARC Foundation Board, TARC’s Space & Facilities Committee and the Winter Wonderland Committee to name a few. Ron’s commitment to Winter Wonderland is what keeps the lights on. Ron takes a drive through Winter Wonderland 5 or six times a week- and it’s on the opposite side of town from his home- to make sure everything is working properly. The last three years, Ron has been instrumental in organizing Westar employees to volunteer at Winter Wonderland set-up. He recruited more than 90 individuals to help in 2017 and was often out there working right along with them. Ron is our go-to guy when displays aren’t working correctly or they need repaired and he is the one that makes the displays “move” correctly. However, Ron isn’t all work and no play- he is kind and generous and even holds Winter Wonderland Committee meetings on his boat during the summer months. TARC would be lost without Ron’s expertise and we are honored that he chooses to give of his time to benefit TARC.

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Jennifer Goetz

 I'm obviously a bit biased, but I'm incredibly proud of this patient and talented woman and the power player that she is. 

When she's not being an amazing mom to her wonderful daughter, she's working diligently in the background for local businesses like Josey Baking Co., Architect One, PT's Coffee, Topeka Periodontics, Sunflower Foundation, Valeo and helps drive business to companies she's developed great relationships with like Tradepost Tee's.

She makes everyone around her feel appreciated and valuable and along with great graphic design skills, sees a growing freelance business every day.

She was also a key social media strategist and implementer for Michelle De La Isla's mayoral race as well as the brand generator.

But more than that is her empathetic nature and willingness to give of herself. She's donated nearly six gallons of blood, helps feed the homeless weekly for the last three years, organizes and participates in a community clean up at the Kansas History Museum via Silverbackks and as you can see in her photo, regularly delivers for Meals on Wheels.

There are no parts of this community she isn't trying to assist. Not because of awards but because she knows you have to get into the thick of it to help make life better for us all and nothing would make me happier than to nominate my best friend for this award.

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Norma Weiser and Carol Hill

 Norma Weiser and Carol Hill are the lead volunteers of the running club at the Topeka Correctional Facility.

The core mission of the Running Free program is to transform the lives of the inmates by introducing them to the physical, spiritual, psychological, and emotional benefits of running.

Since its inception, the club has raised over $40,000 for a wide variety of non-profit organizations. The races have ranged anywhere from a 5K to full marathons. A full marathon inside the prison is especially daunting as the women run seemingly endless 57 loops of the same "figure 8" course to make 26.2 miles.

In the words of Carol, who founded the club:

"RF believes that running can be a catalyst for change in all our lives as we set goals, battle for the achievement of those goals, and stretch beyond the imaginable to meet the next. None of us wants to be remembered by the sum of our worst days. Running changes things."

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Bobbi Luttjohann

 Bobbi is an amazing mom, wife, and hard working. On top of all her hard work at home and her job, she dies much volunteering to benefit the community. She’s involved with her local 4-H club and is a coach for Girlson the Run which teaches young girls about the importance of physical and emotional well being. Bobbi is so selfless and gives her time to others.

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Claira Dannefer (inspiration & support of her sisters Hope & Naomi)

 This year 11 year old (at the time) Claira Dannefer decided she wanted to come up with a way to hopefully raise $200 to $300 for Samaritans Purse to help people in need around the world. 

She was inspired last year by her 7 year old (at the time) sister Hope. Hope made 62 Bracelets of Hope (along with the help of her older sisters Naomi & Claira) to sell at Christmas to raise money to donate to Samaritans Purse. She sold the bracelets for $7 each, which is how much it cost to give a hungry child a warm meal for 1 she fed either one child for 62 weeks or 62 kids for one week.

Claira wanted to come up with a way to earn money that wouldn't interfere with a family budget. She decided on collecting scrap metal to sell. Much to our surprise she collected over $1,300 this summer and has been able to bless many families around the world with water filters, milking goats, a cleft lip surgery, a cataract surgery, warm blankets plus she is provide shipping for operation Christmas Child & has money left to direct to other needy people.

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Dorothy Iliff

While not teaching or volunteering at State Street school, or volunteering as director of the Cornerstone Family Schools choir, she singlehandedly maintains the Iliff Commons-- a privately owned 70 acre park open to the public in NE Shawnee County. The Commons has two miles of native prairie and woods open to walkers, joggers, mountain bikers, families-- and dogs. Here she is working in 2004 on a replica of the first cabin in Topeka, erected 150 years earlier.

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Jesyca Hope

 Jesyca works tirelessly to make Topeka and Kansas a better place. She dedicates her time and talents, and provides both quality leadership and communications and media guidance, to many community organizations. She is an advocate for change, and continues to find new ways to address problems in our community. She is passionate about eliminating poverty, empowering women, and mentoring others. In short, she's awesome, and definitely a Power Player in our community. 

She is a Bravo Team Member at Topeka Civic Theatre and Academy, Committee Member for the Ronald McDonald House Charity of Topeka, Committee Member for Jayhawk Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and has been heavily involved as a volunteer for many local organizations, including KTWU and SLI.

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Tanner Knowland

 Personally and professionally, Tanner, pictured left, gives of himself to help our community thrive. Through his work as a financial advisor at Thrivent Financial, he has helped numerous non-profits raise money for their needs, including the biggest project he's been involved in to-date, building a home for the Munganga family through Thrivent Builds Habitat for Humanity. Tanner also sits on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters and is a member of Topeka's Active 20-30 Club. He is using his professional resources and social connections to bring people together and help organizations throughout our community. When Tanner hears someone is in need, he's the first to say, how can we help? He's a great example of the kind of young professional leading Topeka into a bright and prosperous future.

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Crystal Kelly Hinnen

Crystal is compassionate and wise beyond her years. She is the go to person for help, information and to get things accomplished. Crystal has a special needs son Dylan who is 17, a senior, and non verbal. If she can't help someone she looks for information or someone who can. She was instrumental in starting a nonprofit called Dilly's Place Inc. Building a playground "where every kid can be a kid" no matter their ability, and a family fun day for families with special needs.As you can guess, a lot of fundraising was involved and Crystal is amazing at raising money. She has helped raise over $70,000 and with a matching grant has just ordered the playground equipment. Family fun day at YMCA Camp Hyde is a blessing to so many from all over Kansas. It's free to families with special needs. Funds raised went to rent the camp, food, drinks, volunteers, crafts, sensory area and all that the YMCA camp provides. Crystal is the city clerk of Conway Springs. She not only makes her rural town a better place but everyone who comes in contact with her is better for knowing her.

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Brenda Kipp and Brett Lackey

Brenda and Brett are two of The Capital-Journal employees who adopted families through the Christmas Bureau. Both are active in their churches and community civic organizations.


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Girl Scout Troop 624 Renee Spinner, Angel Bohnert, Arianna Womack, Betsy Weinzirl, Corina Roberts & Emma Golightly

Participating in an afternoon of making blankets for Stormont’s Pediatric Unit and Project Linus.

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Hand Up Stand Up Ride by American Legion POST 421

Hand Up Stand Up Ride by American Legion POST 421

 Dear Supporter:

Imagine coming home from a war zone, a battlefield, a dessert - lacking color and life. Additionally, you may be alone, without your family, who may live far from your base. The transition from serving your country to civilian life sounds easy, but the reality is much different than you may realize. Many of our veterans come back home to find themselves with issues such as depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder otherwise known as PTSD. This condition may last for years or a lifetime.

Thankfully, the Topeka Veterans Administration Hospital (VA) treats those suffering from various stages of PTSD on-site and is considered one of the top facilities in the United States. While very successful in their treatment, living conditions can be sterile with very few comforts or colors of home. Strict internal rules do not always allow government funds to humanize the experience of treatment.

That's where we come in. The American Legion Post 421 works closely with the patients and families of the VA and especially the PTSD ward. In addition to amenities for the patients, Post 421 assists with lodging for immediate family members who have traveled to be with a loved one, yet may not be able to afford an overnight stay.

This is where you come in. Post 421 is hosting the 4th Annual Hand Up, Stand Up Ride September 8th, 2018. Hand Up-Stand Up is a Charity Motorcycle Ride that assists in raising funds for Post 421 veterans’ projects while allowing those participating to reach out and thank a veteran for their service. This “military history” ride will take participants on a tour of Northeast Kansas to visit and learn about those who served from our area. The ride will conclude at the VA in Topeka where all patients who are able have been invited to join us as guests of Post 421 to share a meal and a story with those who support our troops.

Your support of the Hand Up, Stand Up Charity Ride assists the members of Post 421 in providing patients with the basics, things you and I may take for granted. For the men and women in treatment, family style furniture, paint/coverings for the walls and exercise equipment, are a few of the basics that have been proven to help make the transition a little more human. After all, they fought for our freedom. Making their return home feel welcoming is a great way to give thanks.
I have included the ride registration form along with information about ride sponsorship. Ride with us to help fund vital improvements for the PTSD patients of the Topeka VA Hospital. With your support, we can help veterans get back on their feet ~ 
Because sometimes, all you need is a small hand up, to stand up on your own.
Kind Regards,


POST 421
Missions Committee

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5001 Brickyard Road, The Fletchers

This property has had the Same Family here for over 20 years. the place had no personality when they moved in. THe Yard and Home are always well maintained. Its Beautiful Addition to Topeka Kansas. NEVER, has it been unkept, this shows true Home Ownership Pride in Topeka , Kansas. Thanks to the Robert & Kris Fletcher Family.


These individuals were nominated for being Power Players in their community for helping to make their neighborhood and world a better place. Six of the top individuals were published in the Sunday, Dec. 3, Midway section of The Capital-Journal. One entrant won a $25 gift card in a drawing.

See more stories about Power Players in the Topeka community in this special section.


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