Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 03 November 2009 13:17
Organizers of the newly formed Marion County Cultural Arts and Learning Center are looking for people willing to share their skills in the hope of preserving the Mennonite heritage for future generations.
“I have heard so many older residents say they are sad that some of the Mennonite history and heritage might be lost on the younger generation,” said Teresa Huffman, executive director of the Marion County Economic Development Council.
This new program could be the solution. The center is based in Goessel, she said, but classes can be held anywhere.
Currently, the program is operating on a $4,000 grant received in January through UFM—formerly known as University of Mankind—at Kansas State University in Manhattan, she said.
Huffman said the first $4,000 will be used to assist Marion County in getting the program off the ground.
“We can apply for more funding later, but first we have to launch this program and gauge what the interest is,” Huffman said.
Thus far, three people have called to offer their expertise.
A former teacher is willing to teach cooking for diabetics and art for children, she said. Two other people have stepped forward to teach basic cooking and Spanish.
“Classes will be held wherever the instructor wants to teach or wherever the resources are,” Huffman said.
For example, if someone wants to teach shearing sheep, the class would be where the sheep are, or if someone is offering a class on building rock walls, where rocks would be readily available.
The range of course work is open to almost any subject.
“The categories we selected for the survey (when writing the grant) included career and finance, creative free time, recreation and dance, wellness and languages,” Huffman said.
A fee will be charged for the classes, but Huffman would like to see the fee small enough to attract more people.
“The instructor will be the driving force on how much would be required to teach the class and how many students they would need to make it beneficial to them,” she said.
The program will be managed by a board of volunteers.
Calls regarding the program class schedules, and possibly offering classes in Goessel, will be channeled through the Mennonite Heritage Museum.
The idea of a cultural arts program in Marion County was first considered last year when Huffman met Charlene Brownson, UFM community outreach coordinator.
“She explained how other communities were holding classes in their communities, and it sounded like a great opportunity here,” she said.
After learning about the program, Huffman talked with other people in the county about what types of classes could be offered.
“We discussed all kinds of things—like wooden bucket building, soap making, cooking, photography, painting, teaching older generations how to text or use Facebook.”
In December 2008 Marion County was approved for a grant. In the latter part of October, the center applied for an additional $3,000 to set some of the classes in motion.
Started in 1968 by a group of students and faculty members, UFM at Kansas State University, is a non-profit campus and community education program serving KSU, the Manhattan area and communities across Kansas.
The group’s primary purpose was to find a way to bridge communications between the campus and community of Manhattan.
The first year, seven classes were offered with 150 people participating.
Four decades later, the program’s goal is still to provide opportunities for students, faculty and the public to interact, a UFM spokesperson said.
Based on the philosophy that everyone can learn and everyone can teach, UFM wants to give people a chance to be lifelong learners.
Anyone interested in starting a class or learning more about how they can help is urged to call Huffman at 620-381-3920.