Marion County has two new employees at the Marion County K-State Research and Extension office in Marion.
Born and raised in Marion County, Tristen Cope, 24, was hired June 4 as the new family and consumer sciences agent, succeeding Renee Riedy.
“This is my first experience in a research and extension office,” Cope said. “I’m looking forward to working with the elderly, new families, new parents, teachers, childcare providers and SHICK counseling.”
Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas, or SHICK, provides information and education about Medicare, supplemental insurance, long-term care, prescription drug assistance and other insurance-related topics.
Cope added that SHICK also provides one-on-one confidential counseling on specific information or problems.
The FCS agent also offer assistance to parents, she said.
“Marion County and Dickinson County are having parenting classes through the 8th Judicial District Court,” Cope said.
Another training program, “Stay Strong, Stay Healthy,” is a class Cope will attend in September.
SSSH improves strength, balance and flexibility in older adults, she said, which increases health and quality of life.
“For people 65 years or older, a fall-prevention strength-building class is another way to help older adults,” she said.
Cope said Kansans of all ages want to know more about nutrition programs. The program would address how to prepare easy and nutritious meals in combination with physical activity.
Cope said such programs can improve quality of life, reduce health care costs and stretch food budgets.
“We are a two-agent county extension office,” Cope said. “We are more generalists with a larger area to cover and explore.”
Cope said she has already gained a lot of knowledge with the goal of linking that education with life experiences to help people improve their lives and communities.
Prior to accepting the FCS job, Cope was the director and preschool teacher of Stepping Stones at Valley United Methodist Church in Marion.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in family studies and human services at Kansas State University, with an emphasis on early childhood education.
While working toward an undergraduate degree, Cope taught preschool, and had other teaching positions in different centers.
“I moved back to Marion after getting married,” she said. “My husband, Allen, helps manage a ranch near Florence.”
Tristen’s parents are Tammy and Danny Snelling of Marion.
New office manager
Jana Miller, 31, is the new office manager at Marion County Extension, and like Cope, also was born and raised in Marion County.
“My parents, Randy and Deb Windsor of Peabody, had a hog farm when I was younger, but they later transitioned to cattle,” she said.
A member of 4-H, Miller said she showed pigs, did crocheting, and entered in foods and crafts, too.
“I had no idea what went on behind the scenes,” she said before taking her current position. “There are a lot of preparations needing to be done.”
4-H members, she said, needed to consider what projects to enter and club leaders decided what entries were included.
For the county extension office, online fair entries started coming in by June.
Once received, Miller said, they needed to be approved, verified for the correct class numbers and divisions so that everything was in order.
The office then prints the entries by group, organization and club.
“It took a lot of cooperation, and all of us were working together constantly (before, during and after the county fair),” she added.
After high school, Miller said she lived in bigger cities to include Wichita, Topeka, and Denver, Colo.
She and her husband, Jordan, lived in the town of Effingham, located in Atchison County, before moving back to Marion.
At her job prior to returning home, Miller said she worked as a receptionist and medical assistant at a dermatology clinic.
“The clinic was in Topeka,” she said, “which took me an hour one-way to go to work.”
In addition to working at the dermatology clinic, she said she also worked as a recreation assistant at a short-term rehab facility.
“I always loved growing up in a small town, and being with country folk,” Miller said with a smile.
“I was so excited to get a job in Marion, and come back to small town living and a calmer, quiet pace,” Miller said.
Cope said she didn’t live on a farm when she was growing up.
“I wasn’t in 4-H,” she said. “I was mainly involved in Girl Scouts and dance.”
Working with others
Both Cope and Miller say they enjoy interacting with farmers and 4-Hers.
“We see a lot of farmers come into the office with soil samples,” Miller said. “Our agriculture agent, Rickey Roberts, answers their questions, though,” Cope said.
One of the recent booklets Cope and Miller were involved in dealt with pesticides.
She said anyone who uses pesticides as a weed killer at home or ranch needs to take a test for certification.
“It’s an open book test, and it gives people knowledge they need when applying pesticides (and other needed information),” Cope said.
Miller helps the two other agents in the office, but she also is the first person to greet people when they walk into the office.
“I also answer the telephone and do some bookkeeping,” she said.
One of the most recent projects Miller and Cope worked on was an open swine class in Hillsboro last Saturday.
“Jana created flyers, worked on cards and took entries for the show,” Cope said.
Miller has a degree from Wichita State University in exercise science with a master’s degree in aging studies, which is a stepping stone for physical therapy or as a personal trainer.
“At that time (of receiving her degree), I was planning to teach exercise classes for older adults in senior centers or short-term rehabs,” she said.
As part of her internship, Miller said she went to a variety of senior centers and taught line dancing classes.
“Maybe once I learn my current job I might be able to utilize my other talents,” she said.
Cope said she and Miller are excited about bringing new ideas to the extension office by adding “a bit more” technology to the mix.
“One idea could be creating a Facebook page for our county, linking it to our website, as well as through K-State Research and Extension office,” she said.
Miller joined the extension office June 18, which was six weeks before replacing Doris Winkler, who had filled that role for 55 years.
For more information, call 620-382-2325 or stop by the office at 200 S. Third St., Marion.