Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Community Action Inc. Recognizes Topekans for Fighting Poverty

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Community Action Inc. Recognizes Topekans for Fighting Poverty

Article excerpt

Johnnie Strickland believes God has been grooming him to help others all his life, especially children.

"I wasn't always walking the straight and narrow," he recalled of his earlier years, after winning the Bill McCormick Community Action Person of the Year award on Thursday. "But I had always wanted to do that, work with kids."

Strickland, who retired in 2010 from Burlington Northern Santa Fe, began working with the First Tee of Shawnee County program five years ago. The program teaches children, ages seven to 18, the game of golf and the positive life benefits of the sport during the summer and after school.

"Growing up in Mississippi, I didn't have that kind of help," Strickland said. "It's hard to see a child out there wanting to do something, grow right, and everybody pass them by. You don't know how much of a difference you can make in someone's life. I have a passion for helping out. "

Strickland was one of several Topekans who were honored Thursday at Community Action Inc.'s annual meeting. The Oscars-themed event was held in the Douglas P. Goheen Theatre at Topeka West High School. About 20 of the school's students took pictures of attendees and served as ushers. A short film, produced by Gizmo Pictures, of Topeka, featured several local and community leaders talking about the contributions Community Action makes to fight poverty.

Other winners included the Junior League of Topeka for the Award for Collaborative Excellence for the "diaper depot" program, Sen. Vicki Schmidt, who received the Velma K. Paris Community Service award and Ivette Martinez, a Community Action staff member, who received the personal achievement award.

Larry Wilson, former Shawnee County treasurer, was inducted into the Community Action Promise Circle for his more than 50 years of work helping people in poverty.

Joe Hoytal, elected to his second year as Community Action's board president, credited the organization's staff who "work hard, for not a lot of money," serving the 360,000 Kansans in 26 counties who need Community Action's services that include early childhood programs, affordable housing, income tax preparation and Latino family development, among others. …

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