Leaders thrilled over $1.78M grant from Kansas Health Foundation

David Burke


The Great Plains Conference’s Doing Justice Initiative is getting a kickstart thanks to a $1.78 million grant recently announced by the Kansas Health Foundation. 

“It’s going to basically put the plan that the conference has put together on steroids in terms of getting started bigger and stronger than what was initially planned when we put together our proposal to the conference,” said Ben MacConnell, lead organizer for Direction Action & Research Training, or DART, in Kansas. 

MacConnell said the grant will help get more “boots on the ground” in justice ministry in five locations: Wichita; Kansas City, Kansas; Johnson County; Topeka; and Lawrence. The grant provides first steps to Wichita and KCK. 

“In this case, there’s going to be justice ministry organizers that are hired to do much more robust outreach to pastors in the initial planning stages,” he said. 

Prior to receiving the grant, Wichita was to begin work in the spring of 2023, but now that start has been moved up to February 2022, MacConnell said. 

A lead organizer, Amber Adams, has been hired for Wyandotte County and is expected to begin Dec. 15, McConnell said, with two additional staff hired in the new year. 

In Johnson County, justice ministry organizers voted on the top two priorities during an online conference last month: mental health and homelessness. 

The Rev. Sarah Marsh, mercy and justice coordinator for the Great Plains Conference, said she was thrilled with news of receiving the grant. 

“I feel like the Kansas Health Foundation is a major funder and has options of how it wants to invest its funds throughout the state, so it’s a great privilege to be selected for this grant,” she said. “It’s also really a unique opportunity for partnership in the Great Plains Conference.” 

Marsh said the grant is the largest the conference has received. 

“We will definitely expand our ability to reach more churches and congregations of all faiths, especially in Wyandotte and Sedgwick counties,” she said. “We’ll be able to hire so many more organizers and we’ll be able to hire them quickly and get going with this grant money. It will allow for a surge of organizers, which means you can do more justice work at a quicker pace.  

“It provides a very strong foundation for the future of the work.” 

Read the press release from the Kansas Health Foundation and the Great Plains Conference.

Contact David Burke, content specialist, at dburke@greatplainsumc.org.

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