It was about 25 or 30 years ago when Warren Hargus, area community development specialist, recognized a need for a community junior college for Vernon County. He saw a real need for an education program after high school.
The concept that the Hargus felt was needed in the area never developed, but, a few years later Crowder College located a campus in Nevada. This campus met a need for many students in this area looking for an opportunity to take college courses.
Since the Nevada campus opened, a lot of students have taken classes there. Each year they expand the number of programs offered locally and continue adding more students.
There are many businesses, organizations and individuals doing a lot things in the area of community betterment. At the recently held Nevada/Vernon County Chamber of Commerce awards luncheon The Community Betterment Award was presented to Crowder College. Chamber board member Christy Sloniker presented the award and gave recognition to the other finalists.
In her remarks accepting the award Donna Thomas, the Nevada campus director, announced that Crowder has plans to offer graduate courses in the future.
Crowder College located a branch campus in Nevada in 1995 and the Nevada campus now has over 50 area professionals teaching and working in the renovated former State Hospital Administration Building.
One of the major accomplishments at Crowder's Nevada campus has been the addition of a very successful RN program. This three-year-old program has a 50-student capacity and has graduated 34 registered nurses with an additional 27 expected to graduate in May 2010.
In addition, under the current leadership, the Nevada campus has broadened student experiences to include attending theater productions in Kansas City and Springfield, as well as participating in foreign cultural travel to Denmark and Paris. Local students are involved in community service activities that have included Teen Angel, the animal shelter, park clean-up, Christmas Lights at the Lake, food drives, adopting families at the holidays, children's toy and coat projects, and many more. In the past three or four years, the Nevada campus has nearly doubled the number of students taking classes to nearly 400.
Crowder also expanded into dual credit offerings in the Nevada and Liberal school districts, as well as other rural high schools in the area. In Nevada, Crowder offers an outstanding educational experience for area A+ students to get their first two years of college classes at a tuition free rate. The Crowder staff provides free financial aid assistance and workshops for students and parents from area high schools.
Another finalist was the Community Council on the Performing Arts which was established in Nevada in 1973. Since then, the CCPA has provided more than 220 amateur productions for the benefit of the residents of Nevada, Vernon County, and the surrounding region.
Over the past 36 years the CCPA has touched thousands of lives in our area through its' audiences, workers behind the scenes, and performers on stage. The CCPA, through both its' choir and theatrical divisions, takes a leading role in providing artistic opportunities and experiences for the general public, while also providing specialized programming for our local youth. The CCPA provides "big city" entertainment in a small town setting.
Interior Motives, which is owned and managed by Bobbi Ogle, was another finalist. Bobbi has focused her talents on design and merchandising in Nevada since 1989. From the small two-story house on West Austin, that her business outgrew, to her current building on North Main, that she completely renovated, Bobbi strives to improve the store fronts seen by visitors to Nevada.
She has focused on offering her unique quality furnishings and retail items to provide shopping here that is usually only available in a much larger city. Her merchandising ability garnered national attention in Home Magazine for Nevada, when she held a 2007 Pajama Party Christmas Open House and she had Nevada recently highlighted with items available in her store on the Gift and Home Channel on the Web.
Bobbi is active in promoting and supporting Nevada, not just as a business woman with Interior Motives, but also in her involvement in local civic and faith-based organizations.
KNEM-KNMO Radio was another local business selected as a finalist. Owned by Mike Harbit, the station serves Nevada and Vernon County and the surrounding eight county area in a number of ways. They are a reliable information source for southwest Missouri. They provide a number of local newscasts each day, seven days a week, along with severe weather coverage when needed.
The radio station also provides public service programming, and a community calendar. Their on air programming coupled with information provided on their Website gives area residents a true outlet for local and timely information.
KNEM-KNMO Radio spends a lot of time and resources in providing live coverage of local events, including more than 150 broadcasts each year of local sporting events involving Nevada and area teams. The radio station is also involved with community events such as the Vernon County Youth Fair, and sponsors the free Colgate Country Showdown during Bushwhacker Days and the Nevada Home and Leisure Show. The radio stations have a vested interest in the community, are locally owned and operated, and employ people from this area.
The other finalist was Judy Knowles, or the Flag Lady, as she is known. Judy saw a need in Nevada and addressed it. When Judy and Steve Knowles moved to Nevada in 1998 and opened the new Sears store they were asked for flags. With none being available for cemetery placement she knew she had to do something. Judy started gathering flags for Vernon County. She accepted donations and kept getting more flags, but always providing them when needed.
At one point Judy had 10,000 flags for cemetery use. Then 9-11 happened and not only was the cemetery in need of flags, but the general public and truck drivers on Highways 71 and 54. Judy again was able to provide flags during this time. She also started the program to have American Flags line Austin Boulevard. And this continues during every Flag Day to this date.
Judy found she was not able to continue her involvement with these programs, but has handed her commitment on to others in the community. The Viet Nam Veterans of America and the Girl and Boy Scouts are still keeping the flag programs going.