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Archive for Tuesday, August 26, 1997

LAWRENCE INDIAN CENTER CHANGES NAME

August 26, 1997

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The Lawrence Indian Center is moving ahead with a name change and a renewed commitment to services following an embezzlement scandal last year.

The Lawrence Indian Center has changed its name to the Pelathe Community Resource Center -- a switch done in conjunction with organizers' renewed outlook following an embezzlement scandal last year.

"We had seen people calling us the Haskell Indian Center, and there seemed to be confusion about who we were," said David Cade, executive director of the center at 15th and Haskell.

Pelathe (pronounced pell-ah'-thee) was an American Shawnee Indian who rode on horseback from what is now Kansas City, Kan., to Lawrence in 1863 to warn residents here about Quantrill's raiders.

Pelathe arrived too late, however, and the town already was burning when he made it to Lawrence.

"He was the only one who was willing to ride," Cade said. "We thought for a community-type of service organization, the name was kind of fitting."

Judy Sweets, registrar and exhibit coordinator for the Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass., said there are historical accounts of Pelathe.

The center's board officially changed the name in May, about six months after members wondered if it would remain open following an embezzlement scandal and funding crisis.

The center's former director, Chet H. Learned, 40, was convicted of felony theft last year after embezzling $18,000.

He was sentenced to six months in jail, 24 months probation, and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and pay restitution and court costs.

The center has received $17,000 of the $18,000 taken through insurance, Cade said.

However, it has paid more than $10,000 in back taxes and penalties, he said.

Following the scandal, funding from the local United Way was cut significantly and private donations also fell last year.

"We're struggling. It's not a surprise that were struggling," he said. "This is all part of the process of putting the house in order."

"We want people to realize the value of things we do has an impact on everyone."

The center had applied for several grants and is seeking funding and volunteers. The United Way has restored some funding, he added.

The center averages about 350 contacts per month with American Indians and poor residents.

Its services include emergency assistance for utilities, a free food pantry, cultural programs focusing on Native Americans, a community garden and job-training exercises.

Anyone wanting to help should call the center at 841-7202 or the Roger Hill Volunteer Center at 865-5030.

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