Archive for Saturday, January 5, 2013

Longtime employee Linda Lassen 1 of 2 laid off at Penn House on Friday

January 5, 2013


Linda Lassen had no idea Friday would be her last day as director of programming for the Penn House.

She had been there for more than 40 years. She was married there, and a photo of her wedding ceremony hangs on the wall. For many in Lawrence, Lassen's name has been synonymous with the local social service agency that provides food, clothing and help with utility bills for families in need. Adopt-a-Family, backpacks for kids — she did it all, friends said, and she was close to retirement this year.

But shortly after Lassen arrived for work about 8 a.m. Friday, she learned she was being laid off at the end of the day. So was the assistant program director, Larry Woydziak, who has been at the Penn House for about six months.

Woydziak said he wasn't concerned about himself and felt sure he could move on to something else.

"I'm just disappointed for Linda," he said. "She's given over 40 years to the community."

All day Friday, Lawrence residents who had been touched by Lassen's work in the community visited the Penn House to see her or called with a few kind words.

"It's been a tough day for all of us, especially her," Woydziak said. "It's very sad. A lot of tears. She was the heart and soul of Penn House."

Lassen had been with the agency since it opened in 1969. Located at 1035 Pennsylvania St., the current building was constructed in 1981, by volunteer labor in just one weekend, using mostly donated materials. The Penn House board of directors voted to merge with Ballard Community Center in 2005.

For most of that time, Lassen was a full-time employee but was reduced to part-time a year ago. She's particularly well-known for her part in Lawrence's Holiday Bureau Adopt-a-Family efforts. That's what came immediately to mind for Nancy O'Connor, director of education and outreach at The Merc, 901 Iowa St. For 14 years, O'Connor has worked with Lassen every holiday season to arrange for The Merc to adopt families.

O'Connor learned Lassen was gone Friday when she made routine call to the Penn House, and her old friend was already gone.

"The kind of a dramatic change, when someone has been there so long," O'Connor said, "it kind of makes you shudder a little bit."

Lassen knew all the details and nuances of Adopt-a-Family, calling The Merc earlier in the year, when they needed to prepare, and providing just the right amount of information about the anonymous families. O'Connor said she couldn't imagine doing those things with anyone else but the "feisty champion for her people" who got her involved in Adopt-a-Family in the first place.

"To me, Penn House and Linda Lassen are inseparable," she said. "I don't know how they're going to get along without Linda."

Lassen, reached by phone Friday, said she was still too emotional to talk about her departure from Penn House.

Management at Ballard Community Services, which is responsible for staffing decisions at Penn House, said laying Lassen off was an unfortunate but necessary step under this year's budget.

Kyle Roggenkamp, director of human services, is one of two remaining employees in his department with Lassen and Woydziak gone.

"They did a really good job" he said. "This is tough for all of us. The past couple of years have been tough for everyone in Douglas County."

The Ballard Center depends on donors and investment from the community to pay employees and finance its services, and Roggenkamp said it has been under the same pressures as other social service agencies in the area. That means it will have to rely even more on the 20-30 volunteers that support it, along with partnerships with other agencies like Just Food and the Salvation Army.

"Any decision we make is done with the whole community in mind," Roggenkamp said.

For good news, he pointed to the Ballard Center's latest numbers. The agency helped 1,500 kids through the Adopt-a-Family program this holiday season and provided clothes, food, and utilities to 6,700 people in 2012.


irvan moore 2 years, 6 months ago

wow, 40 years and they give you a few hours notice that your employment is being terminated, very sad story

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

What beatnik said is true. It does not matter if Linda Lassen knew that her position would eventually be gone, she was still given just a few hours notification of her termination.

I am not understanding why you would attempt to keep spinning for Ballard. They handled this poorly and with very little regard for a long-time employee. There is no excuse for it.

Michelle Fales 2 years, 6 months ago

So sad to hear. Linda was a great asset to Penn House. As funding and donations go down for NFPs, these hard decisions have to be made. Wishing Linda the best.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Yes, the best way to utilize scarce resources is to sack the employee with the most experience with the systems and know-how on navigating them.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, says leadership Lawrence grad. Wonder what Linda said that upset the chambercrats, obviously the real reason for such actions. We weren't born yesterday Michelle.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Leadership Lawrence grads are not real business people, just indoctrinated pr people who think that business is all about developing farm land and nothing else. Look at the dismal success these clowns have had such as providing cheap rent for startups like Garmin LOL! They don't know anything about economics or business. What other city makes it an imperative to build a bypass so people can get to shopping in KC even quicker.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

I love how everyone wants the CEO job title now, even non-profits like at the Ballard Center. They called the WWII the great generation but they'll have to refer to the boomers and their spawn the worst generation of greed and ego.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

But they are so savvy you know, twitting for contributions, way ahead of the curve dude are our part time CEOs and full time event runners.

Michelle Fales 2 years, 6 months ago

Buckjennings and KiferGhost, I find it very sad that my well intentioned comment about wishing Linda the best of luck has turned into an attack against Leadership Lawrence, banks and myself. I don't know who either of you are since you prefer to come on using aliases but I would be more than happy to sit down with you and let you get to know me. As far as Leadership Lawrence, I think there are a lot of misconceptions in this town regarding the program and would love to invite you to visit with me about it. As far as Peoples Bank, I was employed there for 12 years and am very proud that I worked for Wint Winter Jr. I hope, Buck, that you have taken the time to meet Wint and discuss any concerns you might have about Peoples Bank and banks in general. Feel free to email me at Otherwise unless you take the time to really get to know the facts, then you are doing yourself and all the fellow anonymous bloggers no service with your comments.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, wish you well but canning her when she was close to retiring, darn that is just life aye? Oh well she probably didn't donate anything to those high dollar Corpus Christi fund raisers where the rich and famous like to hobnob and plan ways to screw the city.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

I guess that goes for parochial schools as well since it is ok to risk the funding for the parish with the least amount of funds so parties allowing the Lawrence elite to come out and drink and hobnob is far more important than making sure all the kids in Lawrence are served equally. Love that leadership thinking.

phoggyjay 2 years, 6 months ago

I wish you the best Linda. More than 40 years at Penn House and close to retirement. You would think that a company would give you a month's notice or at least 2 weeks, not the same day. What a cowardly thing to do. What's going on in this country?

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Most employers give their employees some advance notice of a layoff unless there is severe misconduct on the employee's part. It is called courtesy and there is no reason that Ballard Center could not have extended the courtesy of advance notice to Mrs. Lassen.

Ballard Center, you know the guy in the pick up truck that comes fairly regularly with quite a few bags of groceries and personal hygiene items? Those were all items that I donated. He drops them off because I am not available during the hours you are open.

You won't be seeing him again as I won't be donating anything to you anymore.

costello 2 years, 6 months ago

There are many ways to assist needy people. Why give to an organization which is clearly cold-hearted?

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

There are many charities out there that value their employees. If a charity cannot treat their employees with the courtesy and respect that they deserve, that charity is less likely to treat their clients with the courtesy and respect they deserve.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Other charities get the donations. Do you think Penn House and BCS are the only charities serving low-income citizens of Douglas County?

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

No, although I noticed that in the article about the changes involving UW with those organization, Penn House was left by the wayside. There was no talk of Penn House doing any programs but there were of JustFood, Ballard Center & Salvation Army.

debbi 2 years, 6 months ago

Actually, Ballard took a very significant hit- the largest decline of any agency- from United Way in 2012, compared with the previous year. See this article:

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

That's interesting because the newsletter dated 11/5/12 states that Ballard Community Services were able to create an entirely new, never done before, position through a United Way partnership.

What is even weirder is that your article is dated as April 2012 so BCS knew they were taking a $102,000 hit in funding but hired an assistant program director for Penn House 2 months after that (the article states that Larry was only at Penn house for 6 months).

And this simply reinforces my post that the United Way is excellent at getting non-profits to cannibalize each other.

Bob Forer 2 years, 6 months ago

I don't know enough about the situation to draw any conclusions as to the role of United Way in this mess, but I would think it is incumbent on the service agencies to take proactive measures to avoid being manipulated by outside contributors.

You raise an interesting issue on the creation of a new position just months before the tactless dumping of an experienced and dedicated point-of-service employee.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Actually a couple of new employees have been hired since BCS was notified of their funding cuts in April 2012. Their Facebook page even has an ad for an intake specialist as we speak.

I find it difficult to believe that eliminating Linda Lassen's part-time position would cover any of those salaries and I found nothing to suggest that any of the "management" level positions had taken any form of pay cut to assist with the funding loss.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Amazing, par for the course in Lawrence where pr takes people far.

auntmimi210 2 years, 6 months ago

Wow. I'm sure if Ballard had let Linda & the community know this was a possibility, Lawrence would have pulled together & donated enough to possibly prevent this. Very sad. And shame on you Ballard, for giving such an outstanding person virtually no notice.

FlintlockRifle 2 years, 6 months ago

Will have to wait to see how 2013 stackes up to 2012 ""GOOD NEWS"" For good news, he pointed to the Ballard Center's latest numbers. The agency helped 1,500 kids through the Adopt-a-Family program this holiday season and provided clothes, food, and utilities to 6,700 people in 2012.

shorttrees 2 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, and notice they waited till after Linda worked her tush off through the holiday season to let her go. No transition period, no notice, and certainly no training of anyone to do all the things she has done--that would make sense!

Nothing from me for Ballard either.

headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

Great. They are going to run the place with volunteers. Now the collectors will have a hay day in the place. It wont be long until it will be just as bad as the old Salvation Army store was on Massachusetts Street. I stopped donating to the Penn House over 5 years ago because that mentality was surfacing there just like the Salvation Army. Now they get rid of the one person who was able to keep that activity under control.

costello 2 years, 6 months ago

Just some comments from an 'outsider' who knows nothing about Penn House or Linda Lassen and who isn't a regular contributor to local charities: Your comments here, smitty, are just adding to my long-held beliefs that contributing to local charities doesn't really get much help to the people who need it.

I've taken food to the Social Service League a couple of times, and I took clothes to The Shelter back when I had a teenaged son at home who was outgrowing clothing. But other than that, I don't do much. I found some things I'd donated to the Salvation Army some years ago on the ground outside their donation box, irreparably damaged. And the story in the paper a few years ago about the Goodwill throwing donations in their dumpsters pretty much confirmed my suspicious that collecting up things and schlepping them to a charity on my day off makes me a chump.

Now you say the volunteers get the best stuff? Good to know.

I hate wasting things, and I'd love to help needy people, but frankly, these days if I have something I don't need anymore I put it in the trash. Stories about the advocates of 'social justice' who fire employees of 40 years with no warning and comments about charity volunteers who scoop up the best stuff do nothing to persuade me that I'm wrong to do so. I'm not impressed by any of this.

PhilChiles 2 years, 6 months ago

I've got a lot of experience working with thrift stores, and I can tell you that the smaller, locally run places tend to be much more efficient with their donations than the larger operations. When I worked at a Goodwill in college, it was completely normal for employees to throw entire boxes of donations away because they didn't like what they saw on top. Places like the League do a much better job of using donations.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Freecycle is an excellent option if you are are uncomfortable donating items. Many people post items that they need so you would still be assisting someone and you would be keeping useful items out of the trash.

Smarmy_Schoolmarm 2 years, 6 months ago

I agree. I am a regular user of freecycle and would recommend it to anyone. Look for it under yahoo groups.

May Soo 2 years, 6 months ago

Wow, what is so sad and heartless for them to do something like this to someone who worked there for 40 years.

youngjayhawk 2 years, 6 months ago

Heartbreakingly sad! This is what happens when United Way gets involved; wake-up, Lawrence!

headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

I suspect it may be the Ballard Center getting a wake up call when their direct donations drop off. No one has explained what they would do with those type of donations once United Way and Just Food took over the shelf stocking part. I am not about to repeat the same folly as with the local Humane Society.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Pretty much. United Way has an amazing ability on getting non-profits to cannibalize each other.

rlmtyco 2 years, 6 months ago

That reminds me of something like Kmart Distribution Center would do, not Penn house or Ballard Center. Disappointing, I understand that they probably had to do it to keep the places open and functioning to serve its purpose but only a days notice is insulting to someone that has been there that long

true_patriot 2 years, 6 months ago

I look forward to your comments urging the city to end the steady stream of investor and corporate welfare when children go to bed hungry and without dental care in our city and county. Welfare is welfare and it's worse when it goes to those who don't need it to survive.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

You can't expect people who think corporate pr releases are facts to ever understand how much money goes to corporate types. Simple stories for simple minds.

RubyVrooom 2 years, 6 months ago

"Friends and fellow employees say that Mrs. Lassen has invested so much in Penn House that being married there felt right.... Mrs. Lassen refers to Penn House as her second home, a place where she wanted to formalize her commitment to her husband. "I could have had a church wedding, but I didn't want one. I wanted to be married here in the front yard," she said."

Rusty Thomas 2 years, 6 months ago

This is very sad and handled in a less than professional way. I once served on the Ballard Center board. This is how they have operated in the last 10 years. When they felt I no longer was an asset, I was summarily dumped - by mail. So I am not surprised this happened. I once had the Ballard Center at the top of my gifting list, now I do not even give them as an option when asked. This is an organization on a downward spiral. Shameful!

headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

One has to wonder what is going on. Ballard website has been down for some time. It wouldn't surprise me if they are setting it up to be nothing but an extension of United Way and Just Food. Way to help the budget by eliminating online donations.

Danielle Brunin 2 years, 6 months ago

From what I know of Larry, he's a genuinely nice guy. As for Linda Lassen, I can't believe they wouldn't give such a well-regarded employee of 40 years the opportunity to retire at least unless they didn't want to pay benefits? Would she be able to collect benefits from there had she retired? I know where I WON'T be donating anymore.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

What an ignorant comment! Do you think that Penn House, Ballard Center and the Salvation Army are the only charities one can donate to?

You accuse others of satisfying their egos but it is Ballard Center who was too self-assured of their own ego when they let go a long time employee who was very valued by those she helped. If you notice, there is no acknowledgment by them that they handled this very poorly. It takes a pretty big ego to not admit a mistake.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Linda may have known that eventually she would be let go but you miss the point entirely. It is the manner of her termination that has people disgusted and upset with BCS. They had many options to make it a win-win situation but chose not to. It is poor judgment on their part.

KUBBMOM 2 years, 6 months ago

Smitty - there's lots that you don't know about how inefficiently the Ballard Center has been running including their day cares. Penn house wasn't the problem. Lots that the JW and JQ Public is not aware of but go back and read JW when UW announced that Ballard received the largest cut in funding because they weren't meeting the goals: heath, education and self sufficiency. Ballard has been running inefficiently for quite awhile.

Tomato 2 years, 6 months ago

I doubt very much that she would have a pension from a place like Penn House. Pensions are few and far between these days.

I suspect the "retirement" they spoke of was being retirement age for Social Security or her personal retirement account if she has one.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Hey this is Lawrence ran by leadership lawrence. These people who front for developers and hire fancy pr firms to spin their agendas can also come on and provide spin control because that is the business world today. Isn't it great while Clownback is cutting government help to people in need now we are cutting those charities that are in perfect libertarian theory the ones to step up and fill the void they are cutting people who can do the most good.

Christine Hammon 2 years, 6 months ago

A great idea would be for everyone who wants to show their appreciation for Mrs Lassen's dedication and service to throw her a party. Obviously, not a 'retirement' party, but rather an acknowledgement celebration. Possibly one small gesture to counter the insult of being laid off in such an abrupt manner.

Smarmy_Schoolmarm 2 years, 6 months ago

I wonder if, were a person to send a card to Linda at Penn House, would it be forwarded on to her?

rlmtyco 2 years, 6 months ago

40 years of service and an 8 hour notice is what she gets. TERRIBLE, I just told my wife who adopts 3 families each year and heads it up to get all the money raised to buy presents and donate stuff to the Ballard Center, she will be looking for another charity this upcoming year, she is very upset.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

You aren't helping Ballard Center out by accusing people who are disgusted by their atrocious behavior as egoistic.

JayCat_67 2 years, 6 months ago

"Ego"... You keep using that word. I do not think it means, what you think it means.

coolmom 2 years, 6 months ago

Wow i think i know a dedicated volunteer or two who will decide their time is more important elsewhere. congrats to her for 40 years wish there had been some notice.

Alpenglow 2 years, 6 months ago

I shudder to think of how her termination was handled and by who. No doubt by underlings instead of the director. Shameful the way it was handled and with no notice. They knew it was coming and gave her no opportunity to prepare. What purpose did this serve? There have been staffing cuts in non-profits everywhere, but many of those are done with care and compassion. Linda was deserving of both. Downward spiral is right. How could their board allow her dismissal to be handled this way? Clearly, leadership is lacking across the board. No pun intended.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

The list is on the right hand of the newsletter.

As of 11/5/12, they knew they were doing reorganizations so they could have given Linda Lassen much more notice than 8 hours.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

And you miss the point entirely. It is the manner of her termination that is the issue. They had many options that would have had a more positive outcome and would have made Ballard look awesome. They chose not to do that.

And her knowing that there was a strong possibility she would no longer be there does not excuse or mitigate the PR damage that Ballard has done to themselves.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

One thing can be sure, any donations they make is for the tax write off. We shouldn't leave the care of people in need to opportunist.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Oh, you mean the clever spinmaster Kern who touts he hired Hollywood talent to help spin the issues in Lawrence?

Kyle Roggenkamp 2 years, 6 months ago

To my beloved community,

I cannot express how much pain is felt by us all with the fact tha Linda will not be at Penn House moving forward. I love Linda, with all of my heart, and always will. If she calls any time-needing anything, I will be the first one there. She will always be a part of my family, my thoughts, and my efforts to assist the community. We fought for this community together and we also cried together when we met and discussed financials over two months ago, when she was told that recent funding cuts would not support current agency salaries in 2013.

To our wonderful donors,

Please keep our community in your hearts and thoughts when deciding to continue or not continue your support of the roughly 7,000 low income community members we serve annually. As an advocate for social justice, I understand that our efforts are for a cause greater than myself, greater than my agency and greater than my peers. We advocate for positive change on a macro level; change that increasingly moves the needle forward on socioeconomic gains for those who need it most. Penn House and every other low-income serving agency in Douglas County is about the people of this community, not one single person. Please consider joining us on the continued journey of fighting for those who need us most; our neighbors, our community members, our friends.

To Lawrence Journal World,

I humbly invite you to sit down with myself and every other deserving agency in Douglas County to consider the drafting of materials that will result in truthful and community minded materials that are focused on the advancement of social justice in our community.

Linda, thank you for your class and dedication. I love you forever,

Kyle Roggenkamp- Director of Human Services - Ballard Community Services

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

This is absolutely the most piss poor attempt at damage control that I have seen! How dare you come on here and profess love for someone who you couldn't even be bothered to give a basic courtesy notice of her termination? You have no shame at all. None at all.

An advocate for social justice??? No, not even close. An advocate for social justice doesn't do what you did to any employee. An advocate of social justice treats their employees with respect and courtesy. You did neither with Linda Lassen. You are not even remotely worthy of calling yourself an advocate of social justice.

You've damaged your brand name (It is now such a thing as you choose to corporate psychobabble to discuss important issues.). And as a result, you've lost donors.

As a side note, I have now 16 cans of veggies that would have been donated to Ballard Center had they chosen not to be good community neighbors and treat a valued and needed employee like yesterday's garbage. PM me if you need them. I will be happy to give them to someone who is need.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to run to the toilet so I can vomit in response to the load of crap you tried to feed the citizens of Douglas County.

GessoGesso 2 years, 6 months ago

Katara you sound like a saint. It sounds like the article published presented only part of the story. Great way to stir up the pot a get a fire lit. Now we just need a bunch or irrational emotional speculation to divert the public from an actual focus from the root of the problem. "we also cried together when we met and discussed financials over two months ago, when she was told that recent funding cuts would not support current agency salaries in 2013." Sounds to me like, Linda was notified 2 months prior on the likely conclusion of her job come 2013. So lets all run to grab a stone and ask questions later. The real problems with the situation will be over looked I fear, due to people's emotional desire to attack the messenger. If this makes you toss your cookies, get over it, and yourself and go make a difference NOW.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Are you related to smitty? Nice touch, BTW, by implying that I am doing nothing now to make a difference. You sure told me whatfor.

It doesn't matter if Linda knew that her job would eventually be eliminated. It is how it was handled. This has been repeated by many different people on here. The outrage isn't because budget problems happen. People understand that non-profits take a hit in rough economic times.

However, budget cuts are not an excuse to tell someone when they walk into their job that they are terminated at the end of the day and to add insult to injury, you do that to an employee who have invested quite a bit of her life doing that job. There is no reason why they could not have set this up as a retirement and honored Linda Lassen for her years of service to the community. Win-win for BCS and Linda.

And quite a few questions are being asked:

Why did BCS hire more people (and still has an ad for an intake specialist on their Facebook page) when they knew their funding was cut?

Why are the operating expenses at 85% of the budget? And if that is not an accurate figure, where are the accurate figures that show what the situation really is?

Why is the CEO of BCS also taking on another CEO job for a completely different project and is that appropriate to have a CEO who is not devoting her full attention to BCS? Is that fair to BCS to have a part-time CEO?

It also seems like you believe you know what the root of the problem is. Why don't you enlighten us as to what you think the real problems with this situation are?

GessoGesso 2 years, 6 months ago

i suspect from your reply, we both know what the underlining issues are. I do not disagree that BCS disrespectfully handled the termination, but the article implies that somehow Linda's termination was a complete suprise. I know a lot of organizations these expect people leave immediately following termination due to potential retaliation. Obviously I do not believe that Linda would have any retaliation from the sound of her character, but they must have rules that apply to all. I am not saying I agree with this attitude or policy, but I understand the concerns and need to treat all employees the same. A party in her honor would have been nice, but I can see some in the community then blaming BCS for spending expenses on a party. I am just trying to be objective, but do not claim to be right.

Jason Johnson 2 years, 6 months ago

Did you volunteer to have your salary cut? If you did not, then stop wasting our time.

Bob Forer 2 years, 6 months ago

Kyle, your letter is disgusting. You write:

"I cannot express how much pain is felt by us all with the fact tha Linda will not be at Penn House moving forward. I love Linda, with all of my heart, and always will. If she calls any time-needing anything, I will be the first one there. She will always be a part of my family, my thoughts, and my efforts to assist the community."


"Linda, thank you for your class and dedication. I love you forever, "

Such sentiment, if truly heartfelt, should be communicated privately. That you would express those sentiments in a public forum reveals it as a naked, base, and cynical public relations move.

As the Director of Human Services, if you truly respect Linda, her dedication, and her work, you and your agency would never have laid her off in such an insulting and undignified manner.

The fact that you fail to address the concerns of the many critics who have posted on this board indicates you don't game a damn about their opinions. Well, guess what? Many of us no longer gave a damn about your organization. How in the world can we trust you to administer to the needs of the less fortunate given the reprehensible way you treated Linda.

You wouldn't know the meaning of "social justice" if it bit you on the behind. Shame on you. Shame on Ballard Center.

midwestmom 2 years, 6 months ago

Kyle - too darned little - too damned late. Your less than professional handling of the situation is now your PR nightmare. Your letter sounds like you are begging to keep your job. How does it feel to be under fire? I hope you are worried about what/how you are going to smooth the waters and bring people back to supporting Penn House.

People 'get' that the poor economy is squeezing non-profits from both ends and people 'get' that really hard decisions have to be made - however people don't 'get' how you can use someone for 40 years and then terminate them completely with only 8 hours notice.

I agree that it was awfully coincidental that she was 'axed' right after the busiest time of the year. Were you afraid that if you told her that you were going to have to let her go that she wouldn't have worked through the holidays for you? I bet she would have - anyone who would DEDICATE 40 YEARS to an organization isn't just going to walk away in a time of need - she instead would have worked hard and had an opportunity to interact and say good bye to people she has worked with seasonally for a very long time. You even denied her that small bit of closure through your insensitive, selfish and COWARDLY behavior.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Better get some Kern spin working overtime.

GessoGesso 2 years, 6 months ago

if I understand how a non-profit works, Kyle is not the one who determines how a dismissal of an employee is handled. He is there to carry out the wishes of the board according to their policies. I agree that it is a shame that Linda was let go with out advanced notice or something as simple as a party to celebrate her time spent giving in the community. That being said, according to previous articles published here such as this one:, it appears that due to a lack of private funds, the budget could no longer support all the current employees for these organizations which is dependant on both private individual and private organizational donations.

GessoGesso 2 years, 6 months ago

"we also cried together when we met and discussed financials over two months ago, when she was told that recent funding cuts would not support current agency salaries in 2013." This makes it sound to me, that Linda had about 2 months notice that her job would be ending as of 2013.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Not in Lawrence where the do nothings are in charge.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Ballard also contributed to the lack of funds as according to this article...

"The Ballard Community Center did not fare as well. The organization in 2011 received a little more than $16,000 in CDBG money to help fund its Emergency Services Council. This year, the organization isn’t receiving any funding through the program. (UPDATE: I chatted with a city official this afternoon who told me Ballard did not apply for any money through the CDBG program this year.)"

I am not sure why they would not apply for all funds that they are eligible particularly since they knew they would be receiving less from United Way.

The CEO also said in the above article that they were cutting 2 positions in Ballard although she didn't state what positions. It is strange then that BCS would hire several more positions including the one Larry Woydziak throughout 2012 knowing that they had less funding before.

logicisking 2 years, 6 months ago

please expand further upon your statement "We advocate for positive change on a macro level; change that increasingly moves the needle forward on socioeconomic gains for those who need it most. " Besides the botched firing, this statement gives me some pause as to what is really going on over there. what macro level change are you referring to? thank you

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

It is corporate psychobabble designed to stroke corporate CEOs' egos and make them think they are giving their corporation good PR. Let me translate it for you.

"We want to help a lot of people by providing assistance that will hopefully allow those who need it the most to become able to provide for themselves."

JayCat_67 2 years, 6 months ago

If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull****.

Loretta James 2 years, 6 months ago

How come they did'nt lay you off Kyle instead of Linda and why didnt Diane write the apology instead of you.

denali 2 years, 6 months ago

Hi Kyle,

Welcome to the LJWorld forums. It's fairly obvious, from your posting, that you've never been here before.

Why would I say that? Frankly, it's because you attempted spin control on these forums. I regret to inform you that you're in the process of getting trolled by Lawrence's version of 4chan's /b/ forums.

Good luck and have fun storming the castle, Kyle!


kansanbygrace 2 years, 6 months ago

Ask the Coalition for Homeless Concerns. They have collected first-hand information since the mid-'90's and have first-hand knowledge of the needs.
There is absolutely no need to hire people with no experience to replicate that which has been resolved and strategized for a couple of decades. The reports ARE that comprehensive material Kyle seeks to "draft" redundantly, expensively, and naively.

true_patriot 2 years, 6 months ago

I know! Let's cede a bunch of money to rich investors to build a hotel or a rec center without stepping in to fill even the slightest fractional amount that could make a break an underpaid community service employee or two in our local safety net.

rlmtyco 2 years, 6 months ago

Our dontations will still lay within the Lawrence community, wether it be another organization or us conducting our own adopt a family search via craigslist and taking applicatations that way, we will still use the $2000 plus we raise each xmas to benefits families in Lawrence but cannot support an organization that does this to employees, 6 years of adopt a families through Ballard center and to find out this is horrible.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

I would suggest checking with the group homes in the area to see if any folks there need adopting for the holidays. Many of the adults that live in group homes get overlooked around the holidays. Many of their gift wishes are simple - a new sweater, a pair of pants, etc.

Deb Engstrom 2 years, 6 months ago

So because you disagree with their decision, the recipients are less worthy?

JayCat_67 2 years, 6 months ago

Are those folks somehow obligated to receive their charity only from the Ballard Center?

KUBBMOM 2 years, 6 months ago

Deb Engstrom: Have you ever worked or volunteered at a non-profit on a daily basis? I've worked with Linda for a very long time who could immediately tell me which recipients needed what no matter what I donated. Couldn't get that from Ballard Center no matter when I called. I gave them up and worked only with Linda at Penn House and advocates at Willow and at Community Shelter and at Churches. Ballard people gave me the run around or never returned calls. It's always about the recipients and the staff should be on top of having knowledge of those immediate needs. Ballard appeared to be very unorganized and out of touch with their recipients.

GessoGesso 2 years, 6 months ago

Do you know if the Board collects a paycheck? Do you know how many people are on staff at all of their locations? Do you know how many locations that Budget covers? Do you know how many programs they operate? Speculation is a great way to accomplish nothing.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

The 85% comes from an application that Ballard Center filed with the city for grant money. It is for Ballard Center itself but there is no info as to what percentage of BCS's budget operating expenses take up. Even if overall BCS operating expenses are much lower, why are you allowing one program to spend that big of a percentage on just operating expenses?

Most members on the boards of non-profits do not collect a paycheck. The CEO does though and so do all the Directors of this and that and all the other staff (intake specialists, teachers, etc.).

I'd like to know where the money came from to hire the additional teachers when BCS had a significant funding cut. I don't know what the base salary is for BCS employees but they have benefits that are competitive with the private sector (health insurance, paid holidays, sick leave, vacation, etc.). Why are you taking on more expense when your reason for laying off part-time workers is budget deficiencies?

It would be nice to see exactly how Ballard Community Services (the umbrella organization) does account for their funds but that info doesn't seem to be readily available as their website is down.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Gesso, you apparently know something we don't, please, inform us on these topics.

GessoGesso 2 years, 6 months ago

"Apparently as much as 85% of Ballard's budget is given over to operating expenses." This statement is a broad assumed fact with no detail - and thus means very little until you know much more. I am not defending BCS or there expenses by any means, but to state that figure and leave it at that, implies much (speculation) but actually says little regaarding accountable details. If there is corruption, it is best meet with proof rather than allegations. Again, I am not defending BCS, but until I see all the numbers and expenses I am not going to accuse or insinuate the BCS of wrong doing. This seems to be a common theme from both sides of the argument (in general), to insite behavior based on loose accusations while not providing proof. Its an emotional ploy used too often in arguments.

bearded_gnome 2 years, 6 months ago

^^from Ballard Center above:

... Linda, thank you for your class and dedication. I love you forever,

Kyle Roggenkamp- Director of Human Services - Ballard Community Services

---Mr. Roggenkamp, actions speak much louder than words. I knew Linda Lassen even before she got married at Pennhouse.

she is a stellar caring and giving woman. even if she had been an ordinary employee of forty years' dedication, she would have deserved proper notice, respect. if termination were truly necessary, termination should've happened with notice and done with honor.

you speak in your comments of so called social justice. from my generation, we tend to open the Bible and look at something called the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

too often the people propounding social justice fixes on our society are forgetting the wisdom of those who came before us.

Linda is so far beyond an ordinary employee Kyle Roggenkamp. I know you are quite new at Ballard Center. Humility might be worthyour study if you wish to prevent harm to Ballard Center and its mission.

Ballard Center and Pennhouse are in a community, with history, and people. people with relationships and experience. I sincerely hope that Linda was not summarily dismissed before her retirement in order to prevent her drawing a pension. my instinct is to hope otherwise, but the circumstances of her dismissal suggest this. And Linda has many ties. Linda has helped my wife and I on many occasions.

you are finding out that there is much loyalty to Linda in this community, and rightly so.

Mr. Roggenkamp, it would not be too late to revise your actions regarding Linda Lassen. Let her stay until her retirement, and give her a proper retirement that she is due!

rlmtyco 2 years, 6 months ago

If what I am finding out about Kyle is true he is a mere 29 which I commend him for taking an active role in community at a such a young age but being from Hays, KS you should have some value for dedication and commitment to community. There are exceptions made sometimes, 40 years, 11 years longer than you have been living. I dont think you can put that in persepective, sit back and think about it. To think you may have went through Wilson, Felton or any other schools I did and came out this way is disappointing, most of the same teachers I had were still there.

headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

All this has caused some digging around and it would appear that the umbrella program that we know as the Ballard Center has developed into a layered organization that has a much larger budget than what one might think. Perhaps it is time for them to produce an accurate statement of their budget and expenditures. As it is without facts it would seem that their budget is supporting a lot of administration for the size of the organization. One could easily draw the conclusion that Ballard is actually helping people through direct product donations but the money is being chewed up elsewhere instead of where it was intended.

Bob Forer 2 years, 6 months ago

I can understand the need to cut payroll in tough financial times. But it would seem to me that you start with the desk jockeys, and not those employees, such as Linda Lassen, who work in the trenches providing services for the needy.

If positions are to be eliminated, the people losing those positions and their livelihood have every right to be treated with dignity and respect.

Uncle_Jerry 2 years, 6 months ago

I have a feeling that there could have been some reductions in other areas to help keep Linda around.

For example: oh say....someone in a top position that used to ride around in a Benz while working for an organization that specializes in service to low income families. A great approach would be to downsize to a Honda. AND as an added bonus..... a little more approachability and credibility among those that can only dream of owning a Honda much less a Benz. You know, common sense cost cutting instead of ripping 40 years of service out of an important organization.

Smart cuts could have been made....but that would require a conscience and a brain.

I'd be interested in an audit. Maybe there are some consistencies in poor business practices of the spending kind. Or perhaps some privileges afforded to some and not others. Who knows what an audit would produce. Not just any audit, a real good one. One that would leave no purchase unturned.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

It has been difficult to find that info, especially since the BCS website is down. I did find this. The info is 5 years old but according to this application, 69% of the Ballard Center's budget goes to salaries & benefits. That seems to be an awfully high percentage.

A later application has the percentage as 65.7%. Operating expenses are 86.5%

Apparently BCS was looking for a Human Services Program Director about 2 months prior to the April article about their funding being cut.

As of 11/12/12, they were looking to hire teachers. There was an ad on Craigslist but it has either expired or was pulled because it was filled.

I think headdoctor is right. The more digging, the more questions and the numbers just don't add up.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

I managed to find that info finally. Diane Engsminger listed as Director of Elizabeth Ballard Community Center makes $60,000/yr as of 2012 and oversees revenue (listed as how much the organization took in) of $1,268,992.00. She makes slightly above the median amount of non-profit directors.

I don't know if being the CEO of Ballard Community Services changed that salary or not since it is a change in title and also organization (Ballard Community Center is one of the programs under Ballard Community Services as is Penn House).

Obviously her salary then is not way out of the range for non-profits in the area so I'm having trouble understanding why the payroll percentages are so high.

Kyle Roggenkamp 2 years, 6 months ago

I welcome any of you with discomfort regarding this situation to walk into my office, 1035 Pennsylvania, and have an honest discussion about the recent changes at Penn House. I will be there Monday morning, continuing our mission of serving low-income residents of Douglas County. Kyle Roggenkamp- Director of Human Services- Ballard Community Services.

headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

Nice of you to offer but there is nothing to discuss. The damage is done.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

And what do you think that will solve? You treated a long time employee very poorly and you can't undo your action. You want an honest discussion? You couldn't even be honest with your employee and provide her more than 8 hours of notice of termination. There is no point in discussing things with an employer who treats their employees that way.

You don't even seem to clue in as to how much damage you have done to your organization. You haven't even acknowledged the fact that you treated someone who has been serving low-income residents of Douglas County for more years that you have been on this Earth very poorly. And people are rightly upset about it.

You don't even have the common decency to publicly apologize for the heartbreak you caused Linda Lassan by your inconsiderate and thoughtless actions.

Read the comments on this forum. You did the damage. Own it and take responsibility for it. At this point, the best action you can take in hopes of salvaging goodwill with the community is to resign.

Bob Forer 2 years, 6 months ago

Have an "honest discussion" with you????? . After the self-serving psycho-babble nonsense you spewed in your initial post.

You're joking, right?

Your second attempt at damage control was more pathetic than your first. Did you not read all of the comments on this board. Why don't you address them here, and now, rather than hide behind your desk. Apparently, you don't have a reasonable justification for the way you treated Linda, and you are too vain, cowardly and egotistical to simply say, "I am sorry, we screwed up. We are in the process of correcting our grave mistake and the injustice and hurt it has caused."

GessoGesso 2 years, 6 months ago

"Why don't you address them here, and now, rather than hide behind your desk." He is offering to discuss the matter in person where it deserve to be discussed. What more could someone like you ask for...go march in and tell him how to do his job, and when your done there I have some issues that could use your enlightened knowledge, that is if you can make the time. This has turned into another trolling exercise for the online elite.

Bob Forer 2 years, 6 months ago

There are at least twenty different people with the same complaint. Why not save everyone time by posting one public response, instead of having 20 separate face-to-face meetings?.

GessoGesso 2 years, 6 months ago

I agree, that BCS BOD should admit that they handled the situation in por taste, but I do not pretend to know all the circustances surrounding that decision either, and I am guessing none of you know. What appears one way from the outside may appear very different for the other side as I have learned over the years. Instead of making comment after comment posted here about why you disagree based only on this article and the information that was chosen to be given to you, go meet Kyle in person and maybe you will gain a better more insightful response than words on a screen can provide.

Deb Engstrom 2 years, 6 months ago

Thank you. I doubt that anyone will take you up on this, however, because they would rather express their righteous indignation on their keyboards in anonymity. Ballard Community Services (which includes Penn House) has and will continue to do a good job serving needy people in Lawrence. Unfortunately, there are some business decisions that have to be made in these difficult economic times to continue doing so.

Bob Forer 2 years, 6 months ago

"Business Decision/"?????

We are not talking about a for-profit corporation. This is a charitable organization that helps the needy. Although the decision was obviously precipitated by a decrease in funding, the method of implementation insulted, debased and and hurt a long time dedicated employee.

So are you suggesting that the layoff was handled appropriately? How would you like it if you or one of your fellow teachers was terminated with 8 hours notice?

Deb Engstrom 2 years, 6 months ago

There is no guarantee that any of us won't be terminated with 8 hours notice on any given day. I no longer work for the public schools where there are due process rights, and in my current position I could be told tomorrow that it is my last day. I didn't say I like it -- I simply said that it was a business/financial decision.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

An appropriate business decision would be to allow Linda Lassen to retire for her 40 years of service. This allows BCS to honor an employee for her dedication and also has the same impact on how much funding is going to staff payroll.

An equally appropriate business decision would be for the "management" to also take a pay cut so as to ensure that funding goes to the areas where it is needed.

Good business decisions look at all angles and that includes the PR side.

Additionally, why should people waste their time on an offer of discussion when it is obvious that lip service will just be paid and there is no sincerity to the offer?

JayCat_67 2 years, 6 months ago

The decision is not what it under fire. It's how the decision was carried out. Big difference.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Is the truth any less the truth whether a person making it is anonymous or not? Business decisions, why am I not surprised the business jargon would come out to hide behind. As people have said why not let her retire since it coming soon anyway? Suppose #Nike is really more important than treating people with dignity. Did she say something against a chamber project and now needs to be bumped out of her job?

Bob Forer 2 years, 6 months ago

The man is unwilling to humor us with a response to the issues raised on this board. Given the fact that he continues to dodge the issue here, why would a reasonable person think he will be more receptive in person.

Also, most folks are very busy and probably are limited in their ability to take time out and drop by his office. It is readily apparent that many folks share the same outrage. Wouldn't it be easier to address those issues publicly rather than individually behind closed doors. Kyle is running from the issue, and we all have enough good sense not to chase him.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Kyle has probably been reprimanded for breaking a cardinal rule of the leadership class in Lawrence, never give the impression that they read these posts. Perhaps you are familiar with a previous commissioner, hack, hack, who claimed never to read the comment sections. We know they do but Kyle was silly and young and said too much before it was probably vetted for release on a tweet or other professional ways of exchanging important information.

Cait McKnelly 2 years, 6 months ago

"... because they would rather express their righteous indignation on their keyboards in anonymity."
Wrong! They will express their "righteous indignation" at your donation box. And I have to say, your snarky comment isn't going to do much toward repairing what many people in this community see as a grave hurt to one of their own. Laying her off isn't the problem. It was the caviler fashion and insulting way in which it was done. According to your post, Ballard has gone to a "business model" in their operations. Obviously, this means that employees are treated like meat units and not like people and how DARE anyone get angry at that treatment.

Loretta James 2 years, 6 months ago

you dont want me there and I wont be there r other places I can sonate to\

Grounded 2 years, 6 months ago

headdocter, you may be on to something with the "digging around post".

I'll bet Kyle isn't the only one still connected to Ballard having difficulty sleeping tonight.

headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

I have to admit I wasn't the one doing most of the digging but what information that is out there causes more questions than answers especially considering the volume of unpaid volunteers and direct donations that are involved with Ballard.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Sounds like all the other business as usual projects in Lawrence as well.

Grounded 2 years, 6 months ago

I'm having difficulty believing Kyle acted without the explicit approval of the Ballard CEO and the Board of Directors. Perhaps a wholesale housing cleaning is in order?

headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

In the long run it doesn't matter who ordered it, approved it, or did it. Ballard Center is stuck with the outcome of the results. For all we know it could have been suggested by United Way or Just Food as part of the new program.

Tony Holladay 2 years, 6 months ago

So what are some other places to donate to? I plan on taking some stuff down to the HCHC food bank at the riverfront mall on Monday. I have some clothes and bedding to donate also. Some one told me about the social service place?

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

The clothing and bedding can be donated to the Social Service League on 9th & Rhode Island.

I didn't realize that HCHC ran a food bank. Thanks for offering that as an option!

Bob Forer 2 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the info. I will urge all of my friend to bring their donations to an organization other than Ballard.

costello 2 years, 6 months ago

There are needy people within walking distance of the Social Service League and the Riverfront Mall too.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Smitty, if you read the article about the United Way partnering with JustFood, Ballard Center & the Salvation Army, you'll find that the Penn House was not mentioned about being included in the plans. And given that Ballard Center axed 2 of the 4 employees at Penn House, it sounds like Penn House will not be around much longer.

There are many other charities in Douglas County who will welcome our donations and will do so without treating their employees as something to be used up and tossed away. Some of those charities even bring items to the people who need them.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Again, the point flies over your head. It does not matter if she did not know the exact date, you do not give 8 hours notice of termination unless there was conduct so horrible that there was no other choice. Ballard could have made this positive and honored her for her 40 years of service. They chose not to. Ballard must deal with the outcome of their poor decision.

Bob Forer 2 years, 6 months ago

If in fact this move was known "months" in advance as you suggest, Smitty, then Friday's action is even more egregious than it appears, as management had the opportunity to give Linda the courtesy of two weeks notice.

Deb Engstrom 2 years, 6 months ago

Ballard Center and Penn House are now one agency.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

They have been under the same umbrella as Ballard Community Services since 2005. It is not a new thing.

JayCat_67 2 years, 6 months ago

Lawrence has a bus service (whodathunkit?) that provides service to locations near many different agencies. Some agencies even provide bus passes. Even without the pass or the proper fare, you can still ride the bus. The driver will just document it as a "no-pay" and drive on, as long as it's not abused.

On another note, refusing to do business with an organization that operates in a manner you don't agree with has nothing to do with ego. It's exercising your freedom of choice. No one is asking you to stop donating to Ballard, so if you're comfortable with them, donate all you want.

KUBBMOM 2 years, 6 months ago

Depending on your donations one could consider the Willow Domestic Violence Center, churches involved in Family Promise and Soup Kitchens, Nursing Homes, New Community Shelter, the Boys and Girls Club, various day cares, Independence Inc., Senior Citizen group on Vermont near library - and sometimes just your neighbors. Plenty of clothing drop off containers (Hyvee comes to mind). Lots of needy and appreciative citizens in Lawrence that do not go to Ballard. Ask around and you'll be surprised at how many people are served that are much larger than at Ballard. Even some schools accept donations since they personally know individuals in need. Hope this helps - Ballard is not the only place in town.

grammaddy 2 years, 6 months ago

How long can Penn House survive without her? So sad.Linda, you are sorely missed already.

boot2010 2 years, 6 months ago

Calling for Kyle to resign is crazy. He is an employee of an organization and did what he was told. Don't blame him, blame the people who made this decision. Be mad, stop supporting Ballard...fine but don't call for the resignation of someone who was just doing what they were told. I have never met Kyle, but I have been in his position. Being told to do something from "management" that you hated to do but it was part of my job and I needed the paycheck.

I personally blame the new funding format of United Way. They made major cuts to Ballard and now they have to make really horrible decisions. I used to support UW but after the changes this was the first year I didn't donate. Looking at the numbers for the year it looks like many people made that same decision. Ballard does important work with our most vulnerable...our children. I am very conflicted because while I disagree with how this was handled, I don't think those kids should suffer because of really bad choices made by a few people.

LadyJ 2 years, 6 months ago

There are other agencies in town that help children and families. If I was Linda, I would go volunteer at one of them and let people know where I am so they can take their donations there.

Bob Forer 2 years, 6 months ago

Assuming you are right and that Kyle was simply acting according to orders from above, he still had control over the method employed in effectuating the layoff, and in that regard, he failed miserably. He had a responsibility to preserve the reputation of the organization and its mission, and sadly, the method he choose irreparably damaged the Ballard Center "brand name."

And BTW, many people who consider themselves "principled" would resign rather than carry out unconscionable orders.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Kyle is the Director of Human Resources according to his signature above. He was not some low level lackey forced to do an unpleasant task.

LadyJ 2 years, 6 months ago

We have all met Kyle's type before. Yeah, he'll talk to us, or rather down to us. He'll be smug and sanctimonious. Nothing you say will really be taken seriously because it really doesn't matter. And you know that monthly donation they take out of my paycheck, I'll be opting out. Is St. John's rummage house still operating?

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

The Social Service League at 905 Rhode Island is a good place to take donations.

kansas_o_kansas 2 years, 6 months ago

When Kyle was given this order he had a choice, and he chose to obey, and to stay with the organization. Next time they need to make a cut it could very well be him - then how is he going to feel? The Ballard center has no heart but he does, and a soul, and he is responsible for them.

Kent Fisher 2 years, 6 months ago

Linda, saying you will be missed is an understatement. Client benefits will surely suffer without your leadership. Our family enjoys adopting-a-family through Penn House each year, and we will miss working with you.

Best Wishes, Kent and Stephanie Fisher

GessoGesso 2 years, 6 months ago

I don't have "anything" more than anyone else. I am just trying to remain open minded since it stricks me as strange that the BCS would handle things the way they did. Why is everyone so confident that they KNOW all the circustances in this particular incident since the story only covers one side of the story. Again, I am not defending BCS, but that is the point, they were not given an opportunity or explaination according to the article. Thats all.

May Soo 2 years, 6 months ago

Maybe from someone who knew Linda. Just a guess.

Deb Engstrom 2 years, 6 months ago

I must say I agree with Smitty. It's too bad that Linda was laid off, but it's too bad when anyone in any job is laid off. Ballard Center/Penn House will continue to serve the poor in Lawrence and a few people withholding their donations won't stop them from fulfilling their mission, which is certainly bigger than one person. No-one is indispensable and sometimes reorganization is a necessity. Let's move on.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Actually it will be more difficult for them to fulfill their mission as they fired one of the people who was very familiar with all the different forms of assistance and how to navigate the different systems. This is valuable info to have for a non-profit.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps someone can donate #Nike shoes to the case.

KUBBMOM 2 years, 6 months ago

Thank you Journal-World for bringing this to the public's attention because Ballard certainly wouldn't have! She's the one more deserving of a front page send-off with dignity and respect for 40 years of helping the needy - she certainly didn't get to retire with many benefits from her dedication to a non-profit. She obviously didn't focus on her paycheck because even when they cut her hours to part-time she continued to give full-time. She went above and beyond what was required. So sad that Ballard just lost sight of their humanity when having to let a valued employee go.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 6 months ago

I wonder if Jeremy Farmers thoughts earlier in the week were a precurser for this announcement and posturing for Just Food's place in the food chain. Seems like the phrase "There is no honor among thieves" ... well....

Lenette Hamm 2 years, 6 months ago

This is too sad ~ many many years ago, if not for Linda's compassion and knowledge, my family wouldn't have made it through a couple of very tough spots. She was a lifesaver, and I've never forgotten all she did for us. I hope that Linda will find another home with a different agency in town. One that won't cut staff off at the knees without any kind of warning.

PikesPeakJhawk 2 years, 6 months ago

My deepest sympathy goes to Ms. Lassen....good luck to you & thank you for your service....may I add that if you're disgruntled w/donating to charities, please consider Social Service League Thrift Store. You never know if, and when, you'll be on receiving end....

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Exactly. There are many good organizations out there that can use donations.

Not one person here has suggested that they are stopping all charitable donations period. They are stopping donations to an organization that cannot even extend a simply courtesy to a long-time employee.

hedshrinker 2 years, 6 months ago

surely you can't be as callous or stupid as this sounds?! How offensive to suggest comparing a person w 40 yrs of dedication and skill to a 2 month stint in fast food for a 17 yr old (and yes, I know that fast food jobs are demanding).

JayCat_67 2 years, 6 months ago

Actually, sounds like a new alter-ego for one of the oft "disappearded" trolls populating the message board.

Cait McKnelly 2 years, 6 months ago

I suggest you head to the 4chan boards, traveler. Your trolling will be much more appreciated there. However, I am warning you, if you do go there you need to hone your trolling skills a bit more. This example is quite amateurish and would get you ripped apart in no time.

hedshrinker 2 years, 6 months ago

I make charitable donations each year of money, time and goods. When I worked for agencies rather than myself and had the option of UW, I refused b/c I would rather distribute my charity myself rather than to some admin topheavy umbrella gp, so I give directly to SSL, WTCS , Gadugi, ELNA ,HCA, etc. I want to be in control of where my efforts go.

Kat Christian 2 years, 6 months ago

Crap ...there is just no loyalty left in society anymore. Douglas County gave me an ink pen and note pad for my years of volunteering for non-profit organization. I call my pen my "major award" (no certificate). By the way, this was organized by the United Way. However Linda's lay-off is all about that Almighty Dollar $$$$. Makes you wonder how professional, educated, efficient and mindful these people really are who make the decisions for this agency. Yes, this could have been handled more efficiently and with respect and courtesy to the years Linda put into the Penn House. This is the sort of behavior a large corporation would pull - they simply have no heart as its all about the investors and their egos. Is this what non-profits have come to? Really sad. I feel for you Linda. At least I hope they organize a going away dinner for you, give you a certificate and perhaps a monetary contribution for all the years you've given them.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

No, the CEO has another project she is working on. Someone else showed me this

While I think it is an excellent idea for assisting those with Alzheimer's, I don't see how one person can devote their full attention to both CEO positions. Both BCS and Allie's Village deserve a CEO that can devote their full attention to their causes.

ocoeemiller 2 years, 6 months ago

Social services run from the top by fancy-smanchy people will never be able to fully understand the needs of low income people. Linda was special in that she came from the very community she served. SHE UNDERSTOOD because she'd been there. The fancy people on the top won't ever truly understand the pains and problems of poverty. Linda was paid a pittance, not a "professional' wage. But she knew her terf better than any over trained professional ever could. She was better. She deserved much better treatment.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

But it does look so good on a resume, part of leadership training you know.

Alpenglow 2 years, 6 months ago

I think Kyle is somewhat of an innocent casualty of this debacle. Granted, his posting on this forum didn't help. My sense is that he is merely a pawn of the CEO and board as it pertains to this mess. Where are they????? Why haven't they stepped forward to provide clarity? Their silence speaks volumes. Kyle, run, run, run as fast as you can. You deserve better treatment from your CEO and the board.

Bob Forer 2 years, 6 months ago

"innocent casualty"

"My sense is that he is merely a pawn...."

It's impossible to pawn someone who refuses to be pawned.

Uncle_Jerry 2 years, 6 months ago

I think you're on to something Alpenglow. The MO is to hire young impressionable inexperienced individuals. Make sure you can intimidate them and keep em guessing. Isolate these individuals from people that can help them then blame them for your failures. You get all the power and control with an easy scapegoat.

KiferGhost 2 years, 6 months ago

Suppose the CEO's make sure to get receipts when they actually donate stuff for the tax write off as well. There is always something in it for the leadership lawrence types.

headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

The CEO's actions are all about upper level PR work. In this case stroking donors. I would like to know the salaries of the board and the executive branch of Ballard. I also would like to know just how much money is blown on their annual retreat. I don't expect these people to work full time for free but the nature of a non profit organization certainly makes these issues suspect. Especially when they are always complaining of not enough money. If they are really losing anywhere from 65 to 85% of their cash on administration one has to wonder how good of a steward they are being. With that little actually going to help people makes me wonder what good are they. Those percentages don't include direct material or in kind donations.

RaynRavyn 2 years, 6 months ago

Now it all makes since... They are paying her to stroke the donors.... Lol

justfoodks 2 years, 6 months ago

I just wanted to pop on and address a few things for clarity's sake. I will first say that when I moved back to Lawrence, one of the first people I sat down with was Linda at Penn House. Her passion is inspiring, and I truly wish, along with many others that she could have stayed around for as long as she wanted. My inclination is that she will be around, doing as she's always done...from when I met with her, it seemed as if she could do no less. She's one of many folks heroes, and one of mine too.

Regarding the article that was written last week about Just Food partnering with Ballard and Salvation Army...we will be partnering with the Penn House too. Since they are under Ballard's wing, it wasn't mentioned...but we will be helping where we can nonetheless. It wasn't an intentional omission on behalf of the author, I'm sure.

I want to be clear. At no point did anyone from Just Food ask for this to be done or mandate it. Ballard is its own agency. Just Food is simply stocking the pantries at those previously mentioned locations. We aren't taking control over it, or managing it...we're simply providing more resources so that more clients can be better served.

With our choice system that is currently at Just Food and Ballard as of last week, and that will be at Penn House & Salvation Army this week, I am excited to see the joy that the clients at these two locations feel at the other two. Having a choice and getting more food has been HUGE and very well received.

I hope that those that are receiving services from all of these agencies that people are upset with, for a multitude of reasons, can continue receiving the services that are provided. I had a client tell me just today she had been reading these forums and wondered if people understood that it doesn't affect someone like me if people stop giving, but her ability to provide for her family. I assured her that as upset as people get, they will never stop being generous.

So many have commented on this article because you care. And regardless of whether or not people agree or disagree with the contents that people here have written, the fact that you took time to stand up for a hero is wonderfully admirable and says something. Thank you.

Sincerely, Jeremy Farmer Chief Executive Officer, Just Food

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

It is amazing. Ballard Community Services and JustFood seem to think that they are the only charities in town that provide services to others. There are many other organizations that offer just as many services and assistance in Douglas County. People are directing their time, money and other goods to those groups because of recent changes/or actions that BCS, Penn House and JustFood have engaged in. No one has once suggested stopping all donations for anything so please don't try to imply that people won't still receive services.

It is also amazing that neither group seems to truly listen to what people have expressed on here. People don't need to come down to your place or Kyle's office to have a discussion with either of you. They will just receive the same lip service that we see on here and frankly, many people have better things to do because they are also providing for their families as well just as your clients are trying to do.

No one has said anything about the choice system so I am baffled why you bring it up other than simply a distraction from the ire people have expressed to how poorly Linda Lassen was treated by an organization who she dedicated over 1/2 of her life to. She was simply tossed aside like yesterday's garbage as if those years of service meant nothing. Ballard screwed up and Ballard is the one that needs to own up to it.

I don't even think you realized that your anecdote about your client does not put her in a good light. It makes her sound like she believes that donors are too stupid and emotional to consider the consequences of their decisions to donate elsewhere - that her family will be deprived of necessary items as a result of people's disgust with Ballard Community Services' action. Your anecdote attempts to place an onus on folks who choose to not to support an organization that has treated a long-time employee shabbily. People react negatively to that.

I am sure that is not what you intended but there seems to be very little thought in how you choose to communicate. If you are going to be a CEO of anything, it is imperative that you communicate clearly and with much thought to not only what you are saying but how you are saying it.

This is not the time to promo JustFood and the fact that you are attempting to do so on the back of something that has greatly upset many donors shows how clueless you and Kyle and the other groups involved really are.

Do you and your organizations understand the meaning of appropriateness? How about timing and sensitivity? It sure doesn't seem like you truly do as both you and Kyle want to step in every cow patty that is in the field. And who knows what next pothole you folks will steer toward? I'm sure we'll read about it in the paper again.

I know that my post will fall on deaf ears as demonstrated by the unsolicited PM you sent me a few days ago. You simply upset people more with your obliviousness.

justfoodks 2 years, 6 months ago


I simply brought up the choice system because that is how we are partnering with these organizations. Just Food was mentioned as perhaps the reason why these cuts happened, and I simply wanted to reiterate that it wasn't the case.

If you want to meet with the client that you just made fun of for being ignorant, I would be happy to arrange such a meeting. Unfortunately, she will read your comment and have to make a determination on her words for yourself. People react negatively to that.

I have been wanting to respond since this article went out and have carefully thought through what I was going to say. Apparently, I'm completely incompetent.

My reason for posting was simply to explain the partnership and what we are doing to help with Ballard, Penn House & Salvation Army. I don't find that inappropriate or insensitive. I was simply trying to offer an explanation.

Your posts don't fall on deaf ears. I would anticipate you have some really great ideas and I would benefit from sitting down with you and hearing more of them. Unfortunately, you won't give me that opportunity because all you can speak of is how ignorant, incompetent, insensitive and clueless I am.

The door remains open if you would desire to sit down. I sincerely don't think I'm as much of an idiot as you make me out to be, but I would ask you to reserve that judgment after you meet me, and see what great things Just Food does for the more than 10,000 clients it serves each month. Whether you do is your call.

Sincerely, Jeremy

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

I didn't make fun of the client. I pointed out how your anecdote about her does not put her in a flattering light and makes her appear ungrateful (which I doubt that she is). It is too bad that you are not able to understand the impact of your choice of your anecdote or how you presented it.

It is obvious that you are clueless. You would not have responded in such a fashion if you had any inkling on how this makes you appear. You are the CEO of a non-profit. You are going to be criticized and some of those comments may be, as you put it in your PM, hurtful. Put on your big boy pants and deal with it. It comes with the territory and if you can't cope with it, I'd suggest a different career direction for you.

This is about Ballard center and their handling of the termination of an employee. It is not about JustFood or the partnership with United Way or any other agency. There is no reason for an explanation from you about the JustFood program.

There is no reason for me to come down and have a discussion with you or with Kyle. I have no obligation to do so and it is arrogant of you to think that I should come to you. Why do you think people should take the time out of their busy day to come talk with you? Do you even get how that sounds? And does it even occur to you that not everyone has the ability to do so?

You don't have to listen to me if you don't like the method and manner of the delivery. But you should pay attention to the message being sent by all the people who have posted on here. Failure to do so means you do a great disservice to your organization.

PEACELOVEANDLAWRENCE 2 years, 6 months ago


Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

It is a good idea. There should be some recognition of the work she has done.

You can communicate it better by not screaming it at us. Please make sure your caps lock is not on when you post.

What type of dinner do you suggest? A Potluck? Something that money can be donated to so it can be catered?

Perhaps some of the local restaurants would be interested in offering some meals/dishes/food for this?

PEACELOVEANDLAWRENCE 2 years, 6 months ago

I apologize for the CAPS, I just wanted it to stick out so people would see it. I think a potluck would be good and if we could get any of the restaurants to donate items that would work as well. I think the first step should be contacting 4H for available dates as well as getting a date that would work for her. I think the two options would be better then asking for money because that just complicates things sometimes if too many people are involved. I did find a facebook for her but I may try to contact her by phone if I can find a number.

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps people can send cards like smarmy_schoolmarm suggested and they could be collected and presented to her at a dinner?

Bob Forer 2 years, 6 months ago

Understand your motivation for putting your message in caps. However, at least for me, I find all caps a lot more difficult to read, and am apt to pass over a message that is in all caps. If you are wanting to call attention, perhaps a title in all caps might help, but it is probably better to leave the body of the message in usual format.

btsflk 2 years, 6 months ago

I, and others, would like to know why Harvesters dumped Just Food.

bearded_gnome 2 years, 6 months ago

just wow.
  first, Kyle Roggenkamp and the BCS board: any organization's most important assets are not its accounts, reserves, and income;   its most important assets are its people, the people who know, the people who do, the people who are the organization's work. the people who touch, the people who contact, the people who remember, call, who pickup, and who clean up.
  second. business decision? it is a bad business decision to treat a long time employee this way. why? because it demoralizes your other employees. it trashes your image. you lose all that knowledge and institutional experience, in this case Linda, could pass on to aid your work. it dumps many of your contacts. oh you may think that UW saves you the need for messy contacts, but it doesn't. employee loyalty is good business, at least in this community.

Finally. have a meeting and discuss this with you? riiiiight. what's to discuss. you and your board are in the wrong and need to make things right, not just for Linda Lassen but for this community. now that's not hard to understand. and here, if you do, you won't lose so much support, look how that will actually help your bottom line because you actually would be doing the right thing after all.
  now, I've explained it for you.
  *I will keep posting this, and I hope others will join me in calling for the reinstatement of Linda Lassen and for her proper treatment up to her scheduled retirement.
  and don't go trying to hide behind that malarky about social justice again. see, no meeting is necessary.

Paul Youk 2 years, 6 months ago

Linda is an incredibly warm, wonderful human being who genuinely cared about the people she dedicated herself to at Penn House. She is great with people and loved by a community in which she has helped thousands get through tough moments in their lives. In many ways, Penn House was central to her life. She deserved more respect, recognition and better treatment than to be summarily dismissed in this fashion. Larry too deserved at least more notice, especially considering they are being fired without cause and for budgetary reasons (i.e. budgetary mismanagement by a dis-functional organization with a heavy concentration of salaries at the top). Or perhaps the institutional incompetence is so high that this decision was made very quickly and without the foresight to allow proper treatment and notice...that is possible too. Either way it is unacceptable.

40 years of dedication, and a 4 hour notice. That is the only thing you need to know regarding how morally bankrupt the leadership of Ballard Community Services is. Kyle will likely be solely hung out to dry for this, which is unfortunate. I could be wrong and be shocked however, if the CEO of the organization could, just once, take responsibility for bad decisions made by the organization (sorry about being the fall guy Kyle).

Full disclosure: I worked for Ballard from Nov 2009 until I, like many others before me, was fired in July 2011. I was fortunate to be Linda and Larry's supervisor for a little over a year of that time. I feel badly for both of them, but incredibly sorry for Linda, who should have had her decades of service lauded, not marred, when her career at Penn House ended.

Uncle_Jerry 2 years, 6 months ago

"(i.e. budgetary mismanagement by a dis-functional organization with a heavy concentration of salaries at the top)"-paulyouk

This is accurate and a very good place to start inquiries.

bearded_gnome 2 years, 6 months ago

if Ballard [including Pennhouse] is so cash strapped that it has to so suddenly cannibalize such an important staff position as Linda Lassen's, maybe it isn't time to be expanding its childcare, and building the new fancy Alzheimer's care center.

headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

Allie’s Village is being promoted as a privately owned operation but in light of who owns it one can't help but wonder if there is a conflict of interest now or will be shortly. I know nothing about Dianne Ensminger's history or finances but that operation is not being built with chump change. I am not saying there is any wrong doing here. It just looks bad under the circumstances and one wonders if at the very least the CEO of Ballard may have used their position to make this happen.

bearded_gnome 2 years, 6 months ago

I am struck by Smitty's spinning for Ballard.

what is that about?

did Linda offend Smitty some time in the past?

bearded_man 2 years, 6 months ago

I identify with Linda, because I know I might lose my job tomorrow. I identify with the other person this article mentions, because no one would write an article about me if it happened. You may have noticed this, but it is worth pointing out: There were two people laid off at Penn House on Friday.

I understand that Linda put in many years of service, and from what I have read here, they were fruitful ones. I hope to be as successful as her. With all due respect, though, perhaps this article might have done well to focus on the other person, the one who did not have the opportunity to spend a career knowing and investing in people. It seems to me they were the one shorted the most.

Reading the comments posted here, I think many of you agree with me. We want to be identified with Linda, but we are afraid that we might actually be the other person. This is why, when someone as praiseworthy as Linda is treated as unceremoniously as this, we are angry.

And we are right to be angry.

But angry at whom? Penn House? Ballard Center? They botched the layoffs; surely they are to blame. But our anger isn't actually caused by a layoff. If it were, we would be clamoring for the reinstatement of both employees. Instead, we want the person we identify with to be recognized for their service.

We want Linda to be treated right because we want to be treated right. We want Linda, and not the other person, to be treated right because we want to know that we were worth the effort, even if others weren't. We are angry because we know all too well what it feels like to see a good deed go to waste. We are worried that our best efforts might be all for nothing.

Our anger, it would appear, is rooted in fear, and aimed at the wrong target.

So, the facts. Two more people are without a job now. Penn House is to blame for the manner in which this happened, and we are responsible for the way that we respond. We want to be valued members of a thriving community. This can only happen through investment. Invest where and how you will, but invest in the community you value. You, in turn, will be valued; not many act on their fear.

As for the rest? Perhaps they may be lucky enough to know someone like Linda.

Loretta James 2 years, 6 months ago

Peaceloveand lawrence I think its a great idea you could call me 785-393-5084 would love to help.

Loretta James 2 years, 6 months ago

My name is Loretta James I am a former Board Member, and volunteer at Penn House for 17 years and a friend of Linda's since we were 8.

Smitty its people like you that give places a bad name yes we had problems with people taking things from the backroom and they were dealt with that is always going to be a problem you just deal with it when it happens. Dont need you on here bringing it up every other post.

As for Ballard when Penn House voted to merge with Ballard the only thing that was suppose to change was that ballard would receive all monies and pay all the bills and the audit every year. About 2 months later they brought in another guy and made linda director of programming and trhe other guy director of everything else. That was never suppose to happen. But I learned real quick that you cant believe ballard. at that point i quit volunteering.

I feel sorry for penn house clients who sometimes needed just someone to talk to and linda provided that. Can you imagine sitting down talking to Kyle or any other of the guys they have there.

I suppose before long penn house witll be gone and maybe a daycare there.

I hope they can sleep at night.

formerfarmer 2 years, 6 months ago

Not only does smitty know everything wrong with the LPD, Now smitty has all the insight into the workings of the local charity organizations.


headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

Nice. So what can be gleaned from all this that has been brought to light is that what many donors are suspecting is true. Ballard has fell into the usual pit of non-profit organizations. At the very least became a miniature version of United Way that is really only existing to service the paychecks and wishes of the executive branch of the organization.

linda_lassen 2 years, 6 months ago

First off, I would like to thank everyone for all the support you gave me. Yes I care very much about Penn House. I know about all the help we give people. I was one of those families when I started at Penn House. I also think you were all too hard on Kyle. I have sat down and talked with him many times since he came on board . I feel he has a big heart and wants the same things I do and that he only wants to help others. Yes It was hard when he told me we were being let go. Please don't blame him as he was only doing his job. I was very hurt and hoping to be at Penn House longer helping families with needs. Just talking to them made me happy and them as well. So many of the comments above are about donations. All of you please think about donating your clothes and food to Penn House . we have families that come to Penn House that have no money to buy clothes. We are the only free clothes pantry in town. I am sad that I wont be working and talking with you as often. Please keep CARING and SHARING with others.

Linda Lassen

headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

Thank you for all your years of service to the Penn House and community.

logicisking 2 years, 6 months ago

sorry to hear the news linda, i hope they have learned a few lessons from this and i am sure that there is something worthy of your time & energy & dedication.

matahari 2 years, 6 months ago

Linda, you did so very much for me over the years, thank you~Susie Uhrich

Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

I've never met you, Linda, but the graciousness that you display in your post is an ample demonstration of the reason why people care so much about you.

I hope you find something new that brings you the joy and satisfaction you experienced helping others at Penn House.

motomom 2 years, 6 months ago

you are a wonderful human being, linda lassen. thank you for your welcoming smile and big heart. because of your response, i will continue to bring clothing to penn house. i am sending you a big cyber HUG! :O)

2 years, 6 months ago

Wow what a mess. Many thanks to Linda for all that she has done in our neighborhood for so long, it is a big loss for us! I fear that Penn House is on the ropes and is being down-sized out of existence, purposely. Reading how much of Ballard Center's budget goes to administrative costs is downright frightening. It has been intriguing reading all of these tidbits about social services in our little city. This firing touched a serious nerve in our community and it looks to me as though there needs to be a larger discussion on these issues that have been raised. If I am reading things right, there are now 2 employees at Penn House, and one of them is a Director of HR? That doesn't make sense to me, I hope I am misunderstanding.

Leslie Soden

GessoGesso 2 years, 6 months ago

There is only one full time paid employee at the Penn House, who indeed is the Director of Human Services not Human Resources btw. There is only one part time paid employee at the Ballard Center who is the Human Services personel that in combination serve over 7,000 people a year in Douglas County.

2 years, 6 months ago

And thank you to LJWorld, I know that some posters think LJW is trying to stir up trouble, but frankly it looks to me like there are issues that need to come to light.

roadwarrior 2 years, 6 months ago

It seems to me, knowing very little about these organizations that Linda Lassen is the face of this organization. When people think about the organization as a place to support they do so as a result of thier interactions with Linda due to her lifetime of service. When Ford or Progressive advertise, they build a recognizable had one already built in, working for much less than say "flo" is making from her apperances. If this has morphed into a business structure model I see a missed opportunity. Put her face on a billboard - celebrate her years of service - invite people to come and chat with her about donations !! Advertising deductions are some of the best business deductions to show. Just don't think you were being very creative here, but runners do tend to operate oxygen deprived.

Loretta James 2 years, 6 months ago

To Mr. Smitty.

If you think ballard taking over stopped someone from taking something from the backroom your dead wrong. There are other times when somethings were'nt put out some new items we put with christmas stuff to help at christmas time, we also would put some items back to help people due to fire or other emergencys. Also some sleeping bags for the homeless. Sounds like you ought to go volunteer but then again that wont help i noticed a list on the back donation door of things they dont take car seat for kids being one ????

GessoGesso 2 years, 6 months ago

What was the B.S. reason Linda lost her job over?

Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 6 months ago

Linda Lassen,

Don't forget. Today is Christmas in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Look at my blog today in the Journal-World:

Something good will happen today or this week!

Tony Holladay 2 years, 6 months ago

Since the old PH will soon be a daycare, maybe it's time to start a new organization based on the old PH values and standards.

cowboy 2 years, 6 months ago

I don't know anything about Ballard , Penn , or any of these entities BUT that post by Kyle under the Ballard name was the single most incompetent letter/post I've ever seen from a "HR" person. Fired immediately should be the response , how pathetic , " I'll love you forever" Whaaaaaattt !

carolgo64 2 years, 6 months ago

How can someone just go and get rid of someone after all they have done for as long as they have done it. All the giving of herself that Linda has given and this is the thanks that she gets. All I can say is I' sorry Linda that this has happened to such a wonderful, giving, loving, caring person and I believe god just may have a new door open for you. They say when one door closes another opens. I'm just sorry that you are having to go through this horrible ordeal. I will pray for you and all the many people out there that this will affect.

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