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Archive for Sunday, September 29, 2013

Marina boss floats their boats

September 29, 2013

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Only in Lawrence 2013
The Journal-World asked Lawrenceians to tell us about the unsung heroes in the community, resulting in the annual Only in Lawrence feature.
Clinton Lake Marina owner Megan Hiebert is passionate about various other things beyond life on the water. Once a year Hiebert hosts the "What Floats Your Boat" event, which benefits Van Gogh Inc. and also is active with the Lawrence Douglas County Humane Society.

Clinton Lake Marina owner Megan Hiebert is passionate about various other things beyond life on the water. Once a year Hiebert hosts the "What Floats Your Boat" event, which benefits Van Gogh Inc. and also is active with the Lawrence Douglas County Humane Society.

Megan Hiebert has lived in Lawrence for as long as she can remember.

The Lawrence High School and Kansas University graduate Clinton Marina owner has given her entire life to the town.

“I have spent 46 years here,” Hiebert said. “In one capacity or another. I have been raised by this community, so it’s a true pleasure to give back in any way I can.”

To pay it forward, she is an avid supporter and former board member of local nonprofit groups including Van Go Inc. Last month, she finished her term as president of the Lawrence Humane Society’s board of directors.

But don’t think that all of her contributions to these organizations are made behind closed doors at air-conditioned board meetings. Hiebert is not afraid to get her hands dirty to make a difference in her community.

When Van Go needed a fundraiser 10 years ago, Hiebert donated venue space at Clinton Marina for the artwork auction What Floats Your Boat. A decade later, the event has grown to be an annual outdoor extravaganza with live music, food and a guest list of 600.

Van Go development director Eliza Nichols said the event has grown to be essential for the organization, bringing in about 12 percent of its budget.

“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year and become sort of the ‘party of the summer’ in Lawrence,” Nichols said. “We are worried for the year it can’t be out there because part of the draw is having it on the lake.”

Nichols attributes Float Your Boat’s success not only to Hiebert’s donation of the venue space to Van Go each year, but also to the continuing sweat equity she puts into the event. Each year, Hiebert loads hundreds of tables and chairs for Float Your Boat into her 20-foot trailer and transports them to the marina.

“She has so much energy and is so generous and hospitable,” Nichols said. “Every year we seem to pull the event off, but only with Megan’s support.”

For years, Hiebert has been the “driving” force behind community organizations. In fact, Hiebert jokingly refers to herself as “the girl with the trailer who’s willing to use it.”

During her time with the Lawrence Humane Society, she drove her trailer to haul donated dog food to the Humane Society and to local food pantries for needy pet owners, used her business expertise to guide the organization, planned fundraisers, worked with the animals — and even took a few home.

Hiebert has learned volunteering isn’t always easy. During a 2009 cockfighting ring bust in Eudora, she helped the Humane Society and the Douglas County Sheriff’s office rescue the birds from their torturous environment, transporting them with her trailer.

“It was horrible. The chickens were trained to fight so we had to put cardboard between the cages to keep them from attacking each other,” Hiebert said. “And even still, the cardboard was bloody after we took the cages out.”

While the gruesome scene was emotionally disturbing, Hiebert said the horrifying experience only pushed her to do more.

“I have seen the gut-wrenching side and the inhumane treatment of animals,” Hiebert said. “But when you see the suffering and then you help, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

There’s no stopping Hiebert. After seeing the success of her efforts serving the Lawrence Humane Society and Van Go, Hiebert said she won’t slow down.

“When you see that you have made a difference, either by physical effort or financial support, that only means there is still more work to be done,” Hiebert says. “It is inspiring and humbling to see success of these organizations and it makes me want to do more.”

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