United Way expands footprint with new Eudora satellite office

United Way of Douglas County has opened a satellite center to make the organization’s programs more accessible to Eudora residents, and an AmeriCorps volunteer with deep Eudora connections is running it.

The resource center opened on April 1 at 726 Main St. in Eudora, and it is currently staffed by Mary Kirkendoll, an AmeriCorps volunteer assigned to the Douglas County United Way.

Daniel B. Smith, director of marketing and outreach for the county United Way, said the center would not only make United Way-supported programs more accessible to Eudora residents, but would also send the message that the United Way serves the whole county, not just Lawrence.

“It’s been our longtime goal to increase our outreach to show we are the United Way of Douglas County,” he said.

And he said that Kirkendoll was the ideal person to spread that message in Eudora.

“She knows just about everybody in the community,” he said. “She’s a superhero in Eudora.”

Kirkendoll, who owns a yoga studio in Eudora and is a past coordinator of the Eudora Chamber of Commerce, has been an AmeriCorps volunteer with the United Way since October. Even before the Eudora United Way resource office opened, she said, she had been actively working on projects in Eudora during her time as a volunteer. Among other things, she’s helped prepare the Eudora Community Garden for residents to use this spring.

At the satellite office, Kirkendoll said she serves as a “resource navigator.” That means she lines people up with the limited services that are available in Eudora — a clothes closet, food pantry, public transportation and the Feeding Eudora summer lunch program that she now manages. But she also introduces people to the larger variety of services available in Lawrence and arranges appointments for those.

Kirkendoll said her goal was to build relationships so all service providers could work together to help people in need. Another goal is to have service programs establish regular visitation days in Eudora, in a similar manner to what the Senior Resource Center for Douglas County already does, she said.

“When I talk to people in Eudora, I find they have no idea what’s out there,” she said. “I’m hoping to increase the comfort level of people trying to access those services and programs and bringing more services to Eudora.”

Kirkendoll said she welcomes walk-in visitors to the office. The office is currently operating out of the downtown event venue The Lodge on Main, and its hours are 10 a.m to noon on Mondays, 1 to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 9 to 11 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Although she and the United Way were grateful The Lodge on Main was letting the center use its space, Kirkendoll said the ultimate goal was to find a permanent home.

The United Way is also hoping to make Kirkendoll’s position permanent when her AmeriCorps service year expires at the end of August. And now that there’s a blueprint in place, the United Way wants to open a similar resource office in Baldwin City through the use of an AmeriCorps volunteer.

“We really need to find a Mary in Baldwin,” Smith said.

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