Wichita Advisory Board—one of the best!

“The Wichita City Command Advisory Board is phenomenal. It’s one of the best I’ve ever worked with,” said Major Jim Curl, Wichita, Kan., city commander. “Members have a huge sense of ownership and believe in the Army’s mission, not just its programs, to support their community.”

The commitment of the command’s 35 advisory board (AB) members, some with decades of experience and great influence in Wichita, plus the dozen young professionals they mentor, shines year-round.

“Their broad backgrounds bring a variety of perspectives, as well as best practices, negotiating and promotional skills. They have the contacts and abilities to knock on and have doors opened for them to garner support for the Army’s mission and initiatives,” Major Jim added.

Well organized into a variety of committees and sub-committees, the AB has a great succession plan to fill the chairman of the board position, which is a three-year term. Future board chairs first hold the positions of assistant development chair, then development chair.

Known for aerospace research and manufacturing, Wichita is home to businesses which are highly committed to the community. AB members have been crucial in channeling these companies’ generosity of resources and extensive volunteerism to support The Salvation Army’s efforts, reported Craig Davis, director of community engagement, who said there are more than 1,400 non-profits in Wichita competing for funding.

“Even in bad economic times, many of these corporations and their employees have continued to be just as generous and selfless to the Army,” said Major Jim. That generosity doesn’t stop at corporations; AB members also perform individual acts of philanthropy, such as Jeri Hinkle who had two swimming pools built at Camp Hiawatha.

Board members’ efforts shine brightest during the Christmas season. They not only ring bells at kettles, they’re key to recruitment and in collecting toys and the hundreds of corporate volunteers necessary to provide a merrier Christmas for those in need. Volunteers are deeply involved in the seasonal process, from compiling Angel Tree requests to wrapping and bagging gifts before meeting and distributing them to 4,000 families last year.

Wichita’s temperate weather benefits the young professionals’ annual Kettle Run fundraiser, which was launched to expose a younger demographic to the Army. The group also sponsors an annual party for the Army’s shelter residents, complete with a festive dinner, costumed characters and gifts for all.

The weather also favors motorcyclists. An annual toy ride of up to 3,000 motorcyclists brings in thousands of toys, and each year a huge aeronautics plant has its motorcycle-owning employees drive through its numerous buildings and warehouses to collect toys and funds from other employees.

A similar back-to-school ride at the plant raised $55,000 last year to purchase “Tools for School,” which are annually distributed directly to teachers; some weep with gratitude as they walk out with grocery carts full of supplies for their classrooms.