News & Info
Foundation announces Zimmer as new CFO
November 4, 2022

The Sunflower Foundation is pleased to announce the hiring of veteran financial controller Shanna Zimmer as its new chief financial officer.

 

Zimmer, of Topeka, joins Sunflower Foundation after spending the previous six years as a controller in both the health care and nonprofit sectors. She brings considerable experience in accounting processes; financial planning, reporting and analysis; and budget development and management to her new role with the foundation, a health philanthropic organization with a mission to serve as a catalyst for improving the health of all Kansans.

 

“Shanna’s expertise in nonprofits and health care systems makes her a tremendous addition to the foundation,” said Billie Hall, president and CEO of Sunflower Foundation. “She is genuinely interested in continuing to grow and develop in her career, and we are excited to have her.”

 

Taking over the CFO role after the departure of longtime foundation CFO Cheryl Bean, who resigned in August to spend more time with her family, Zimmer will oversee the financial, investment, and business planning for the foundation and Sunflower Nonprofit Center. She also will manage the organization’s budget, ensure that the foundation is adhering to auditing and accounting policies, oversee human resources, and serve as an adviser to the CEO on financial decisions.

 

The opportunity to return to the nonprofit sector and work for an organization driven to help create healthier communities across Kansas was alluring for Zimmer.

 

“With a background in health care finance, I felt drawn to the Sunflower Foundation’s mission,” Zimmer said. “I will be focused on reducing burdens during the grant application process while continuously seeking opportunities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization system-wide.”

 

As controller for Community HealthCare System, Inc., in Onaga, Kan., DCCCA, Inc., in Lawrence, Kan., and The University of Kansas Health System, St. Francis Campus, in Topeka, Zimmer contributed to the financial and operational success of each of those organizations. She started her career as an accountant for Slawson Companies, Inc., in Wichita, Kan.

 

Zimmer has a Master of Health Care Leadership from Friends University in Wichita and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Kansas State University. She is a member of both the Institute of Management Accountants and the Healthcare Financial Management Association.

 

 

“I look forward to being a part of the incredible work taking place at the Sunflower Foundation,” Zimmer said.

 

Originally from Tescott, Kan., Zimmer and her husband, Joe, have three children.

MacKenzie Scott donates $4 million to Sunflower Foundation
October 25, 2022

Sunflower Foundation is pleased to announce that it has received a one-time, unrestricted gift of $4 million from billionaire philanthropist and novelist MacKenzie Scott.

 

“We are grateful for and humbled by Ms. Scott’s gift,” said Billie Hall, Sunflower Foundation president and CEO. “That she chose our foundation to be part of her philanthropic vision is a testament to the determined work of Sunflower’s many partners across Kansas – nonprofit organizations and public entities that remain steadfast in their efforts to improve the health of their communities and enhance the quality of life for all who call Kansas home.”

 

The foundation’s partnerships with rural communities and support of their ongoing efforts to strengthen health care systems, address food and nutrition security, create more opportunities for people to get outdoors and stay active, and empower Kansas’ nonprofit sector has been central to the foundation’s work over the past 10 years. Areas of focus include:

 

  • Supporting efforts to integrate behavioral health care into primary health care delivery systems to improve access to mental health services.
  • Partnering with rural communities and low-income urban neighborhoods on issues related to access to food, local grocery stores and healthy eating options.
  • Creating opportunities for Kansans to be physically active through programs that develop safe places to bike, walk and enjoy nature.
  • Developing evolving, responsive programs to improve the core capacity, organizational success, and collective impact of Kansas’ nonprofits.

 

Scott’s donation will help the foundation expand on work in these areas and others.

 

“This timely gift will accelerate and enhance our ability to advance equity in health care and find innovative strategies and solutions for improving and sustaining rural health systems,” Hall said.

 

Scott has pledged to give away at least half of her wealth in charity in her lifetime. She seeks to identify and award funds to high-impact, equity-oriented nonprofits working to support the needs of people and groups that historically have been underrepresented.

 

While its work remains statewide and in a diversity of communities, the foundation has made a concerted effort to better support its rural partners. Rural communities, in general, tend to receive much less philanthropic support than their proportion of the population. The foundation’s rural-based grant-making strategy has engaged thousands of Kansans who are working to make the state a healthier place, with nearly 40% of its grants and over 40% of its grant dollars distributed in the past 10 years having supported entities in rural communities.

 

And with the recent completion of its nonprofit center, the foundation has started a new chapter in its efforts to support and catalyze collaboration and assist organizations, both large and small, as they work to solve the state’s most vexing health challenges.

 

“We are proud of the work we have done since our inception more than 20 years ago, and we remain focused on how we can better serve nonprofits and the thousands of Kansans working hard each day to make their communities healthier, more inclusive, more vibrant, and more prosperous for all,” Hall said. “This generous gift is a catalyst for the work that lies ahead.”   

Hays’ Werth appointed to Sunflower board; Garden City’s Sosa, Goodland’s Schears re-appointed
May 24, 2022

TOPEKA, Kan. – Sunflower Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of Tim Werth of Hays to the foundation’s Board of Trustees, as well as the re-appointments of trustees Liz Sosa of Garden City and Ben Schears of Goodland to the nine-member board.

 

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt made the appointments on April 27.

 

Schmidt appointed Werth, founding and managing partner of Werth Wealth Management, LLC, in Hays, to a three-year term. Sosa, CEO of Epitome Enterprises in Garden City, will be serving her third and final term. Sosa is set to become chairwoman of the board, taking over for departing chairwoman Andrea Krauss, who is finishing up her third term. Schears, president of Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland, will be serving his second three-year term.

 

Trustees can serve up to three, three-year terms. All three appointees will start their terms at the board’s next meeting on June 9.

 

With 30 years of experience in wealth management, Werth specializes in providing comprehensive wealth management services for families, businesses, foundations, endowments and corporate retirement plans. Forbes named him to its Best-in-State Wealth Advisor list in 2019 and 2020.

 

“I am pleased to represent Kansas through my appointment to the Sunflower Foundation Board of Trustees,” Werth said. “The foundation’s philanthropy serves as a catalyst for improving the health and lives of Kansans. I am proud of my Kansas roots and am excited to work with an accomplished and sincere group of individuals to help advance their mission.”

 

Werth’s appointment broadens the philanthropic expertise of the Sunflower Board, said Billie Hall, CEO of Sunflower Foundation.

 

“Tim is active in his community and cares deeply about his clients and staff,” Hall said. “His model of leadership is service and humility – values that align with the Sunflower Foundation.”

 

A native of Hays, Werth graduated from Thomas More Prep-Marian, then earned his Bachelor of Science in finance and a minor in accounting from Emporia State University. He becomes the 29th individual, representing diverse backgrounds and locations in Kansas, to be appointed to serve on the board since the foundation’s creation in 2000.

 

Sosa, who originally was appointed to the board by Schmidt in 2016, also is co-owner of The Corner on Main, a gift shop in downtown Garden City, and operations director for the Western Kansas Community Foundation in Garden City. She is vice-chairwoman of the Western Kansas Regional Board of Trustees for Centura Health. Sosa earned her Bachelor of General Studies in Business/Leadership from Fort Hays State University and an Associate’s degree from Garden City Community College.

 

Schears, who originally was appointed to the board by Schmidt in 2019, serves as president of the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference, president of the Sherman County Community Development Board, and is a member of the Kansas Association of Technical Colleges. He earned his Master of Arts in History and Bachelor of Science in History from Emporia State University. He also has an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from Cowley College.

 

This year’s trio of appointees, all hailing from western Kansas, have shown a commitment to learning, leadership and philanthropy, Hall said.

 

“Our trustees reflect the diversity of Kansas, and they bring unique perspectives from the communities in which they live, as well as from their life experiences,” Hall said.

 

The Kansas attorney general appoints eight of the positions on the board, with one appointed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas. The board is tasked with guiding the development of the foundation’s strategic direction and reviewing its priorities, timelines and outcomes.

Sunflower Foundation hires longtime newspaper journalist Brett Riggs as new director of communications
May 12, 2022

Sunflower Foundation is pleased to announce the hiring of longtime Kansas newspaper journalist Brett Riggs as its new director of communications. He started in his new role on April 6.

 

Riggs joins the foundation after having spent most of his 29-year career in the newspaper industry, including 24 years covering southwest Kansas news and sports at The Garden City Telegram, where he was managing editor for 16 years. He brings extensive multimedia, social media, media relations, communications, marketing and leadership experience to Sunflower Foundation, a statewide health philanthropic organization with a mission to serve as a catalyst for improving the health of all Kansans.

 

“We are excited to welcome Brett to the Sunflower Foundation. His background and passion for storytelling aligns with our longtime advocacy work in elevating the voices of Kansans who are making a difference in their communities,” said Billie Hall, president and CEO of Sunflower Foundation. “Brett not only brings a strong background in media and communications, but he also brings innovation, a commitment to learning and humility. We are proud to welcome him to the Sunflower team.”

 

In his new role, Riggs will develop and implement the communications and marketing strategy for the foundation, including the Sunflower Nonprofit Center. He will lead the creation, coordination and implementation of communication strategies that inform and educate key audiences about the foundation’s mission, initiatives, programs and activities.

 

“I am excited to be part of an organization that is committed to investing in programs, projects and initiatives aimed at improving the health of Kansans and the communities in which they live,” Riggs said. “Sunflower Foundation partners with many organizations and people across the state who are doing great things in their communities, and I can’t wait to share their stories.”

 

Riggs grew up in Garden City, Kan., and has lived there most of his life. After a stint as a news reporter for the Blue Springs Examiner in Blue Springs, Mo., he returned to his hometown, where he started with The Garden City Telegram as a sports writer, then later became sports editor. He went on to serve as the newspaper’s assistant managing editor, before being named managing editor in 2003. In that role, he oversaw the daily news operations for The Telegram for 16 years.

 

After leaving the newspaper, he served as a communications advisor for Centura Health, a Colorado-based health system serving Colorado and western Kansas. In that capacity, he managed media and public relations, internal communications and social media for three hospitals – St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City, Bob Wilson Memorial Hospital in Ulysses, Kan., and St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, Colo.

 

While at Centura Health, Riggs helped promote health awareness campaigns on such topics as COVID-19, suicide prevention, cancer screening, diabetes, flu vaccinations, childhood immunizations, food security and wellness.

 

Most recently, Riggs worked in the automotive industry as marketing director for Western Motor Co., in Garden City, where he handled marketing, advertising, social media and community relations for one of southwest Kansas’ most successful and recognized auto dealerships.

 

Riggs, who graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, was born in Oneonta, N.Y.

 

He and his wife, Dawn, are in the process of relocating to Topeka. The couple has two children: a son, Evan, 27, of Lawrence; and a daughter, Sage, 18, who will be a freshman at the University of Kansas in the fall.

 

Riggs can be reached at 785-232-3000 ext. 113, or by emailing briggs@sunflowerfoundation.org.

Sunflower Foundation hosting Powered by Trails event April 27
April 25, 2022

Groups, state agencies with interest in trail projects to attend

TOPEKA, Kan. – All trails lead to Topeka and the Sunflower Foundation Nonprofit Center, which next week is set to host a one-day learning opportunity for trail builders and enthusiasts, as well as groups, agencies and other stakeholders from around Kansas with an interest in the development and use of public trails.

 

Powered by Trails: Day of Learning @ the Powerhouse, will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, at the Powerhouse Education Center on the Sunflower campus, 5820 SW Sixth Ave., in Topeka. The Powerhouse, which specializes in holding events for nonprofit organizations, has been holding events since October 2021. This will be the first event hosted by Sunflower at the new center.

 

The event will include expert speakers, discussions, networking and the sharing of ideas related to trail projects and their benefits to the health, well-being and vitality of communities. It also serves as the culmination of a 14-week program in which trail-building groups from around the state learned advanced strategies for trail user assessment, economic impact analysis, and messaging and communications around the value of trails.

 

The Sunflower-led Trail Champion Cohort (TCC) program, which began in January and continued into the spring, provided participants with virtual and in-person learning opportunities, one-on-one coaching and networking with state agencies and nonprofit organizations. The TCC consisted of 16 groups from around the state representing such sectors as local government, business, health, community improvement, advocacy, and under-represented populations in their respective communities.

 

Since it began in 2005, the Sunflower Trails program has partnered with and invested in communities, nonprofits and schools to help build, expand, enhance or connect Kansas trails.

 

“Sunflower Trails has been a hallmark program for the past 17 years,” said Billie Hall, president and CEO of Sunflower Foundation. “Public trails can be a powerful strategy in providing safe, accessible venues for outdoor physical activity, as well as the ability to connect with nature and community – all elements that contribute to better health and well-being. It is very fitting that trail champions from across the state should join one of the first events at Powerhouse.”

 

The following groups participated in the TCC: Ad Astra Trail Collective, Independence; Columbus Trails Committee; Friends of Lawrence Area Trails; KCK Heritage Trail/Groundwork NRG, Kansas City, Kan.; Kansas

 

Alliance for Wetlands and Streams; Friends of the River/Friends of Land Institute, Salina; Liberal Area Coalition for Families; Lindsborg/Meadowlark Trail, McPherson County; Manhattan/Flint Hills Coalition; Osawatomie

 

Trails Task Force; RISE Cowley County; Topeka/Shawnee Co/Kanza Trails; Special Olympics Kansas; Thrive Allen County; Topside Trails, Goodland; and Wichita/Prairie Travelers.

 

The TCC, designed to expand participants’ knowledge and connections so they can better champion trails in their communities, included opportunities for participants to engage with state agencies and nonprofits that have potential to partner with trail groups.

 

“The primary goal of the TCC is to provide high-level training and information to benefit and grow trail-oriented projects,” said Elizabeth Burger, Sunflower senior program officer. “While building the trail is clearly the first step, there are opportunities to advance this work through assessment, analysis and messaging. Trails can provide many economic and quality of life benefits, and we want to position communities to generate and provide that data in ways that are relevant to decision-makers and residents.” 

 

Sunflower Foundation worked with Michele Archie and The Harbinger Consultancy, a group nationally known for its integrated approach to community and economic development, to develop the TCC curriculum. Topics included community benefits of trails and assessing their economic impact, how to survey trail users, telling your trail’s story through social media and other messaging, communicating the value of trails to external stakeholders, and how to effectively recruit volunteers.

 

Archie, co-chair of the National Geotourism Council, will be speaking virtually at the Powered by Trails event. Her presentation is titled “Using Trail Data to Change Bodies, Hearts and Minds.”

 

Other speakers and sessions include:

 

  • Amy Camp, founder of Cycle Forward, a consulting agency that supports trail communities across the United States and Canada, will virtually present “Cultivating a Trail Town State of Mind.”
     
  • Mike Goodwin, of the Kansas Trails Council and Get Outdoors Kansas, will speak about the “Trail in a Box,” a mobile toolbox with everything a group needs to create a nature trail.
     
  • Dustin Gale and Kayla Savage, of the Kansas Department of Commerce, will provide an overview of funding available to trail groups.
     
  • A resource roundtable to connect participants with various state agencies and nonprofits.
     
  • A session on increasing accessibility to trails to underserved populations.
     
  • Each TCC group will highlight ongoing trail work in their respective community.

 

The event is free and open to all TCC team members. Other participants and trail champions who were not part of the TCC have been invited to participate or speak at the event. Registration for the event is closed.

 

To date, the Sunflower Trails Program has partnered on more than 210 trail projects in almost 80 counties.

 

“During COVID, we have learned just how important access to the outdoors and trails could be for not only physical but mental health,” Burger said. “To this end, we strive to create a culture of trails that supports their use by everyone, regardless of age, ability, income or background.” 

 

For more information on the Sunflower Trails program and the Powered by Trails event, contact Burger at eburger@sunflowerfoundation.org or 785-232-3000, or visit www.sunflowerfoundation.org.

 

ABOUT SUNFLOWER FOUNDATION

 

Sunflower Foundation was established in 2000 as a statewide health philanthropy with a mission to serve as a catalyst for improving the health of all Kansans. The foundation believes that a thriving, sustainable nonprofit sector contributes to healthy communities, and we are committed to investing in mission-aligned nonprofits through grants, education, advocacy, collaborative learning and capacity building. To learn more, visit the Sunflower Foundation website.

MORE NEWS ›
Featured News
MacKenzie Scott donates $4 million to Sunflower Foundation
November 9, 2022

Sunflower Foundation is pleased to announce that it has received a one-time, unrestricted gift of $4 million from billionaire philanthropist and novelist MacKenzie Scott.

“We are grateful for and humbled by Ms. Scott’s gift,” said Billie Hall, Sunflower Foundation president and CEO. “That she chose our foundation to be part of her philanthropic vision is a testament to the determined work of Sunflower’s many partners across Kansas – nonprofit organizations and public entities that remain steadfast in their efforts to improve the health of their communities and enhance the quality of life for all who call Kansas home.”

The foundation’s partnerships with rural communities and support of their ongoing efforts to strengthen health care systems, address food and nutrition security, create more opportunities for people to get outdoors and stay active, and empower Kansas’ nonprofit sector has been central to the foundation’s work over the past 10 years. Areas of focus include:

  • Supporting efforts to integrate behavioral health care into primary health care delivery systems to improve access to mental health services.
  • Partnering with rural communities and low-income urban neighborhoods on issues related to access to food, local grocery stores and healthy eating options.
  • Creating opportunities for Kansans to be physically active through programs that develop safe places to bike, walk and enjoy nature.
  • Developing evolving, responsive programs to improve the core capacity, organizational success, and collective impact of Kansas’ nonprofits.

Scott’s donation will help the foundation expand on work in these areas and others.

“This timely gift will accelerate and enhance our ability to advance equity in health care and find innovative strategies and solutions for improving and sustaining rural health systems,” Hall said.

Scott has pledged to give away at least half of her wealth in charity in her lifetime. She seeks to identify and award funds to high-impact, equity-oriented nonprofits working to support the needs of people and groups that historically have been underrepresented.

While its work remains statewide and in a diversity of communities, the foundation has made a concerted effort to better support its rural partners. Rural communities, in general, tend to receive much less philanthropic support than their proportion of the population. The foundation’s rural-based grant-making strategy has engaged thousands of Kansans who are working to make the state a healthier place, with nearly 40% of its grants and over 40% of its grant dollars distributed in the past 10 years having supported entities in rural communities.

And with the recent completion of its nonprofit center, the foundation has started a new chapter in its efforts to support and catalyze collaboration and assist organizations, both large and small, as they work to solve the state’s most vexing health challenges.

“We are proud of the work we have done since our inception more than 20 years ago, and we remain focused on how we can better serve nonprofits and the thousands of Kansans working hard each day to make their communities healthier, more inclusive, more vibrant, and more prosperous for all,” Hall said. “This generous gift is a catalyst for the work that lies ahead.”   

Scheduled Meetings & Events
FULL CALENDAR ›