Everybody Counts is a grassroots effort that came about as a result of a report to the USD 383 Board of Education in Fall 2013 that 250 children in the school district selfreported being homeless (this year the number is reported to be close to 350). In response to this distressing news school administrators, religious leaders, social service leaders, and community leaders and volunteers came together to identify ways to address the issue.
Coupled with knowledge that approximately 25% of Manhattan residents live in poverty, the decision was made to 1) work toward providing free and much needed services to the most vulnerable in our community and 2) ensure that information about our community’s social services was more evident and readily available at some kind of community “event.”
The first Everybody Counts’ event was held in January 2014 in conjunction with the Manhattan Emergency Shelter’s homeless count. Since then, Everybody Counts has held five more community events. Direct services such as dental checks; mental health, vision, and hearing screenings; blood pressure checks; and diabetes screenings have been provided. A free community meal has been offered and Harvesters has been onsite to distribute food commodities. In addition, local social service agencies have set up tables and booths to share information about the services and resources they provide.
In 2016, Everybody Counts began operating under the auspices of the Riley County Council of Social Service agencies (RCCSSA). RCCSSA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, has been in existence since 1977. The purpose of RCCSSA is to provide an opportunity for networking among social service agencies, to identify needs within the scope of RCCSSA’s interests, and to encourage existing appropriate social service agencies to meet these needs. It made sense for RCCSSA to take responsibility for Everybody Counts to ensure its future and sustainability.
At the August 2016 event held at the Douglass Community Center/Douglass Center Annex, 9th & Yuma Streets, 50 people had dental checks; approximately 40 people had their vision checked by the Lion’s Club; 20 people had their hearing checked; approximately 150 people were served at the community meal; Harvesters distributed food commodities to more than 100 individuals; the Families In Transition (FIT) Closet gave away tubs and tubs of clothes to school-aged children; and nearly 50 community organizations and agencies were onsite to provide information about their services.
Planning is currently underway for the next Everybody Counts event, which will be held on Saturday, August 5 from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the Douglass Community Center/Douglass Center Annex. This summer’s event will include many, if not more, of the same services offered in the past and the involvement of the same community organizations. It’s worth noting that Everybody Counts tries to make all of its marketing information and information distributed at its events available in Spanish given the number of Hispanic people who live in our community.
Planning meetings are held on the first Wednesday of the month from 12:00-1:00 PM at the Riley County Seniors’ Service Center, 301 N. 4th Street. The meetings are open to anyone interested in helping to plan the event or who would simply like to learn more. If the meeting date/time doesn’t work for you, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Deb Nuss, Chair at 785-341-1143. Everybody Counts is also on Facebook: Everybody Counts – Manhattan.
Originally published in the MAPJ NEWSLETTER APRIL/MAY 2017 p. 4.