Shawnee mayor selects Shawnee Community Services for Christmas tree fund

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Shawnee Mayor's Christmas Tree Fund
Last year, the mayor split funds to go toward both Shawnee Community Services and Shawnee Storm Special Olympics. Photo courtesy of city of Shawnee

Shawnee mayor Michelle Distler has selected Shawnee Community Services for this year’s Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund.

“Shawnee Community Services has been a blessing to so many in this community, and the stories of people they’ve helped are countless,” Distler said. “They help people with so many different areas including food, clothing, furniture, utilities and so much else.”

Shawnee Community Services offers programs and services that help people in the local community, including a food pantry, free clothing and household items and emergency financial help for shelter, utilities and health care. The organization is operated by two sisters, Sylvia Terry and Marlisa VanKemseke. Their mother, Evelyn Van Kemseke, founded Shawnee Community Services in 1982.

“Shawnee Community Services has had such a huge impact on our community,” Distler said. “It stays here locally, and you can help in other ways besides money. People find themselves in situations where they need all kinds of things including dishes, towels, toys and food.”

Last year, 550 households received holiday dinner supplies. Additionally, last year and the first six months of this year combined:

  • 5,830 families or 15,979 people were provided free food pantry boxes that are sufficient to feed a family for a week
  • 842,020 pounds of bakery products were distributed
  • 689,868 pounds of produce, meat and dry goods were distributed
  • 328 children received backpacks and school supplies

City staff are asking the public for financial donations to help support the program. Distler said every donation helps.

“Even just $5 can truly make a big difference,” the mayor said. “We have everyone from individuals who donate to our local businesses who take part, and we are thankful to all who choose to help the mayor’s Christmas tree fund.”

People can purchase an ornament for $5 that will be placed on the mayor’s Christmas tree inside the city hall lobby. They can also make a donation directly to the mayor’s Christmas Tree fund online, in person at city hall or by sending a check to the following address: City of Shawnee, Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund, 11110 Johnson Drive, Shawnee, KS 66203.

Last year, the mayor split funds to go toward both Shawnee Community Services and Shawnee Storm Special Olympics.

Distler said she is “honored and grateful” to be able to help raise money for this every year.

“It’s something that is near and dear to my heart as mayor, and I am proud to be a part of something that, with everyone’s help, can do so much good,” she said.

A check will be presented to Shawnee Community Services at this year’s Christkindlmarkt on Saturday, Dec. 1, at city hall immediately before the mayor’s Christmas Tree lighting ceremony.

About the author

Leah Wankum
Leah Wankum

Hi there! I’m Leah Wankum, and I’m the Post’s Deputy Editor. I’m thrilled to call Johnson County home, and I’m deeply committed to the Post’s philosophy that an informed community is a strong community.

I’m a native of mid-Missouri, and attended high school in Jefferson City before going on to the University of Central Missouri, where I earned a master’s degree in mass communication.

Prior to joining the Post as a reporter in 2018, I was the editor of the Richmond News in Ray County, Missouri. I’ve also written for several publications, including the Sedalia Democrat and KC Magazine.