Blog | Sarah Green added to KSF staff as co-director--and other exciting news

Sarah Green added to KSF staff as co-director--and other exciting news

To everyone who cares about a thriving rural Kansas, 2023 will be a big year. We have some exciting news for you from the Kansas Sampler Foundation. 

The Kansas Sampler Foundation is kicking off its 30th year with a series of new projects, additional staff and a commitment to “level up” for rural Kansas. “

Our network of rural Kansans and observations from the road have shaped our work since the beginning,” said Marci Penner, who has served as the organization’s director since it began. “I am excited about what we are doing to help Kansans see where they live with new eyes, in new ways.”

In early 2023, the Kansas Sampler Foundation will begin a four-year statewide road trip to visit each of the state’s 627 incorporated communities. The purpose is to understand how rural communities continue to evolve and to find out what they need and how we can continue to support their grassroots efforts. 

The road trip will bring together the most up-to-date statewide understanding about the opportunities in rural Kansas communities. As always, we will have a special focus on the volunteer-led communities, mostly under 1,500 population. A grant from the Patterson Family Foundation will underwrite the trip and support some of our core work in supporting rural Kansas.

Lindsey Patterson Smith, President, said, “We are pleased to award funding to the Kansas Sampler Foundation, an organization that has consistently amplified rural voices throughout Kansas. The Patterson Family Foundation team looks forward to working and learning alongside the Kansas Sampler Foundation in 2023.”

We are so excited to get back on the road, but that’s just one of the big highlights for our work and our organization. Some of our other news:

  • The road trip in the early 2000s led us to the realization that young people were the difference-maker in towns that were thriving. Since then, our research and our relationships have helped us understand that a significant source of the state’s potential is in those who are 21-39 and rural by choice. We call them “PowerUps” and we will be expanding our work to support them.
  • PowerUps have helped shape our programming and our approach in countless ways, including drafting a set of attributes that they believe would help more communities be more welcoming and inclusive. We can’t wait to talk with Kansans about what their communities could look like in the future. 
  • For explorers, we plan to launch a new smartphone app and website version of our popular Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers. (Thanks to a grant from the Dean Coughenour Trust.)
We are adding to our own team to do this work. In 2023, Marci will become a co-director of the organization she founded with her father, Mil Penner, in the early 1990s. Joining her as co-director will be Sarah Green, a longtime volunteer and supporter of the Kansas Sampler Foundation. 

Sarah has two decades of work in public service, journalism and consulting, all in Kansas.She represents K-State Research and Extension districts in south central Kansas on the Kansas State Fair Board of Directors and is a proud Kansan by choice. She lives with her family in Wichita.

“Adding Sarah to the team of WenDee Rowe, project manager, and I, will help us make sure we can support rural Kansas for many years to come,” Marci said. “I’m not retiring – I love this work too much and still have more to do. Sarah understands our mission and will help us find new ways to be the best partner for rural that we can be.”

Marci continued, "To all of you across the state and beyond, we thank you for your dedication to your work, your love for rural, your curiosity for exploring, and for being an important part of our positive and supportive network of Kansans who help each other out. We can’t wait to see you on the road!"