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State Farm announces $25k grant program

Ryan Meininger is hoping to bring some good news to Hiawatha in what has been a difficult year.

The local State Farm agent is asking for organizations to present their ideas for the 2020 State Farm Neighborhood Assist Grant.

“State Farm continues to inspire and empower people to get involved in their communities,” says Meininger. “We hope that our office can help put this opportunity in front of some worthy causes locally and help create positive change in our community.”

As 2020 has been a year unlike any in recent memory, State Farm is changing the grant application for the first time in its nine year history, removing category restrictions to open up the grant to more causes. Forty grants will be given away nationwide, totaling $1 million in awarded funds. Meininger says he knows that 40 grants for the whole country seems like long odds, but urges anyone interested to apply.

“This is a very attainable grant,” said the State Farm agent. “We have seen them awarded as locally as Nemaha County in the last few years, and the right person with the right cause could easily bring this grant to Hiawatha.”

Anyone 18 or older can submit the short and simple application at www.neighborhoodassist.com. Applications will be available on July 15 at 1:01 p.m., and will be judges on the answers to the following three questions: How much does the cause meet an unmet need in the community? Why do you feel the $25,000 would address this unmet need? And how much of a lasting impact would the grant have? Applications will be accepted until 2,000 have been submitted—which took less than 12 hours last year, and the top 200 will be announced in September. Following the selection of finalists, the top 40 vote-getting applications across the country will be awarded the grants in November.


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Seniors celebrate with Prom Parade and Graduation

This weekend will finally bring about some “rites of passage” events for Hiawatha High School seniors.

On Friday night, juniors and seniors will participate in the “Prom Parade” around the Brown County Courthouse square. This event will kick off at 6 p.m. as juniors and seniors will dress for the occasion and celebrate an out-of-the box prom for some fun memories to end the school year.

On Sunday, Hiawatha High School seniors will finally walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.

It’s only a little more than a month late, as due to COVID-19 mass gathering restrictions, most commencements were rescheduled. A virtual option was offered to Hiawatha seniors to still have the graduation in May, however the students and parents were in favor of rescheduling.

This year’s ceremony will look a little different however.

Principal Lori Fordyce said each graduate was given 10 tickets for their family members and guests. This was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the school wanted to keep numbers a little lower than usual to help with social distancing between families.

Although the county had ceased all COVID-19 restrictions within the past couple of weeks, guidance from the governor’s office still encourages caution with mass gatherings and proposes counties stay within Phase 3 guidelines — however final decisions on restrictions at this time are up to each individual county or municipality.

Commencement is set for 2 p.m. Sunday at the HHS gymnasium with retiring advanced mathemathics instructor Karl Kliewer as the speaker.

Fordyce said they ask that people maintain social distancing and families sit together if possible. Anyone who wants to, or has medical issues, is encouraged to wear a mask. As always, if someone is experiencing symptoms of illness they are asked not to attend.


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Cross Country team selling fireworks to raise money for summer activities

Hiawatha’s cross country runners have some cool unicorns and dragons for sale.

Well, not the magical creatures themselves, but rather some awesome new fireworks at their fireworks stand that feature unicorns and dragons.

Coach Becky Shamburg said the cross country team is preparing to open the fireworks stand on Saturday just in time for area residents to start picking up their supplies for the upcoming Fourth of July.

As in year’s past — the stand is located at a convenience spot just east of the Hiawatha City Lake across the highway on private property. The owner of the property allows the cross country team to use their building to sell fireworks out of.

Shamburg said proceeds from the fireworks sales go toward funding the team-building trips they take every summer. Typically, they climb mountains in Colorado, but Shamburg said due to the COVID-19 pandemic and concern especially in Colorado they decided to forego that trip unfortunately.

This year, Shamburg said they will take a one-day trip for an activity and are planning a four-day trip to a lakehouse. Cross country runners have to log in 150 miles of running, come to summer practice daily and work shifts at the fireworks stand to be eligible for the trips.

Shamburg said the fireworks stand is opening at 10 a.m. Saturday and will stay open most of the day, until the crowd stops coming. The closer to the Fourth of July, the longer the stand will stay open — with opening hours starting at 9 a.m. as the week progresses and closing times anywhere from 6-7 p.m. to later, depending on the crowd of buyers.

The stand WILL be open all day on the Fourth of July, for the people shooting off fireworks at the lake to stop over and purchase additional fireworks. Hiawatha City Lake will be open for personal fireworks to be set off — the nights of the 2nd and 5th the lake is open until 10 p.m. and until midnight on the 3rd and 4th.

Shamburg stressed that the fireworks stand is NOT open on July 5, but they will stay open as long as necessary on July 4.

As many people are anxious to be spending time doing fun activities for the Fourth, Shamburg said. With the COVID pandemic, some fireworks displays and other activities are canceled, however Hiawatha will still have a display the night of Friday, July 3.


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Bravos come out for Community Service Day in Hiawatha

The Bravos baseball team came out to Hiawatha for a busy day Monday and it wasn’t to play ball.

The Bravos is a team based in Sabetha and Hiawatha and is part of the Mid Plains College Wooden Bat League. Other teams include the Topeka Golden Giants, Midwest A’s, KC Monarchs and Baldwin City Blues.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions set by the Hiawatha City Commission, all of the Bravos games scheduled to be played at Paul Rockey Memorial Stadium at Noble Field were relocated to Somerset Park in Sabetha.

However, a dozen of the Bravos players are staying with host families in Hiawatha and several local businesses have provided sponsorship to the college club team that features mostly international players. Local players include Hunter Pavlish of Hiawatha and Austin Gerety of Seneca. Highland players Joel Valerio and Alejandro Pina are also playing on the team.

As part of a thank you to the area sponsors and communities that support them, the Bravos like to have community service days. This week, on Monday, the Bravos started with team photos and then individual photos sponsored by Tiff’s Touch Photography. Pizza Hut of Hiawatha sponsored lunch and then the Bravos set to work doing some jobs around USD 415 School District.

The Bravos, no 2-3, kicked off their season mid-June and have already had two home games. The next home game is a doubleheader on Saturday against the Topeka Golden Giants at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Somerset Park.

Special sponsor of Saturday’s event is Aflac — Lady of NE Kansas with some fun games, prizes and more. Also coming to Saturday’s games will be ARCWild of Sabetha, with some interesting wild animals and information.

On Monday, catch the Bravos at home against the KC Monarchs with Ryan Meininger-State Farm as our special sponsor with cracker jacks and water bottles.

Admission is free. Follow the Bravos Organization on Facebook or Instagram.


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Lay sentenced to 10 years for felony aggravated sexual battery

A 20-year-old Willis man was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday in Brown County District Court on charges of felony aggravated sexual battery, criminal possession of a firearm in connection with burglary charges in Atchison County, along with several other charges.

Brown County Attorney Kevin Hill said Anthony “AJ” Lay was sentenced to 120 months in prison, with no probation, and ordered to register as a sex offender for 25 years on charges of sexual battery. He was given credit for 335 days in jail. The sentences were for three separate cases — a total of 10 years — with all sentences to run concurrent to the rape sentence.

Lay appeared in court on Jan. 2 and entered pleas to three different cases. In the second case, Lay pled no contest to felony aggravated sexual battery of an individual over the age of 18. Hill stated that the plea was entered after consultation with and the blessing of the victim, her family and law enforcement who worked the case as the conviction should result in a lengthy prison sentence and registration as a sex offender for 25 years after release from prison without the necessity of the victim having to re-live the offense by testifying at the jury trial set in February.

Lay was formally charged Jan. 9, 2018 in connection with an alleged rape of an individual over the age of 18, as investigated by the Hiawatha Police Department.

Lay was also arrested in January 2019 in Hiawatha on burglary and theft charges relating to a break-in in Atchison County and charges of possession of stolen property in addition to other charges in Brown County.

He was accused of burglarizing Armstrong Tires in rural Muscotah in Atchison County several times, allegedly using a fake name to possess tire orders, then failing to pick them up. According to court documents, Lay broke into the business at least six times since early December and the amount placed on stolen items is around $8,000. Brown County authorities had received tips about Lay allegedly selling stolen goods — which led to a joint investigation between the two counties.

In this case, Lay pled no contest to felony criminal possession of a firearm, a level 8 non person felony. He said the stolen property charges filed in the Brown County case arose out of property stolen in Atchison County.

In the final case, Lay pled no contest to several counts Count I – Felony Fleeing to Elude a Police Officer, a level 9 person felony; Count II — Circumvention of Ignition Interlock Device, a class A non-person misdemeanor; Count III — No Insurance, a class B non-person misdemeanor; Count IV — Improper Registration, an unclassified misdemeanor; Count V — Speeding, a traffic infraction; and Count VI — Failure to Activate and Use Turn Signal, a traffic infraction.