A willing-to-work band of Social Media-era volunteers got together last year and began a wide-ranging crusade to make Atchison a better (and better looking) place to live. Spearheading the effort was an enthusiastic community booster, Casey Quinn, and she continues to be a spark plug of what was first called Young Atchison Making a Difference.

The group got off the ground when Quinn went on Facebook to ask her friends their thoughts on how to improve life in Atchison, possibly by upgrading certain areas. Other volunteers joined her to help form the Facebook likers into a face-to-face, hands-on brainstorming work group.

“Our group’s spirit of volunteerism and community pride soon attracted over 1,000 Facebook group members and a regular round table meeting attendance of 30-40 participants,” Quinn said. “In order to encourage members of all ages, our name was changed to Project Atchison and non-profit status was filed in October of 2015.”

But before that, the group had already completed a number of projects, the initial one being renovation of Jackson Park. Improvements included painting park buildings and facilities, upgrading the sand volleyball courts, and power washing the restrooms.

So exactly what is Project Atchison and some of its goals? Misson statement: To improve the quality of life in Atchison through service projects and volunteerism. Vision: To create a more enjoyable and promising Atchison for today and future generations.

Funding for projects comes from donations and fundraising events, and many projects are sponsored by local businesses, who donate supplies or equipment And support is a two-way street, as Project Atchison organizes Cash Mobs to encourage spending at locally-owned businesses.

“We are a completely voluntary community organization made up of everyday citizens wanting better for our community,” Quinn said. “We network, brainstorm, encourage one another, develop action plans, and carry them out as a team to better our community.”

She said it’s amazing how in a few short months, with the help of so many in Atchison County, so much has been accomplished. In fact, Quinn uses that word “amazing” almost as a short description of Project Atchison.

“A ton of people in our community really care and are willing to give of themselves a few short hours here and there, giving back to the community,” she said. “We have had amazing ideas thrown out and built upon by working as a large group, and the atmosphere amongst everyone is amazing. We have fun, teach our children, and meet new people, all paving the way for a better community.”

There’s no official connection with any other organization, but there is cooperation, according to Quinn.

“While we are not directly affiliated with any other entity, we do often partner with other groups,” she said. “The city commission and staff, for example, have been supportive since Day One.” She added that the city provided supplies for the Jackson Park Revitalization and the Downtown Parking Lot Project.

“Project Atchison’s volunteerism is definitely moving the city forward,” said Trey Cocking, city manager. “You’re able to take a little bit of city money and multiply that into a community effort.”

Quinn said the Atchison Area Chamber of Commerce is also a big supporter and “frequently helps us promote our mission.”

County officials and staff also seem to be on board.

“Worth noting,” she continued, “there are members of our group who are also members/employees of the city, county, Chamber of Commerce, and so on. These folks are true assets, and their passion and experience have helped propel us through many projects.”

Asked if anyone can join Project Atchison, Quinn’s reply was swift and emphatic: “Yes! Show up for a monthly meeting at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month in the basement of the Elks Lodge, or join us at a project, social event, fundraiser, etc.

“Everyone is welcome and there are no criteria for joining us — we want to include the entire community.”

Events and projects are posted on the website, www.projectatchison.org. Quinn said members can join smaller teams focused on specific activities within Project Atchison, work groups, which includes evaluations, grants, projects, and communications.

Project Atchison uses Facebook as a primary communication tool, and Quinn said the Facebook group is “open to all who share our vision.”

Activity or project requests can be submitted via email, contact@projectatchison.org.

“We can accomplish so much,” Quinn said, “by contributing as a community.

“Our group is still trying to find new ways to get the word out and we welcome visitors to our meetings to join, suggest projects, or just learn more about Project Atchison.”

Project Atchison Scorecard

Goals Accomplished:

Jackson Park and Trail Renovation

Tenth Street and Skyway Clean-up

Downtown Parking Lot Clean-up

Cash Mobs – to support local businesses

Cosmic Bowling Event

Thanksgiving Extravaganza

Atchison County Government Education and meeting of elected officials

Planting daffodils at Farmer’s Market

Pete’s Steakhouse Renovation

Holiday Lights Tour Competition

Christmas Toy Drive

Party for the Park

Benedictine College student interns in the Community Partnership

Sand Volleyball Tournament

Atchison Community Health Clinic Renovation

Goals in the works:

Humane Society Summer Reading Program

First Fridays Expansion Downtown

Celebration Church Partnership June 25 to help clean up community

Party in the Park

Upcoming elected officials social event

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