Nearly 60 people attended an informational meeting at Fort Dodge on Wednesday.
The meeting was requested by VFW District 7 Commander Jim Langley and VFW District 7 Chaplain Jim Massey. Many VFW members and VFW Auxiliary attended with Langley coming from Liberal and Terry Warner traveling from La Crosse.
The G.I. Forum and American Legion were also represented.
Gregg Burden, Director of the Kansas Commission on Veterans affairs and Fort Dodge Superintendent Dave Smith responded to concerns participants raised concerning the closing of the Fort Dodge Food Pantry.
Patriotic individuals and businesses donate food to the pantry. Commander Langley opened the meeting and requested participants to be respectful.
Director Burden stated that his goal was to answer questions consistent with state law.
"It’s uncomfortable standing up here," he said. "But sometimes painful conversations are necessary so we can make things better."
Burden explained that the pantry closing was temporary.
The temporary closing was necessitated because of an accident at the facility that resulted in the state paying $100,000 to settle claims.
"I should have gotten information out immediately," Burden said. "I take responsibility for not doing that. The pantry will reopen as soon as Superintendent Smith and I can develop acceptable operating procedures."
"Will we get a copy of the operating procedures when they are completed?" Ford County Fire Chief Rob Boyd asked. "We want to continue supporting this fine program, but we need to know the rules."
Burden and Smith committed to making the operating procedures available. They asked for suggestions on how to improve the pantry’s operation.
"There are many people who want to see the pantry reopen," Sheila Railsback said. "When it’s open, can interested people do volunteer work to help the pantry function properly?"
"I would love to have volunteer help," Smith said. "I don’t have sufficient staff to keep it operating the way we would like."
Burden and Smith told of volunteers who had painted several of the houses. They answered all the questions asked about the pantry operation. They also answered additional questions including plans to demolish buildings.
Smith stated they were trying to preserve all the buildings they could.
He informed the group there was a capital plan to demolish four cottages this year and five next year.
"These houses are very old and beyond repair," Smith said. "Some of them are not safe to live in. We hope to replace the demolished homes with patio homes in the future. I know I can’t make everyone happy, but I do my best."
Supporters present included representatives from the Dodge City Post Office, Victory Electric, and the Dodge City Fire Department.
Many people expressed satisfaction with what they had learned at the meeting.
"I think the meeting went well," Jim Massey said. "The subjects were well covered. We have a better understanding of what goes on. Communication is very important.
We need to know what goes on so we can better support Fort Dodge veterans."