Writing grant applications is similar to teaching for Julie Aikins of the Chanute Recreation Commission.
“I see them both as puzzles,” Aikins said. In one case, she tries to decide what helps kids the most and in the other, what will benefit local residents the most.
Since working with the CRC, Aikins has helped provide grant funding to improve community health through the Pathways grant from Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
She has also been invited to become a member of the National Recreation and Parks Association advisory panel on health and wellness, a volunteer position for two to three years. She said it’s an honor to be invited and she feels she accepted on behalf of a whole bunch of people working in Chanute to improve community health outcomes.
Aikins, a native of mid-Missouri, attended Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics and Interior Design.
She married her husband, Dan, in the summer of 1979 and has lived in Chanute since then. She went back to study for a teaching degree in home economics and English, did her student teaching in Fredonia, and was hired in Chanute for the fall of 1981. She retired as English teacher at Royster Middle School after 32 years of teaching, but still sees students at the recreation center.
“I get a lot of kid contact here,” Aikins said.
During her teaching career, Aikins worked with the Kansas State Department of Education as a teacher trainer and was on the standards review committee. She received a Master of Arts degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth.
In her first year after retiring from teaching, she wrote curriculum for online teacher development for Haskell Indian Nations.
She has been grant writer for CRC for three years, and said she has developed a niche for it. It was her research that led her to apply for the Pathways grant.
“That’s how I usually do, jump in feet first,” Aikins said.
The project started after the release of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report on Chanute’s community health.
“It’s like this light bulb went on,” Aikins said.
After a grant for equipment allowed CRC to start new programs for youth, she saw use by other age groups and switched the focus to the community.
“Since then, it’s been a snowball effect,” Aikins said.
She said Chanute has taken the initiative to do things no other community has been able to do.
“Chanute’s a front-runner,” Aikins said.
Her other activities include work with her church, First Christian, the Friends of the Chanute Library, and being a leader when her sons were in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.
She and her husband have two sons, Grant who is married to Melisa, and Kevin who is married to Kate, and three grandchildren, Ellie, Evan and Connor, all of whom have moved back to Chanute.