Benkelman residents roll up sleeves

Monday, November 29, 2004

Every month, we come away impressed with the activities which are taking place in the communities of the Golden Plains. Since starting in Cambridge in August, the Gazette has also traveled to Palisade, Maywood and Benkelman in the Community Spotlight series.

And, in each town, we have discovered outstanding examples of community service. This month's featured community, Benkelman, which appears as a special supplement in today's newspaper, certainly follows that theme. The special section will also be appearing as an insert in next week's Benkelman Post & News-Chronicle.

During several trips to Benkelman this month, Gazette Publisher Gene Morris and Advertising Sales Consultant Pat Fortkamp found that the Dundy County community has a record of giving and volunteer projects that would put many much larger cities to shame.

Throughout much of the past century and continuing into the new millennium, citizens of Dundy County have given many millions of dollars to their youth, their elderly residents and community betterment projects.

But Benkelman's community spirit is about more than money. It's also about the people from the town and the country working together to get things done. They roll up their sleeves, pitch in, and accomplish projects such as the recently completed running track, the modern swimming pool, the carnival rides at the fairgrounds, the nice nine-hole grass green golf course and the Dundy County senior center.

The town's commitment to progress is also shown in the recently completed expansion at the Dundy County Hospital and in the million-dollar-plus project which BW Telcom is doing to bring fiber optic connections to their customers.

Even though there are a lot of good things going on, that doesn't mean everything is rosy in Benkelman or the other towns of Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas. Declining population has made it particularly difficult for small-town retailers, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet.

That makes economic development the top priority for the towns of the Golden Plains. It's true in Benkelman as it is in other area communities. To preserve a special way of life, new approaches must be found to generate jobs, cash flow and quality community services.

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