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News from the Coalition

Always check this page for the latest news from the Victoria Community Coalition Inc.

Agreement Signed with ECHS Board

by Nancy Piatt

Sunday, December 17, 2023, was an exciting day for members of both the Ellis County Historical Society Board and the Victoria Community Coalition Board. Members of both organizations were there to celebrate the occasion.

After nearly 2-1/2 years of negotiation, ECHS Executive Director Amanda Rupp and VCC Board Chairman Jeff Pfeifer signed a  lease agreement that will allow construction to begin on a satellite site for ECHS. The space will be located in St. John's Place, the former Victoria Nursing home which will soon be renovated to house 12 senior living apartments and a community area. The next phase will include an area to accommodate daycare.

"It is a dream come true," stated Mary Kay Schippers, Chair of the Renovations Committee. Part of the space will be used for exhibits and the rest for storage.

The Society's plan is to be open by 2026, which will be in time to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Volga Germans settling in Ellis County.

While the Society's Hays museum focuses primarily on the history of Hays, the Victoria location will direct its focus on the outlying area of Ellis County and the immigrants who settled there.

A reason to celebrate! Amanda Rupp, Executive Director of the Ellis County Historical Society, and Jeff Pfeifer, Chairman of the Victoria Community Coalition, happily signed the lease agreement that seals their partnership.

Mmmmm!  Yummmy! The Popcorn Balls Are Back!

The Victoria Community Coalition (VCC) will be participating in Herzogfest by having a booth at which popcorn ball orders will be taken.


They will be made and ready for pick up on the 17th and 18th of August. All orders must be placed in advance.


The popcorn balls are still selling by the Baker’s Dozen, but the price has had to be raised to $30.00 due to the increase in cost of supplies and to cover the $2.40 cost in Kansas sales tax for each Baker’s Dozen that the VCC is required to pay.


Order now by calling or texting Brenda at 785-735-4141 or Marilyn at 785-735-4968.

Article reprinted with permission from

St. John's Place receives $100,000
Schmidt Foundation match pledge as
committee seeks local support

by James Bell

posted July 08, 2023, 6:01 AM

VICTORIA—In the mid-1960 residents of Victoria, led by Leo J. and Albina Dreiling, had a vision – a place for an aging population to stay and stay local with the St. John’s Rest Home.

Now the Victoria Community Coalition is again looking for locals to support the redevelopment of the 40,000-square-foot facility on the heels of a pledge to match up to $100,000 in donations from the Hays-based Schmidt Foundation.

The coalition has big goals for the future building and land, including senior apartments, a child care center, a satellite campus for the Ellis County Historical Society and a park.

The latest pledge helps the committee get one step closer to that goal.

“We need the dollars,” said Marilyn Braun, coalition treasurer. “And we'll come up with it one way or another.”

The recent pledge helps secure other grant money already allocated to the project, including $1.35 million in previously announced grants from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation, totaling $500,000 and the state of Kansas, totaling $850,000.

Those grants, along with the recent pledge, will go to stage 1 of the project that would develop 12 apartments for seniors and a child care center, expected to cost between $3 million and $3.5 million.

“The match has got to be there in order to draw down that $850,000,” Braun said. “And as soon as we get that match money, we can draw on that other money.”

The recent pledge from the Schmidt Foundation would count toward that total but must be matched by Victoria residents.

“This opportunity that we have from the Schmidt Foundation and Gary Shorman, to me that was a perfect thing,” said Brenda Dreiling, coalition vice president. “But I think people need to realize that we have this opportunity to get this money, but that does not get us where we totally need to be there.”

“(Shorman) is very anxious, very supportive, but very anxious to see the Victoria community involved, which I understand," said Jeff Pfeifer, coalition president. "Something like this should be supported by the Victoria folks. And the money has been a little slow. So I am so grateful for Gary to help this with this incentive because hopefully, it'll shake some money loose.

Gary Shorman, File photo

Dreiling said for the first phase, $150,000 is needed from the community in order to fully capitalize on all of the pledged funds.

“That's what our fundraising goal is for the next few months,” Pfeifer said.

“With this grant money, what we've applied for and we will continue to apply for… they want to see how the Victoria community gets involved and that they want to show that it's got skin in the game,” Dreiling said.

While the committee looks to community members, they are also actively pursuing other grant opportunities.

“We do have two grants out there right now that we should know more about in August,” Braun said. “That's the [Moderate Income Housing] grant. And then the Kansas Housing Income Tax Credits that we've applied for. If we get those two grants, and if we can get the match money for that $850,000, which we already have 500,000 of, we'll be good to go.”

“We've recently applied for a $1 million grant with the state,” Pfeifer said. “And we'll know, in August, whether we have been awarded that and if we're not, we can apply again in the fall. And if we're not, we can apply again next year. So. we're going to keep going.”

They hope to have answers on the Moderate Income Housing grant in December.

“We will keep our fingers crossed, and we keep praying that people will hear our plea and understand the importance,” Braun said.

The recent effort to rehabilitate the former rest home, in many ways, mirrors efforts made by Leo J. and Albina Dreiling to originally build the complex.

“Years ago, my grandfather, and he was a pretty prominent person in Victoria, John M. Schippers, told me, ‘Leo J. Dreiling had the vision to be able to build a place for the people of this community that have worked so hard and wanted to stay here in their elderly years, to be taken care of,” Dreiling said. “I would like our community now to see that this man had that vision. He went out and got donations and built that St. John's Rest Home.

“We need to go out and get the community's help to support the community, just like Leo J. Dreiling did.”

She estimates thousands of hours have already been put in by the all-volunteer committee to turn their goal into reality.

Jeff Pfeifer, Victoria Community Coalition president, speaks with Victoria residents about the future of the St. John's Rest Home shortly after purchasing the building during a meeting organized to solicit ideas about the future of the facility. File photo

Our board is incredible,” Pfeifer said. “They're so diverse. … There's not one of us that is duplicating each other's skills. And it's just been a pure joy and a blessing to have this group of people.”

“We're not in this for money. We're in this for the community,” Braun said. "Whatever comes out of that building, as far as income or whatever, will go back into the community.”

“There's some talk about people thinking somebody is pocketing the money here,” Dreiling said. "They think, ‘What happens if I give you aren't able to do it?'”

“One, that's not going to happen. We're going to keep working. We're going to keep going until we get this done. But second of all, even if that should happen, that money is going to go back into Victoria. ... Every dollar that is donated to this will go to Victoria.”

Related Story: St. John's Place gifted to Victoria Community Coalition, 501(c) 3 granted

Another concern heard by the committee is the building, in its current state, will not be able to be rehabilitated, but Pfeifer said structurally, the building remains in good condition.

Interior of St. John's Place. File photo

“Luckily, structural engineers, two different ones, agree that the structure of the building is sound, the foundation is good, the flooring is good, the walls are good, and the roof trusses are good,” he said.

“We've had some naysayers from the very beginning about concerns [about] the building,” Braun said. “We have had the structural engineers in there. They've said it's sound, but it's got damage.”

“The Department of Health and Environment has done a thorough study. ... And yes, we have some problems. We have mold, we have asbestos, but they told us it's nothing that can't be handled, and it's nothing that can't be taken care of.”

With the renovation, she said everything but the wall would be replaced.

“They're going to take down to the bare bones,” Braun said. “The wiring, the water, the electricity, everything's coming out, and we're starting over. So there's nothing wrong with the building, and people need to know that.”

“The biggest problem is the roof that has been leaking, and it's been blown off from a lot of these high winds,” Pfeifer said. “So now the interior has got rot and mold in it.”

Interior of St. John's Place. File photo

Replacing the entire roof of the facility is projected to cost more than $500,000, he said. As the three-phase project continues, sections would be replaced as funds become available.

Part of the agreement with the Ellis County Historical Society also outlines its role in securing funds for the roofing in the section it would occupy.

Pfeifer said as the project moves forward, grant money specifically for roof repair might become available.

While the committee continues moving forward in its efforts to secure funding, members hope Victoria residents see the benefits to the community.

“I think it could maybe change the trajectory of Victoria,” Pfeifer said.

“We see those apartments as not only meeting the needs of the elderly in the community, as far as allowing them to have a place to go when they wanted out of their homes but didn't want to go to a nursing home. It’s a place that they could go to and open up their homes for the community because we'd like to see the community grow,” Braun said.


“Victoria is a wonderful place to live. It's a small community. It's a very clean community. It's a good place to raise kids. Our schools have been very good. I guess we would see younger people coming back to the community if we had the housing.

“I think if we can get the Ellis County Historical Society over here, that will not only help bring people in from not just our particular areas, it would help our church,” Dreiling said. “We've got the Cathedral here, which is a phenomenal, historical place.”

St. Fidelis. File photo

Those additional people in the city would bring in additional dollars to support businesses, she said.

“We wanted to bring people together for the growth and sustainability of the Victoria community,” Braun said. “And we wanted to do that by looking at strategic initiatives.

“Our first strategic initiative was that nursing home—that and providing affordable housing. We wanted to eventually assist in education with that community center that's supposed to go into the center of that building, which eventually will bring hopefully more socialization and meet other community needs.”

Recent surveys completed by the coalition also show how important the Victoria community is and how closely tied it is to greater Ellis County.

“I've heard from people in Hays that if you put that day care down and set up, you'd probably have people from Hays coming over,” Braun said.

A lack of available day care has been an issue across the county, leaving hundreds of parents unable to enter the workforce as the region faces low unemployment rates.

A lack of housing has also been a major economic concern. The committee said both would be addressed by the St. John's Place project.

“I think we have like four or five on the waiting list now that have said, ‘Once those apartments are done, we would like to move in, or we would like to get our name on the list,’” Braun said. “So, we get those apartments done, and we start seeing some income from that, then we can start looking at other things.”

“We're hoping we can start programs that we can help them with their grocery shopping and go do that for them and bring them back and help deliver to those things,” Dreiling said.

The project is not just for Victoria, it’s for all of the county, Braun said.

“That's all a part of Grow Hays and Imagine Ellis County. We discovered with our housing survey that we are a bedroom community to Hays, and we are a retirement community,” Braun said.

While the St. John’s Place project has been a primary focus of the coalition, growing Victoria and the area is the group's long-term goal.

“That goes back to the mission of the coalition,” Pfeifer said. “We're trying to bring people together to support and sustain and grow Victoria."

Jeff Pfeifer and Sean Rodger discuss the Greenway Trail with the Victoria City Council. Rodger has since volunteered to maintain the trail. File photo

“We've probably had six public community meetings. Out of that has come this idea of a Greenway Trail. We've got a guy mowing a trail, and people are using it. That's incredible.”

“We've also got the Dollar General coming to town. [That] has grown from these community meetings that we had. We had a lot of times where we just asked for input, and the need for Dollar General Store kept coming up. ... Sure enough, we got a committee, and look what's happening. They're going to start construction here probably sometime in July.”

“There's been talk of some people who have said, ‘We need a swimming pool,’” Braun said. “And we do. There are things to make this community better and to make it grow. We need some better streets in some places. We need things to bring people here. And that's what we're all about.

"We're not here to take anything away from the city council or from anybody in the community. We just want to try and be leaders in improving the community.”

Jeff Pfeifer addresses an assembled crowd in the Victoria VFW during an Imagine Ellis County meeting. File photo

And even if the St. John’s Place project fails to materialize at this point, Pfeifer said any money collected would still be used to benefit the community.

“Maybe what's important for people to hear or to know is that on the outside, small chance that this doesn't happen, our mission at the [coalition] is still to bring people together for the sustainability and growth of Victoria, period,” he said. “We have five or six core areas that we hope to do, affordable housing, support, schools, etc. That money would go to that in a number of different ways.”

Even as a large amount of funds remains needed, at this point, the coalition said every effort matters.

“It's not so much that we want the thousands of dollars, that would be great to see, but people in the community if they can just support us in any way, small, medium, large… do what you can,” Braun said. “But help us in some way.”

“We're going to work on that grant money,” Dreiling said. “We'll keep going and keep fighting, but we can't without their help.”

For those that are unable to support the effort financially, she said there are many ways to get involved.

“Whether it's manpower to help us out or if they can help us out financially, just talk to any of the board members,” Dreiling said. “And we'll steer him in the right direction.”

Community Support Needed
for Matching Grants

The Victoria Community Coalition has received exciting news from the Schmidt Foundation in Hays. As of June 7, the foundation announced that it will match up to $100,000 in donations from Victoria residents in support of the St. John’s Place project. Phase I-A will include 12 senior residential apartments.

Gary Shorman, Schmidt Foundation President, working with VCC Board President Jeff Pfeifer outlined the conditions for the program as follows:  maximum match for each qualified donation is $20,000; qualified donations must come from Victoria zip code 67671 or have specific investment/property in Victoria; qualified donations must come from individuals rather than business; deadline for this opportunity is November 30, 2023.

The VCC still needs to raise $300,000 to complete its required match for the $850,000 grant awarded from the State of Kansas earlier this year. The total grant match needed for the ABODE grant is dollar for dollar and $500,000 has been secured with another $50,000 being raised with donations to this point. The grant agreement spells out that construction completion must be finished by May 2025. The actual construction cannot be started until the match is met.

Speaking about the Schmidt Foundation proposed match, Pfeifer stated, “This is an incredible opportunity for Victoria and St. John’s Place. For almost two years the community has supported this effort by attending meetings, supplying ideas and encouragement and participation in small fundraisers. Now we need significant financial help from Victoria. This includes everyone that lives here, everyone that cares about their future- including the schools, businesses, the quality of life. Everyone that loves Victoria has an opportunity to make a difference right now!”

Donations can be made by mailing a check to VCC, P O Box 94, Victoria 67671 or by going to the VCC website to scan the QR code or by contacting Board members Pfeifer (785-735-8553), Marilyn Braun (785-735-4968) or Brenda Dreiling (785-735-4141).

Treasurer Marilyn Braun commented, “Right now every dollar donated will grow by almost 500% toward the St. John’s Place apartments. These apartments will fulfill a housing need in our community while securing future funds for building maintenance and other activities.”

“VCC has no paid staff. This is truly a grassroots effort to help make a difference for our community,” stated Vice President Brenda Dreiling.

More information can be found at www. including a video made possible with the support of GrowHays/Imagine Ellis County.  

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