This has been a great summer in Indy and it is just going to get better according to what was announced at the July First Friday held at the Civic Center, which was sponsored by Hometown Healthcare. Chamber of Commerce president Lisa Wilson introduced Jon Reed, director of operations, who thanked the Chamber for allowing Hometown Healthcare to sponsor the July event. Reed told of the services available through Hometown Healthcare which was followed by Wilson guiding guests through upcoming community events.

Brittany Thornton, director of admissions for Independence Community College, gave a presentation on the CP2 program, with Joslyn Kusiak giving a testimonial on being a CP2 host family. Thornton stated this was the first year for the program and showed some photographs of students with their host families. "There is also information available if you are interested in joining or being a host family," she stated. "We started this program in July of last year and we didn't really know what to expect from this program. We had a 178 students that signed up for this program and 63 families signed up to host."

Thornton continued by stating the college was completely overwhelmed with everyone's willingness to welcome somebody new into their family. "Our students love being a part of Indy families," she noted. "They found comfort in having a place to go to get out of the dorms. They went to high school sporting events and activities with their host families, they got to experience some local favorite spots to eat, they went to the park and played with their host brothers and sisters. You could pretty much see them anywhere around town."

She said the students became obsesses with Neewollah. "This was the first time I saw students get downtown and experience Independence," Thornton stated. "Every time they would come in and talk to us, they would tell us all these amazing things about their host families. We got to experience those stories and we loved hearing them."

Some of the things students said were, "Everyone has been so kind, they are some of the nicest people and it is so cool that they welcome us into their families." "My host mom makes the best food." "I love Kansas, you guys have the nicest people." Thornton said she heard about the food many times. 

"The thing that we heard over and over again was the kindness so thank you to all the CP2 families for being so kind to our students," she said with a smile. She then introduced Kusiak who, along with her husband Jeff Gettler, hosted two students. 

"I just wanted to tell a little bit about my and my husband's experience," Kusiak began. "It's been a very good experience. We have three students who are all from Minnesota and they are here this last year and are coming back for one more semester."

Kusiak said they have had a great time with the students. "Coming into CP2, this is the first year that we have done it so there was really very little expectations," she noted. "There was guidance but very little direction on what exactly you're supposed to do. My husband and I talked about it as soon as we decided to sign up and decided 'What are we going to do for these students and what is our goal.' Our goal was just a couple of very simple things and that was just to provide support for these students, make sure they are doing well academically, getting their homework done, studying for their tests. But we also wanted to make sure we provided them a home away from home."

Kusiak said when they met the students it was slightly awkward at first. "We had them over for dinner so that meeting was just very much all talk and getting to know them. But through time we definitely got to know them a lot better and it turned into, instead of us reaching out to them, they were reaching out to us. It was pretty regular for them to come over on Sunday's the whole day to do homework, to do laundry and use our Wifi."

She said Thornton was a great sounding board to let her know if they were connecting with the students. "Come to find out, we were," she said with a smile. "We were great support for them and that was really fun. When they returned from Christmas break they came back with lots of goodies and thank you cards from their parents and that was really sweet and heartfelt."

Kusiak said the program is low maintenance and low expectations and it is what you make out of it. "If anybody in here is not a family and would like to be, you should certainly sign up and at least give it a try," she encouraged. "There is really no wrong way to do it."

Next up was Independence Main Street director Tabatha Snodgrass who gave a presentation on Main Street summer events. "The first thing I want to talk to you about is our First Thursday event," she began. "I tried to think of things to do to bring more foot traffic downtown." After throwing some ideas around they came up with First Thursdays. "In June we had our first one and it was a great turnout," she said. "It was a little bit cooler, last night was quite warm but we still had a great turnout." 

Snodgrass explained they are contacting food trucks to join the monthly events and to stay patient with her as she is having a hard time finding food trucks but she promises they will succeed. "We have our sidewalk vendors where we invite artists, a lot of our at-home retailers to come downtown and set up a booth in hopes that maybe getting their name out there that some day they might fill a face-front store downtown," she explained. "We also added the Farmer's Market to the event because some of us don't like to set our alarm early on Saturday morning to get down to the market. That a has been an awesome part of it."

Work on the August event has already begun and Snodgrass said the event has been such a success she is going to approach the city commission on having another First Thursday in September. 

She then spoke on the upcoming All Wheels Night and Cruise which will be July 20 in downtown Independence. The band will be Triple Shot and the food special will be walking tacos. The All Wheels Night begins at 6 p.m. followed by the cruise at 8 p.m. 

The upcoming sidewalk sale was the next subject presented by Snodgrass. "We have teamed up with several entities for the sale," she began. "This year it will be July 28 and we have teamed up with the chamber to do an all-day event, and the library." She explained the day will begin with the Farmer's Market and ending the day will be Downtown Movie Night featuring "Coco." Free water will be given away and Main Street will be taking sign-ups for the free gas giveaway. A kid's corner will be featured this year with help from the Independence Public Library, and the chamber will have their face painting activity. 

Snodgrass then told the audience of the ICC and Main Street block party which will be Aug. 11. She came up with the idea for the conjoined block party because her family is involved with the ICC CP2 program and her students had no clue where to go to get a haircut, go to the dentist, a bank they could use, etc. She said at a convention in Kansas City discussion was held on how a community should engage their college community so she tried to come up with ideas to engage Independence and ICC. Snodgrass spoke with Thornton and together they came up with the block party plan. They are encouraging everyone in the community to join them for the block party to welcome ICC students back to school.

"We are going to have lots of students and parents in town that day so we encourage you — if you have a business — to set up a table or a booth downtown in one of the three blocks and offer literature on what you do," she said. Stay tuned for more news about the block party.