It was a perfect spring evening for the April Business After Hours, sponsored by the Independence Chamber of Commerce, and hosted by Gran Villas, a Medicalodges Assisted Living Center. As guests arrived for the event, they were offered a tour of the facility and guided to the dining area where the Business After Hours event was held.

"Welcome to Business After Hours," began Chamber President Lisa Wilson. "We are glad to be inside this facility. It has been a long time since I have been in here and it's beautiful and exciting to be inside the walls of Gran Villas. I always see them out in the community as they are involved civically in the community."

Wilson gave attendees a rundown of upcoming events including the Independence City Commission work session Wednesday evening; Senator Jerry Moran will be at the County Club Friday around lunchtime; the Community Easter Egg hunt is Saturday at the Oval of Riverside Park at 3 p.m.; and an Arbor Day event will be at Logan Fountain in Riverside Park April 26 at 6 p.m. 

Wilson told guests about LOVE Independence Day which is happening April 27, inquiring who in the room had LOVE Independence day projects already planned. Indy resident Todd Young said his group will be preparing the Inge House for visitors attending the annual Inge Festival May 22 to 25. Another guest mentioned the 2019 Leadership Independence class is installing three giving boxes (food pantries) around town as well as collecting non-perishable food donations and assisting park staff installing new equipment. Resident Dean Hayse mentioned Community Mission for Improved Housing is coordinating the painting and work on seven houses around town. Wilson noted the Lions Club is seeking helpers to clean up Kiddie Land at Riverside Park, the park is offering free carousel rides for the day, Midwest Real Estate is collecting AWOL donations, the city is participating in drug take-back day, Independence Community College is offering a free cheer clinic, and Shoes for Kids. 

"There is just lots of really, really good things happening," Wilson said. "We don't necessarily want you to tell us what you are doing, it's okay to have a secret random act of kindness to have in your back pocket that you are going to do as an individual." She said it can be as simple as writing someone a note, holding the door open for someone, smiling at someone walking down the street, pay someone a compliment. "It doesn't have to cost a dime," Wilson said with a smile. "We just encourage everybody to join in." She asked for those participating in LOVE Independence Day to post on social media (if they are so moved), whether they are the recipient of an act of kindness or are participating in one, with the hashtag "Love Independence" so they can be tracked. 

"I just want to thank Gran Villas for sponsoring Business After Hours," she said. "I do see this group out in the community." She mentioned how they help with the annual Chamber golf tournament, they are out in the community and very involved in helping others. "They are participating in LOVE Independence Day by taking their residents out into the neighborhoods and dropping off flowers. You are always doing something and we are appreciate of that because they are providing a much needed service but also they are providing such a caring service such as getting their residents out into the community so they can still feel like valued citizens because they are. We appreciate you making sure they are still active members of our community and giving back."

Wilson then introduced Amber Ragan, director of Gran Villas. "We have been part of the Medicalodges family for over five years now," Ragan began. "We are kind of tucked back on 2nd St. so we don't get a lot of people driving by and seeing us too often so I don't think it's well-known that we are tucked back here. We do provide a service to our elders in assisted living which there is really not a whole lot we don't do under this roof." Ragan said Gran Villas provide care for those who are very independent to those who need extensive care. 

"While we are not a nursing home, we do try to cater to all of our elders in all walks of life. We are proud to have our seniors in care who have different pay sources," Ragan explained. "Those who need assistance with Medicaid or things like that. We take any pay source and we will work with anybody who needs us and needs help." 

Ragan noted she wanted to take a minute to honor her staff. "One of the things I rave about a lot is my staff. I have one of the best nursing staff that anybody could ever ask for," she said. "I don't say that lightly — I have been in long-term care for a very long time and I have never had a team like the team I have now. They are spectacular." 

Ragan made special notice of staff member Shakira Jones, CNA. "Ever year, the State of Kansas takes nominations for various individuals throughout the state, whether its administrator or CNA there are several different positions they celebrate," Ragan said. "Throughout the whole state of Kansas, Shakira received the nomination for Certified Nurse Assistant of the Year." Jones was presented the award in September of 2018. "We are very, very proud of her," said Ragan proudly. "She deserves it. She really exemplifies the care we offer here and I just can't say it enough of how proud I am of her and our entire staff."

Jones smiled and laughed as she said, "Make sure you get my good side," as the guests gave her applause for her accolades.