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Prairie View celebrates 61st anniversary

Speaker challenges donors to “pester for justice”

NEWTON, Kan. (March 31, 2015) – The Rev. Dorothy Nickel Friesen, speaker for Prairie View’s 61st Anniversary Dinner March 26, challenged donors and other guests to “pester for justice.”

Using the evening’s theme, Telling Our Story, Nickel traced her biological roots to ancestors in Russia and the Netherlands who sought religious freedom. She explained her Mennonite faith’s 16th century roots that “insisted on believer’s baptism, pacifism, biblical foundations of following Jesus in daily life, and serving others regardless of identity.” She referred to her 20th century roots that “pestered for the right to live in peace.” 

Referring to chapter 18 in the Gospel of Luke in which a widow pled tirelessly for justice, Friesen told stories of the work of conscientious objectors in state-run mental hospitals during World War II. This pestering led to national attention for the plight of the mentally ill, to Prairie View’s founding in 1954 and to the establishment of Community Mental Health Centers in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“What’s the situation today?” asked Nickel, a retired Mennonite Church USA pastor who has served on Prairie View’s Board of Directors since 2007 and currently is secretary.

“The facts in Kansas are this: Since fiscal year 2008 there has been at least a $20 million reduction in mental health reform grants (65 percent). There has been a $3.1 million reduction in state mental health funding since fiscal year 2010 (45 percent). State funding for mental health services has decreased since 2007 by $52.2 million while the number of individuals served has increased by 24 percent.

“These have been difficult times,” she said. She also referred to state structural changes in funding/administering community mental health centers and to the fact that three for-profit companies manage $2 billion of state health insurance.

“We must continue to pester for justice. We live as neighbors to individuals and families dealing with mental illness. We must not let complex structures and political maneuvering make us complacent. If we believe that justice and hope are possible, we must not give up. God does not rest until justice is fulfilled.”


During the evening:

  • Board of Directors Chair Randy Pankratz gave the welcome.
  • Amy Hammer was named recipient of the Justina D. Neufeld Scholarship for 2015. Hammer is a licensed social worker at Prairie View.
  • Rick Stiffney, president of Mennonite Health Services, offered greetings.

Jessie Kaye, president and CEO, announced new initiatives for two existing endowments, the Ediger Memorial Endowment, which honors the late Elmer Ediger and Tina Block Ediger, and the Merrill and Boots Raber Education Endowment. Both endowments will be used to support projects that continue Prairie View’s history of innovative, compassionate and competent treatment for mental and behavioral wellness.

Jessie Kaye (right) visits with guests prior to the Donor Dinner.

To donate to one of these funds as they support Prairie View’s mission to transform lives, see or send a check to Advancement Office, Prairie View, Inc., PO Box 467, Newton KS 67114.