Westar Energy Foundation contributes $10,000 to Nature Reach  

  Monday, December 3, 2018 3:00 PM
  People and Society, News

Pittsburg, KS

Nature Reach

Nature Reach, based in the Pittsburg State University Biology Department since 1985, got a boost on Monday with a grant award of $10,000 from Westar Energy Foundation. 

The check, along with a ceremonial oversized check, was presented to Nature Reach Director Delia Lister by local Westar representatives Justin Swezey and R.J. Lubber in an informal ceremony attended by faculty, administration, and a diverse collection of animals ranging from a tortoise to prairie dogs. 

“Thank you very much. I’m super excited to get a substantial portion of our budget here,” Lister said. “And I think we’re going stretch it as far as we can and it’s going to do some good work for environmental education.” 

Using its live animal collection, Nature Reach provides environmental education outreach programming to school and community groups with an eye toward improving environmental literacy, promoting sustainable practices at home and in the community, and strengthening a connection to the outdoors. 

Over the past five years, that programming has gone on the road to 30 communities in Southeast Kansas, Southwest Missouri and Northeast Oklahoma.  

Additionally, Lister provides summer day camps each year to elementary-aged children at the PSU Nature Reserve on un-reclaimed mined land southwest of Pittsburg, and conducts teacher workshops. 

And, she provides real-world training to university students pursuing careers in veterinary medicine, field biology, conservation, and wildlife management. 

The annual budget for Nature Reach comes from program fees, grants, and private donations from the community. Lister said the Westar grant award will expand the impact of her program. 

Lubber, who is manager of operations for Westar Energy, said the gift doesn’t come from customers, but from the foundation arm of the company as a community partner. 

“Our mission is to become the best energy company, and with that in mind, everything we do, we want to support those around us and be good environmental stewards,” he said. “As an energy company, a producer of electricity, we use natural resources. But we want to support our environment at the same time.” 

This marks the third time Nature Reach has received support from Westar; in 2007 and 2011, Westar’s Green Team provided wood, netting, and assistance in building two raptor enclosures at the PSU Nature Reserve. 

Biology Chair Virginia Rider praised the partnership with the Westar Foundation and said she was thankful, emotional, and excited about the grant award, because it will allow Lister to reach more children and to teach the next generation to be good stewards. 

“And she deserves this. She’s worked so hard. What she’s doing in environmental education in this community is just tops,” Rider said. 

Learn more about Nature Reach.