Published August 20, 2019
Crissa Salmans has worked to help the very young most of her career.
The new director for the Ford County Retired and Senior Volunteer Program graduated from Dodge City High School and earned a certification Early Childhood Education from Dodge City Community College as a non-traditional student.
Much of her background is early childhood education. She began her career at the DC3 Child Development Center and later worked for USD 443 in their Early Head Start Program.
Most recently Crissa was the volunteer coordinator for District 16 Court Appointed Special Advocates, supporting and advocating for kids in the foster care system and abused and neglected children in courtrooms.
Her compassion for younger people is clear. That compassion extends to the opposite end of the spectrum as well. When the RSVP position came open she thought she would be a good fit.
“I have such a passion for the little kids and the older adults in the world,” she said. “They’re both near and dear to me.”
She said her extended family is currently caring for aging grandparents, so her appreciation for the needs of seniors has grown exponentially.
“We’re fortunate to have a big family to split shifts,” she said. “I am realizing how vulnerable the elderly can be. Transportation to doctor’s appointments alone can be challenging.”
Her years of working within the system for young people have taught her the value of knowing where the resources are and how to access them.
Taking over the RSVP program while her family is caring for a senior has made Crissa hope to get word about the program’s services. She hopes that through more awareness of the RSVP services, seniors and their families will be able to take advantage of other potential services throughout the area.
“Being involved in those community groups that help seniors and their families is so vital,” she said. “Accessing services through RSVP can lead to other groups that can help in their own way. It’s important for them that we’re all going down the same path.”
Her husband Jason is a mobile service technician for Midlands Carrier. They have three children: Madison, a senior majoring in occupational therapy at Fort Hays; Chandler graduated from the welding program at DC3 and is working as a traveling welder; and Olivia, a seventh-grader at Dodge City.
They sometimes travel for Olivia’s competitive dance team. They’re a blended family, so road trips to visit relatives are often their primary getaways.
“We don’t really do destination vacations,” she said. “We visit family and just shop and cook and enjoy each other.”
Sara Wasko, the college’s new Records Specialist, was born and raised in Hanston and graduated from Hodgeman County High School in 2017.
After high school she went to Hutchinson Community College where she served as a student ambassador and “studied agriculture, slash business, slash I really don’t know what I want to do,” she laughed.
As an ambassador, she spent a lot of time in the admissions office at Hutch. She’s even considered a career as an admissions counselor. Right now, she’s glad to be on a college campus, without the college pressures.
“That’s a lot of why I’m excited about this,” she said. “I wanted to be back in that college atmosphere, just not necessarily taking classes.”
She earned her associate degree at Hutch and her boyfriend Zach got a job in Jetmore, so Wasko made it back to southwest Kansas.
When her two older sisters went off to college, Sara said they met their boyfriends and then followed them back to their hometowns. She said she figured that would be her route as well.
“He really threw me for a loop when he said let’s go back to your area,” she said. “He really liked it out here, so we found a house in Jetmore and he walks to work every day.”
They would likely have traveled back home every weekend if they hadn’t moved back. Her father is facing serious health issues and even driving the feed truck for the cattle is too much. So the couple had been making the trip fairly often already.
Her 83-year-old grandfather also still farms. Sara said that most of their spare time is consumed by the needs of the farms. She grew up farming, so the lifestyle is something to which she’s accustomed.
She said her grandfather and father are cut from the same proud farming mentality where it’s not easy to ask for help. Some might call it a bit of a stubborn streak.
“My grandpa is a character to say the least,” she said, “The people that help out now are the people who’ll say ‘We’re coming out whether you like it or not.’”
She has a niece and nephew who were born in March and April. One sister is in Nebraska but the other is in Wichita. She said leaving Hutch was difficult because of the proximity to family.
“If I have getaways, those are the places I want to go,” she said.
Her mother works at the post office in Jetmore, which turns out is just steps away from Sara’s house.
“If I get some actual spare time I’m probably trying to clean my house,” she laughed.