2014 Annual ReportFeaturesCultivating a Network of Advocates

Cultivating a Network of Advocates

This Year's Graduates Look Back on the Fellowship

The 2014 Advocacy Fellowship program trained 14 nonprofit and public service leaders from across the state to become even more effective advocates for the Kansans they represent. The leaders join 60 previous graduates of the Advocacy Fellowship, which began in 2009.

“We believe that better policy is made when more voices are heard. Nonprofit health and human service leaders are often in the best position to champion those voices, especially for the most vulnerable of our citizens,” said Billie Hall, President and CEO of the Sunflower Foundation.

Upon graduation, we asked each of the Fellows to briefly explain how they thought the yearlong training would affect their work. These are their answers:

Christie AppelhanzChristie Appelhanz
Vice President of Public Affairs, Kansas Action for Children in Topeka
“There isn't a week that goes by when I don't tap into the skills or connections I've made through the Fellowship. Every session was packed with practical tools and new approaches for me to incorporate into my work as an advocate for Kansas kids. In a time when many Kansans feel they can’t use their voice, it was invigorating to be surrounded by true change makers who won't be slowed down — even in the midst of a particularly grueling environment.

Bryan BradyBryan Brady
CEO, First Care Clinic in Hays
“The Advocacy Fellowship has already begun to impact my work in noticeable ways. For example, the session with reporters from around the state talking about how to effectively engage the media — that really showed us the importance of forming relationships with reporters before you need them to tell your story, or before a reporter calls you for an interview. It is so important in nonprofit health care to make sure you are effective when delivering a message.”

Janis DeBoerJanis DeBoer
Executive Director, Kansas Area Agencies on Aging Association in Topeka
“My day-to-day advocacy skills were much improved thanks to the Advocacy Fellowship. I particularly appreciated the keynote speaker who walked us through developing better messages and more effectively telling our stakeholders’ stories. Also, I’ve gained so many new professional friendships and networking opportunities, for which I am truly grateful.”

Jerry JonesJerry Jones
Executive Director, Community Health Council of Wyandotte County in Kansas City
“The Fellowship helped me realize that there is a process to turning an idea into something tangible. It involves empathizing with others, clearly defining the problem, and then developing, trying out and refining new ideas. That is the work of advocates. Because of the Fellowship, my organization now has a core methodology for how we approach our work.”

Scott LakinScott Lakin
Director, Regional Health Care Initiative, Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City
“The Fellowship is a tremendous opportunity to make connections throughout the state, which help me be more effective in my work. In my Fellowship colleagues, I have a valuable network that I can turn to when I have questions or ideas around public policy issues. In the end, patient access and overall quality of care and services are improved for Kansans.”

Teresa LoveladyTeresa Lovelady
President and CEO, Center for Health and Wellness in Wichita
“The Fellowship sessions gave me the confidence and peer support to take on initiatives now that I would have never considered in the past. For example, I am more confident with contacting my local elected officials. And I now have practical guidelines for dealing with the media, so I will no longer simply decline to comment. Instead, I can take those opportunities to educate the public about what we do.”

Rachel MarshRachel Marsh
Staff Attorney, St. Francis Community Services in Wichita
“From understanding the grassroots potential of families and service providers impacted by child welfare laws and policies, to using better engagement strategies with traditional and social media, the Fellowship has inspired me to take a broader view of efforts to support children and families in Kansas.”

Lisa MoritzLisa Moritz
Administrator/School Nurse, Greeley County Health Department in Tribune
“I have gained confidence in my work thanks to the Advocacy Fellowship. The Fellowship truly has set up the handshake to get me in the door — now it is up to me to follow up and build the relationships Sunflower laid the foundation for. And for my Fellows in eastern Kansas, I can be a link to western Kansas and help them extend the reach of their messages.”

Kathy MoserKathy Mosher
Executive Director, Central Kansas Mental Health Center in Salina
“The Advocacy Fellowship has already benefitted my work in a number of ways. For example, I found other members in different disciplines to be struggling with similar challenges as we do. Although we have missions that overlap, we have different resources — so when those are pooled together, we are each more powerful and complete than I had imagined we could be.”

Michelle PonceMichelle Ponce
Executive Director, Kansas Association of Local Health Departments in Topeka
“Our members really struggle with seeing how to translate their very valuable day-to-day work into stories that resonate with policymakers. Through the Advocacy Fellowship I’ve collected new ideas, tools and strategies to help motivate and support them to be better storytellers, as well as how to understand the opposition and adapt accordingly.”

Dana PughDana Pugh
Medical-Legal Partnership Fellow/Staff Attorney, KU School of Law/KU Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic
“I appreciate the value of being part of a growing network of advocates who are all working to improve the health of Kansans in one way or another. One of the greatest benefits of the Advocacy Fellowship is the relationships you build with other class members. Through these relationships, you build allies across the nonprofit health field. These relationships can then be leveraged as you work on the larger health issues facing Kansans.”

Robert StilesRobert Stiles
Director of Operations/Clinic Director, Montgomery County Clinic, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas in Coffeyville
“I expect that the Fellowship training will help me better communicate with partners about shared priorities and collaborating on them whether at the personal, local, state or national level. Thanks to the diversity of Fellowship participants, I have been able to get a broader picture of the public health needs of the state and other areas of shared interest and concern.”

Tawny StottlemireTawny Stottlemire
Executive Director, Community Action Inc. in Topeka
“In reframing our association's advocacy strategies, I find myself often drawing on key lessons and ‘aha’ moments from the Fellowship. We have reinvigorated our goal of intentionally and skillfully developing legislative relationships, and lessons learned during the Fellowship training will surely benefit us in effectively doing so.”

Marlene WillisMarlene Willis
Statewide Coordinator, Migrant Out-of-School Youth Advocacy Project, Southeast Kansas Education Service Center at Greenbush in Pittsburg
“Sunflower's Advocacy Fellowship has provided me with a tremendously rich network of professionals who can serve as sounding boards when dealing with the complex challenges of the most at-risk students in the state of Kansas. Also, the opportunities to interact with state and federal elected officials as well as regional and national nonprofit leaders — that is, hearing and discussing a variety of issues from their perspectives — will inform my work now and in the future.”


The Advocacy Fellowship is part of Sunflower’s Advocacy & Policy program area.  The a year-long training program is unlike any other in the nation. It helps leaders in health-related nonprofit organizations develop the understanding, experience and expertise they need to become powerful voices for the Kansans they serve. Find a list and photos of current and past Fellows, and more information here.