dozen

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

This story was rebroadcast as part of our best-of 2015 series. Since it was first reported in September, Sean Owens and his group of volunteers have uncovered the entire staircase. 

West Terrace Park sits on the edge of a bluff on the west end of Kansas City's Quality Hill neighborhood.

It offers a scenic overlook of the West Bottoms, the Kaw and Missouri rivers, and downtown Kansas City, Kansas. 

In the 1960s, parts of the park — including a road, a grotto, and a staircase, were demolished for the Interstate 35 extension. Over time, the history and grandeur of what was left of the park was covered by mud, graffiti, trash and invasive bush honeysuckle. 

But Kansas Citian Sean Owens, who has admired the park since he was a kid, wants to uncover, cleanup and restore this park to its original beauty.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

This story was originally reported in July 2015. 

For two decades, Henry W. Bloch, co-founder of H&R Block, and his wife Marion, collected what they described as "pretty pictures" — mostly French Impressionist works by the likes of Degas, Matisse and Monet. Nearly 30 of these paintings filled the walls of their Mission Hills, Kansas, home.

Although these masterworks are not there now — you wouldn't know it by looking. 

Julia Szabo / KCUR

This story was rebroadcast as part of our best-of 2015 series. It was originally reported in July 2015.    

In the next couple of years, Kansas education will face some of its most unstable times ever.

The Legislature has cut classroom funding. There’s no school finance formula and the the whole system may be thrown into chaos depending on what the state Supreme Court does.

All of this is all taking a toll on recruiting and retaining teachers, and there's mounting evidence that Kansas teachers are becoming disenchanted. And out-of-state districts are taking advantage.

Frank Morris / KCUR

This story was rebroadcast as part of our best-of 2015 series. It was originally reported in May 2015.

Just a few years ago, downtown Hamilton, Missouri, looked a lot like many other forgotten, rural towns. Abandoned, forlorn buildings marred the main drag.

But in recent years, an explosively fast-growing startup business in rural northwestern Missouri has shaken up a staid industry, producing a YouTube star and revitalizing a town with a proud retail history.

That's why Dean Hales, who has lived here 77 years, is so delighted now.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Eleanor Klibanoff / KCUR

It's no longer enough for restaurants to offer roasted chicken or braised beef shank on their menus.

They need to be able to tell customers exactly where that chicken came from and how the cow was raised. If they can remember the pedigree of the produce? All the better. 

But serving locally sourced food is a challenge for chefs, and the farmer-foodie connections aren’t always easy to come by.  

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

For customers stepping inside Abarrotes Delicias, the noise, traffic and heat of the surrounding Kansas City, Kansas, neighborhood seem to disappear.

The small store offers everything from tacos to snacks to money transfers – or just  an air-conditioned place to hang out and watch TV on a lazy afternoon.

Owner Graciela Martinez says she tries to provide a welcoming personal touch when serving her customers, who comprise a diverse sample of nearby residents.

Jacob Grace / for Harvest Public Media

Wearing latex gloves and digging through a sloppy patch of cow poop on his farm in central Missouri, farmer Ralph Voss spotted his target.

“Okay, here we go!” he said excitedly, plucking out a shiny insect the size of a sunflower seed – a dung beetle.

Despite their disgusting homes, dung beetles are worth searching for – it has been estimated that they save U.S. farmers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Some researchers suggest that they could be worth even more, and are searching for new species meant to maximize that value.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

In Salina, along the railroad tracks, in the shadow of grain elevators, next to a gravel lot filled with industrial propane tanks, is the headquarters of Acoustic Sounds.

It’s run by Chad Kassem. He’s originally from Louisiana.

“Back in the mid-’70s every teenage boy had a stereo, or most of the boys in my neighborhood had a stereo, and maybe a hundred albums,” Kassem says. “So I wasn’t any more of a collector than most of my friends.”

By the time he was 21, though, Kassem’s drinking and drug abuse was causing him trouble with the law.

“I came to Kansas to get sober in 1984. That’s where the judge picked.”

As we know, Kansas has alcohol, but in general, there were fewer distractions for a man who needed to dry out.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Over a span of a dozen years, the University of Kansas Cancer Center estimates that philanthropists, taxpayers and other funders will plow about $1.3 billion into its effort to become one of the nation’s most elite cancer-fighting institutions.

In fact, nearly half that sum is already out the door, spent mostly in the run-up to the 2012 announcement that the KU Cancer Center had become the only institution within hundreds of miles to earn recognition through the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

When it comes to standard measures of health, Kansas is a laggard. Whether we’re talking about obesity rates, incidence of diabetes, acute or chronic diseases, or childhood mortality, the Sunflower State typically ranks in the bottom half of state health rankings – and in recent years it’s been sinking even lower.

That’s bad enough. But there are vast disparities within the state itself. Averages only give a rough-and-ready sense of the state’s overall health picture; dig deeper – down to the county level – and you’ll find that some counties actually perform quite well while others perform poorly.