Pittsburg’s All Aboard Foundation, a branch of Watco Companies, recently took local non-profits under their wing—and roof—all housed in the old Arvest Bank location downtown.
The All Aboard Foundation purchased the downtown Arvest Bank location in spring 2018 for a transformation into a home for local non-profits. Non-profits part of the foundation include Pittsburg Housing Authority & Community Development, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Southeast KANSASWORKS, SKIL Resource Center Inc., Eastern Kansas Adult Education, and SER Corporation. The only for-profit business is Nutrition Lane. These entities moved into the building in August and September of 2018, except Crawford County Diaper Stock, which will move in soon.
“Our mission statement for the All Aboard Foundation is to make the communities in which Watco serves a better place, pretty much,” said Cassie Bicknell, All Aboard Foundation fundraiser and event coordinator. “So we want the communities that our team members live in and work in to be the best places that they can be.”
Bicknell, along with others, helps manage the foundation but is technically an employee of Watco Companies. Watco Companies has about 400,000 employees in the U.S., though is an international business, with locations also in Canada, Mexico, and Australia.
“So Watco Companies … started in Pittsburg, Kansas,” Bicknell said. “They’re in the transportation industry … (and) about three years ago, they decided they wanted to start a private foundation, so that is when the All Aboard Foundation was created. … The thought process behind the foundation originally was just to manage all donations across Watco Companies. … When we started the foundation … city officials came to us with this idea of this one-stop-shop for non-profits and we were intrigued by the idea …”
Arvest Bank has a relationship with Watco Companies, which led the All Aboard Foundation to the downtown Pittsburg location.
“… When Arvest wanted to move, they had a community reinvestment act that they had to do … so they actually donated 50 percent of the purchase price to us, which was a substantial donation,” Bicknell said. “This facility would not be possible without something like that. There’s quite a bit of history with this building, actually. The National Bank of Pittsburg used to be the corner of Fourth and Broadway where part of Block22 is currently. When they moved out of that facility, they built this facility. … So that intrigued us, and we wanted to keep this facility alive.”
At Chamber Coffee on Thursday, Jan. 17, the All Aboard Foundation participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the new location.
“… We were really pleased with the support of the community …” Bicknell said. “It’s always great to see people come together and want to be a part of something like this. … That’s just another way for the non-profits here to be able to introduce themselves and that’s really what we want to do is help support the non-profits …”
Jon Pettus, regional operations manager for Southeast KANSASWORKS, is pleased with the how the non-profit housing has come along.
“We’re really happy with it because we’re in the same building with a few entities that we share customers with,” Pettus said. “… And then we love the location; we love being right here on Broadway, and of course with everything that’s happened with Block22, we’re so close to the Foundry … It makes it nice as far as just the location and the people inside the building, both works well.”
Doe Shusnik, housing manager, has been part of Pittsburg Public Housing Authority for 19 years and said the new location provides more visibility of the non-profits housed within the All Aboard Foundation.
“It’s still very new and we’re happy to have neighbors like SKIL, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the folks down at KANSASWORKS,” Shusnik said. “So that’s pretty amazing to have everybody under one roof because that just happened in September … So it does make people that are visiting more than one agency … they can come to one place rather than have to drive all over town. So it’s convenient.”
As a Pittsburg native, Shusnik said she is glad to see the old Arvest Bank location “utilized” to help downtown “come to life again.”
“I think this is a great opportunity for all of us,” she said. “Again, it’s new, so we don’t know, you know, if there’s anything big or outstanding around the corner that’s about to happen because we’re all in the same neighborhood and under the same roof, so we don’t really know what to expect, we just know that it’s a convenience for the people we serve.”