FARLINGTON — It all started with ice cream, only sold at a dollar each.
Just a hop and a skip past Girard is Crawford State Lake, a place where local families often go for a day on the water.
Aggie Keesling — at 90 years old — has been working on making the lake a safer place for almost five years by selling ice cream. She takes her ice cream cart — a side-by-side utility vehicle with a freezer on the back — around the camp sites.
“I’ve enjoyed selling ice cream, so much,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed the kids.”
With a help of a few friends — including the Friends of the Lake — she was able to help get the ball rolling for a storm shelter for campers.
In 2014, Aggie and four others came before the Crawford County Commission to talk about getting a shelter built. The commission accepted their request, which allowed the Farlington Lake Storm Shelter group to act as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
By then, Aggie and Friends raised $7,400 from ice cream sales and secured a $3,000 grant. A total of $75,000 was needed before applying for FEMA assistance for the building.
Finally approved in January after meeting their $75,000 goal, Aggie said she hopes the new shelter will be built this summer.
The original plan was to have multiple shelters at each campground, but to receive the last bit of funds needed they are allowed one shelter, which also had to be “all purpose.”
Aggie was fine with the idea of a multipurpose building, she said, as it will give an extra place for people to gather, all the while providing a place for shelter in an event of inclement weather.
“I am pleased to death,” she said.
When she thinks about the shelter, she said it was not possible without the help from individuals and groups from southeast Kansas and beyond.
Not only did each and every person who visited the park and purchased ice cream make a difference, she said, the fundraisers hosted at local schools, like the Guns and Hoses benefit in Girard or most recently a Pancake Feed supported completely by a local business — down to the forks made an impact.
“It’s a team effort,” she said.
Aggie said she was grateful for their contributions in making her mission near complete.
A storm which left many of the campers soaked and the death of her aunt — who was killed when a tornado went through Franklin, kept her motivated to make sure the camp has a shelter.
“It can happen here,” she said.
Along with ice cream sales, Aggie has added a personal touch around the campsites. A self learned painter — not a professional, she said — she has hand painted many signs which help point the campers in the right direction.
She also managed to create a little museum, the Civilian Conservation Corps, which is in an old water tower from the 1930s. Inside is more of her artwork of the campsite in the 1930s along with vintage items from that era, either found at the campsite or donated by people.
Her paintings have also brought in a few donations, she said.
Aggie said she hopes to still be around when the shelter is built, as at her age “time ticks on by day by day.”
“I’ll be tickled when they put that spear in the ground,” Aggie said.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.