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Founder of cat rescue wants to educate, make pets a member of the family

Many conversations with Natalie Young eventually lead to the same subject.

“People know the conversation is going to turn to cats if they talk to me at a party,” Young said.

Young founded the Manhattan cat rescue Cattails in 2010 and has made it her mission to find each of her furry friends the right home.

Young moved to Manhattan from her home state of Nebraska around 25 years ago to help at a car rental owned by her family. Although she had interest in the world of shelters, she didn’t feel she could dedicate her time then.

“I remember driving by the shelter and wanting to go in,” she said.

The family eventually sold the business, and Young decided to volunteer. She started out working with both the dogs and cats, but she settled into the cat program. She realized she looked forward to day when the weather didn’t allow walking the dogs so she could spend quieter time with the cats.

Young now has several cats herself, most of which are seniors or have a health issue or other challenge.

“(My house is) full of misfits,” she said.

After a few years working with shelters and rescues in Manhattan, she decided to start her own.

“I don’t think anybody thought I was serious,” she said.

Young, 54, said she went in with a steep learning curve and felt like she needed “Rescue for Dummies.”

“I had no clue what I was doing,” she said. “I wanted to make a difference in the lives of these animals. That’s all I ever wanted to do.”

Now that she has several years under her belt, she said one major lesson she’s learned is how to combat misinformation about cats and cat adoption. Cattails is a no-kill rescue and works with spay and neuter clinics, which Young said is the humane way to control overpopulation without euthanizing animals. She said they also try to educate potential adopters on things like not declawing their cats.

Cattails has adoption events at Petco in Manhattan every weekend, and Young said this is their best opportunity to educate people.

“We’re not only there to adopt cats,” she said. “We’re there to educate, we’re there to advocate, we’re there to help people shop for products. That’s where I feel our voice is heard the most.”

She said the events give volunteers time to talk to people interested in a cat one-one and she wants to answer any and every question they might have.

“Someone will say, ‘I have maybe a dumb question,’” she said. “No. There is no dumb question.”

Young said that if someone is interested in adopting a cat, volunteers have a conversation with them about what their situation is to learn which animal might be the best match based on factors like personality or living space.

“If they say, ‘Can I see this one?’ then it’s only on appearance,” she said.

She said they try to remember the words “compassion, commitment, respect and responsibility” when matching a cat with the perfect home.

Thomas Bartley, a Cattails volunteer, said Young has developed a good lie detector, both of which serve her well in her work.

“She can tell when people give the answer she wants to hear,” he said.

Bartley said Young also has a big heart, especially for the cats she helps care for, and wants nothing more than for them to have a better life.

“The ultimate goal is make the cats a member of the family,” he said. “It’s her motivation.”

Young said running a rescue is all-consuming and her phone is always ringing.

She said although she didn’t know going in how demanding the job would be, seeing a cat find the perfect home makes the time and effort worth it.

“There’s no greater feeling,” she said. “You want nothing more than for them to find the love you have for them.”

JCPD investigates body found in storage unit

The Junction City Police Department is investigating the case of a dead body found in a storage locker.

The body of a deceased woman was discovered Friday at 2323 N. Jackson St. in an empty storage locker, said JCPD Capt. Trish Giordano.

Police are waiting for fingerprint verification to positively identify the body.

Officials performed an autopsy, and they suspect foul play.

JCPD will release further information after the woman has been identified.

Police ask that anyone with information on this case call the Crime Stoppers tip line at 785-762-8477 or submit a tip online using the link on the JCPD Facebook page.

Officials to look at governor's order on required masks in public

Local health officials are awaiting Gov. Laura Kelly’s mandate that would require Kansans to wear face masks in public.

The governor announced Monday afternoon that she will order Kansans to wear face coverings in public spaces starting Friday as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the state.

Details will be shared Thursday, but the basic outlines of the policy are people must wear masks in stores and shops, restaurants and any situation in which social distancing of 6 feet can’t be maintained, including outside.

In the meantime, Julie Gibbs, Riley County health officer and health department director, said Monday during a virtual press conference that the county will continue to encourage residents to wear masks.

“The one message that we’ve been pretty strong about is wearing masks when you’re out and about, and I’d go as far as to say just carry it with you,” she said. “If you’re going to be in a situation where you’re 6 feet from another person or not, it’s a good idea just to wear it.”

A new state law limits some of the governor’s emergency authority during the pandemic and gives more say to county officials and the state legislature.

A recent executive order also made Kelly’s phased reopening plan and limits on mass gatherings a guide for county officials rather than a statewide mandate. Kelly’s office said the Kansas Attorney General’s Office will work closely with it to make sure the order complies with state law.

The Manhattan City Commission is scheduled to discuss requiring people wear masks Tuesday evening.

Konza United Way has taken over management of donations and distribution of free cloth masks for the community.

They can be picked up at the office, 555 Poyntz Ave., Suite 245, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 3 p.m. and by appointment.

With recent outbreaks, Gibbs said the data suggests residents should be more mindful of limiting how often they go out, being vigilant about personal and hand hygiene and social distancing.

“We did such a great job in the beginning (of the pandemic) of flattening that curve,” she said. “Social distancing and staying at home as much as you can really saved us so we need to get back to that. … We’re trying to do everything we can to avoid going back to that stay-at-home order, so that’s where we need the community’s help.”

Gibbs and Andrew Adams, the county health department’s emergency preparedness coordinator, said people should continue to avoid large crowds, close contact settings and indoor places with poor ventilation.

“I think if we do that we’ll start to see these numbers go back in a direction that we’d like instead of going up,” Adams said.

Harry’s restaurant closing permanently July 17

Harry’s, the upscale restaurant inside the historic Wareham Hotel in downtown Manhattan, is closing July 17 as the pandemic has taken its toll on the business, the restaurants’ owners announced Monday.

Originally founded by Julie Haynes in 1990, executive chef Cadell Bynum has led the restaurant’s culinary team for more than 25 years. Evan and Andrea Grier bought and have operated the restaurant since 2006, along with later ventures Bourbon & Baker and Tallgrass Tap House just down the street.

The decision to close also coincides with the end of the restaurant’s lease at the building, the couple said.

“This has been an extremely difficult decision,” said Evan Grier, managing partner. “Our team will forever cherish the fond memories created within these special walls alongside of our customers who chose us for some of the most important moments in their lives. They made Harry’s successful for three decades.”

Evan said the restaurant has been able to weather other economic downturns, but the pandemic was too much for the restaurant to overcome. Andrea thanked the Wareham family, the namesake and owners of the building that housed the restaurant, for their support.

“It has been an honor to be a part of the legacy of this landmark building. We are eager to see what the future holds for the magical space at 418 Poyntz Ave.”

“(I) wanted to thank the Griers for all their hard work and dedication in making Harry’s an iconic establishment over the past 14 years,” said family spokesperson Jim Wareham. “The Wareham Family has worked diligently with them, especially over the last few months, to provide facility improvements and offer rent relief to enable them to continue operation. However, we understand their business decision as a result of COVID-19 and wish them luck and continued success in the future.”

Charlie Busch, president of McCullough Development, which manages the leasing of the building on the Wareham’s behalf, said Harry’s has been a cornerstone of McCullough’s renovation of the building. He said the company is looking for a replacement restaurant operator to “provide the upscale dining experience the community has grown to expect over the last 30 years.”

The couple said they would redirect their efforts toward the other two restaurants and said they’re working on a new concept for Manhattan that is still in development.

Meanwhile, Harry’s will remain open Tuesdays through Saturdays through Friday, July 17, for dine-in and carry out orders, with reservations strongly encouraged.

Plan to ‘combat racism, bigotry’ at K-State coming later this week, Myers says

K-State administrators will hurry plans to respond to what critics have called incidents of racism and bigotry on campus, president Richard Myers announced in a letter to the university community Monday.

Following a student’s joke about George Floyd on Twitter, Myers said he had received possibly hundreds of messages from members of the K-State community outraged about the tweet, as well as the broader issue of racial equity, and “hateful speech” on campus.

“Students, faculty, staff and alumni who are badly hurt or embarrassed for our university are rightly calling for social justice and demanding change,” Myers wrote. “The university supports these demands and believes actions are needed. When society cries out for justice, we must listen and proceed in making changes within the limits of the law.”

But Myers said university campuses have to be places where controversial ideas can be discussed, while maintaining a safe environment for everyone on campus.

“We want every student on our campuses, as well as all faculty and staff, to know they are safe and to be treated with respect and common decency,” he said. “These have been our values since our founding. There is no place on our campuses for racism, hate and bigotry.”

Myers said he’s willing to join student protests and give a broader voice to marginalized students, and he said he’s asked administrators “to fast-track action plans to combat racism and bigotry and other forms of social injustice.” Those plans should come out later this week, he said.

Students, athletes and alumni have called on K-State administrators to discipline, or even expel, junior Jaden McNeil after he made an offensive joke congratulating George Floyd, who died in May in Minneapolis after police kneeled on his throat, for being drug-free for one month.

Others have defended McNeil for what they say was a joke protected by the First Amendment.

McNeil has a longer history of controversial statements. On social media, he criticizes the Black and LGBTQ communities, and McNeil has condemned what he’s called cultural shifts from traditional American families and Christian values. Additionally, Twitter temporarily suspended McNeil’s account Saturday after the company deemed his tweet as “glorifying violence.” After McNeil deleted the tweet, his account was restored.

After he founded the right-wing America First Students organization in early 2020, a Kansas City-based advocacy organization, the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, released a report accusing McNeil of being a white nationalist for his statements and ties to other white nationalists. In a statement on Twitter in February, McNeil accused the institute, as well as news organizations that reported on the accusation, of libel and denied being a white nationalist. To date, he has not responded to The Mercury’s requests for comment.

In statements and comments on the matter, K-State officials have declined to name McNeil specifically, instead opting to refer to “a student’s” offensive speech or racism in general.

That’s because even as people are calling for K-State to act on what they say is hate speech from McNeil, K-State maintains no specific policy defining or prohibiting hate speech. It has a long-standing policy of encouraging free speech based on the First Amendment and academic freedom.

Additionally, by federal education privacy law, K-State cannot comment on a specific students’ discipline, officials said.

McNeil has called on his social media followers to target K-State students, athletes and officials who have spoken against McNeil. However, that online following has largely been anonymous.

Over the weekend, McNeil said on social media that K-State officials had not spoken with him even as local community members have sent him threatening messages. He said people also have posted his personal information, which is called doxxing.

“Publicly they say I lack ‘basic decency’ and condemn me for making a joke, while the mob of students doxxing and threatening me is yet to be condemned, much less punished,” McNeil said on Twitter. “They are complicit in this.”