Kevin Mullen focuses on close-up work with Wichita’s needy | The Wichita Eagle

In his professional life, Kevin Mullen builds nice homes and neighborhoods for people who can afford them. In his personal life, he helps feed people who can’t.

Mullen considers himself lucky in both respects.

“Some of us lead a very sheltered life,” says Mullen, the president of Ritchie Associates, who became active in the Lord’s Diner a decade ago. “I’m one of them. There’s just so much joy in helping people, watching people come up and get a meal and see the smile on their face. You know you’re actually doing something.”

Mullen grew up in Hutchinson, earned an accounting degree from Kansas State University and worked as a CPA for three years before going into the real estate development business with Jack and Dave Ritchie. Today he and Jack Ritchie are partners.

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Their company has transformed east Wichita, creating dozens of developments with thousands of homes in them over the past three decades. Tallgrass, Wilson Estates, Lakepoint, The Waterfront, Garden Walk … the list goes on, literally, with the company’s newest developments, Brookfield and Firefly.

As good as he is with numbers, Mullen’s real satisfaction comes from seeing his company take an empty landscape and fill it with a thriving neighborhood, using as much of the landscape’s creeks, woods and natural features as possible. Maybe it’s a link to his father, Robert, an architect and artist.

“We feel like our model of neighborhoods have changed the way Wichitans think when buying a home,” Mullen said.

Mullen has not joined many boards through his life. He describes himself as direct, driven and not inclined to talk situations to death. However, he accepted an invitation to join the board of the Lord’s Diner in 2009, after the recession left him with a little time on his hands. He helped the organization expand from its original site on north Broadway into a second location in south Wichita and three mobile food trucks, increasing the number of meals served daily from about 500 to 2,500.

Twice a month, he dishes up food at the truck parked at the Atwater neighborhood center in northeast Wichita. On those nights, he says, he’s just one of 6,000 volunteers from all faiths and backgrounds who pitch in to make the Lord’s Diner work.

He recently left Lord’s Diner board and joined the board of Catholic Charities. True to his nature, he plans on doing more listening than talking while he figures out where he can do the most good. He’s also been active in developing the Stryker Soccer Complex in northeast Wichita and helping Kapaun Mount Carmel, which his children attended, build a new gym.

Mullen said any success he’s experienced would have been impossible without his partner, Jack Ritchie, and his wife of 43 years, Nancy, another K-State Wildcat with whom he has four children and six grandchildren.

“I like to believe that my family and company have made Wichita a better place,” he said. “It’s a team effort. It’s not about me.”

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Animal rescue groups fight fee proposal


Walk through the halls of the Wichita Animal Shelter, you’ll probably notice a lot of animals waiting for adoption. Some of them are running out of time, facing possible euthanization in a matter of days.

That’s where rescue groups come in, many of them go through area shelters to foster animals in jeopardy. Those groups are scrambling now, facing fees that might put them under.

“I thought it was the lazy man’s way out of a deficit, honestly,” said Sarah Coffman, Founder and President of Wichita Animal Action League.

She’s referring to House Bill 2477, which would triple the fees that foster homes have to pay to care for and look after animals. Organizations like her’s usually pay for those fees so volunteers don’t.

Last year, it cost WAAL $490 to license 49 foster homes. If the fees go higher, it would cost $1500 and only if they don’t add more volunteers during peak rescue seasons.

“My fear if this goes through, is that I’m going to be paying so much more in state licensing fees, I’m not going to be able to rescue as many animals,” she said.

The organization rescued 504 animals last year. If the proposed fees were in effect, they would have only been able to save approximately 168.

But lawmakers said they wrote the bill to level the playing field and that the measure will ensure thorough inspections of shelters, breeders and pet stores are thorough and complete.

“I don’t like higher fees, but sometimes you have to look at that in order to be able to do the inspections that are needed. Inspections for animal welfare,” said Representative Kyle Hoffman, chair of the Committee on Agriculture.

Hoffman went on to say that there have been proposals to add penalties to breeders who don’t answer inspectors when they arrive at facilities, but called it unfair to the breeding industry.

Opponents to the bill are now pushing for other sources of revenue. They said they fear that if the bill goes through they won’t be able to continue their work.

“It seems a little discriminatory against rescues and shelters,” Coffman said. “Against nonprofit organizations who are trying really hard to save lives, save the city money and reunite owners on a shoestring budget.”

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Pivot Point: Reinvesting in Wichita a point of pride for NFL alum Kamerion Wimbley

Here’s a Wichita-centric football trivia question to throw out at your Super Bowl party Sunday.

Wichita native and Northwest High grad Kamerion Wimbley, who played nine years as a linebacker and defensive end in the NFL, was a two-time All-City football selection at what position?

Punter. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound high schooler was a quarterback and fearsome defensive player — and also the league’s best punter for two seasons.

Wimbley found fame at Florida State, then was an NFL first-round draft pick and played nine healthy seasons before retiring after the 2014 season.

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At 34, Wimbley is a success story among NFL alumni. He lives in Florida, but has made serious investments in Wichita with 15 commercial and residential properties and a half-dozen businesses.

“He definitely cares where he came from, and that’s pretty unique and nice to see,” said longtime friend Terry Atwater of It Takes A Village Inc., an operator of group homes for Wichita children in foster care.

Wichita would do well to market Wimbley, reaching for kids willing to study a professional athlete’s life-after-sports success. He could also show them if he still has his punting prowess.

Kirk Seminoff: 316-268-6278, @kseminoff

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