Pancakes for Pawnee stack up funds for Pawnee Mental Health Services

Pancakes for Pawnee is an annual event on Fat Tuesday, and this year took place on February 21, 2023. Pawnee partners with the Early Edition Restaurant to raise money towards mental health awareness. (Avery Johnson | Collegian Media Group)

Huge vats of pancake batter and pounds of bacon and sausage awaited the eager Pancakes for Pawnee attendees lined up outside of Early Edition on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

Kendall Ens, in charge of marketing and graphic design for Pawnee Mental Health Services, said the event was a huge success due to both new customers and loyal, yearly attendees. Ens said the event raised $23,840.90 because of sponsorships and income from 417 meals. The funds will help Pawnee Mental Health Services clients in 2023.

The event went off without a hitch — customers were eager to buy pancakes, both in person and via delivery, and happy to support the cause, Ens said.

“It was a very positive vibe. It got busy really quick, which we expected,” Ens said. “We had a lot of people walk in which we really appreciate. … I was able to chat with them for a little bit when I wasn’t writing down orders for the pending line.”

Volunteers from Manhattan banded together to help the mental health center, including Early Edition and volunteers from Target. Pancakes for Pawnee has been running for five years with the help of Early Edition on Kimball Ave, Ens said.

“We have really enjoyed partnering with Early Edition to do this. They have been an amazing community member in allowing us to use their restaurant,” Ens said. “Every time we come in, they’re gracious and very energetic in saying, ‘Hey, yeah, just take over this location. We’ll make sure everything is cleaned up.’” 

Christian Vidana-Aranha, manager for the west-side location of Early Edition, said prep work for the event was intense, requiring twice the usual amount of food the location makes on a daily basis.

“We had to make all the pancake batter, because we do make those fresh in the store,” Vidana-Aranha said. “We made probably about six or seven … of them to prepare for the event. We ordered extra sausage and put it to the side so it’s easy for them to make, and then same with bacon. We bring it in, we cook it, we slab it up for them and then they just throw it on the grill and cook it.”

Early Edition is very involved in the Manhattan area because the owners value family and community, Vidana-Aranha said. 

“We try to get as involved in the community as we can. We are very open to new events, orders, all that good stuff. We love to get involved with new people in our community and make sure that everybody feels like they’re welcome in our restaurant,” Vidana-Aranha said. “We want to extend a helping hand. We’ve been in Manhattan for 20-plus years, so we want to make sure that everybody in Manhattan feels like they’re welcome here.”

Proceeds from the event will cover costs that present barriers to patients receiving treatment, Ens said. 

“Money raised goes into our general fund that allows us to assist clients in our communities when they need it the most,” Ens said in a Feb. 23 email. “Examples of how the fund is used is helping families in affording groceries to get through the weekend, buying gas for emergency travel, especially assisting parents or guardians to be able to visit their child who is receiving in-patient mental health treatment.” 

Pawnee Mental Health Services is classified as a community mental health center, which is different from a private practice; the provider assists anyone in need, Ens said.

“We are an all-inclusive mental health provider. We are in 10 counties, and we work with anyone regardless of their ability to pay,” Ens said. “So if somebody is in need of mental health services, we are available, and we try and work as best we can with insurance providers or employers to make sure that everybody has access to mental health care.”

Olivia Waren, sophomore in biochemistry and client support provider for Pawnee, said events like Pancakes for Pawnee help raise both money and awareness for its various services.

“A lot of people don’t realize what Pawnee does. I feel like a lot of people just drive by it, especially students,” Waren said. “They think it’s just another mental health facility or therapy-based place, but honestly, it does a lot more.”

Waren said Pawnee Mental Health Services has a crisis support unit, school-based programs with paraprofessionals, respite services for children and overwhelmed families and more.

“We do everything,” Waren said.  “There’s therapists, and then there’s people who, like me, provide the in-between.” 

The impact of Pancakes for Pawnee will be felt by real clients throughout the coming year, Ens said.