The Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri: women building better communities.
Jama Westlund reached out to me recently about her committee at Avenue of Life (AOL). This new community partner for 2015-2016 works to equip and empower low-income individuals and families, and I was totally moved by the experience that her committee is having this year as they serve at Avenue of Life.
Avenue of Life serves the Kansas City, Kansas community, specifically trying to break the cycle of poverty through community development, collaborative partnerships, and wrap-around services. The JLKCMO has granted $10,000 and 14 volunteer placements to AOL for the 2015-2016 League year. The money and time are being used to assist in preparing family dinners and frozen meals for anyone receiving services from AOL.
I work in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, and I know that the need in our neighborhoods is great. With nearly 25% of the entire city below the poverty level, and nearly 65% of the population being single mothers raising children alone, the need for food assistance is at an all-time high. They are trying to address the needs of the 1400 homeless kids in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools system.
Jama told me, “In the first semester, we prepared and funded 2,688 meals and spent $5,000 (1/2 of the grant) which averaged to $1.86/meal.” They have been hard at work about three times a month putting together the healthy meals for the families, many times bringing along older children to volunteer as well. The committee helped with many tasks beyond meal preparation including decorating for Christmas, organizing the pantry, sorting clothing, painting and cleaning.
I spoke with two other committee members, Sarah Parish and Erin Aldridge, about their experience and they both had such positive things to say about the work. Sarah told me, “One of the reasons I have enjoyed my JL placements in the community the last several years is to become more aware of the resources and nonprofit organizations in the metro area. Avenue of Life is a great center that offers comprehensive programs and services to help the needs of the urban core of KCK. Being a parent myself, I have read many research articles about the benefits of sitting around the dinner table with family. I think it’s a great program and I am happy to be a part of it.”
Erin added that she is loving getting to directly help her community and said, “What I love even more is that my daughters join me when I volunteer and get to see at an early age how special it is to give back to your community!”
I loved learning more about this placement and the work they are doing in KCK, and it may be a placement you consider for next year as well. It’s almost that time!