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Celebrating SevenDays | Onward

The Power of Partnership for Community Change

Overhead view of marchers.
A drone captures the more than 3,000 marchers at the 2015 Walk for Peace, the highlight of last year's SevenDays: Make a Ripple, Change the World. As the second observance of SevenDays ends, more than 5,000 walkers are expected to make the trek from the Jewish Community Center in Leawood to the Church of the Resurrection in Overland Park, Kansas. (Photo: SevenDays)
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This story is part of our coverage of Kansas City’s SevenDays project, which aims to bring people together to conquer hate and celebrate diversity. The project is led by Mindy Corporon, who lost two family members in the April 2014 shootings at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas. For each of the seven days, Corporon joins us for a video intro to the day’s activities (above), and Flatland is running a daily dispatch from students at the Missouri School of Journalism, inspired by the day’s theme. Journalism student Rebecca Greenway wrote on today’s theme, “onward.”

When a community issue arises, sometimes you can’t go at it alone. Churches and businesses in the Kansas City area have been partnering up to see what they can do together.

Salem Lutheran had gained a reputation in its community for providing to food-insecure families through their Pantry Pack program, a food pantry that provides four meals to each “pack” for families in need.

When approached about a partnership to help children at the Rosehill Elementary School, the church agreed.

The partnership was established through Caring for Kids, a local not-for-profit organization who was working in the community to link churches and businesses together to help children.

While in the partnership program, Salem Lutheran received a request from Rosehill Elementary to see if they could provide granola bars for children who came to the school hungry and for their after-school program.

Salem Lutheran then reached out to their food bank community partners, Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist (SMUU) Church to see if they could help with the request.

SMUU Church had begun partnering with Salem Lutheran at their food bank when they moved into the community because their members were also concerned about food insecurity issues. So, when Salem Lutheran approached them with the request for granola bars, they passed a donation plate around at their first day of services in their new location.

Vickie Trott, a member of SMUU, said church members raised enough to provide three years of granola bars from its members’ donations, and they decided from there to continue a drive each year in order to provide to other needs at Rosehill Elementary.

Trott said the church members had a special interest in the initiative since their new church location was the site of the old, Bonjour Elementary school and that many of its children had previously relocated to Rosehill Elementary after its closing.

About a year and a half later, the partnership also includes other churches including Grace Covenant Presbyterian and other community partners, and has provided everything from first aid and art supplies to seasonal clothing items. They hold quarterly ice cream parties for classes as an incentive program and provide after-school tutoring through the Y Care program at Rosehill Elementary. Trott said several volunteers also work in classes throughout the school day.

Assistant Principal Jeanette Brethour of Rosehill Elementary School said they use the partnership all the time.

“It’s fantastic we have this,” Brethour said. “If we need something, we just reach out for it.”

On Saturday morning, the partnership engaged again, coming together to spruce up the Rosehill Elementary grounds.

Connie Strand, who is also a member of SMUU church, said church members are guided by principles such as “respect for the inherent worth and dignity of everyone” and “justice, equity and compassion in human relations.”

“The other churches that help at Rosehill bring beliefs from their own faiths that may sound different on the surface or come from a different understanding of the divine,” Strand said. “But underneath, it is the same: Helping others.”

This story is part of the KCPT and Hale Center for Journalism project Beyond Belief, a series of stories and discussions about faith in our city. The project is part of Localore: Finding America, created by AIR, a Boston-based network of independent public media producers. Principle funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

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