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Kansas City Finds Strength in Food, Voting Power With Chiefs and Royals

Stadium Event Highlights Effort to Inform and Empower Voters

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Above image credit: The Royals’ Sluggerrr and the Chiefs’ KC Wolf entertained the car line and the volunteers at the food giveaway and voter registration drive Sept. 29. (Joe Robertson | LINC)

Lines of cars wound their way around Kansas City’s pro sports stadiums in brilliant sunshine. Autumn’s early fallen leaves skittered across the asphalt. A drumline rat-a-tatted its welcoming beat as Chiefs cheerleaders and KC Wolf and the Royals’ Sluggerrrr mascots waved.

Here was Kansas City at its best — though not playing sports this time.

This was a city registering voters, raising its civic voice and sharing thousands of pounds of food to help each other in a strange, challenging time.

“This is a testament to what makes Kansas City such an amazing community,” said Steve Davis, the chief operating officer of Harvesters, “when you look at all the people that came together today.”

Many months of LINC’s work — registering and informing voters, helping its community partners distribute food — reached a peak Sept. 29 in Parking Lot L of the Truman Sports Complex.

The train of vehicles passing through represented more than 1,400 households and nearly 6,000 people, including more than 2,700 children, Harvesters reported.

LINC had dreamed up several registration ideas in tandem with the League of Women Voters of Kansas City/Jackson-Clay-Platte Counties, but this one, said the League of Women Voters’ Becky Yockey, was particularly rewarding.

The League has been busy, Yockey said, running “tons” of voter registration efforts. “But this is probably one of the biggest we’ve done. It’s inspiring to see so many people come together.”

The League and LINC had imagined trying to register and inform voters at Chiefs and Royals games, but with COVID-19 keeping fans away, the idea turned to creating a drive-through event.

The United Way of Greater Kansas City joined, and Harvesters came in to couple the drive with a massive food distribution, and the Chiefs and the Royals completed an enthusiastic event.

“In collaboration with our players, we have placed a priority on voter registration efforts,” said Chiefs President Mark Donovan in a written statement. “We are excited to help ensure that all Kansas Citians — whether they live in Missouri or Kansas — are engaged in the voting process and are prepared to exercise their right to vote.”

“We are thrilled,” said Royals Chairman and CEO John Sherman, “to be part of this collective effort of community leaders to not only feed Kansas City area families, but to help lift civic pride through voter registration and participation.”

It has been great to share the message, said LINC Site Coordinator Deanna Snider and one of the leaders of LINC’s voter registration team, “that your voice matters.”

Whether at the stadium event, or working in smaller crowds at community events and food distributions, the rewards of LINC’s voter empowerment campaign have been clear.

People are registering, Snider said, and they’re getting information they didn’t know, or didn’t know they needed to know — like learning one likely can vote despite a criminal record, or how to vote absentee, or by mail.

“We opened up that communication,” Snider said.

The union of so many made the stadium event soar, said Todd Jordan, United Way of Greater Kansas City’s chief community engagement officer — all of it brought together in only six weeks.

“Harvesters runs a top-notch operation,” he said, “and all the volunteers that come out, that’ s what makes the machine go. There’s so many people who knew this was the right thing to do and that we had an opportunity to make a huge impact by doing it. So it was full steam ahead.”

Harvesters brought out 100 pallets with 100,000 pounds of food — ready to help as many as 2,000 families. And the voter registration effort signed up some 75 new voters, but helped many more think about their Election Day plans for voting.

For LINC, the day built upon other efforts dating back to the early summer.

“We’re doing what LINC does,” LINC Site Coordinator Steve McClellan said. “We’re giving back. We’re volunteering. Helping the Kansas City community. We’re here for voter registration as well.”

The response of the community has been “extremely incredible,” said Site Coordinator Darryl Bush. “The love and passion transcends race, religion and gender. The support is overwhelming.”

Previous campaigns included organizing Registration Sunday in early September to rally faith communities in the effort. LINC staff have also worked at other food distributions, recruiting and informing voters, including community events at Ruskin High School, in the One Love events in the city and many more.

Yockey with the League of Women Voters watched the people come through at the sports complex, car by car by car, to get some food that so many need to help get through a hard, hard year. But just as there is strength in that food, there is strength in their ballot, she said.

The chance to reach so much of “an underserved community,” she said, “is the greatest thing here.”

About This Story

This story first appeared on the website of the Local Investment Commission (LINC), a nonprofit organization that works with state and local government, businesses, community and civic leaders to improve the lives of children and families in the Kansas City region. Joe Robertson is a LINC writer. The video was produced by Bryan Shepard.

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