By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Just because they are small and non-profit, that doesn’t mean they aren’t already doing big things.
And the 20 non-profits involved in the third round of Catholic Charites’ Concepts for Effective Services program are gearing up to do even more.
Take for example the Northeast Kansas City HELP Center, a non-profit established in 2008, but only this year hired its first full-time executive director in Mike Seward.
HELP — an acronym for Health, Education, Labor and Public safety — is a coalition of neighborhood associations and businesses in the area of Kansas City roughly defined as downtown to Interstate 435, Cliff Drive to Truman Road.
Those outside the neighborhood might see only high crime, unemployment and homelessness. Those inside the neighborhood, like Seward, see potential.
“Our thought is that all of us coming together working for a common goal, surely we can chip away at those statistics,” Seward said.
That’s where Concepts for Effective Services is helping, he said.
Not only will the HELP Center, like the other 19 non-profits involved in the third round of the five-year program, receive a total of $15,000 in grants, but it will receive valuable training in “capacity building” — the ability to rethink and redesign the delivery of services so that more people can be reached.
The Catholic Charities’ program is funded by a five-year grant from the federal Administration for Children and Families, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Our mission is to mobilize all the resources that are there to improve the quality of life in the Northeast,” Seward said. “I’d be a lone man crying without Catholic Charities. They are critical to our goals. Every day, clouds seem to part and blessings happen. ”
The same is true for another non-profit with the to-the-point name of HappyBottoms.
Executive director Liz Sutherlin said the three-woman non-profit is dedicated to providing diapers to infants of low-income families through a partnership with Harvesters, the community food bank, and its clients.
Sutherlin said HappyBottoms is using its grants to upgrade computer hardware and software to work more efficiently, but is also using the training provided by Concepts for Effective Services (CES) to develop a long-range strategic plan and build its board of directors.
“CES has allowed us the infrastructure of our organization,” Sutherlin said. “This is huge for us.”
One thing HappyBottoms is learning is not to be afraid to set high goals. For example, a “Mother’s Day” donation drive at the organization’s Web site (www.happybottoms.org) had a goal of $5,000. The organization received $7,465.
Another start-up non-profit in the Concepts for Effective Services program is GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), a mentoring program for urban young women.
“CES has provided not only our start-up funds, but we have leadership development opportunities,” said Cynthia Saddler, executive director.
“We were at a point where we did everything we could do with what we had,” Saddler said. “This is such a blessing that it came at the time when we could take our agency to the next level.”
Concepts for Effective Services is not just for urban core Kansas City, nor is it just for start-ups.
StandUp Blue Springs has been around for nine years, serving the poor in what, at a cursory look, appears to be an affluent suburb, said Monique Weeks, executive director.
Weeks said that there is plenty of need in Blue Springs, but also plenty of community willpower to address those needs.
For just one example, StandUp Blue Springs coordinated a drive in which 60 dental professionals volunteered their services to 2,200 Blue Springs school children who qualify for reduced or free lunches.
“Sometimes, there are significant needs that are not always visible or even discussed,” Meeks said. “That’s where Blue Springs is different. They as a community want to discuss and address these needs now.”
Meeks said the CES grant is helping StandUp Blue Springs to develop a model and attract additional grants for a comprehensive “Let’s Move” education program promoting healthy eating and more physically active lifestyles.
“That money helped us leverage an $85,000 grant from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City,” Meeks said. “That has also attracted other funders so now we have a substantial model.”