Life and Justice grants fund organizations defending life and dignity

Everyone who attended the 2018 Life and Justice Grant Reception gathered for a quick photo on May 7. Fourteen local organizations were awarded grants at the reception. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY —The Life and Justice Campaign, a program co-sponsored by the Human Rights and Respect Life offices and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, gives Catholics an opportunity to support local organizations dedicated to defending the dignity of the person and the sanctity of human life. It awards grants to help support those organizations meeting grant criteria. Along with individual donations, each August a second collection is taken in parishes to provide the grant funds; 100 percent of all donations received by the campaign are distributed in the diocese.

The 2018 Life and Justice Grant Reception was held May 7 at the Catholic Center in downtown Kansas City. Fourteen local organizations were awarded grants.

Bill Francis, diocesan director of the Human Rights and Respect Life offices, officiated. Vicar General, Father Charles Rowe, welcomed the recipients in Bishop James V. Johnston’s stead, as he was in Lourdes, France with the Knights of Malta on the annual pilgrimage for the Malades (the sick).

“I know if he were here he would thank you from the bottom of his heart, for what you are doing is bearing witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ through your good works,” Fr. Rowe said. “With a loving God who cares and loving people who care, there’s hope for us all, even those who seem to be in the most desperate of circumstances.”

2018 grant recipients:

Amethyst Place —
Amethyst Place provides services to 50 – 60 poor, homeless, recovering women and their children each year. Most women who come there face obstacles due to lack of transportation, probation and parole, felony convictions, housing evictions, poor credit histories and physical and mental disabilities. Amethyst Place’s goal is that each woman who leaves the program has a sense of dignity and self-worth. Executive Director Kim Davis said the women don’t have trouble getting jobs — they can’t keep them. The supported employment program 100 Jobs for 100 Moms, inspired by Sister of Charity of Leavenworth Berta Sailer, co-founder of Operation Breakthrough, matches a mom with a business willing to provide on-the-job-mentoring and support her as she also furthers her education. Currently, 52 women are enrolled in the program, Davis said, and their average time holding a job is two years. Two moms now hold full-time jobs making a living wage so they can support their families without public assistance. The grant will help keep that program going.

Angel Eyes Maternity Home —
The mission of Angel Eyes Maternity Home is to give pregnant teens a safe place to live while providing them with the resources, education and job training needed to prepare them for motherhood and successful independent living and prevent homelessness. Founder Marsha Hall shared her personal story of growing up as one 10 children in poverty, pregnant at 16 and homeless. She eventually moved into a shelter where she received the life, job, and parenting skills to become self-sufficient. Years later she became a volunteer at that shelter, then an employee learning how to run a shelter. Angel Eyes, named after her granddaughter, was founded to give other pregnant homeless teens the same tools she was given and learned. “My goal is to show these girls that their life is not over! They can continue their education and more.” The grant will help continue the services.

CareKitKC — &
Visitation and St. Francis Xavier parishes work together on common projects of charity and justice in our community. This has included the creation of a community garden for St. Francis Xavier’s food pantry and the remodeling of Morning Glory Ministries’ second floor for a clothing store for the homeless and office space for MOCSA that benefits Morning Glory clients. Logan Freeman, who accepted the grant, said the food collection ministry recently began facilitating collection drives to gather toiletries and personal care items for the homeless in our community, inspired by a student at Visitation School. The first drive collected enough supplies for almost 200 personal care kits. CareKitKC has received a commitment from a donor to match every dollar the group raises from other sources up to a specified amount. The grant will be used to further develop a food and toiletries collection program to benefit the needy within their community.

Community Services League —
For 102 years, Community Services League (CSL) has worked to provide economic security for the poor. CSL, a partner with Holy Rosary Credit Union since 2015, provides help in four main areas: Income Supports, Employment Services, Housing Counseling and Financial Coaching, with loan refinancing for victims of “payday loans and other toxic debt traps.” The program works to increase household income, increase credit scores, and increase net worth. With partnerships through Next Step KC and Holy Rosary Credit Union, a Financial Coach can refer a client to a smart loan. Loans provide access to funding at reasonable rates, and help people build good credit. CSL has 10 offices in Jackson County and serves 15,000 unique individuals annually. Doug Cowan, CSL President and CEO, accepted the grant. The funds will be used to help open a third branch of Holy Rosary Credit Union inside CSL’s office on 24 Hwy. and to increase the loan portfolio in an effort to replace pay-day lenders in the local community.

Family United Transportation
In 2012, Audra McLeod, then a student at Webster University working on a Bachelor’s Degree in Management, saw a need for families to stay connected with incarcerated loved ones, especially those without reliable transportation. In Kansas City, she established Family United Transportation, which began in 2013, to fill that need. Later that year, McLeod earned her Master’s in Marketing and began a multifaceted transportation firm. McLeod said the firm’s emphasis is “families with incarcerated loved ones, and foster kids needing a second chance.” The grant will help expand the current transportation program that allows children to visit incarcerated parents to provide transportation for foster children with severe emotional or behavioral issues so they can attend special classes.

KC Can! —
The mission of KC Can! is to empower the poor and homeless to reach their full potential through job training and dignified employment; to provide the Kansas City community a valuable and necessary food scrap collection service that preserves our environment; and to create a sustainable revenue stream that supports the Kansas City Rescue Mission in its ongoing work in the city’s urban core. Kristin Chamberlain, who accepted the grant, said since the agency offers services for education, mental illness and addiction issues, job training and employment, when she was considering other avenues of service, she thought of the environment. “A food scrap collection service helps protect the environment and provide a healing way to put people to work.” The grant will help that program.

Legal Aid of Western Missouri —
Founded over 40 years ago, Legal Aid supports the poor and struggling with civil legal assistance. Joe Dandurand, Executive Director, explained that for every 6,000 people needing legal services, there is one attorney. The Access to Health (A2H) Project is designed to improve the community’s overall health by resolving legal matters negatively affecting the health and wellness of low-income individuals. Project staff assists clients with various health-harming civil legal issues, including guardianships for minors and incapacitated adults, durable powers of attorney (POAs) and advance directives, Domestic Violence intervention, and access to safe and healthy housing. The grant will benefit that program.

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) —
MADP arose out of a statewide assembly of faith and community leaders who united in the early 1980s as the Coalition Against the Death Penalty.  Since 2005, MADP has been the only Missouri organization working to repeal the state’s death penalty by educating and informing fellow citizens and legislators about the costs and consequences of capital punishment. They have helped establish various legislation which prohibits the execution of individuals with intellectual disabilities, eliminates juvenile executions and forbids the imposition of the death penalty on offenders who were under age 18 when their crimes were committed. The grant will allow the “Champions of Grace and Salvation Prison Ministry Project” to provide spiritual advisors to death row inmates.

Morning Glory Café —
Their mission is to “Uphold the inherent, God-given dignity in every human life by providing not only physical nourishment and basic needs, but also by fostering hope and self-worth in the most disadvantaged and forgotten members of society.» Morning Glory Ministries, which began over thirty years ago as Cathedral Social Services to address the issue of hunger in the downtown area, has expanded their services to include a weekend hot lunch program, Emergency Assistance, and a breakfast program that has more than doubled the number of guests served each week.  Morning Glory Café alone serves over 80,000 meals and the Emergency Assistance program helps thousands of its neighbors. The grant will fund emergency assistance to help people recently released from prison purchase work clothes and work shoes for job interviews.

North Central Missouri Business Facilitation —
North Central Missouri Business Facilitation, founded in 2015, is a group of volunteers committed to championing the sustainable success of small businesses in the north and northeast part of our diocese in rural Harrison, Grundy, DeKalb, Davies, Caldwell and Clinton counties.  The organization uses the Northwest Missouri Enterprise Facilitation model. NCMBF strives to support and champion local individuals in sustainable business enterprise through facilitated coaching and the assistance of a local community-wide think tank.  The overall goal is to contribute to the stabilization and economic growth of the communities.  The grant will help the organization grow during its third year in existence.

The Sisters of St. Francis of Savannah
Franciscan Sister Christine Martin, Provincial, helped found Northwest Missouri Enterprise Facilitation (NWMEF) in 2006 and it has now grown to a point that Sisters are serving in a full-time administrative role and need their own funding.  The grant will help supply that funding.

Project Uplift —
Uplift Organization’s goal is to deliver basic human needs, care and compassion not usually received from other organizations. Uplift abides by the fact that every life is valuable. Many needs are met including providing basic needs and compassion, assisting Vets, aiding pets, looking out for children and more. Maggie Burton, a long-time volunteer who accepted the grant, said she started volunteering to change lives, but found her own life changed dramatically. The grant will be used to deliver hot food, basic clothing, hygiene and miscellaneous supplies to the homeless living under highway bridges, in abandoned buildings, camped along the Missouri River and other locations.

Sheffield Place –
Sheffield Place opened its doors in 1991 as a response to the growing population of homeless mothers and their children in the Kansas City area. Since then, Sheffield Place has assisted more than 1,000 families through the difficult journey from homelessness to self-sufficiency.  What makes Sheffield Place unique is the commitment to Trauma Informed Care and trauma recovery as the first step in healing; the intense focus on mental health and addiction recovery services delivered by licensed, master’s level therapists; the exclusive focus on homeless mothers and children; the length of stay (averages 3 months); the delivery of all services onsite where the families live; and ongoing case management and other supportive services for as long as needed once the families transition from the shelter to permanent housing. The grant will help fund the Take Charge! Personal Financial Management Skills for Homeless Mothers Project.

The Tamale Kitchen —
The Tamale Kitchen addresses the root causes of injustice towards the dignity of the person, particularly women within the Northeast Kansas City Hispanic community. Limited education, unemployment, and lack of community leadership roles are some of the many challenges they face. Specifically, as cited by a recent Greater Kansas City Hispanic Needs Assessment, their challenges also include a “hesitancy to integrate with the larger communities; a lack of understanding of community standards and mores, expectations, laws; and lack of communication for the immigrant community.” The Tamale Kitchen provides a pathway to self-sufficiency by drawing upon the women’s talents, paying livable wages and empowering them to develop leadership skills and engage in the broader community. Founder Becky Gripp said the grant will assist Latino women from impoverished Northeast Kansas City neighborhoods to develop a pathway to self-sufficiency through entrepreneurial social enterprises. The women produce handmade, authentic tamales for sale year-round.

The annual parish second collection for the 2019 Life and Justice grant program will occur August 18 – 19. The application deadline is Dec. 31. The grants will be awarded May 6, 2019.


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November 26, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph