Tailgating gala tackles hunger, homelessness

Donnelly Hall, the home of the Morning Glory Ministries café and emergency assistance, saw several hundred friends and fans of the ministry gather Nov. 7 for Tailgating in the City, a gala geared to tackle homelessness and hunger. There was food, drinks, a silent auction, a performance painter and special guests, including Bishop James Johnston, Jr., Chiefs mascot KC Wolf, and Mayor Quinton Lucas. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Tuesday through Friday each week at Morning Glory Café—a warm, inviting place on the campus of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception downtown—more than 150 people enduring homelessness and hunger are welcomed to a hot breakfast, conversation and coffee, and a sack lunch to take if they wish one. There is also a lunch served Saturdays and Sundays. In addition, Morning Glory Ministries’ Emergency Assistance program provides hygiene and pantry items, State IDs, birth certificates, prescription assistance, rest and utility assistance, work clothing, shoes and bus passes. Clothing, hygiene and pantry item donations and volunteers play a valuable part, but rent, utility and other assistance takes money. How do they do it?

Thursday night, Nov. 7, saw one way. Tailgate in the City: Tackling Hunger and Homelessness in Kansas City, the annual Morning Glory Ministries Gala fundraiser, was held in the café space. John Kraus, Director of Morning Glory Ministries, said around 275 people were expected to attend. It was crowded. Among the event’s special guests were Emcee Emily Holwick, KMBC, Channel 9 news anchor; Mayor Quinton Lucas; Bishop James Johnston Jr., Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph; Father Paul Turner, pastor of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception; several other diocesan priests, performance painter Mike Debus and KC Wolf.

As Holwick introduced and welcomed the bishop, the mayor and other special guests to the celebration, she described the gala as a “serious celebration,” because “the work we do here is critically important, not only to our guests but to the entire downtown Kansas City community. Our work, too, is different, because our mission is different a mission of dignity, holiness, virtue and service to our less fortunate brothers and sisters.”

Bishop Johnston led the blessing and prayer as the evening kicked off. He praised the Cathedral parish for its great love for the poor and remind those present the “The Lord has loved us, so we are called … to love others. … Heavenly Father we thank you for your great love for us.”

He was followed by Fr. Turner who acknowledged and blessed the veterans present. Just four days later, Veterans Day, Nov. 11, was to be celebrated. The commemoration and celebration of U.S. military veterans has been an annual recognition and remembrance of those who fought and those who died for the United Sates of America since it was first issued a century ago.

Guests perused the silent auction tables, loaded plates with hors d’oeuvres, juggled plates and glasses as they found tables to sit at and watched Debus paint as they chatted. Debus’ painting of Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a live auction item, was displayed next to the canvas in progress. Comments could be heard as a face took shape … “who do you think it is?” It didn’t take long before, “Oh, it’s Mother Teresa!” was heard.

Holwick then introduced the Honorable Quinton Lucas of Kansas City, who was sworn in as the city’s 55th mayor on Aug. 1.

Lucas was born and raised in Kansas City, and spent most of his life in the urban core. As a child, he moved often, and experienced homelessness — sometimes staying with family or friends, sometimes his address was a motel.

Despite that, he remained focus on school, earning academic scholarships to Barstow High School, later to college and Cornell Law School. After graduating from law school, Lucas returned to Kansas City.

Since 2012, he has been a member of the faculty of the University of Kansas Law School, serving as one of the youngest tenure-track law professors in the U.S. He is active in the Kansas City community, volunteering at local schools and organizations, and has served as a mentor to inmates in the local corrections system.

Mayor Lucas greeted many of the guests, including Bishop Johnston, who gave the invocation at the mayoral inauguration. He joked that the bishop spent that day with countless politicians, but it didn’t tarnish him.

He then turned serious, talking about growing up homeless at times, and that he was “so glad this organization (Morning Glory Ministries) helps the homeless.” Morning Glory Ministries is “saying to the poor, we care about you and we love you! And that’s so important to the homeless, that someone one cares about them and loves them!”

John Kraus introduced Nick, who had been homeless for a time, saying that the mission of Morning Glory is to make sure no one feels invisible or unseen, no matter if it’s homelessness, addiction, past jail time or other challenges.

Nick recalled for the guests his homelessness, and his feelings of invisibility as well as hunger, loneliness and fear. When he learned from another homeless person about “the gold dome,” Morning Glory Ministries on the Cathedral campus, he decided to check it out.

Time to up those bids! Bid sheets would fill up fast. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

“Morning Glory gave me more than a hot breakfast and a bus pass,” he said. “The people here gave me hope and motivation and most important, they gave me a smile. I have moved so far away from where I was when I first came here two months ago and I couldn’t have done it without John and Steve (Steve Bruns, Morning Glory Café’s Food Coordinator) and Morning Glory!” Nick has found a job he loves at a restaurant, and a place to live with another guy, and he feels positive about waking up each morning.

While Mayor Lucas and Nick had been talking, artist Mike Debus had completed the Mother Teresa painting and begun on another that was quickly taking shape as the Face of Christ.

The lines at the buffet ebbed and flowed. Attendees were checking on and occasionally upping their bids on silent auction items, such as restaurant gift cards, gift baskets, sporting goods, crocheted and Irish items, and KC Chiefs tickets, candles, bottles of wine, Reiger Scotch and vodka, religious articles including rosaries, statues and a large, wood framed icon of Our Lady of Bethlehem and the Infant Jesus.

Statistics scrolled on the screen above the stage: As of Nov. 7, Morning Glory Café is on track to serve 100,000 meals to the homeless and working poor in 2019. In 2018, the café served 80,000 meals. Emergency assistance services are up 26 percent over 2018, with 5,396 individuals served as of Nov. 7, including 1, 067 pairs of shoes, 801 backpacks, 136 birth certificates, 280 state IDs and 136 monthly bus passes.

Holwick announced bidding on the three completed paintings, beginning with the image of Patrick Mahomes. Within a few short minutes, the paintings were purchased Mahomes, $275; Mother Teresa, $525, and the Face of Jesus, $600.The Mother Teresa and Face of Jesus paintings were donated back to Morning Glory Ministries and will hang on either side of the cross on the east wall of the café. Kraus said later the cross and the paintings will signify to guests and volunteers that they are in a holy place, on holy ground.

He said the gala raised $60,000, including the Gifts from the Heart donations, the auction items, underwriting and sponsorships.

“It was a wonderful evening,” Kraus said. 

For more information about Morning Glory Ministries, visit www.kcgoldome.org.


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November 29, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph