KC is so full of Do-Gooders that we couldn't stop at four! Here are three more with inspiring stories.
When small-business owners Gayle and Bruce Krigel decided to hang up their spurs 12 years ago, they knew they weren’t yet ready for the repose so often token of a retired lifestyle.
“I said I was going to make volunteering my job,” Gayle says. “I don’t say yes to everything because I know what my limitations are, but I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in several organizations.”
Wherever these asserted limitations lie, they’re far out of sight to anyone but Krigel herself. She began her civic career by serving what would become a longtime passion when she stepped up to chair the Kansas City Zoo’s Jazzoo fundraiser, and she is grateful to have witnessed the fruits of her and her comrades’ labor ripen into metro-wide support as of late.
“So many of the things I’m involved in center around kids,” Krigel says. “It’s so rewarding to see what happens to them because of the impact of these various organizations.”
Some of Krigel’s engagements over the years include establishing the Base Ball fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club Reviving Baseball in the Inner City program, growing the Community Cadet Club at Southwest High School, Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, the AdHoc Group Against Crime and the annual summer Shakespeare Festival.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be asked to participate, and I cherish the amazing relationships of the community leaders who have been mentors to me––Marilyn Strauss with Shakespeare, Mamie Hughes with the Community Cadet Club, Bunni Copaken with Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, Alvin Brooks with the AdHoc Group Against Crime, and Bob Lewellin, of blessed memory, at Friends of the Zoo,” Krigel says. “Connections like that go beyond the organization.”
While Krigel credits her creative flair and efficient managerial skills in giving these organizations a boost, she underscores that there’s nothing more significant for all parties involved than broadening the scope of support.
“All of these programs, they’re teaching kids good values, helping them with life skills and helping them make good decisions about the future of their lives,” Krigel says. “They have ignited a passion in the kids. Who knows what they’ll go on to do.”
Eddie Kennison has been a perennial figure in the local philanthropic scene since the former Chiefs wide receiver made the move to Kansas City more than a decade ago. So when his wife, Shimika, was diagnosed with lupus in 2003, it was a natural step to establish QuickStart: The Eddie Kennison Foundation to help fund research, raise awareness and support families navigating life with lupus.
“There are over 1,500 symptoms that doctors have to look for to say, ‘OK, this is lupus,” Eddie explains. “It takes so long to diagnose it because there are so many symptoms. The process of going through it was a bit of a struggle for us because of the unknown… The unknown was the toughest part.”
That’s not to say the Kennisons have let lupus slow them down. As president and vice president of QuickStart, respectively, Eddie and Shimika join forces to organize lupus fundraising events throughout the year. Highlights include an annual walk in partnership with the Alliance for Lupus Research and Showtime!, a gala showcasing local food, fashion and entertainment. Shimika continues to serve at the helm of the cosmetology school she founded, Entourage Institute, while Eddie takes advantage of his post-NFL free time to launch his own entrepreneurial endeavors in Kansas City.
“We try to make an impact on other people’s lives, whether they have the disease or not,” he says. His non-discriminatory approach to the betterment of Kansas City can be seen in his latest enterprise, a non-emergency medical transportation company, Fleetwood Transportation. Kennison established Fleetwood in 2009 to provide the elderly with an alternative transport option for hospital transfers, doctor visits and personal outings.
“It’s important to step out of your comfort zone and help someone else,” Eddie says. “You never know what someone’s going through. I love people, and I love helping out people who need the help and bringing awareness to different charity organizations. God used me in such a way through the NFL to give a name that people recognize, that people can associate with. Hopefully I’m living up to His expectations.”
If anyone knows the power of a new pair of shoes, it’s Beth Zollars, proprietor of feng, an Asian-inspired clothing and home boutique in Overland Park’s Hawthorne Plaza. Through six years of marrying philanthropy and fashion, she has had the opportunity to build not only a base of loyal clients, but a better community, as well.
“Feng was inspired by a love of Asian culture, a love of fashion, and a love of trying to get women to feel positive about themselves,” Zollars says. “They say beauty comes from within, and I believe that, but I also see many women going through very challenging times, and a fabulous outfit can sometimes lift her soul.”
Using feng as ammunition for her philanthropic efforts, Zollars supports advocacy agencies for women and children, frequently opening her own home to host fashion shows, dinners, and galas. In the past, she donated a pair of shoes to every mother at Operation Breakthrough, and this month finds her on the heels of the 13th annual Holiday Celebration of Women, benefiting this year’s selected organization, Turning Point.
“Bringing fashion and the fluffiness of the things we do to a level of seriousness is why we’re here,” Zollars says. “What really moves me personally is empowering women and giving children the opportunity to have a fair chance when things aren’t at a level playing field for them to begin with.”
Zollars began her mission of supporting Kansas City’s women and children upon her arrival here in 1996. As she put down roots in the heartland, Zollars created the Central Exchange Annual Women’s Lyceum, a leadership conference for area women to share their intellect and develop leadership skills. Because, she stresses, the benefits of civic involvement are twofold.
“For me, it’s also about educating the younger women working around me,” Zollars says.
“Through the network of people I have been able to reach with feng, other ladies have started smaller philanthropic events on their own. If you lead by example and show people it’s not that difficult, amazing outcomes can be achieved.”