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We’ll be back in the Spring with another set of interviews with local KC culture makers.


Brooke Salvaggio of BADSEED

URBAVORE, Winter 2011

RB: How did you get started in urban agriculture?

BROOKE SALVAGGIO: I grew-up in midwestern suburbia.  The endless green lawns, identical houses, big box supermarkets, and T.V. dinners always rubbed me the wrong way.  I was a “jaded” teenager to say the least.  I knew there had to be something more meaningful to life than modern-day materialism and mass consumption.  At the age of 18 I began traveling to older parts of the world in search of that “meaning”.  In order to fund my travels I worked on organic farms in exchange for room and board through a program called WWOOF (world wide opportunities on organic farms).  The experience of working with families to produce food in a low-tech manner opened my eyes to the wonderful world of soil, sustenance, and self-sufficiency .  Putting my hands in the dirt gave me real purpose.  It grounded me and helped me overcome my discontentment with society and my own personal demons.  At that point I knew I wanted to be a farmer.  The “urban” piece came later.

RB: What started the original BADSEED farm in South KC?

SALVAGGIO: As an aspiring farmer at the age of 24, I had no money, no concept of a “business plan”, and no formal training or education.  I was living in San Francisco at the time and desperately wanted to produce my own food.  I knew land in that part of the country would be impossible to obtain, so I decided to move back to KC where my grandfather had a 2.5 acre lawn.  Without fully disclosing my plan to my dear old granddad (!!) I ripped up the sod and transformed his suburban property into a thriving urban homestead complete with organic vegetable fields, fruit trees, free-range chickens, and goats.  My long-term plan was to purchase acreage in a rural area to expand my farming efforts, but over the course of growing food within the city limits I realized that urban-based agriculture was by far the most sustainable answer.  Why truck food in from rural areas when underused, blighted land litters the metropolitan area?  Why not grow food right there, in the heart of the community!  My husband Dan Heryer joined me several years into my urban farming exploits.  Together we produced even more food on that small acreage and we were able to support ourselves as full-time urban farmers.


RB: How was the community support of BADSEED farm?

SALVAGGIO: The larger community ADORED both the farm and the BADSEED Market in downtown KC.  They were incredibly enthusiastic about our efforts to grow nutrient-dense foods and transform people’s perception of lawns.  However, a handful of neighbors in the immediate community felt that the presence of a farm could lower their property values.  To make a very long (and ugly) story short we came under attack by these very vocal, politically-connected neighbors and the City.  Numerous measures were taken to shut-down our farm and homestead.  With an overwhelming amount of community support, we “fought the good fight”.  Although we were forced to compromise our operation to the point of making it no longer viable, we won the larger fight by spawning an Urban Agriculture Ordinance that protects and encourages urban growth & urban farmers alike.  The urban agriculture movement in KC has been greatly enhanced as a result of our hardships.

RB: What are some of the common misconceptions about urban farms?

SALVAGGIO: Common misconceptions hover around the “nuisance” factor of so-called urban farms.  Uninformed individuals perceive agricultural activity to be smelly, noisy, ugly, and un-clean.  Images of large, conventional farms & livestock operations somehow weave their way into people’s vision.  And yes, who on earth would want to live next door to that! In reality, urban farms and gardens tend to be peaceful green spaces that enhance the community both visually & socially while providing delicious homegrown foods.  Large community gardens and small-scale organic farms are the wave of  the future for progressive city neighborhoods.  These green spaces will enhance the community, attract young families to these neighborhoods, and raise property values (not lower them).

Fall Harvest at URBAVORE, 2011

RB: What was the spark to move the farm?

SALVAGGIO: After the whole mess with the City and neighbors, we decided that we A) did not want to compromise the viability of our current market garden and homestead and B) had no interest in living/working in a community that was somewhat hostile, openly racist, and incredibly close-minded.  At that point we began our nation-wide quest for large urban acreage with the intent of creating a highly productive & diverse organic farm in the midst of  a city neighborhood.  This farm would someday serve as a model for urban planners, city developers, and individuals alike while setting a precedent for urban sustainability.

RB: What have been the benefits to the URBAVORE location over BADSEED?

SALVAGGIO: Don’t get me started!  The benefits are vast, but I’ll try to pare it down.  Most notably, our new location on the east side of KC at 55th and Bennington is incredibly diverse.  As most of us know, Kansas City is extremely segregated.  It is hard to find racially and ethnically diverse communities.  Our neighborhood is full of respectable working class people from all walks of  life.  They care about their community, watch-out for one another, and respect each other’s differences.  Furthermore, real crime & real life hardships take precedence over the “crime” of growing organic vegetables.  People here aren’t worried about my tomatoes plummeting their property values.  Instead, they simply see two hardworking people trying to make an honest living through agriculture.


RB: Can you explain about the benefits of the raw land found where URBAVORE sits?

SALVAGGIO: At thirteen and 1/2 acres, URBAVORE is one of the largest urban farms in the nation.  As far as urban land standards go – that’s a lot of space!!  While most large, vacant properties in cities tend to be wooded or riddled with the foundation of demolished houses/buildings, the URBAVORE acreage was cleared, arable land that had never been developed (although it had been under the threat of development for the past 60 years).  At one point our land was slotted to be the campus for Longview Community College, then a Middle School, so on and so forth.  It narrowly escaped countless development projects over the years and has finally met it’s fate to FEED!  The beautifully sloping open land was perfect orchard ground and the flatter fields catered nicely to vegetable production.  The wooded areas along the perimeter are perfect terrain for certain types of livestock like goats, and the healthy pasture grasses cater to grazing animals and free-range poultry.  The fact that the land was raw (no water, electric, or existing infrastructure) meant that we had a completely clean slate to start with – a blank canvas for creating a truly sustainable, passive-solar farmstead.  This “raw” factor has been both a blessing and a curse.  Yes, we can create something awesome from the ground-up without compromising our vision due to already existing factors, but building a farm from scratch with your own two hands is HARD WORK , very time consuming, and incredibly daunting.  We are three years in now and there’s not a waking moment that we aren’t tirelessly building our farm while managing a large vegetable production without the most basic “bells & whistles”.


RB: How important was the zoning from “residential” to “agricultural” for URBAVORE?

SALVAGGIO: It was paramount.  The purchase of our property was contingent upon the re-zoning.  Without agricultural zoning we cannot sell food off our farm via a farm stand or “u-pick”, we cannot employ people as readily, and most importantly we cannot keep livestock.  Animals are an essential part of any truly organic farm.  Animals provide fertility, pest, management, and essential by-products like eggs.  The rezoning of URBAVORE from residential to agricultural was the first time in KC’s history that a property had been “down-zoned” – meaning it’s monetary worth was reduced.  I guess  it just depends on what you value!

RB: What kind of farming is done at URBAVORE?

SALVAGGIO: We grow “beyond-organic” vegetables, flowers, and herbs for market.  We also raise free-range chickens for eggs and seasonally work with another urban farmer to produce pastured chickens for meat.  We are transitioning into tree fruit production and specialty crops like asparagus & blackberries.  We have 5 acres of orchard (apples, pears, peaches, and plums) that will produce delicious fruit in coming years.

RB: Can you talk about the “beyond organic” practices the farm uses?

SALVAGGIO: We use biologically-sound methods to produce all of our food crops.  These methods are far more holistic than those used on most certified organic farms.  Visit the following page on our website for a detailed account of these practices:

RB: How is seed saving important to farming?

SALVAGGIO: Seed saving is an important part of preserving our culinary heritage.  Seeds can only be saved from non-hybridized, heirloom fruits & vegetables.  Over the course of history, these heirloom seeds have been saved and passed down through generations.  They define the flavor of various cultures and speak to the essential bio-diversity of nature.  As production farmers we do not save our own seeds (we rely heavily on adequate germination rates that professional/high quality seed companies can provide).  We do however order all of our seeds from responsible seed companies who provide non GMO organic seeds.

RB: Why should the community be wary of GMO produce?

SALVAGGIO: Industrial, processed foods are now riddled with Genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).  If you buy processed foods or meat of any kind at the supermarket, chances are you ingest GMO’s daily.  Genetically modified grains are produced in mass quantity.  The gene-altered grains are fed to livestock which becomes meat or processed into ingredients like corn syrup which them wind up in many food products and beverages like soda.  Genetically-modified produce is less common across the board, but certain crops like tomatoes have been targeted.  These GM fruits can be found in supermarkets and are (of course) not labeled.  Most types of fruits & veggies are yet to be modified but scientists are working on it everyday.  In the case of  certain varieties of tomatoes, their genes have been modified with fish genes though genetic engineering.  That’s why you’ll hear cases of people biting into a tomato and finding skeletal pieces or bones inside.  Pretty scary!!  The health implications and environmental consequences of GMO’s are yet to be fully understood.  That said, many countries have outlawed them across the board including the EU and it’s member states.  We do know that GMO’s are harmful to people’s health, they contaminate nature’s gene pool (forever) through cross-pollination, they increase herbicide use as they are designed to be “herbicide-tolerant” (most herbicides are far more toxic than even pesticides), and genetic engineering has a multitude of dangerous side-effects.

badseed market

RB: How long as the farmers market been in operation?

SALVAGGIO: The BADSEED Friday Night Farmers’ Market has been operating for 7 years at 1909 McGee street in the Crossroads Arts District.

RB: How does the farm and the market work together?

SALVAGGIO: The farm supplies the vast majority of  gourmet produce sold at the BADSEED Market.  Our gorgeous farm offerings are the centerpiece of an eclectic and colorful marketplace  that celebrates local food and community consciousness.  URBAVORE-grown goodies are complimented by high-quality products from farmers and food artisans throughout the area.

RB: For someone that’s never been, what will they find at the BADSEED farmers market.

SALVAGGIO: You will find a gregarious gang of growers toting delectable foods produced ethically and with a whole lotta’ love.  Our farmers are a good-humored bunch that know their customers by name.  You will find grass-fed meats, free-range eggs, sheep’s milk cheese, raw honey, organically-grown produce, freshly-milled flour & oats, organic body products, herbal teas, micro-roasted coffee and more.

RB: What changes for the market and farm going into fall?

SALVAGGIO: The market gets new vendors and seasonal products as Fall rolls on and Winter sets in.  Many of our summer vendors wrap up their seasons and are replaced with farmers who grow storage crops or winter greens.  The BADSEED Market will continue every Friday thru the end of February from 4-8 PM.

As for the farm, we will be inundated with “off season” projects once the growing season officially ends.  We are in the process of constructing a passive-solar, earthbermed home (think hobbit house with goats grazing on a sod covered roof!).  The house construction has been on hold since spring planting began this past March.  We look forward to a “killing freeze” in the vegetable fields so we can re-focus our energy on this much needed infrastructure.

RB: Can you talk about the internship opportunities at BADSEED?

SALVAGGIO: URBAVORE hires 3 to 4 farm apprentices each year.  Our apprenticeship program runs from March 1st through the end of October.  Apprentices receive in-field training in the art of no-till, organic vegetable production.  They also obtain skills in rotational livestock management, homesteading, orchard & perennial management, and marketing.  For more details visit the following page on our website:

RB: How can the KC community support it’s farmers?

SALVAGGIO: EAT THEIR FOOD!  It’s as simple as that.  You’d be amazed how many people support the idea of local/organic food but can’t quite seem to put their money where their mouth is.  The supermarket lifestyle must be amended.  Buy directly from Farmers via weekly Farmers’ Markets or Community Supported Agriculture  (CSA) programs.  KC is lucky enough to have a Farmers’ Market 7 days a week in various locations for a good portion of the year.  Meat & eggs can be provided by local farmers year round!  Buying ethically produced, nutrient-dense local food actually saves you money rather than costs you more.  The health benefits are vast and you’ll be amazed what it can do to curb your family’s medical bills.   For a great “eat local” resource check out the KC Food Circle and get a hold of their “producer’s directory”.

Criminal Farmers

Visit The BADSEED Farmers Market  in downtown KC in the Crossroads Arts District at 1909 McGee Street, KCMO every Friday Night, 4:00 – 9 PM (May 3rd thru Nov. 22nd) & 4-8 PM (Nov. 29th. thru the end of Feb.)

Put your walking boots on and take a tour of the URBAVORE Urban Farm

Follow BADSEED on Facebook.




Nick Ward-Bopp & Sam Green of Maker Village

Inside the Jarboe Initiative. Photo by Eric Loffland

Inside The Jarboe Initiative workshop. Photo by Eric Loffland

RED BALLOON: What were you folks doing before Maker Village?

MAKER VILLAGE: We were working on the Jarboe Initiative project in the Westside. Before that we were both at University. I was at Avila studying Business and Economics– and Sam was at Purdue studying Electrical Engineering.

RB: What was the spark to begin Maker Village?

MV: It was what came out of the Jarboe Initiative. We had acquired A LOT of tools during the rehabilitation of the building we were in– and we ended up making a 1000 SF shop to rehab the apartment we were working on. We had little idea what we were doing at the time, and relied on the internet, the DIY’ers publishing online, and anyone who would talk to us in Kansas City for direction and knowledge. Through this we interacted with LOADS of good people who expressed interest in a community shop, a place to prototype ideas, or just a place to make stuff.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Jarboe Initiative porch. Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: How were you able to source funding?

MV: We saved $40k since mid 2011. A portion of that came from a Bread!KC grant we won– that event, some 200 people sitting outside at Local Pig listening to the trains roll by, really gave us the confidence to get after the Maker Village project.  Now we are working with Missouri Bank to secure a building through traditional means.

RB: How has getting the keys to that project changed your life?

MV: Well we are testing the concept in our current 1000 SF shop and holding small workshops and build days, but won’t be able to roll our memberships until we close on the larger commercial space at 31st and Cherry. The keys for us have really been focusing an idea, breaking it down into small but measurable goals, and airing it out so others can be involved in the process.

Catherine Turner. Photo by Eric Loffland

Catherine Turner in the workshop. Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: Does living where you work connect you more to one, the other, or both?

MV: Uhhh yes,  it connects us to work and the objectives in front of us, always top of mind. Also no TV’s or couches really help keep us in the shop during the day.

Sam Green. Photo by Eric Loffland

Sam Green test fitting a bike for the 2013 Better Block KC bike-up bar. Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: Besides cost, what do you see as the value of reclaimed materials?

MV: What the world needs more of, is less.  We see putting man-hours into reusing found items as a better option than throwing things away and buying new, even if it’s not completely economical. As the world market balances out the value of labor, we still have a bunch of physical items with untapped utility that we aren’t using.

RB: So many different skill sets go into a project like the Jarboe Initiative, how did you find the right folks?

MV: We got lucky. Friends, and friends of friends helped out all the time. Somehow we kept them happy with beers, burritos, and and t-shirts.

Nick Ward-Bopp. Photo by Eric Loffland

Nick Ward-Bopp. Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: How can people of different crafts working together be beneficial?

MV: That’s how people learn from each other, collaborate, and innovate. Not to mention build a sense of community or launch a business. I know that sounds hokey– but it could save the next generation. The artisan movement is gaining momentum, mix in a little bit of grit and modern tooling– and you have an America that is once again producing at higher level than it is consuming. Quality goods will never go out of style.

RB: Is KC a good home for these kinds of projects?

MV: Hell yes. There is a renaissance happening in KC. Artisan made items are now common place. Locally made goods are no longer a novelty, they are high quality and competitive. Entrepreneurship is becoming more important than entertainment.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Reclaimed lumber in the workshop. Photo by Eric Loffland

Plus there is an abundance of land and buildings that need to be rehabbed and brought back to life, including the public schools (and system). This is unfortunate in many ways, but also a major opportunity for us to pause, rethink, and roll up our sleeves to implement a new way forward.

RB: Does getting your hands dirty on a tangible project fuel creativity?

MV: Yes– and it also burns calories. Don’t waste sweat in the gym.

Nick Ward-Bopp, Sam Green, Catherine Turner. Photo by Eric Loffland

Nick Ward-Bopp, Sam Green, Catherine Turner during a build day for Better Block KC. Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: What is the goal for Maker Village?

MV: We want to lower the barrier to entry into the maker movement. Make ourselves and our community more resilient, capable, and empowered. Also, to hire our first employee and open the doors in late 2014.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: How would you like to see Maker Village as part of KC?

MV: A community of builders fighting the good fight. A space to create. A place where ideas get from the back of your napkin — to real life.

RB: Knowing what you know now, would you take the plunge again?

MV: Yes, but as Sam and I both have full-time jobs outside of the Maker Village project– I would say we haven’t quite walked the plank yet.


Photo by Eric Loffland.

RB: What’s next for Nick & Sam of Maker Village?

MV: We have to close on the commercial building we are pursing at 31st and cherry and then get to work on building a proper shop.

RB: How can Kansas City support Maker Village

MV: Since our doors aren’t open yet, you can help us by getting involved in the maker movement that already exists in Kansas City. Become a member at Hammerspace, MCC’s Fab Lab, Johnson County Library’s Makerspace, and/or check out Union Station’s Makerspace that is being built.

Sam Green, Nick Ward-Bopp. Photo by Eric Loffland

Sam Green, Nick Ward-Bopp. Photo by Eric Loffland

Find out more about Maker Village and The Jarboe Initiative:

Watch The Jarboe Initiative Documentary

Follow Maker Village on Facebook and Twitter



Judy Mills of Mills Record Company

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

RED BALLOON: How did Mills Record Company come to be?

JUDY MILLS: I decided that I absolutely was no longer in the state of being that would allow me to work in a corporate retail situation.  I love music, always have and Westport, okay I’ll say it, Kansas City needed a place to buy new vinyl.  Every other city had a good new vinyl selection, but here.  And I took a leap of faith.

RB: Why do you think Westport has always drawn KC’s record stores?

MILLS: It’s central, I think.  That interesting things and interesting people have always been drawn to this area.  Westport has a history of that.  It also doesn’t hurt that it’s within walking distance of UMKC and the Art Institute.

RB: How were you able to fill a store with vinyl seemingly overnight?

MILLS: OMG…it was so not overnight.  I promise.  I started looking for retail space in December and we opened in May.  But I’m glad to know that it looked easy anyway.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: How does an independent record store fit into the record industry of today?

MILLS: I could sing the blues here, but that would just be wrong.  The best part is that many labels/distributors understand the woes of being the little guy and they try to help with “Indie Exclusives”.  And indie record stores, just like non commercial radio, diy venues, and other music lovers who really work less for profits and more for the satisfaction make music (and life for that matter) more interesting.  We will sell mainstream artists because we want all people to own vinyl, but we don’t have to.  And, we can help be a tastemaker…introducing people to new bands/music is so much fun and infinitely rewarding (and that reward isn’t particularly financial and that’s okay.) So in a word, it enriches the industry.

RB: KC has seen some of it’s record stores close in recent years, what makes a record store successful?

MILLS: I’m too new to say I know the answer for certain.  But I do know how to make a business successful.  I have a resume to prove that.  But here’s what’s not on that resume, do what your heart and soul loves, do it with good intentions and kindness, and do it damn well.  And one way or another, things will be good.  And that’s pretty much the foundation for Mills Record Company.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: Are the days of ‘big record deals’ behind us?

MILLS: Probably…but even the best artists want a big label behind them on a key projects.  Jack White’s “Blunderbuss” was not a Third Man Records release.  He wanted a powerhouse behind him on that record.  But yes, musicians/bands are diy-ing more and more, diminishing the need for a deal and then tearing down that structure.  (1-it wouldn’t be an interview if I didn’t mention Jack White.  2-I’m far from an expert on the subject of “big record deals”.)

RB: The golden question: Why is vinyl still cherished by music lovers?

MILLS: Because of the sound.  Most often music was recorded to be heard on analogue.  So hearing it as the artist recorded it is quite simply the only way to listen to music you love.  Not clipped from the top and bottom to fit onto a digital file.  Then pressed into an mp3 file.  So that CD your friend burned ya and then you squeezed onto your ipod?  Trust me, you’re missing sound, my friend.   Not to even mention the art, the lyrics sheet, the inserts etc.

RB: In your opinion, will digital music ever eclipse the hard copy?

MILLS: As long as we can’t listen to records in cars or while we’re on the treadmill there will always be digital music.  But, the Spotify-s of the world will absolutely diminish mp3s and itunes libraries.  I’ve left more itune libraries behind than men in the last decade.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: How does online shopping fit into the record store of today?

MILLS: It’s our biggest competitor.  Some record stores see other record stores as competition, but Amazon is the biggest competitor we all have.  And when you shop at a local record store, you keep people in your neighborhood in jobs.  And at our store, you aren’t paying more for that.  Sometimes that shop local rally is hard when you’re on a budget, I know this.  Why pay $20 bucks more for a $100 item just to “shop local”? At our store, that won’t happen.

RB: Why is it important for Mills to nourish the local music scene?

MILLS: Because it’s the right thing to do.  Because we, also, are part of the local music scene, just buy being local and selling music.  Because our customers want to know about local music.  Because supporting local music is what every record store should do.  Period.

RB: What’s the advantage of doing an instore show over a bar/club show for a band?

MILLS: It’s fun, it’s all ages, it became kinda novel around KC, and it’s part of a long standing tradition of music.

RB: How do you see local collaboration, like La Cucaracha Press, as part of the local record store?

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

MILLS: Most obviously, it’s local and they are badass. But more importantly, they’re interesting people, doing with passion, amazing work.  That connection sorta happened organically and after meeting Jordan once, I knew I wanted to do things with La Cucaracha Press.  And once you’ve meet them, you’ll know exactly what I mean.  And all this is reflected in the things they make, with passion and talent and wit.  This is the kind of local collaborations I want to do.

RB: Do you have any local heroes?

MILLS: Michael Byars and Chris Hagarian support local music in a tireless way.  I admire their energy.  Kelly Corcoran, of the infamous Lovegarden, is the Godfather of Indie Record Stores.  And the legend of Ann Winters sometimes makes me work harder when I want to sleep instead.  The love that Kansas City has for her is huge and the stories I hear make me wish that I had known her personally rather than admire her from behind the used CD rack.

RB: How can the KC community support their local record shop?

MILLS: Shop local, of course.  But also, tell your friends.  And, less obviously, give us feedback.  What can we do better?  What do you want?  How can we grow to make you come back over and over and more importantly, how can we make your turntable happy?

RB: What does the future hold for Mills Record Company?

MILLS: More of the same…surprises, growth, love and music.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

Visit Mills Record Company in Westport at 314 Westport Road Kansas City, MO 64111

Mills Record Blog



Jennifer Tung, Ali Hofmeyer, Laura Wittmer & Emily Boullear of VISTA

VISTA Ladies Jennifer Tung, Ali Hofmeyer, Laura Wittmer & Emily Boullear.  Photo by Eric Loffland

VISTA Ladies Jennifer Tung, Ali Hofmeyer, Laura Wittmer & Emily Boullear. Photo by Eric Loffland

The ladies of VISTA work at Veronica’s Voice whose mission is to end commercial sexual exploitation in the United States. Veronica’s Voice is Kansas City’s only advocacy and survivor-recovery program dedicated solely to victims of prostitution, commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. The primary focus of Veronica’s Voice is to offer compassionate and non-judgmental support to victims through survivor-run services. Veronica’s Voice offers exploited individuals a safe place to process their experiences with others who can relate to them, allowing them to take control of their lives.

RED BALLOON: Could you explain a little of what the VISTA ladies do?

ALI HOFMEYER: VISTA stands for Volunteer In Service to America.  At Veronica’s Voice, we have VISTAs in 4 different roles: Volunteer Coordinator, Resource Development, Marketing, and Event Planning.  We work 40 hours a week just like a full-time staff.  We are given a Volunteer Assignment Description (VAD) at the beginning of our service so that we have goals to work toward.  Our main goal is to build capacity for these organizations so than when we leave they are able to function to their best ability.  We meet weekly as VISTAs to talk about our tasks and how we can best support each other.  We really get to take ownership of projects and departments within the organization, which is very dynamic and exciting.

Photo by Eric Loffland

ALI HOFMEYER – Volunteer Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA. Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: What is the relationship between VISTA and Veronica’s Voice?

HOFMEYER: Each of us VISTAs interviewed with the Office Manager and Executive Director at Veronica’s Voice, just like any other employee would.  We report to the Office Manager and are assigned daily tasks outside of our VAD as the office needs.  What separates us from the staff is we also report to our hub site, Washburn University.  We have trainings we are required to do through Washburn, we must report our weekly hours, work progress, etc. to our VISTA Leader, etc.  Because we are Americorps members, we receive a living allowance through that rather than Veronica’s Voice having to pay each of us.

RB: What does Veronica’s Voice do for Kansas City?

HOFMEYER: Veronica’s Voice provides survivor informed care and advocacy for victims of commercial sexual exploitation.  We also focus on victims 18 years and older.  There is not a lot of services for women who have been arrested for or trying to escape from prostitution.  There is a lot of stigma and misunderstanding.  Veronica’s Voice provides a place of safety and resources without judgement.  All of the client services are handled by our Case Manager, who is also a survivor.  This allows the women to open up during group time and process together, because they know it’s a space where the others understand her struggles and fears and oppression.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: How large is the need for programs like Veronica’s Voice in KC?

HOFMEYER: The statistics of people being bought and sold like objects are everywhere.  And they’re staggering.  There must be a place in Kansas City for these women to go, where they can heal and process, learn and grow, rehabilitate and educate.  There are literally hundreds of women and girls who are on the street corners of Kansas City every night, now knowing if at any moment they will be raped, beaten, or killed.  All lacking the crucial resources they need to be self-sufficient and stable individuals.  These programs must exist so that these women know that someone cares for them, someone believes in them, and that there is a space for them to reach their greatest potential.

RB: What are some of the common misconceptions about commercial sexual exploitation (CSE)?

LAURA WITTMER: Often victims of CSE are not seen as victims but as people who have made bad choices. Unfortunately, we don’t all have the same start in life and it’s not really a choice for these women. Many of them have histories of sexual abuse, grew up in poverty, were exploited as children, or come from generations of prostituted women, making it hard for them to see an alternate path. There are many different ways women and girls come to be prostituted, and as a whole they are a very vulnerable population. As Dr. Lauran Bethell has defined it, human trafficking is the exploitation of vulnerability. If we aren’t able to examine our own privilege it can be easy to judge victims of CSE as poor decision makers.

LAURA WITTMER – Marketing & Communications AmeriCorps VISTA. Photo by Eric Loffland

LAURA WITTMER – Marketing & Communications AmeriCorps VISTA. Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: Why are prostituted persons some of the most marginalized, stigmatized and under-served members of society?

WITTMER: Prostituted persons are often women or children from low socioeconomic statuses. A disproportionately high amount of African-American women are victims of CSE and non-English speakers are at a higher risk of being exploited. As I touched on above, there is a common misconception that prostituted persons are criminals rather than victims, which in large part is why so few social services exist for them. We are working to challenge such beliefs. I think that through education the public will come to realize that prostitution is a form of violence against women and children.

RB: How can you open the community up to be educated on CSE?

WITTMER: I think if survivors’ stories and research are equally important tools for educating. Survivors are really important advocates because often it is their stories that allow people to connect with and put a face to the issue, opening them up to a broader education on this injustice.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

Average citizens, though, are really important players in helping to shift the paradigm. Individuals can help be catalysts for change in everyday life by simple acts like sharing new-found information about trafficking with friends or by challenging someone expressing an ignorant or hateful attitude toward women.

RB: Is an educated community enough?

WITTMER: Education is not enough but it is the first step. Ultimately we need to get to a place where prostituted persons are not criminalized but are provided services that allow them to process trauma and provide skills training. We need to realize that the demand (the men who buy sex) is what fuels this problem, and we need to stigmatize the act of buying sex and heavily penalize that act.

RB: What are the barriers facing the survivors of CSE in KC?

JENNIFER TUNG: Lack of/ gap-in proper services and support from the community, untreated psychological traumas, mental illness, lack of education, social stigma and misunderstanding, etc.

RB:  How does Veronica’s Voice help someone transcend being a victim of CSE to a survivor?


JENNIFER TUNG – Fundraising and Events Coordinator. Photo by Eric Loffland.

TUNG: Veronica’s Voice connects victims to resources in the community to assist them in leaving a life of prostitution. Veronica’s Voice also provides peer support through weekly groups, crisis services to victims through our Safe Center and 24-hour crisis line, and various outreach services.

RB:  What are the benefits to survivor-run services?

TUNG: Survivors are able to connect to victims in a way that non-survivors cannot. They are from the same culture.

RB: How will the purchase of St Paul School of Theology help Veronica’s Voice?

EMILY BOULLEAR: A successful acquisition of the St. Paul School of Theology campus would provide up to 60 girls and women with a safe and healthy home. The St. Paul Campus would also offer the surrounding community social services such as a medical clinic, daycare, charter school and library. As of now, we refer our clients to two different shelters across the city but there are currently no shelters in Kansas City that are designed for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.

RB: There is a lot of pushback from the community, how can people help?

EMILY BOULLEAR - Resource Development AmeriCorps VISTA. Photo by Eric Loffland

EMILY BOULLEAR – Resource Development AmeriCorps VISTA. Photo by Eric Loffland

BOULLEAR: You can help! Let your KCMO City Council members know that you support KC CASE‘s bid on the St. Paul campus. Spread the word about Veronica’s Voice and the services that we provide! Advocate for a broader community understanding of the issue at hand and educate one’s friends, family and colleagues! And last but not least, please make a small donation to our Indiegogo fundraiser .

LAURA WITTMER tending the therapeutic garden. Photo by Eric Loffland

LAURA WITTMER tending the therapeutic garden. Photo by Eric Loffland

RB; What is the goal of the fundraiser on Indiegogo?

BOULLEAR: We have a $25,000 goal on our Indiegogo page that will go towards the initial payment on the St. Paul campus bid. Ultimately, the acquisition of the St. Paul campus will help survivors of commercial sexual exploitation find a safe and healthy home and access to social services. Additionally, our entire organization would evolve significantly by being involved in the acquisition of the St. Paul campus.

RB: Can you talk a little about the upcoming Demand Change Heartland Conference?

TUNG: The 2nd Annual Demand Change Heartland Conference, a project of Veronica’s Voice, serves as a key part of the overall Demand Change Heartland Movement. The vision of the Heartland Movement is to shift the public’s paradigm from seeing prostituted individuals as criminals to understanding prostitution as a form of violence against and oppression of women and youth.

Prostituted persons are some of the most marginalized, stigmatized and under-served members of society. On October 26, 2013, Veronica’s Voice will bring together survivors of the commercial sex industry who are now leaders advocating for the sexually exploited, to educate on the realities of sex trafficking/prostitution in America and make a call to action for the community to demand change.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

With this conference, Veronica’s Voice aims to engage the American heartland community in challenging attitudes and beliefs about prostituted persons, shifting responsibility to those who purchase human beings, and to raise desperately needed funds to support Veronica’s Voice programs and services. All profits from this year’s conference will be invested back into Veronica’s Voice to support victim services.

Register at

Our Featured Survivor-Leader Speakers:

Kristy Childs  Founder & Executive Director of Veronica’s Voice, Kansas City, MO

Vednita Carter Founder & Executive Director of Breaking Free, St. Paul & Minneapolis, MN

Tina Frundt  Founder & Executive Director of Courtney’s House, Washington D.C.

Brenda Myers-Powell  Executive Director of The Dreamcatcher Foundation, Chicago, IL

Christine McDonald  Author of Cry Purple, Saint Louis, MO

Karen Countryman-Roswurm, Ph.D., LMSW  Founder & Executive Director of

Wichita State University Center for Combating Human Trafficking, Wichita, KS

Special Video Address by Stella Marr Founding Member of Sex Trafficking Survivors United, Houston, TX

Master of Ceremonies:

Vivian VanVleet  Victim Witness Coordinator, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Kansas

Distinguished Guests:

Special Video Address by Ambassador Swanee Hunt Former United States Ambassador to Austria, Chair of Demand Abolition, Cambridge, MA


Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: If there is one message you could share today, what would it be?

BOULLEAR: Ignorant and stagnant communities see a prostitute; Informed and educated communities see a victim; Responsive and courageous communities make a difference!

Connect with VISTA at Veronica’s Voice at

Donate to their indiegogo campaign here.

Register for the Demand Change Heartland Conference here.



Crowdfunded Kansas City


Crowdfunding has become a very viable resource for startups, civic projects, and company scaling.  Kansas City has had many successfully funded campaigns through online crowdfunding sites like, kickstarter, & indiegogo.   The collective effort of individuals working together and the ability to donate directly allows a more connected philanthropy experience.  Here we’ve gathered some of the current crowdfunding projects in KC.  These projects are an easy, inexpensive, and positive way to give back to the KC community.  Cheers!

Help The 816 Bicycle Collective Overhaul The New Hub


Who We Are

We are a collective of individuals from diverse backgrounds working on a volunteer basis to rescue, repair and redistribute bicycles. We play a vital role for low income commuters in the Kansas City area, though we serve absolutely anyone who is open to the freedom that comes with learning how to fix your own bicycle, embraces our DIY recycled-bike model or cannot afford for-profit bike shop prices. We believe in empowerment through education and support the use of bicycles as a healthy and ecological means of transportation.

The New Hub

The 816 Bicycle Collective purchased outright three under-loved buildings at the corner of 31st and Cherry. This affords us the unique opportunity to take ownership of our future and implement the programming we’ve always dreamed of. In addition to the new home of The 816, these buildings will provide space for other likeminded non-profits and businesses to sustain the operations of the buildings. This, in effect, will make us less dependent on grants, philanthropic donations, and institutional sponsorship, allowing us to employ sustainable practices and continue our growth as a hub for the cycling community.

Why We Need Your Help

The strength of The 816 rests entirely on the shoulders of our unpaid members and volunteers, most of whom, are below the poverty line. Over the past five years, our members have tirelessly sacrificed their time to help this organization sustain its programming. Every member has had to learn how to refine their particular skills to further the mission of our organization without any consideration of compensation. Seeing those less fortunate empowered through mobility keeps us motivated. Although morale is high and the valiant efforts of our members persist, our current space greatly limits our capacity to help people and prohibits us from being open more than two days a week. However, a recent turn of events has invigorated the capacity of the collective. We have been fortunate enough to acquire the help of Jamie P. Jefferies, a generous licensed contractor. He has agreed to help us complete our project and has already donated over $25,000.00 in-kind for the rehabilitation of our buildings. We need $82,816.00 to get all three buildings re-roofed and up to code by spring of 2014. Now we need you to join our efforts. With your help, and under Jamie’s guidance, we can realize our goal and begin to serve our community together more effectively.


Help Find a Permanent Home for BoysGrow


Our Mission

BoysGrow was founded in 2010 and is a year-round youth empowerment program. We farm 10 acres and employ inner-city boys ages 13-15 to work on the farm and run the business. The young men assist with everything associated with getting the produce in local restaurants. They also run the business of BoysGrow from public speaking to social media, from working on the website to sales with new restaurants. It is a 2 year program and the older classmen are recquired to come up with a product that will be sold in local restaurant that has some ingredients from our Farm. It is here the young entrepreneurs learn everything it takes to get a product into the stores from coming up with the ingredients to an effective marketing plan.

No Place to Call Our Own

For the first three growing season we used donated land on a year-to-year basis. It was great soil and the farmer who owned it assisted with tilling and maintenance but it was always a temporary location and understood we could not truly call it home. We were forced to relocate in 2013 and found another temporary location. Once again a great spot but nothing that we can build on and we will have to break everything down at the end of the season.

Why We Need Your Help

Our goal is to purchase our very own farming location. We’ve tried numerous outlets for borrowed or donated land but we have a very specific search criteria in order to grow the program and to give our city youth a breath of fresh country air. Once we have our own location we can create more of a sustainable farm with greenhouses, water catchment, solar power, a wood-shop area, a functional kitchen and harvest area and electricity and running water. This will allow BoysGrow to better serve and teach our young entrepreneurs. Our youth are thirsty to learn hands-on entrepreneurial skills and the more of a business we create, the more opportunities they have. We plan on using the funding we raise for the downpayment of our own property and once the perfect location comes on the market, have the ability to move forward with creating a BoysGrow Hub where eventually generations upon generation of graduates will return and see The Farm they all helped build.


Made in Kansas City Initiative

made in kc

We know people want to buy local products and support their fellow Kansas Citians, but it can be difficult to determine which products are made locally and to find establishments that sell them. We are launching the “Made in Kansas city Initiative” with the goal of placing the trademark on products that are made in the greater Kansas City area.

We believe in a Kansas City where companies manufacture their products locally. This is a Kansas City where these companies thrive.

We’re working to strengthen the local economy by creating an environment where Kansas City products are the first choice, where local products are displayed with pride in our establishments, and where you can find those products quickly and easily.

We are seeking funding to take our organization to the next level. We need to take the next year to find local products and build them into an app that people can use to find their favorite local products and where they’re available. Funding raised here will go to that work and the establishment of our 501(c)(3) statues so we can continue to grow and operate as a not for profit.

We believe that by providing people with the tools to choose local products, we empower them to build a smarter and stronger KC.

We also know that start ups have many decisions when looking to grow. That’s why in addition to linking people to their favorite local products we are gathering information about manufacturers that are available that can produce products for our start ups. That way start ups also know what their options are when looking to grow and can then choose to continue to grow here in KC.


Transitional Housing for the Sexually Exploited

Who We Are

Veronica’s Voice, founded in 2000, operates a Safe Center for girls and women who are survivors of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE). Our founder Kristy Childs, a survivor of CSE, has dedicated her life to helping women and girls caught in this violent cycle of survival. Through survivor-run services, we offer compassionate and non-judgmental support to victims and a safe place for them to process their experiences. Our mission is to end CSE in the U.S. 

For more information on what we do, visit

Our Dream

The Kansas City Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation (KCCASE), of which Veronica’s Voice is a member, is in the process of purchasing a the St. Paul School of Theology site that would serve as a social services campus for the community and greater Kansas City area. Veronica’s Voice would occupy one of the buildings, which would provide a safe home for up to 60 girls and women. Our facility would offer survivors a place to both heal and acquire the skills necessary to never again have to compromise their safety and sexuality to survive.

In short, our dream is to provide housing and services for youth and adult survivors, including job training, adult education services, a clinic, daycare and charter schools.

For more information on KCCASE, visit:

The Pushback: Fear and Prejudice 

A recent city council meeting regarding our potential purchase of St. Paul School of Theology was interrupted by community members who aim to prevent Veronica’s Voice from purchasing the property. One member of the community stated, “I’d rather see St. Paul’s boarded up, with weeds up to my shoulders.” A local news report featuring the neighbors’ complaints can be found here.

Veronica’s Voice serves one of society’s most marginalized and under-served demographics. These neighbors’ concerns are uneducated, unfounded, and fueled by fear and prejudice.

How You Can Help

By donating to this fundraiser, you are directly supporting the housing, recovery, education, and rehabilitation of survivors of commercial sexual exploitation. Please help give survivors the safety of a home and a place to heal.


Better Block KC 2013

When: 4 Oct 5-10 PM – First Friday
Where: 19th & Main St. – Crossroads Arts District
Visit our event page for more information: Better Block KC

Who We Are

We’re a group of young architects, engineers, planners & general urbanites that are passionate about accelerating a vision for our city. Join us – inquire via email to Chris Snyder

What is Better Block?

Better Block is an initiative to spread awareness regarding the viability & appeal of a more sustainable community through the transformation of an under-utilized city block into a ‘complete street.’ The intent is to develop a vibrant space that is an attractor for citizens & businesses alike that improves the outdoor environment, increases economic activity & provides multi-modal transportation.

The goal is to influence & accelerate future development in keeping with the principals of Better Block. Projects serve as a demonstration tool that act as a living charrette so that communities can actively engage in the buildout process and provide feedback in real time. is a resource of best practices that has helped countless cities implement projects to meet this objective.

Better Block KC 2012 on Grand was a tremendous success, creating a sense of place with wide landscaped sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, dedicated bike lanes, on-street parking and transit & bike-sharing service. The event drew crowds & calmed traffic, captivating city officials intrigued by the possibilities.

Better Block 2013

We’re excited to expand the multi-model concept in 2013 with a mock-up of the streetcar starter line. Construction on this dynamic addition to our streetscape is slated to begin this year after discontinuing service over 50 years ago.

This year’s event will be held in the heart of the Crossroads Arts District on Main. Capitalizing on the success of First Fridays – an event where galleries & shops open their doors, drawing considerable foot traffic curious to discover a pop-up outdoor space. Better Block will be held October 4th, marking the beginning of an active month for transit, including Transform KC @ Union Station – an event to envision our transit-oriented future.


The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Central Plains Chapter is taking the lead in organizing this event. The Chapter is a network of professionals committed to a more sustainable built environment – providing resources, education and networking opportunities in our region. Together, we envision a greener region that truly celebrates the culture, history and environment of our spaces, inside and out, and people that design, build and use them.


Challenge Air Fly Day for KC Kids


This campaign is raising funds on behalf of Challenge Air For Kids And Friends Inc, a verified nonprofit. The campaign does not necessarily reflect the views of the nonprofit or have any formal association with it. All contributions are considered unrestricted gifts and can’t be specified for any particular purpose.

Who We Are

Challenge Air builds self-esteem and confidence in children and youth with special needs through the experience of flight.

Since 1993, Challenge Air has enriched the lives of children and youth with special needs through its unique aviation programs. Challenge Air’s mission reflects the life-changing impact the flight experience has on children, families, donors, sponsors, and communities as a whole. With a network of nearly 3,500 volunteers nationwide, volunteers serve as pilots, ground crew, fundraisers, planning committee members, and numerous other capacities. As Challenge Air continues to grow and add more programs across the country, its mission will remain true – To continue to serve special needs children through the gift of flight.

What We Do

Since 2006, Kansas City has hosted an annual Challenge Air “Fly Day” at the Downtown Charles Wheeler Airport. Our own Kansas City Fly Day has six goals:

1.  Improve the quality of life for children with special needs and their families,

2.  Inspire children with special needs to be excited about learning and optimistic about their future,

3.  Educate children about the aviation industry and encourage them to consider new occupational roles,

4.  Involve and promote civic and community engagement,

5.  Create an environment for peer interaction for children with special needs, and

6.  Promote local organizational resources to families with special needs.

We Need Your Help!

The 8th Annual Kansas City Fly Day will be held on Saturday, September 7thfrom 8 AM – 4 PM at the Downtown Charles Wheeler Airport.

This year, through this crowdfunding campaign and your generosity, we will raise $5,000 to put more than 100 children with special needs in a plane and in the air. Every single cent we raise will be spent in Kansas City for Kansas City children with special needs. The more we raise, the more children and families whose lives we can help transform.

We need you to help us spread the word about this campaign and about the Fly Day. At the top of this page, you can share our cause with your friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, and family and coworkers through email.

Thank you for your help!




Tori Fugate of KC Pet Project


Photo by Eric Loffland

You may have heard of the KC Pet Project, been to a Pils for Paws happy hour, or seen their heartstring-tugging photos of homeless pets.  You may have read about their recent accolades, but what is the KC Pet Project? The answer seems daunting.  The KC Pet Project is the Kansas City animal shelter.  If a pet is lost, owner surrendered, or picked up in KCMO, it comes to KCPP.  That’s a lot of animals.  The daunting part is that KCPP is a no-kill shelter.  It’s the 4th largest open admission no-kill shelter in the United States. Over 90% of the homeless pets that come to KCPP find a new home.  Tori Fugate recently gave me a tour of the main facility and talked about the amazing things that are happening at KCPP.

RED BALLOON: What is the mission of KC Pet Project?

TORI FUGATE: Our mission is to end the killing of healthy and treatable pets in Kansas City, MO by using the most progressive and lifesaving programs and promoting effective animal control policies. Our group was formed specifically to take over the KCMO Animal Shelter and to end the senseless killing of many healthy, treatable, and adoptable pets.  Before KC Pet Project came here the euthanasia rate was pretty significant, up to 60% of the animals that came in.  As early as 2008 only 32%, I believe, of animals that came in left alive.  So for us to get to 90% in just a few months after being here is very significant.  We’ve now been over 90% for 12 straight months and all but 2 months since we’ve actually been in operation as the city shelter.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: That’s a huge number of euthanized animals before KC Pet Project.

FUGATE: It is a huge number.  2008 was pretty much the worst year on record and then the city got out of the sheltering business, handing it over to a couple of private veterinary clinics.  They made improvements, up to about a 50% euthanasia rate.  There were still reports that animals weren’t being treated as they should have been so the city took back over operations.  The city put out a contract in 2011 and our group was formed to respond to that contract, to take over the operation.  Our group is mainly made up of people who have been involved in animal welfare for a number of years.  People that have worked with legislative issues all around KC trying to get laws into place within our city.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: How large of an area does KC Pet Project serve?

FUGATE: We are the shelter for KCMO.  We take in any lost, impounded, or owner surrendered pets from KCMO residents all the way from the triangle to the airport.  So if your dog gets lost or impounded, if it’s picked up by a citizen and brought to a shelter, it comes here.  We take in around 8,000 pets a year.  Not just dogs and cats, we take in goats, pigs, and chickens.  We’ve had llamas, alligators, and owls, all sorts of interesting animals.  We are the city shelter for KC and KC Pet Project is the nonprofit that runs the shelter.


Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: How many staff and volunteers does it take to run KC Pet Project?

FUGATE: It takes a village! We have around 44 paid staff and two locations; our main shelter and we have an adoption center in Zona Rosa shopping center.  We also have a pretty large network of volunteers that work at both locations doing everything from dog walking to transporting around the city.  We have groups that come in, like businesses, and dog walk for a day or help us sorting donations.  We have a pretty heavy network of volunteers, of course we always need more.  We need more in the mornings to help with play groups, we need more in the afternoon to help us walk dogs.  We’re always looking for ways to get more people involved.  We like to tell people “whatever your talent is, we would be happy to help you utilize it to help us out here at the shelter.” Of course fostering is a huge thing, we always need fosters whether it’s temporary, or a few months, whatever it is you have time for.  We always need more fosters to take pets that need time out of the shelters into the home environment.

RB: How many animals does KC Pet Project have sheltered?

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

FUGATE: Around 400 or so between or two locations right now.  Usually 400-450 which is a pretty high number for this building and for Zona Rosa.  We have a lot of kittens right now, a lot of litters being housed together.  We are seeing a significant rise in intake, record numbers since we’ve been here.  We are really battling to try to move animals out as quick as we can because there are so many wonderful pets looking for homes and deserving of homes.  We have about 200 in foster right now.  Once again, we have a lot of small litters that can’t be adopted yet, they’re too young.

RB: Do you think the rise in intake is due to KC Pet Project working towards ‘no kill’?

FUGATE: There is definitely a confidence that there hasn’t been in the past 40 years since this establishment. People know that if their pet is brought here that it actually has a chance, that it won’t be euthanized right after it gets here.  We are a safety net for pets in Kansas City.  We want people to know that we are ‘no kill’, but at the same time, if you can’t take care of your pet we want to help you keep your pet in your home.  We would much rather a pet stay in the home than have to come here at any time.  A shelter environment is not a natural environment at all for any pet. If we can do whatever we can do to keep the pet in the home, that is what we’d rather do absolutely.

RB: You will work with a pet owner to keep their pet in their home?

FUGATE: Yes, we will offer them resources. We are not a pet pantry but if we can give you a bag of food, if that’s all it takes to keep your pet in your home, of course we’re going to do it.  We try to give pet owners resources within KC that helps people with assistance if they need it.

RB: What does a ‘no kill’ community mean for Kansas City?

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

FUGATE: It means that if there are healthy, adoptable, or treatable pets in shelters around Kansas City that we are trying to find them homes in helping with the over pet population that we have in KC.  We are always going to be struggling at the city shelter with high intakes due to things that are happening in the community.   Getting your pet spayed or neutered, and offering assistance for that.  Education is a HUGE factor.  We need to go out in the community and figure out which parts we seeing the highest rise in intake.  Something we hope to start is an education outreach program working with KC Residents on how to properly take care of their pet.  Most people are unaware of the great resources in KC to help you keep your pet in your home.  Help to get your pet spayed or neutered so it’s not having litters of puppies or kittens.  That’s one of the biggest issues we are seeing tons of kittens coming in due to owner’s pets becoming pregnant and not being able to care for the litter.  We offer any pet brought in as a stray by animal control, by someone coming to reclaim them paying their fees , a free spay or neuter.  We’ll keep the dog or cat overnight and do the procedure before they go home.  Most people think it’s going to be expensive or take a lot of time, it doesn’t.  There are awesome groups around town that will do that for you.

RB: What is the best way to prevent homeless pets?

FUGATE: Education. Spread the word. There are no bad dogs, only bad owners.

RB: Is adoption the best case scenario for animals coming to the shelter?

FUGATE: For the majority of the pets, yes, adoption is the main goal for them.  There is no time limit with dogs here.  We have some dogs that have been here since January or February.  As long as they are mentally and behaviorally sound, we will stick with them.  We’ll work with pets every day and try to find out why that dog hasn’t found a home yet.  We also work with our network around KC to try to get them into other programs that may give them a better chance of adoption.  We opened up our pet adoption center in Zona Rosa because this building can be very overwhelming for an adopter to look at 250 dogs barking at you “take me home, please”.   It’s easier for an adopter to go to Zona Rosa and have 10 dogs to choose from, as opposed to 250, just a few faces looking at you.  It’s a happy boutique environment like any other store in an outdoor shopping center.  You can go in and buy food, teats, a collar, and take home cat if you’d like to at the same time.  It’s been remarkable for us.  We opened that location in November, with the goal of 1,000 adoptions for the year (and people thought we were crazy!) we just hit 1000 after a little over 9 months.

RB: How do you facilitate getting a pet into a suitable home?

FUGATE: We have a great staff, all of our adoption councilors are highly trained.  We try not to make it hard for people to adopt a dog.  If you want to adopt that pet, we want you to have it as long as that dog is going to be in a healthy, safe environment where it’s going to be cared for everyday.  We want to make sure it’s the best fit.  People can bring their dogs here, if they have other dogs in their home, for meet and greets.   We have trainers on staff that work with every dog here, so we know a lot about their behavior.  Maybe one dog wouldn’t be good with kids, but there might be another that we think would be awesome with your two-year old child.  We work really hard to make sure it’s the right fit.  Our return rate is really low considering how many animals we are moving out.  The majority of the pets that are adopted through here stay in the homes.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

RB: What can the KC community do to help KC Pet Project?

FUGATE: We are asking KC to embrace us as their shelter, these are your hometown pets.  These are the pets that come from your city that are looking for homes.  They are just as deserving of great, wonderful homes as any other pet.  We’re asking KC to step up and help the shelter whether it’s through adoption or financially helping us.  Any medical cases that we have come in like Ace, or a dog that’s hit by a car, we pay for ourselves.  We are always asking for donations whether they’re monitory or litter, food, cleaning products, we’ll take anything off your hands.   We ask for help spreading the word about the awesome things that are going on here.  Everyday we perform such high, lifesaving work.  We have staff members that work here 12-14 hour days trying to move pets into homes.  We are dedicated to finding pets homes and we ask KC to help us find them homes.  Come out and volunteer, take a tour, and see the great work that’s going on.

RB: Why is Kansas City important to you?

FUGATE: It’s my town. I love this town.  I used to work behind here at Arrowhead and had no idea the city shelter was here. It’s been so much fun to bring awareness to what’s going on at the shelter. I love Kansas City, I couldn’t imagine living in another town and I love helping KC pets find homes.

RB: Do you have any local heroes?

FUGATE: My local hero will be the city official that eventually green lights a new shelter for us.  That would be awesome.  Also, our director Teresa Johnson is pretty heroic as well.  She puts in a lot of hours here and does a lot of great work that most people don’t get to see everyday, but she’s pretty amazing and deserves a lot of credit for everything that’s happened here.  Our whole management staff really.

RB: What does the future of the KC Pet Project look like to you?

FUGATE: We definitely need a new building.  This shelter was built in 1972.  Most modern-day shelters have been renovated or built new within the last 20 years.  According to modern shelter standards, they should be renovated every 20 years.  If we continue to do the life saving work that we’re doing, we have to have a new building that’s bigger and easier to work with.  Most of our office space are now filled with animals and we are utilizing every available space that we can here.  We joke that we are going to have to start working from our cars.

The future of this shelter really depends on Kansas City.  We need KC to step up and support us in finding homes for KC’s pets.

Photo by Eric Loffland

Photo by Eric Loffland

Tori Fugate is the Manager of Marketing & Development for KC Pet Project. She has worked for KCPP for a year and a half and has loved every minute of it. When not working Tori enjoys going to concerts, listening to records, and trying all of the awesome restaurants that Kansas City has to offer. She has one dog at home, Razzle, and a 22lb cat named Frank that runs the house. If your company is interested in hosting an event or fundraiser on behalf of KC Pet Project, email Tori at

Find out more about KC Pet Project on their website, follow them on Twitter @kcpetproject, and on Facebook.