“I know that my sole purpose in life is to build inspiring communities where everyone has the opportunity and support to reach their fullest potential.”
In their own words
Development Director for KC Friends of Alvin Ailey, a dance-based youth development nonprofit. We teach underserved kids critical life skills through dance, model multi-cultural community partnerships, and are Kansas City’s sole presenters of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II.
Public service is my calling. I know that my sole purpose in life is to build inspiring communities where everyone has the opportunity and support to reach their fullest potential. I’m proud that I have been able to build a career in the nonprofit sector. Moreover, I’m grateful that I have been able to serve as mentor and advisor to emerging nonprofit professionals as well as a resource or leader on nonprofit boards, committees, and service projects.
Right now, the project I am most excited about is Rightfully Sewn, a new and innovative nonprofit organization. Rightfully Sewn helps at-risk women with seamstress training and job placement, and provides professional development opportunities to local fashion designers.
Few people realize that Kansas City was home to the world’s largest dress manufacturer in the 1950s and, at our garment industry’s height, it was said that one out of every seven women in the United States purchased a Kansas City-made garment. However, Rightfully Sewn Founder and President Jennifer Lapka Pfeifer is aware of this history. She is laying a path to a contemporary version of Kansas
City’s golden era of garment manufacturing and design, all while helping at-risk women build financial independence, nurturing local fashion entrepreneurs, and growing Kansas City’s fashion economy. It has been a privilege to help Jennifer secure fiscal sponsorship for the organization and develop capacity
I am also proud of the legacy I left at ArtsKC – Regional Arts Council in the form of the Arts Leadership Series. The Series gives young and diverse professionals the knowledge and skills to become arts nonprofit leaders, then connects them to opportunities to serve through ArtsKC’s annual Board & Committee Matchmaking event. I conceptualized the four-part panel discussion and networking series, then worked with former ArtsKC Interim Chief Executive Officer Susan Stanton, former ArtsKC Development Director Andrea Robinson, and Principal of Scott Associates James Scott to refine program content. I launched the series January 2016. It sold out in 35 days and engaged more than 215 people.
I also serve on the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce board where I lead the Ambassadors Program. I have previously served on the Kansas City Ballet’s young professionals board, BARRE KC, and on committees for the Arts Council of Johnson County, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and Black Community Scholarship Fund. I am a past volunteer with the Kansas City Boys Choir, CORO KC alumnus, and graduate of the inaugural class of the Kansas City Victory Leadership Summit, which trains LGBT leaders for public service.
I am a gay, black man from a low-income background. It’s important to highlight my story and the stories of traditionally marginalized people because it emphasizes the shared humanity behind every identity. We are living in a time where it is too easy to forget that, just because someone may look, think or act differently than you, we are all human or equally deserving of life. I hope that sharing my story will help remind people of our shared humanity and intrinsic right to lead happy, productive lives.
Kansas City is my home. I grew up in Olathe, Kansas before moving the Lawrence to earn my undergraduate degree in Architectural Studies with a minor in Slavic Languages and Literature from the University of Kansas. KU is where I began to discover my love for community involvement. I was Beta Class founding member of Delta Lambda Phi fraternity, a non-traditional fraternity for gay, bisexual, and progressive men. I was nominated to Student Senate my senior year and worked as the Public Relations Coordinator for a student-run group that sent KU students around the nation to complete a service learning program called Alternative Breaks. The marketing campaign I created led to a 90% increase in
the number of applications.
Following graduation, I completed a year of national community service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with the City of Phoenix, Arizona. I managed the Neighborhood Services Department’s abatement program to help low-income residents resolve code violations. I also worked in the City Manager’s Volunteer Office where I worked with the Chief Service Officer to manage citywide volunteer
efforts, and secured a grant from the Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund for $100,000 to start a “cool roofs” energy-use reduction initiative and community gardening program at three city-owned housing facilities.
My VISTA experience deepened my love for public service and led to my decision to return to KU to earn a Master of Public Administration. I graduated in 2015 and decided that Kansas City was where I want to build a life and career, so I have been involved around town ever since then. I care deeply about making sure traditionally marginalized communities are represented in business and leadership positions, which is why I decided to become involved with the Mid-America GLCC and was proud to create the Arts Leadership Series.
A day in the life
I’m an early-riser in training. About six months ago, I set a goal to wake up at 5:00 a.m., and I’m getting there… slowly. I usually hop out of bed by 5:30a, switch on KCUR and have breakfast. When possible, I dive into projects for Rightfully Sewn or the Mid-America GLCC before getting ready for work. My work at KCFAA is seasonal and project driven. It can vary from making a fundraising presentation for prospective or long-time supporters to grant writing to being the self-proclaimed “Master of Lists” back at the office when we’re pulling reports for events, finalizing logistics or preparing for a committee meeting. Depending on the week, I’ll have a board or committee meeting for KCFAA, Rightfully Sewn, or
the Mid-America GLCC after work.
My mom once said to me “what’s the point of life if you can’t help people.” I want to be known for and remembered as a person who helped he was most needed, and who made sure he left the door open behind him for other people from diverse backgrounds to take his place.
I bought my first house in Waldo in May and it’s been a place for me to finally unleash pent up love for DIY projects. I spend hours on YouTube watching and cataloging DIY projects I want to do to my “Home Improvement” list. Two of my favorite channels are “I Like To Make Stuff” and “HomeMadeModern.” I’m working on putting together my bedroom and I can’t wait to make these awesome concrete side tables with a living edge drawer by Ben from HomeMadeModern.
Don’t be afraid to ask people out to coffee (or a cocktail). Kansas City is a friendly town. When I was younger, I used those coffee chats to explore and understand what I wanted my career to look like. Today, coffee is still a perfect way to build relationships with people you admire, make new friends and discover opportunities to be of service or ask for help yourself.