Why We Are Here
The problem is that historic discrimination and disinvestment made Troost Avenue the racial and economic dividing line of our city. Today there are thousands of people struggling to survive and succeed, trapped in poverty and trauma. As a result, our city is divided and the strength of our neighbors and community remains hidden.
Our Mission is to cultivate a community seeking reconciliation to transform Troost from a dividing line into a gathering place, revealing the strength of all.
Our Vision is that Kansas City, no longer divided by Troost, is revealed as a thriving and vibrant community inspiring reconciliation across the nation.
I’ll never forget when I learned that the land Reconciliation Services sits on at 31st and Troost was once at the heart of the Osage nation and at one time was only a stone’s throw from the master’s big house on the Porter Plantation where nearly 100 African slaves endured forced labor. You see, the racial and economic division that Troost symbolizes today is nothing new. Its roots run deep into the scarred soil of the 200-year history of Troost.
The intersection of 31st and Troost is an iconic corner to say the least. It’s a symbol of our city’s history, but also of the potential of our future. In order to be the city we aspire to be, we have to get Troost right. It’s going to take more than poverty programs to heal this division in Kansas City. It’s not enough to address the blight of the buildings only. We must also address the blight of the heart. It’s going to take true reconciliation with at least three distinct movements:
- First, we must cultivate a community seeking reconciliation, willing listening deeply to understand how certain things of the past impacted other families and shaped their lives and struggles today.
- Secondly, we need to acknowledging the painful things that have happened on Troost as a starting place for healing, but also celebrating the good and beautiful things we find and build upon them.
- Finally, we all need to sharing what we can to reduce the most extreme disparities and alleviate the suffering in our city.
One walk around our block and you know that the disparities in our community are real. Kansas City is one of the top five most economically and racially segregated cities in America according to a recent study. In Kansas City, 23% of African Americans live below the poverty line compared to only 6% of whites. This fact isn’t happenstance or simply caused by race, place and culture. History and policy played a role in shaping this landscape that has yielded such an uneven harvest.
While these disparities have been persistent, they need not be permanent. Last year, RS staff and hundreds of volunteers worked together to build relationships and care for 5,150 men, women and children living in poverty, mostly on the east side of our city.
Since the 1980’s our goal has been to transform Troost from a dividing line into a gathering place, a place of healing and comfort. A place where guests, volunteers, and staff can come and find their strength. In Dutch the word "Troost" means comfort. And that’s how we see it here.
RS is a place where people can begin to build relationships, begin to acknowledge our past and celebrate our diverse strengths, begin to address the disparities that exist and cause economic impact that will enable an entire city to thrive. As we work together as individuals, as agencies, as businesses, and as a community, we will find all ships can rise together.
For Those We Serve,
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Dina Gardner, President
Kathryn Evans-Madden, Vice President
Melissa Ver Meer, PhD, Treasurer
Dr. Michael Abraham, Secretary
Carla Hutchinson, LCSW
Cecilia Garrett, MLA
Dr. Pauline Sleder
EMERITUS BOARD MEMBERS
Hieromonk Alexii Paisius Altschul
Bob Andrews, JD
Hagos E. Andebrhan
Duvel "DJ" Pierre
RS SOCIAL VENTURES BOARD MEMBERS
Karen Zecy, Board Chair
Mark Larrabee, Treasurer