Unity in the community

Spanish National Honor Society’s fundraisers for the Guadalupe Centers offer reciprocal benefits


Keithan Sharp, Editor-in-chief

The Guadalupe Centers is a non-profit social service agency that offers everything from a charter school for 1,700 students in the pre-k through twelfth grade, to rental and homeless assistance, to a Meals on Wheels program and much more. For the past two years, the Spanish National Honor Society (SNHS) has organized fundraisers and events to support the Guadalupe Centers and raise awareness for their mission.

In 2019, a school-wide pickle ball tournament raised $2,000 for the Guadalupe Centers’ youth recreation program, and this school year, the SNHS social media campaign, Goals for Guadalupe, is expected to raise over $2,000 once again. Spanish teacher RJ Palmgren said it was a natural partnership from day one.

“We really focused on trying to help out our community, so we started investigating different organizations that do different things to support the Latino community here,” Palmgren said. “And that’s how we stumbled upon the Guadalupe Centers.”

Ricky Olivares, the youth director for the Guadalupe Centers, said oftentimes funding is restricted, so having the funds from different sources opens up a wide range of opportunities to help more people.

“If [funding is] from the state they want Missouri residents, if it’s from the county, they want Jackson County residents, if it’s from the city, they want city residents,” Olivares said. “Fundraisers like the one that you guys do and donate to us, or ones that we do ourselves, those are those unrestricted dollars that help us serve these residents outside the state, outside the city limits, outside the county limits, that are in need and want to participate in these programs.”

Olivares said the Guadalupe Centers does not turn anyone away based on race, age or residency, and they now serve in all metro neighborhoods, not just Kansas City, Missouri.

“If we have a kid that comes from Kansas City, Kansas, and wants to participate, we don’t turn them away strictly because … this is Missouri funding,” Olivares said. “We find that funding through other sources or through our own fundraising that we do throughout the year.”

Just like many other organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way the Guadalupe Centers can operate, especially the youth recreation program.

“They’re going to put more of that money toward the after-school program, and the reason for that is because a lot of parents have had to pick up second jobs and are having to work different hours than normal,” Palmgren said. “A lot of the kids are going to the after-school program more than in previous years, and they think that is due to COVID and the impact it has had on our community.”

The Guadalupe Centers’ youth sports leagues are a year-round staple, but Olivares said many of the activities have shrunk or disappeared altogether due to the pandemic.

“I was running the Mayor’s Night Kicks program, which is a soccer program, and we went from having 12 high school teams [and] 12 middle school teams, with about 18 kids per team, to serving maybe about 40 kids, 50 kids in more of a soccer camp situation.”

Olivares said the youth center prides itself on giving children a comfortable environment, especially during after-school hours, but the pandemic has affected many of the children.

“We did not have any basketball this year, very limited baseball and so it took a big toll,” Olivares said. “I think our kids, you can tell in the way they are outside when nice days happen; They are running around, throwing the ball, they’re just anxious to do something.”

Senior Lindsey Vitha, an SNHS officer, said Goals for Guadalupe goes beyond donating money and it’s really about pushing people to give back to the community.

“We’re trying to raise money to put toward their activities so that we can help them out, but also raise awareness about all of the good they are doing and encourage other people to help,” Vitha said.

Vitha said it is easy to be complacent and forget about the metro area outside of Johnson County, but Goals for Guadalupe is a chance to learn and experience how other people live, even if they are just 50 minutes away.

“We don’t really think about what life is like outside of our little bubble, so I think it’s really important that we are doing this kind of stuff,” Vitha said. “It helps all of the students see different cultures and understand that these kids are just like us, so they need as much help and deserve as much as we have.”

Olivares said the Guadalupe Centers is always looking for help, and volunteering can take many different forms.

“There’s a limited staff that we have, so a lot of our coaches are volunteer coaches for all of our sports, and also volunteering with the seniors programs, those are [some] possibilities,” Olivares said.

Not only has the partnership helped the Guadalupe Centers, but Vitha said the chance to help the community is the most rewarding aspect.

“I think it’s very important not only for the sake of helping other people, but also just for personal growth,” Vitha said. “It feels good to help out other people, and I think it makes you grow as a person when you’re giving back to your community and giving back to people who need it. It means a lot to the Guadalupe Centers and the kids there.”