The Mattie Rhodes Center is implementing Project Change, a community resource pilot program in the Historic Northeast.
The program aims to break the cycle of violence and create positive, healthy, and engaged future leaders.
Antonio Mejia and Kelsey Mahoney have been selected as the Community Resource Coordinators (CRC) to lead the project for the Mattie Rhodes Center.
They are tasked with assessing the needs of kids and families in the Northeast community and connecting them with organizations in the area that can offer needs-based assistance.
Ultimately, Mejia and Mahoney will be the liaison between families in need and people who can help.
“A lot of organizations have been so isolated, they don’t communicate with one another and that’s what we are trying to change,” said Mahoney. “We are trying to have a communication web between all these different agencies and organizations, that way we are all doing our jobs the best we can for the people that need the help.”
The CRCs take in referrals from various organizations and reach out to the kids or families to determine which agency, or agencies, to connect the family with.
Members of the community are also able to refer someone in need of services by contacting Mejia or Mahoney at the Mattie Rhodes Center.
Resources available to the community are extensive, treating the entire family unit.
“What’s different about us is that, we don’t just look at the kid,” said Mejia. “The youth might be acting up, but when he goes home, what is going on with the family? Do mom and dad need parenting classes? We offer that. Do they need food assistance to take stresses off so they can focus on parenting? We target the entire family. That’s the most effective.”
Counseling, mentoring, parenting classes, food assistance, hygiene assistance, case management, diaper assistance—and more—are available to families in the community.
Mejia and Mahoney work closely with the Kansas City Police Department, Kansas City Public Schools, the Police Athletic League, Happy Bottoms, Job Corps, Mothers in Charge, Hope House, Rose Brooks, Truman Behavioral Health, Samuel U. Rogers Health, the Center for Conflict Resolution, and other agencies.
The pilot program is funded by Jackson County Community Backed Anti-Crime Tax (COMBAT) and Greater Kansas City LISC.
The CRCs said the main hurdle right now is getting referrals. They are receiving the majority of their referrals from two main organizations, but hope to reach, and surpass, their target goal of helping 250 neighborhood families.
Both Mejia and Mahoney grew up in the Northeast and were strategically selected to this role because of their ability to identify with the majority of the youth in the community.
“We both grew up here,” said Mahoney, “and we are very well aware of the culture and people here. We have both have had our own fair share of experiences of things like that. For young people, it takes it to another level when they can meet someone who is similar in age and can just be really real with them and identify with them.”
Mejia mentors young men in the community and said he loves every minute of it.
“That’s the main thing I was missing when I was growing up,” he said. “My mom was a single mother with two or three jobs. My mother was my mentor. Me pretending to be a tough guy in the streets was disrespectful to my mother because she was working two to three jobs to give me everything I needed to be successful.”
Currently, they have received about 20 referrals since January, but are open to receiving as many as possible.
Big or small, Mahoney said their goal is to address every need in the community, connecting families with available resources.
“It really does not matter what their needs are,” she said. “You could come to me and say you need a pair of shoes. I will find those shoes for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s something huge like needing a lawyer, or something small like shoes. I will do everything I can to help.”
For more information on Project Change, or to get in contact with Antonio Mejia or Kelsey Mahoney, call the Mattie Rhodes Center at (816) 241-3780, or stop by their office at 148 N. Topping Ave.