Posted by Patrick Donnelly
Feb 15, 2023
Rotary 13 members and invited guests gathered in The Kill Devil Club at 14th and Main with select individuals participating remotely via Zoom and Facebook Live. President Tom Davis brought the assembly to order at 12:15pm with a ding of the bell and purposely introduced himself to aid newcomers and guests. The group stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, and Lainie Wilbur acknowledged the troubled times in our city and the appropriateness of the Golden Rule as laid out in Matthew 7:12.
Mandy Sheldon facilitated guest introductions. These included Kara Feitz’s co-worker from Shelter KC, Chloe; HOK colleagues of the featured speaker, Amy and Peter; and Linda Zesch's friend Nikki Staab. The group observed several member anniversaries this week: Blake Fry, 4 years; Francis Karanu, 2 years; and Julio Dotel, 2 years. Thankfully, no members were reported in Sick Bay.
President Tom noted that the door greeters today were the Club 13 membership committee and expressed his gratitude to them. Jane Lee then stepped forward to speak of the special event planned on March 14th between 5pm and 7pm, a social hour at Do Good Company. Located at 18th and Oak, this consignment shop will host the club for beverages and a presentation of its uncommon philanthropic mission. (There is no lunch meeting that Thursday.) Then Kara Bennett rose to remind the club of this month’s 5th Thursday activity, a Rotary Roundup at the Youth Camp on February 29th. At $30 per head, participants get raffles, line dancing, buffet BBQ, and a cash bar between 6pm and 9pm. The Lee’s Summit club will co-host the event; advance registration is needed for planning purposes.
Upcoming Club 13 activities include:
  • 2 March, Geeks for Kids Build Day. Registration required.
  • 6 March, Greater KC Day kickoff at Granfalloon at the Plaza.
  • 13 April, Sleep in Heavenly Peace bed build
  • 16 April, New Theatre production of Elvis: Aloha from Vegas. Signup required.
At 12:25pm, Kara Feitz introduced the featured speaker of the day, architect Lillian Cooper of HOK. Ms. Cooper is a native of Atchison, KS and completed her graduate studies at Kansas State University. Her design team leads the renovation project planned for Shelter KC in the Crossroads. The title of her presentation, “Trauma-Informed Design, A New Way to Shelter the Unhoused” speaks directly to nonprofits and populations served by rescue missions.
Cooper noted that neglected communities tend to live in neglected locations—and not just in Missouri or Kansas. Homelessness exists across the country in towns of all sizes. As with any humans, one’s general living environment shapes mental state, attitudes, and behaviors. Residing in poorly-resourced environments creates discouragement. But those physical spaces, when planned out, can heal and transform their residents. The dormitory-style, common room approach to sheltering does not nourish trauma effectively. Instead, shelters should be warmer and inviting, offer more privacy and safety, and support the development of identity, worth, and dignity. Multi-sensory spaces that allow for connectedness to nature, temperature control, comfortable noise levels/acoustics, laundry resources, and secure storage matter to all people, including the homeless.
The architectural challenges for creating shelter spaces come from the range of individuals and employees needing that special environment. They can include veterans, victims of domestic violence and trafficking, victims of substance abuse, those with mental illness, families with children, senior citizens, the chronically homeless, and persons experiencing financial strain. The staff who work with these clients remain exposed to secondary trauma, as a workplace risk, and require areas of respite, daylight, and quiet to maintain balance in their efforts. In toto, it is an uncommon design puzzle.
While few Kansas Citians deny a need for shelters and aid directed to the unhoused, consensus around how and where to do it is far from uniform. Concerns about Not In My Back Yard—NIMBY—influence most discussions of services for the homeless. As an architecture firm, Ms. Cooper and her team know that persuasive success in planning rescue missions requires time and effort. They must study the history and design of the area, form relationships with the existing property owners, communicate and educate openly about their project concept, and design with beauty and empathy. For example, because clients of shelters line up to gain admittance, a queuing area that is sheltered from rain or snow, and sized to the arriving groups, matters greatly.
Questions for Ms. Cooper included updates on the Shelter KC project and whether the whole location is moving (the design phase for creating an addition to the existing building is complete); the growth in Shelter KC’s bed capacity when the new addition opens (about 24%); and how she became interested in this architectural niche (she grew up in the church and participated in youth ministry, and worked on earthquake recovery design projects as a student.)
President Tom thanked Ms. Cooper for her ethic of service and her interest in the work of Shelter KC. His ending announcements recapped upcoming Club 13 lunch meetings and special events. At 13:00, he shared the following with the group:
“To save a life is a real and beautiful thing. To make a home for the homeless, yes, it is a thing that must be good; whatever the world may say, it cannot be wrong.” –Vincent Van Gogh
The 4-Way Test closed the session, followed by the bell.