The Junior League of Kansas City has donated more than $14 million and 2.2 million hours of time since its founding in 1914. Spearheading these efforts are the nonprofit organization’s now 1,400 female members, all of whom are committed to their volunteer work and to encouraging others to donate their time as well. Their sheer numbers allow the ladies to form 700-on-700 pickup basketball games and to spread out across the community to get a pulse on current issues in need of attention—currently, children’s nutrition and fitness. To help support their efforts, these stalwart altruists host fundraisers throughout the year. Since it began in 1988, Holiday Mart has helped to raise more than $8 million for Kansas City community projects.
Fire. Hammers. A pottery wheel. Some of humanity’s most elemental and primitive tools, yet into the 21st century they remain. And Craft Alliance Program Director Susan Donahue Yates attests that they’re some of the coolest. With each season’s catalog of classes, some of the most popular, according to Yates, let students play with fire, hammer metal into jewelry, or shape a lump of clay into something as fundamentally beautiful as a baby seal mimicking the Mona Lisa’s wry smirk.
At Craft Alliance, the focus is art in all its forms. Whether the tool is the raw flame fusing cut copper or a Mac loaded with Photoshop image-editing software, the intention to inspire and to create remains the same. Its two locations schedule seasonal terms with four- to six-week classes, as well as intensive workshops and children’s classes. Guiding each student along his or her adventure, skilled faculty instruct from experience. Most are working artists who exhibit their work and who have reaped their experience from the trenches of the art world.
Craft Alliance is not just empowering people with knowledge; they are also helping people make mugs, bowls, wooden spinning tops, rings, rugs, and digital photo albums. Many of these things are practical and serve a functional purpose. But many do not—they’re just beautiful things, like vestigial tails. A good number of these pieces are created by hand and are meant to remind us, as Yates remarked, that everyone can do something different from their everyday, workaday lives by adding beauty to a world that truly needs it.
The student and faculty artists backbone the Craft Alliance community, which in 2014 celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Grand Center location represents a regeneration of an arts district already pillared by the Fabulous Fox Theatre, Powell Symphony Hall, and St. Louis University.
Philanthropy and fashion coalesce at the second annual Spring into Hope fundraiser, which will donate every cent of its proceeds to the Marian Hope Center for Children's Therapy in support of children with autism and special needs. During both days, guests can peruse vendor booths brimming with upscale clothing, accessories, and home décor from some of Kansas City's finest boutiques, before munching complimentary samplings from local restaurants and enjoying a fashion show that refreshingly lacks the alligator-filled moat that traditionally surrounds runways. They can also partake in frequent raffles, shopping sprees, and giveaways throughout the two-day event, as well as attend a health fair with live demonstrations on Saturday.
Mustard Seed Fair Trade connects locals with artisans from across the globe via a rotating stock of handmade decorations, accessories, and jewelry. Wee ones can slip paws into a pair of kids’ gloves ($8), a purchase that supports Bolivian knitters and complimentary haircuts for alpacas. Delhite artists enhance earlobes with pairs of chandelier earrings ($10), and necks are draped with an alpaca and silk shawl ($25). Ceramic bird whistles ($8) from Ecuador can be used to decorate soundscapes with cheerful tweeting.
The health-centric twosome of Brad (a certified personal trainer who has helped his clients lose over 2,000 pounds combined) and his athletic anima Jen (a nutritional specialist who builds realistic and effective diets and teaches yoga and Pilates) operates out of an impressive studio—aptly named "The Sweatshop"—fully outfitted with professional equipment and all accessories needed to transform your body into whatever shape or scent you desire. Your two personal training sessions start with an initial consultation, during which Brad and Jen will develop training exercises geared toward goals such as weight loss, speed, agility, and the ability to lift cars off trapped kittens and hurl them at supervillains. Brad's fitness philosophy adheres to the tenets of functional training, which focuses on stabilizing the abdominal and lower-back muscles to limit the risk of injury and support all other muscle groups.
United Volunteers' knowledgeable staff lines the shelves with a vast inventory of upscale clothing, furniture, and wares, and uses all proceeds to help disadvantaged people. Peruse well-organized racks or enlist a shop guru to help you locate properly fitting shirts or pants for casual barbecues ($3–$5) or studded leather jackets and pants for crashing casual barbecues. Younger shoppers can don kid-size clothing ($1.10–$2) or challenge their minds with a puzzle or board game ($0.50–$2). Furniture, such as sofas ($100–$150) and recliners ($35), cradles spines while supplying the adequate recumbence to take in a book ($1 for hardcovers, $0.50 for paperbacks), DVD ($3), or impromptu nap. The ever-rotating inventory, which passes through a gauntlet of highly selective sorters, brings in an assortment of other items, such as housewares and entertainment centers, and weeds out unusable items such as torn dresses and forged Declarations of Independence.