Our

History

The Pilgrim Center and its predecessor have been building community in midtown, Kansas City, Missouri for nearly 50 years.

In the late-1960’s, a group of involved neighborhood leaders first gathered in Westport to address the issues of violence and crime that were overtaking their historic neighborhood.

 

Out of their discussions, the Westport Allen Center was born, and two young seminarians, Roger and Liz Coleman, were invited to lead this organization.  
 

 

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The Westport Allen Center purchased a building and began offering the space free to groups interested in improving the community.  Before long, the first Free Clinic in the area opened, rehearsal space was provided for what would become the Kansas City Ballet, the Allen Edison school was founded, and affordable housing for seniors created in the neighborhood.

 

Making childcare, education, healthcare, senior living, and arts programming available to the area were big steps in rebuilding a healthier community for Westport.

In 1997, the Westport Allen Center merged with the Pilgrim Chapel and was reborn as the Pilgrim Center.  Pilgrim Chapel and the parsonage next door are historic buildings in Hyde Park.  Pilgrim Chapel is a non-denominational space, hosting a variety of religious communities who need a place to gather.

 

During the AIDS epidemic and the initial panic that accompanied it, Pilgrim Chapel performed memorial services for AIDS victims and their loved ones.

 

Today, the Pilgrim Center continues to pursue the goals of improving the community in which we live for all people. We offer educational, arts, and family-friendly, FREE entertainment opportunities in our midtown community.

 

Birthed in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, now more than ever, we are working to address systemic racism and to achieve racial equity.

 

We welcome diversity and invite everyone to join us in offering healthy and  productive activities and venues for involvement to our community.

Our mission is to build a stronger community in Midtown, Kansas City, Missouri.  Please, join us!

Our Values

  • We are small. We value the small, the unique, the neighborhood, the community. Each employee, volunteer, sponsor, event, participant, each interaction is valuable and is valued.

  • We are our history. We value and preserve the history of our organization and its spaces, both the physical buildings and the communities in which they are located.

  • We are health-minded. We value health and support healthy habits and environments in our organization and in our community.

  • We are biophiles. We value nature and built environments that support an on-going human relationship with the natural elements in urban settings.

  • We are members of a diverse community. We value each member of our community as a whole person and support inclusivity.

  • We are supportive of all families. We value time spent together, for every individual and families of all kinds.

  • We are collaborative. We value working together, within our organization, with other organizations, and within our community. We partner with other organizations, whenever appropriate.

  • We are forward-thinking. We value keeping the future of our community in sight and staying flexible enough, as an organization, to adjust to the changes the future inevitably holds.

Our Team

Rocio Lopez

Rocio started with the Pilgrim Center in 2009 when she began volunteering for the Spring Frolic and Film Festival.

 

In 2019 she started part-time as Assistant to the Director. Rocio coordinates our life event ceremonies schedule, handles all phone and email inquiries, and manages the Pilgrim Center office.

To reach Rocio, call or text (816) 753-6719, or email pilgrim@pilgrimcenterinc.org.

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Rev Vern Barnett

The Reverend Vern Barnett, DMn, known to many through his "Faiths and Beliefs" column in Wednesdays The Kansas City Star, and through other media appearances, his civic activities and guest lectures, is the primary officiant at the Pilgrim Chapel, as well as the Center for Religious Experience and Study minister emeritus. He founded the interfaith council in 1989. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, and secular groups have honored his work promoting understanding of the faiths in our community. 

For more information about Vern or CRES, visit their website, www.cres.org or email Vern at vern@cres.org.

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Our Board

Kamera Meaney

Kamera Meaney currently serves as the Special Programs Manager for Truman Medical Centers (TMC) where she oversees community and strategic programs and projects within the Nursing Division and in collaboration with other organizational
partners.

 

Raised in the Kansas City metropolitan area, Kamera is committed to the betterment of the community in which she lives, works, and plans to raise her family.

She hopes to channel her passion and background of addressing social determinants and disparities and social justice to furthering opportunities for the community in which the Pilgrim Center serves.
 

Currently, Kamera is in the Board of Directors Leadership role of Secretary.
In her free time, Kamera enjoys spending time with her family and is constantly training for marathons!

Claire is an experienced leader and a passionate believer in the power of community. A proud KC native, Claire has spent the last 15 years of her career in
global marketing and leadership roles. She served travel and tourism clients as Senior VP Media at MMGY Global, and went on to lead brand and marketing efforts during a time of significant organizational transformation as the Vice President of Marketing at KC-based global organization Children International.

 

She is currently the Executive Director and COO at American Public Square, an organization that brings non-like-minded people together for civil discourse about important issues in the community.
 

Throughout her career, Claire has committed personal time and energy to advancing the missions of organizations working within the Kansas City area.

 

She lives with her husband, daughter and
two dogs (that act like cats) in Liberty, Missouri.

Claire Bishop

Gordon Gee

Gordon Gee went to Harvard Law School in the late 1960s during a turbulent time in our country’s history, with the goal of learning how to help people resolve problems.

 

After law school, he was a law clerk for Federal District Court Judge John W. Oliver. Thereafter, he went into private practice, and in 1990, his Kansas City law firm—Rich, Granoff, Levy & Gee—merged with Burrell, Seigfreid & Bingham to become Seigfreid, Bingham, Levy, Selzer & Gee, P.C.

 

While the name has been simplified to reflect the firm’s modern nature, Gordon’s over 40 year business litigation and securities arbitration practice is still active and well.
 

When he’s not practicing law, Gordon loves spending time with his wife, three grown children, and grandchildren; and doing volunteer work with his church and numerous other charitable and civic organizations. He also enjoys staying active by playing basketball and playing on Seigfreid  Bingham’s softball team.

Jeni Starr has been a health educator for over 20 years and currently serves as the Health & Wellness Specialist for the Kansas City Public Library where she coordinates health & wellness programming, works with patrons one-on-one to provide health information, and participates in community partnerships.

She is passionate about health equity and weight inclusive wellness. She holds a Master of Education in Health Education from the University of Texas at Austin, a Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences from Mount Holyoke College, and is a Master Certified Health Education Specialist.

When she isn’t working she enjoys gardening, traveling, sewing, and spending time with her husband, step kids, two cats, and retired racing greyhound.

Jake Pitts

Jake Pitts is a proud husband and father with a graduate degree in social work from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and an undergraduate in social work from Kansas State University.

In his nine years of experience, Jake has helped families reunite, furthered the recovery of individuals experiencing homelessness, contributed to the success of a supportive housing program, and led diversity, equity, and inclusivity initiatives.

 

Jake has a deep love for Kansas City and is driven to empower every person through inclusive service and leadership. His belief that individuals and communities thrive when they have secure relationships with themselves and their environments is what fuels his work.

Adam Erickson

Adam Erickson is a native of Southeast Kansas and has lived in Kansas City since 2017. He is currently a Program Officer for the Patterson Family Foundation, where he works to support nonprofit organizations in rural Kansas and Missouri.

 

He received his Bachelors of English Literature at the University of Kansas (2012) before joining the Peace Corps. He worked as a Community Development Volunteer in Outer Mongolia for 27 months before returning home to Kansas. He then spent two years in Akita, Japan working as an English Language Teacher at a High School in rural Japan. He moved to Kansas City in 2017 to pursue his Masters of Public Administration with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management, which he received from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2019. He spent several years as a Program Coordinator with American Public Square, then worked as a Project Coordinator for Cerner before accepting his current role at the Patterson Family Foundation.

 

Adam has a passion for developing programming and finding creative ways to support local organizations in their efforts to provide services to the community. In his free time, he enjoys reading, rock-climbing, and archery.

 

He currently lives in downtown Kansas City with his dog, Gobi.

Joe Keal

Joe has lived and worked in the Kansas City metro area since 2002.

 

As a native of rural southeast Kansas,
he believes in the notion of “community” as a catalyst for diversity, social interaction and engagement, the arts, connection to nature, sustainability, well-being, beauty and economic stability + prosperity. He believes that we must invest in our community in
order to witness forward movement.


Joe is a Principal | Architect | Design Studio Director with BNIM Architects in Kansas City, Missouri, where he serves as a national leader for the firm’s design practices of cultural, performance and visual arts; higher education; K-12 education; and sustainable design.

 

Most importantly, Joe is also a devoted husband, father, artist, sports coach, photographer, cyclist and
energetic advocate for the ability of design to enhance and enliven the human condition.

Photo by Evening Star Photography

Amanda Garner

Amanda is a mother, yogi, social activist, and board member. She lives in Brookside and has enjoyed living in the midtown area for many years.

 

Amanda currently has a children's yoga program inside early childhood centers and
Title 1 schools.

 

When she isn't teaching, Amanda enjoys walking through the city, visiting one of the many coffee shops in the city, baking for the houseless, or wandering in nature.


Amanda is excited to serve on her first board and to see the Pilgrim Center continue to offer services and activities that provide for mental-emotional wellness and unite the community.

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Jeni Starr

Our Director

Amelia McDaniel

No stranger to the Pilgrim Center, Amelia and her family lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood for 12 years before moving to Pendleton Heights. 

Of those 12 years, for 8 of them, Amelia served as program coordinator of Pilgrim Center's community programs. 

Amelia has also served on the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association Board and was one of the neighborhood moms to organize and lead the Hyde Park Playgroup that continues to meet weekly. 

We are excited to see Amelia continue to serve the midtown community in this new role, and to lead Pilgrim Center into its next phase of life.