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Our Mission

The mission of the Pilgrim Center is to partner with local organizations to strengthen the mental, emotional, and spiritual resiliency of the urban Kansas City Community.


Our Vision

Our vision is a Kansas City with a strong network of organizations that work together to build a resilient community.


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.



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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.  


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 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 our Events Coordinator. 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

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Reverend 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, or email Vern at

Timmy Gibson

Timmy has been in spiritual leadership for over 25 years and is the founding leader of the Mercy Movement in Kansas City.


The Mercy Movement is a fresh progressive spiritual movement of people from all religious backgrounds who share a common love for people and this beautiful planet we live on.


The Mercy Movement is a great community for people who come from different religious backgrounds or even not-so-religious backgrounds to share a common belief that there is something out there greater than us.

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Our Board

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Claire Bishop


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.


Gordon Gee


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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Lisa Charlson

Lisa Charlson is a corporate educator and
facilitator focusing on leadership quality and
development, employee retention and
engagement, by teaching leadership aspects of emotional intelligence, communication, psychological safety, change management, coaching, working relationships, conflict management, trauma informed care, and creating an environment of respect.

Lisa is a seasoned HR Professional with over 30 years in HR to include 20 years in the capacity of Employee Relations Business Partner working closely with all levels of leadership advising and consulting on employee relations matters, employment and labor law, and encouraging collaborative respectful performance management when corrective action is necessary.

Lisa’s passion is developing and nurturing
relationships and working to create a work
environment where employees feel valued,
supported, inspired and recognized for their talents and contributions.

Amelia McDaniel Pilgrim Center Executive

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 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. 

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