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Donor Stories

Lessons From A Love Story

Pete Levi's father, Kurt Levi, fled to America from Germany during Adolf Hitler's reign, leaving behind his sweetheart, Ruth, who would become his wife — and Pete's mother. Years later, sorting through his parents' belongings, Pete stumbled across dozens of beautifully composed letters, handwritten in German, from his father to his mother during the time they were apart.

Pete hired an expert to translate the letters. With each translation, Pete recognized that he had an historical treasure on his hands. Each letter offered a snapshot into daily life during a pivotal time in history, all wrapped up in a love story.

Pete established the Levi Family Foundation for the Study of Holocaust Archives Fund at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. Now others can experience history through the heartwarming correspondence between his parents all those years ago.

And to think that in 1995 the letters were sitting in a closet in Kurt's Plaza apartment in an old tattered box—the same box they had been in since 1938!

Doing More Than Just Wishing for Health and Happiness

The hopes and dreams behind every coin tossed into a fountain on the Country Club Plaza live on because the coins are donated to the Plaza Fountain Fund for Children's Mercy Hospital at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. It is a tradition that picked up momentum more than two decades ago.

"The Plaza had seven filling stations and Miller replaced them with fountains in 1985," said Jeannette Nichols, widow of Miller Nichols who founded the fund. "He didn't think too much about people putting coins into the fountains, but when they did he wanted to give the money to Children's Mercy Hospital. He always had a great affinity for it."

Miller Nichols hoped that these coins could provide seed money for an endowment for Children's Mercy Hospital, and he approached the Community Foundation confident that his wishes would be carried out beyond his lifetime. Indeed, the Plaza Fountain Fund will continue to memorialize the wishes of its founder.

Passing on Charitable Values to the Next Generation

Mike and Karen Herman taught their children at a young age about the importance of helping others. Their approach was to lead by example, much like Mike's mentor at Marion Labs, Ewing Kauffman. Mike and Karen began talking with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation in 1985 about establishing the Herman Family Foundation Fund.

"I remember one day my corporate salary was published in the paper," Mike said. "Our 12-year-old came home and said, 'Dad! Are we millionaires?!' She wasn't aware of any wealth because we give our money to the community. We want to create our heaven on earth."

Over the years, in addition to giving financially, the Hermans have given their time and talent. They have been driving forces behind numerous civic organizations including Karen's presidency at the Women's Foundation and Mike’s presidency at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

The Herman children enjoy volunteering and approach each donation as an investment. "Our children embrace that some of their inheritance will go to charity," Karen said. "And we're proud to see them give to the causes they care about."

A Legacy of Listening and Building Together

"Do justice; love mercy; and walk humbly with your God," Beth Smith learned as a child. Both parents and grandparents (Lithuanian immigrants) were observant adherents to Judaism. "I wasn't born with a silver spoon but a community spoon in my mouth," Beth mused.

Ed Smith, one of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation's seven founders, and his wife, Beth, were for many years one of Kansas City's dynamic duos. Beth was influenced by the bright and charismatic Marjorie Powell Allen, also a founder of the Community Foundation. They worked together to establish the Central Exchange, an interracial and intergenerational venue where women "could pick up the check." And in 1979, Ed and Beth established the Edward A. and Beth K. Smith Philanthropic Fund.

Ed has since passed on but Beth continues to support the nonprofit sector. She considers her forte to be "drawing strength and wisdom from others; listening and building together." And that is the spirit of the Women's Employment Network Fund — also housed at the Community Foundation — one of the many legacies Beth has given to Kansas City.

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