KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If your friend was stranded somewhere, you've got a couple of options: try to help them from where you are, or travel to them, and come home together.
That second tactic is the backbone of a new agency based in Kansas City, Kansas, and the people behind it think that choice is a pretty important one.
Taylor Penrod, a pastor at Overland Park Church of Christ, is the founder of the group. More than a year ago, she moved from Johnson County, Kansas to KCK. Her husband Jimmy teaches school there, and couldn't stop talking about the kids he encountered.
“He would use words like community,” Penrod said. “He would say, ‘I think that there's a lot of ways we could be more involved if we lived in the neighborhood.’”
So they moved.
In the last year, their new neighborhood has seen dozens of reports of theft, multiple assaults, burglaries and robberies.
“Every night there is some siren that we hear, going up the hill, or going down the street, or going in the other direction,” Penrod said. “So I'm gonna pray for where that siren is headed, pray for our neighbors, our community, our friends, for safety and security.”
That missionary mindset is a perfect example of how Penrod and her husband treat this neighborhood.
It's not a place they're visiting. It's home.
“We didn't just want to come here and say, ‘We think this community needs this, we think you need help with this, so here it is,’ and then drive back and forth everyday,” Penrod said.
Once she lived here, and met the people, the real needs became pretty clear.
“There's a lack of health care, food opportunities; just a lack of resources in general,” Penrod said.
Awareness gave way to action, and Barefoot Mission was born. It's a brand new nonprofit based in a building owned by the Metropolitan Avenue Methodist Church.
They'll offer computers, a working pharmacy, a sewing room, and even a clinic for free health screenings.
“People are not knowing what's going on with their bodies,” Penrod said. “So a way to say, ‘OK, these are my vitals, this is what's happening, I need to go somewhere or I don’t,’ and we’re hoping it will keep people healthier.”
The Argentine Wellness Center will also focus on food. But the Barefoot Mission team members think this kitchen is about more than just giving people a hot meal.
“We can make good food, but we also need to make something that's accessible, and can be replicated at their home,” Tekia Thompson, a Barefoot Mission board member, said. “Because that's the whole purpose is not to grow and leave, but to grow and stay and help others grow.”
The center is set up right next to New Stanley Elementary School. Principal Shonielle Roberson told us she already knows people who she'll be able to send to her new neighbor.
“To have something right there, where we can say, ‘Hey, you need this, great, come with me, I can show you right across the street where you can get help,’ having that is going to be very amazing,” Roberson said.
There's a sign next to the front door of the Penrod home that says “Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone.”
Maybe life gets better when that step is made with other people.
“I believe the best things happen in ministry, in community, in anything, is when things become a ‘we,’” Penrod said.
Penrod calls the move to KCK the hardest and best decision she and her husband have ever made.
The Argentine Wellness Center is set to open in early 2019. Several other non-profits will be working with Barefoot Mission, but if you'd like to volunteer, visit the group’s Facebook page.