Shirley Bush Helzberg, one of Kansas City’s leading ladies of philanthropy, urged hundreds of community leaders last week to follow their true passions in deciding how to focus their volunteer energy and talents.
Helzberg, the keynote speaker at the 53rd annual Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast on March 4, acknowledged there have been times when she did volunteer projects because she couldn’t say no to a friend. But her advice to the busy people in the audience was to listen to their hearts.
“If I could influence or inspire anybody in this audience today, I would encourage you to find areas of interest that you fully believe the institution or organization can benefit from your resources, your commitment and your valuable time,” she said. “Pick out the one or two areas where you can truly put your gifts to work.”
Helzberg’s own local passions have ranged far and wide, from the Kansas City Symphony to Crossroads real estate development to charter school innovation. She said those activities have put her in touch with incredibly talented and wonderful people whom she might never have met otherwise. And her work with urban youths at the University Academy K-12 charter public school “fills me often with tears but with heartfelt joy.”
Helzberg learned the value of volunteering as a child by watching her mother’s commitment to their community in Leavenworth County. The lesson she learned: “It is our responsibility to repair the world.”
The prayer breakfast at the Bartle Hall Grand Ballroom brought together two dozen area mayors and about 750 other civic advocates with a mission to emphasize morality, ethics and spirituality in business, labor, the professions and government.
The event benefited the Assistance League of Kansas City, an all-volunteer organization with a 30-year history of philanthropic service to Kansas City. It is funded by donors, grants and an upscale thrift store at 6601 North Oak Trafficway and offers programs to benefit assault victims, children and adults in need.