Friday, September 23, 2011

How to learn more about the HALO Learning Center

Reading through these blog posts gives you a solid overview of the HALO Learning Center.  Over the past few weeks, you have learned the Center's mission, its history and its function in the community.  You know the names of the organizations it serves, you know some of the current projects as well as some that are in the works.  You know that it relies almost exclusively on volunteers, and you have even learned a little bit about one of the workshop volunteers.  You may be thinking to yourself right now that you really know a lot about the Center, right?

I'll concede that you have a pretty good overview of the basics, but with something as vibrant and dynamic as the HALO Center, there is so much going on, so many people helping out, so many youth finding a positive outlet for their creativity as well as a safe space to learn basic life skills, and so many future plans, that this blog has barely touched the surface!  You may be thinking, "Wow, I'm really impressed with all I've been reading these past few weeks, and if there's even more, I want to know!  But how do I learn more about the Center?"

I'm glad you asked.  The HALO Learning Center will be offering two-hour seminars this fall through University of Missouri, Kansas City's continuing education program, Communiversity.  The seminars will give an overview of the HALO Foundation, and an in-depth look at the Learning Center.  Those who attend a seminar will meet current volunteers, as well as the Director of the Learning Center, will learn more about the youth served by the Center,  will take part in a mock workshop to learn firsthand the types of activities that take place in the Center, and will learn more about upcoming programs and the future plans we have here at HALO.

More importantly, the people who attend one of the seminars will learn ways that they too can become involved with the HALO Center.  Right now, maybe you're thinking, "Wait, this is all about 'the people who attend a seminar.'  How can I become one of those people?  When and where are the seminars and how do I sign up?"  These are excellent questions!  Here's the info....

The first seminar is on Monday, September 26th from 6:30 - 8:30pm.  (No, it's not too late to sign up, so keep reading and we'll get to that!).  The second seminar is on Saturday, November 5th from 1 - 3pm. Both seminars are being held at the HALO Learning Center at 1600 Genessee Street, Suite 140.  That's in the West Bottoms, near Kemper Arena.  You only need to attend one of the seminars, and they're both free.

"But wait," you're thinking, "I still don't know how to sign up!"  Well I did promise that information was coming, so here it is.  You may sign up for Monday's seminar here... and the November seminar here...  There are also Communiversity booklets around town that will give you information on signing up, so be on the lookout for them...

If you have any questions, or would like additional information, contact Michelle at  We look forward to seeing you!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Volunteer Spotlight - Martin Ratterman

Volunteer Spotlight

This week we’d like to showcase one of our volunteer workshop hosts: Martin Ratterman.

Martin Ratterman lives near Colombia, Missouri where he works out of his own woodworking studio. Here he produces pieces of furniture that may as well be called works of art. Martin combines many types of wood to make rocking chairs, ottomans, work benches, and tables.

What makes Martin’s work even more remarkable is his story. Martin is a cancer survivor. After discovering that he had colon cancer and undergoing treatments and eight times the normal amount of chemotherapy, he is alive and recovering and giving back. Every month Martin lends his expertise to HALO Center members from reStart youth shelter on a Saturday morning.

For each Saturday workshop Martin hosts, he and his wife drive over 100 miles and spend the entire weekend in Kansas City. He brings all of his own materials for the planned workshop. Martin has also donated a tool cabinet as well as several tools for the youth to use at the Center.

Martin works extremely well with the youth. He teaches them lessons on patience, the importance of being precise, and how their lessons in woodworking can carry over into the real world. Over the course of three four hour workshops, Martin and the youth from reStart have built a work table for the HALO Center, a work bench, and have repaired broken chairs for the Center.

As a volunteer, Martin has gone above and beyond to meet our needs at the HALO Learning Center. We are so incredibly thankful for all that he has done and continues to do for the youth of Kansas City.

If you are interested in influencing youth in Kansas City and getting involved with the HALO Learning Center, please contact me at

Warm Regards,


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Celebrating the end of Summer, Kicking off the school year with a bang

The HALO Center has been buzzing that last few weeks with all kinds of different events (in addition to our typical weekly workshops). It is with grateful thanks to our volunteers and donors that these events are cause for big celebrations.

Back-to-School Backpacks - The weeks of August 15th and 22nd were not only weeks of excitement and anxiousness for HALO Center kids as they prepared for another year of school. But they were also weeks of appreciation. The generosity of HALO Center supporters allowed us to provide all HALO Center Members with Back-to-School Backpacks. Not only did each youth get to chose their very own backpack, but they also got pens, pencils, notebooks, folders, crayons, glue, scissors, rulers and calculators. I believe that to succeed, you must be set up for success. Our Back-to-School backpacks are a small steps toward a year's worth of knowledge and growth.

End of Summer Movie Night - In honor of their good behavior and enthusiasm, we hosted a special movie night for reStart Family Shelter youth. 17 youth, 5 parents, 3 HALO Center volunteers and myself bonded over popcorn, apples, banana splits and The Diary of a Whimpy Kid this past Monday night. Our next big outing, with these youth, will be a trip to the Farmer's Market in River Market for fruits, veggies and spices which they will use to prepare a meal for their parents.

Niles Home for Children DREAM Journal Gallery Showing - Niles Home for Children youth have been working all summer in their DREAM Journals (two DREAM Journals featured below). The journals comprise a number of different activities that guide the youth through the DREAM Campaign by encouraging creativity, self-exploration and self-expression. By working with a number of different art mediums and forms, youth learned about themselves, as well as developed emotional intelligence and learned giving back. Wednesday we honored all the hard work these youth put into their DREAM Journals in an Art Gallery Showing. Youth self-priced their work - art was available for anywhere from $1 to $1600. When prompting a conversation about what to do with money made from the art work, I was prepared to offer suggestions: a pizza party, design your own shoes project, etc. I didn't need to present any of my ideas because immediately upon bringing up the topic, the Niles youth shouted, "Let's give the money to Mexico." It was a group consensus and a done deal - proceeds would go to the HALO supported Mexican orphans.

Volunteerism - If you have ever been in The Center, you have seen our DREAM Journal wall. This wall displays all of the activities included in the DREAM Journals. The journals are structured to progress through the activities, so we have a special order in which we do them. From the very first time the youth saw the DREAM wall, they have begged and begged and begged to do the Shoe project - designing a pair of white canvas shoes, Amyah's shoes are featured below. So when it finally came time to do the shoes, they were beyond excited. But, our Shoe project extends farther than just designing the shoes - and some youth had reservations. Each shoes has been specially bought, with reference to size, for children living in the HALO supported orphanage in Mexico. Most of the youth were all about designing shoes and sending love to Mexico; yet, a couple weren't keen on the idea and took some time to themselves. But after seeing everyone else enjoying the project, they participated. At the end of the project, the unenthusiastic teens had transformed into the most enthusiastic, running over to their featured artwork to show off the shoes made for Mexico. In fact, we have a future humanitarian in our midst - when asked what project Master, 8 years old, wanted to do on the 'free to do what you like' day, he screamed, "I wanna make a pillow. One for a Mexican kid and one for me. I wanna help all the kids, I'm gonna SAVE THE WORLD", ending with a super-hero-inspired save-the-world jump in the air.

Dream Page - The DREAM Page project is our first project in the DREAM Journals. It's purpose is to help visualize your dreams - to take the dreams that are inside your head and put them down on paper. It is a great way to remind yourself and to keep on track; and it is just as important to be able to share with others. Below is Master's dream page. He wants to build cars that have mattresses on top.

My Timeline - Youth created a timeline that shows important points in their past, as well as steps toward achieving their dream for the future. Below is Master's timeline.

Role Model Mobile - Looking up to someone and learning from their experiences can help you with your dreams. On the computer, youth researched professionals in their desired field or people who started off in their shoes. By gathering quotes, stories and pictures, they were able to create their very own inspiration mobile. Below is Kayondez's Role Model Mobile.

Garage Sale - Today we hosted a garage sale to benefit our upcoming Apprenticeship Program, set to begin October 10th. A huge thank you to those volunteers that helped out with the event, as well as those supporters who got a 'good deal for a good cause'. We are excited and encouraged to launch this new program.

Until next time,