Inaugural Building Community Award Winner Impacting Kansas City Children


​In its inaugural year, the $62,000 Building Community Award was given to Operation Breakthrough.

Knowing that children won't reach their potential without a strong start, Operation Breakthrough provides health and emergency services, housing and employment assistance, parenting classes and other support. In short, Operation Breakthrough is a one-stop shop where innovative programming serves more than 400 children daily and helps families create new possibilities for their children to thrive. Operation Breakthrough provides services to a high-risk population with a large percentage having experienced trauma.

This inaugural award was used to help create something Mary Esselman, president and CEO of Operation Breakthrough, had been dreaming of. With their budget allocated to providing excellent services for kids and families, the organization wanted to find a funding source to help make this dream a reality. With the award as seed money, the organization was able to successfully secure other funders. The result: dreams came true when the MakerSpace, an all-encompassing space that allows kids to tinker and learn, was opened up.

Turning an under-utilized space into a wonderland of exploration, the Operation Breakthrough MakerSpace is strategically located next to the Parent Resource Center with many windows allowing people to observe tinkering and learning in action. The self-directed, open-ended activities address the forgotten but still important arts and 21st century skills that will set these children up for life-long success. “It’s not just about leveling the playing field,” Esselman said. “It’s about providing experiences that develop a love for learning in children and also make sure they’re ready for what’s ahead.”

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