Kickstarting the next 50 Years: The Northland Symphony Orchestra

header37Although I gave up my attempt to be an accomplished pianist when I was in eighth grade, I never gave up my love of live music.  All types of live music inspire me, but when I hear a well orchestrated symphony, my fingers start twitching as I begin practicing my scales thanks to my muscle memory!

The Music

The Northland Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1967 and has three primary goals. The first is to provide young people the opportunity to broaden their musical horizons by performing quality music with seasoned performers and community players; in that way, students can see, in a practical and real way, that music can remain an avocation throughout their lives even if it’s not one’s vocation. The second is to provide quality musical performances to those who otherwise might not have the opportunity or resources to experience it. The third is to provide elementary students with an opportunity to perform in front of a sizable audience and their families, all the while singing with a quality orchestra.

The Northland Symphony performers are equally split between professional musicians, community members, and students. The students are primarily college students, but some are high school students. Many of the professional musicians have been with the symphony for ten or more years-many of them much longer.

The Northland Symphony does all of this as a nonprofit organization without paid staff members. It relies on a working Board of Directors, grant funds, volunteers and donations to produce five shows every season. From just a few musicians at the beginning, the orchestra has grown to the extent that there is now a waiting list of players that wish to perform. This growth is driven by their passion in their mission.

The Kickstarter

The 2016-17 season marks the 50th anniversary for the symphony. The Symphony has launched their first ever public giving campaign, setting a goal of $75,000 to help kickstart the next 50 years and to help grow some of their non-concert initiatives, like student performances and the young artist competition.

There are plenty of ways to get involved. The Symphony’s largest fundraiser of the year – Taste of Zona Rosa – is in just a couple of weeks. The evening event features delicious cuisine from a variety of Zona Rosa restaurants, wine and other beverages, a fabulous silent auction, and live music from members of the Northland Symphony.

Even if your 2016 giving budgets are full, the orchestra is accepting pledges for the second half of their season which goes through June 30, 2017. They also have concert sponsorships available, as well as many other opportunities throughout the season, the celebration of which culminates at their April 9th concert at the Kauffman Center. Like all the others, this concert will be FREE, so be sure to put it on your calendar and bring your family.

I hope you will join Haas & Wilkerson Insurance in supporting the Northland Symphony and that I get to see you at the Taste of Zona Rosa on Sunday October 23.

Kimberly Wilkerson loves music, family friendly festivals, and her community!  Community engagement is just one of her hats at Haas & Wilkerson Insurance where she serves as an owner and vice president.

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Making Sure No Child Is Ever Hungry: Spotlight on Backpack Buddies of Leavenworth

HWINS K A Moving DifferenceKids are back to school and there’s a buzz in the air as the summer heat is replaced by a shift into fall. My kiddos are still in the preschool and baby stages, but even I can feel the change in the winds when school starts. As a former educator, I’ve always associated this time of year with new beginnings, and I get excited to take on some new challenges.

As I prepared for the September Accelerent breakfast and was searching for a not-for-profit organization to highlight, I was thrilled Meegan and John Campbell with Studdard Moving approached me about Backpack Buddies of Leavenworth. It’s a community-driven organization that ensures kids on the free and reduced lunch program at school have food supplies to get them through the weekend.

Feeling Hungry

Unfortunately, way too many kids these days need food support both at school and at home. According to No Kid Hungry, more than 16 million children live in food-insecure homes. Food insecurity is the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food. Many of those kids eat breakfast and lunch each day thanks to the free and reduced lunch programs at our K-12 public schools (more than 23.5 million kids qualify nationally). But when the weekend comes along, many go without or with very little food until Monday morning rolls around.

While the majority of kids living with food insecurity are found in urban areas, small towns also experience this issue. Leavenworth, KS, where Studdard Moving has one of their locations, has one of the highest rates of kids qualifying for the free and reduced lunch program in our region. About 65 percent of Leavenworth students qualify for the program.

To address the unique needs of the military and prison-associated families in Leavenworth, Backpack Buddies of Leavenworth was started in 2009 by six community churches. In their first year, the program served 99 children, and over the years, it has grown steadily to serve 750 students in grades kindergarten through third.

Moving Forward

Studdard Moving got involved in the early days of the program. The Campbells were approached to help warehouse and deliver the food-filled backpacks to four Leavenworth elementary schools and the local Head Start Program. Studdard Moving is joined by 25 churches and civic groups that help Backpack Buddies raise money to buy the food, assemble and warehouse the food bundles, and deliver it to the elementary schools.

On average, 200 volunteers “touch” the food during any given month. They are involved in many ways: unloading the food when it arrives at Studdard’s from the warehouse; sorting the food for each school; loading the food on trucks; taking it to the churches who pack it for the students; delivering the backpacks to each school; and distributing the food to the kids each Friday.

Everyone involved with the Backpack Buddies of Leavenworth is a volunteer. Every dollar raised goes directly to purchasing food for the students. On an average month, they receive 35,000 food items, which means each child receives 10-12 food items every Friday to ease their weekend hunger. The bags usually contain:

  • 2 shelf stable milks
  • 1 juice box (100% juice)
  • 1 large can of protein (ex: Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs)
  • 1 other small can of protein
  • 1 bowl of cereal
  • 1 container of fruit
  • 1 small can of vegetables
  • 2-3 snack items such as pretzels, crackers, gummi fruit snack

“$150 covers the Backpack Buddy food for one child for the entire school year.”

To feed 750 kids for the 2016-2017 school year, Backpack Buddies is raising $112,500. The organization raises money throughout the year, so donations are welcome anytime to purchase food.

Making a Difference

When I think about that it only takes $150 to feed one child over the weekend for an entire school year, I am pumped up to bring this worthy cause to our community and our fellow Accelerent companies. We can make a direct difference in the lives of many children with our donations, and we can be confident that every penny supports kids because of all the volunteers in Leavenworth who pull everything together.

I also want to express how impressed I am with Studdard Moving. When Haas & Wilkerson Insurance considers new opportunities to financially support and serve our community as volunteers, we really like it when the cause fits our purpose and passion. The team members at Studdard Moving are experts in warehousing and moving just about anything. Storing and delivering the Backpack Buddies food was a natural extension for their company. It allowed them to serve their local community and make a difference in the lives of kids. And that’s pretty awesome in my book!

I hope you will join Haas & Wilkerson Insurance in supporting Backpack Buddies of Leavenworth. Remember it only takes $150 to feed one child each weekend for a school year. Will you consider being a hero for a kid experiencing food insecurity? Please donate here: Backpack Buddies of Leavenworth

Kimberly Wilkerson loves kids, dogs and all things Kansas City. She even loves the Royals when they aren’t in first place! As a former educator turned insurance broker, she heads up community involvement and support efforts for Haas & Wilkerson Insurance as an owner and vice president.

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Insuring #PartyBigWA: Client Spotlight on the Washington State Fair


Being in and around the fair and festival industry for all of my life means I’ve developed quite an affinity for all things associated with this form of outdoor entertainment. I know the best funnel cakes and corn dogs, which rides give me that sought-after stomach drop, and what judges really look for in a prize-winning heifer, pig or pie. I’ve lost count of the number of state, county and local fairs and festivals I’ve attended in my life. And while I do my best not to pick favorites, I must say I have an affinity for the Washington State Fair, which occurs every September. “The Fair,” as it’s known in Washington State, has been a long-standing client for Haas & Wilkerson Insurance and is thus deserving of this month’s client spotlight.  Continue reading

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Building a Mighty Culture and Community

At Haas & Wilkerson Insurance, we take our commitment to our culture and the Kansas City community seriously—so seriously that we don’t leave that commitment to chance. We leave it to some MIGHTY DUCKS! Yes, I said MIGHTY, and yes, I said DUCKS! What started as a social committee many years ago has morphed into a six-person team that serves not only as the driver of all team celebrations and community activities but also serves as an important liaison between our staff and leadership team. Continue reading

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Baseball and Bowling: Helping At-Risk Kids Thrive

The 2016 Royals baseball season is in full swing, and once again I'm regularly decked out in my fan gear cheering on our boys in blue. It's been a season of ups and downs so far, but we are above .500 with our 43 wins and 39 losses (as of the writing of this blog). So, I'm pleased with our season so far. I've seen some great games and some not-so-great ones. I know it's tough to top last year's performance, but that doesn't mean I don't hope they can pull it off again come October. 

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Celebrating Freedom and Education: IAFE’s Jim Tucker Fund

It's July 4th and time to celebrate the birth of our great nation. Personally, I'll be gathering with friends and family to fill bellies with hot dogs and burgers fresh off the grill, and to light up the sky with some fireworks and sparklers. We will wear our red, white and blue to honor those who fought throughout the last 240 years for the principles that make our country great. Across our nation, we'll be joined by our fellow Americans, many of whom will spend the weekend at a local fair to commemorate Independence Day. Agricultural fairs do an amazing job of bringing people together for this weekend, providing entertainment, food, rides and night skies filled with bangs, booms, oohs and aahs.

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Generations of Experience: Client Spotlight on Henry Wurst, Inc.

At Haas & Wilkerson Insurance, we're proud and thankful to be a third-generation family-owned independent insurance brokerage. As anyone with a family business knows, it's not always easy to run and work for a family-owned business. But my sister, Kimberly Wilkerson, and I feel like we're doing right by our father, Bill Wilkerson, grandfather, William Ralph Wilkerson Jr., and his business partner, Al Haas, by how we've picked up their torch. Many of the businesses we insure are also multi-generation family businesses, and we're pleased to serve their commercial insurance needs and help them manage risk.

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