Thursday, November 16, 2017

Slain homeless woman to receive proper burial


by Mary Wilson

Chances are, if you’ve spent any time in downtown Grandview or along Blue Ridge over the past several years, you’ve likely run into 64-year-old Karen Harmeyer. Known in the community as a friendly, down-on-her-luck homeless woman, Harmeyer said she used to work as a nurse before her life took a turn.

Harmeyer was found murdered on July 19, her body discovered in a wooded area behind a church on Blue Ridge by those who checked on her regularly. Since then, due to no known relatives, her remains have been held at the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s office.

A group of local pastors and community members gathered together this week to give Harmeyer a proper funeral. With her remains being released to the community members, a service has been arranged for Tuesday, December 5, from 5-6 p.m., at Faith Ministries Community Church, 12222 Blue Ridge Blvd. in Grandview.

“We all feel very strongly that despite her chosen lifestyle, Karen deserves the dignity of a proper funeral and burial,” said local business owner Michael Lane. “There is nothing anyone can do about her senseless demise, but as community we can make sure she is laid to rest with the respect and dignity every human being deserves.”

The community is invited to Harmeyer’s memorial services, arranged with the help of Grandview Police Chaplain Lenny Laguardia. McGilley and George Funeral Home has donated a plot for her remains and Harmeyer will be laid to rest in Belton Cemetery.

“We cannot allow an act of senseless evil be the legacy,” said Lane. “Through her tragedy we as a community can show that good is more powerful then evil.”


Last month, Jackson County Prosecutors announced charges against Frederick Scott in connection to Harmeyer’s death. Scott is also facing charges in several other deaths in the South Kansas City area, though it is unknown what his involvement was in Harmeyer’s murder as details connecting Scott and Harmeyer have not been released. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Grandview teacher brings peace into classroom

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has selected Grandview teacher Amy Cameron to serve in the 2017 Peace Teachers Program. The Peace Teachers Program is rooted in the conviction that educators can be pivotal in bringing peace themes into their classrooms, schools and communities. At a time when violent conflict regularly dominates headlines, USIP believes that teachers are the key to helping young people obtain the knowledge, skills and perspectives to envision a more peaceful world and their part in creating it.

The Peace Teachers Program selects four outstanding American middle and high school educators each year to receive training, resources and support to strengthen their teaching of peace. Over the course of a school year, these teachers develop their understanding of international conflict management and peacebuilding through online coursework and other USIP opportunities; discover new ways to teach about conflict and peace, and identify concrete actions for integrating these concepts and skills into their classrooms; build connections with like-minded educators and with USIP through monthly virtual meetings; and serve as ambassadors and models for global peacebuilding education in their schools and broader communities by sharing their experiences and strategies on USIP’s website, at conferences of educators, and in a special closing program in Washington, D.C.

“We are thrilled to work with these four outstanding educators this coming year. They have each excelled at bringing a global perspective to their teaching, and they have exciting ideas for integrating issues of conflict and peace into their students’ work,” said Megan Chabalowski, who manages the program for USIP’s Public Education department. “We know from working with previous groups of Peace Teachers that they are going to have a great impact on their students’ growth as peacebuilders.”

The program is part of USIP’s public education work. Grounded in the Institute’s original mandate from Congress, public education serves the American people, providing resources and initiatives for K-12 students and educators, as well as others interested in learning about and working for peace.
Cameron wrote curriculum for her high school British and World Literature students using the book What Is the What, written by Dave Eggers, which is based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese child refugee who immigrated to the United States under the Lost Boys of Sudan program. Last school year, after the students read the novel, Cameron invited a Lost Boy from Sudan to come and speak with her classes.

“The conversations we have while reading this book are great,” said Cameron. “Our kids are global citizens now. When I’m teaching them, we study South Sudan and the conflict.”
Throughout her research for the curriculum, Cameron came across an essay contest through USIP. Having been listed as the sponsoring teacher for student submissions over the years, Chabalowski reached out to Cameron to find out what was happening in her classroom.

“I told her that in our World Lit classes, we talk about conflict being everywhere and that we can’t isolate ourselves from it,” said Cameron. “In Grandview we can’t be isolated. I want my students to feel like they are part of a bigger picture. The South Sudanese just lends itself to such a great study of conflict.”

With many of the Lost Boys from Sudan ending up in the Kansas City area, Cameron’s students are able to relate to their stories. Chabalowski, after hearing from Cameron about her curriculum, convinced her to apply for the Peace Teachers Program.

“If I had read the other teachers’ (who were previously selected) submissions, I probably wouldn’t have done it. But I did it and I was just humbled when I found out that USIP had selected me,” said Cameron. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Cameron’s essay focused on how she applies lessons of peace in her classroom in order to help her students feel more connected and to feel that something else is more important than them. Next semester, Cameron will include a project-based learning design in which students will study how to become peacebuilders in the world.

“I’m going to let them run with it. There are a thousand different avenues that they can explore,” said Cameron. “It’s all high-interest with the kids. The relevancy now, when there’s so much conflict, a lot of our kids can relate to these things personally.”

While doing an activity that coincided with the International Day of Peace this year, Cameron and her students discovered that 162 nations are currently in some sort of conflict. Each country in conflict will receive a colored tack on the map in Cameron’s classroom, eventually filling most of the map.

“The idea is to show that they are all in conflict,” said Cameron. “We’ll focus on how to be a peacebuilder in the classroom and how that translates to the community and the world.”

As part of the Peace Teachers Program, Cameron has received a number of resources to help her incorporate peace building into her everyday teaching. The other teachers selected for this year are from Montana, Florida and Oklahoma, and the four speak monthly to discuss what may or may not be working in their respective communities.

“Grandview is on the map for this,” said Cameron. “I’m really psyched for it. The attention between Washington D.C. and Grandview that we’ll receive, to me, is huge.”

As one of the four high schools in the country being represented in the Peace Teachers Program, in December, USIP representatives will visit Grandview High School and speak with Cameron’s students.

“This is so relevant right now. With our kids, a lot of times they are reflecting what is happening at home,” said Cameron. “Their concerns should be our concerns. The kids have definite opinions, but they also feel hopeless. Hopefully there will be a time in our lives when we won’t have 162 countries in conflict, but that won’t happen until it happens everywhere, when people feel like they have a say; when we feel more secure in our own communities.”


Cameron is excited to see what direction her students take with the peacebuilding lessons. Every day, as Cameron teaches World Literature, she explains to her students different perspectives and that the world is much bigger than the community they live in. Her classes will begin reading What Is the What in February.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Grandview School Board President resigns

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

After being selected to fill the vacancy left by former Grandview School Board member Rachel Casey in 2013 and serving five years, President WayneTerpstra has submitted his resignation. According to Terpstra, a change in jobs and more travel on his schedule to help grow the company he works for led to his departure.

“I didn’t want to resign, but with me being gone all the time, it would have been more of a detriment to the Board and to the district than me staying,” said Terpstra. “In the last five months at work, we have hired in national sales guys, and with me being the resident expert, I am the guy that has to do out and do the training with the new sales force.”

“I wouldn’t be able to give them the support that they need,” he added. “It is best for me to step aside, allow them to reorganize and let someone else step in. I know it was a shock, but I felt it was the best time with no real issues for me to make that move.”

With Terpstra’s resignation, the Grandview Board of Education reorganized at their October 19 meeting. Leonard Greene will now serve as President and Ron Haley as Vice President. Terpstra’s unexpired term lasts through the next Board of Education election on April 3, 2018. Current board members will interview interested candidates who apply for the position.

“I feel pretty bad, because I’ve never quit anything and resigned in midterm,” said Terpstra. “I teach my kids when they start something they need to finish it. I just didn’t think I’d be able to give them the time and attention that they deserve.”

Terpstra said that he’d like to see someone from the community who has the time to be active and involved in the district step up to fill the vacancy.

“I never knew what the education system even was until I got involved in Board of Education,” he said. “I had no idea. You just take your kids and send them to school and expect someone to educate them. In today’s society, you just can’t do that. Our kids need guidance and advice to help them succeed.”

“I have a tremendous respect for the educators,” Terpstra added. “To get into the nuts and bolts of the administrators and staff, what always amazed me is the amount of attention and how they’re born to be in that position. It’s incredible to me.”


Interested applicants for the vacancy should submit a letter of intent to be considered for the available Board of Education position by November 17. Guidelines for the vacancy position are on page 2 of the print edition. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Santa Fe Christian Church’s Final Homecoming Celebration



by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Hard work, dedication and a few tears paid off for one South Kansas City woman this past weekend. The culmination of research and interviews with locals came to fruition as Diane Euston, a local high school teacher and avid historian, along with members of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) Little Blue River Chapter and the Historical Society of New Santa Fe, held a homecoming ceremony for a former South Kansas City church.

On Saturday, October 7, the Santa Fe Christian Church received a permanent marker dedicated to the education of visitors to the area about the history of the landmark lost. Euston provided the history of the church to roughly 150 visitors who attended the ceremony.

In 1869, members of the Bethlehem Church of Christ organized a new congregation. The church organizers believed that the church community needed a burial ground for their loved ones, and in 1885, the New Santa Fe Cemetery was established. An adjacent lot was used for building the church. The Christian Church at New Santa Fe (later shortened to the Santa Fe Christian Church) was dedicated in 1892, and thrived through the years due to the hard work of the pioneer community.

“Every Friday, the women of the community would take fresh farm goods, like milk and eggs, by horse and buggy to Westport to sell to support their church,” said Euston. “The little church was the only true remainder of the town that was once here and attending the church became the reason to return to this community.”

Euston added that the church was a gathering place for the community. As the area changed from a farming community to suburbs of Kansas City, the Santa Fe Christian Church welcomed new members. In 1965, a group of men with no attachment to the pioneer families legally incorporated the name Santa Fe Christian Church out of a home in Grandview.

“The new group essentially took the name that was already being used,” said Euston. “These pioneer families were unaware of the incorporation and what the future held.”

On November 14, 1969, at approximately 7 p.m., a fire started in a defective heating system, damaging the north side of the historic church. The fire chief stated that the structure was not severely affected and that the church could be restored to its former glory.

“It became clear, very clear, that not everyone was willing to save the little Santa Fe Christian Church,” said Euston.

In the spring of 1970, a secret vote was held to raze the church, and a restoration committee was quickly formed to prevent that from happening. The committee determined that if the funding was available to make the repairs to the church, there was no reason to destroy it, and they worked to raise money to save the building.

The restoration committee met with the trustees of the church to try and reason with them. According to Euston, one stated that the building would always smell like smoke, while another stated he was looking toward the future, not the past. In October of 1970, three trustees of the Christian Church at New Santa Fe signed a special warranty deed that dissolved the former organization. All legal rights were then given to the Santa Fe Christian Church, the same church organized in Grandview in 1965. One of the members said during a deposition that he believed what he was signing was simply a release of trusteeship.

“He had no idea that he had signed the church away to this new organization,” said Euston. “But that’s what happened.”

Estimates to fix the damage to the church were between $3000 and $10,000. Insurance paid the church over $20,000, and that money was in control of the new organization. Instead of repairing the old church, they bought the lot next door for $7000 and began construction on a new church.
Meanwhile, funds were still being raised to help restore the damaged building by the restoration committee. On February 7, 1971, they met with the new leadership to plead their case one last time to allow their church to be restored with private funds. The restoration committee and their supporters tried to vote, but were not allowed because they hadn’t been active members of the new church for at least 90 days. The vote proceeded without them and in the end, 17 out of 20 members voted to raise the church.

On February 12, a restraining order was filed against the Santa Fe Christian Church to stop demolition. The next day, February 13, 1971, Judge Richard Sprinkle signed the filed restraining order and at 10:36 a.m., the injunction became official;  the Santa Fe Christian Church was to not be touched or destroyed. However, at approximately 9:30 a.m. that same day, demolition of the Santa Fe Christian Church had already started.

“66 minutes. All of this fight came down to just over an hour,” said Euston. “I can only imagine the shock and heartache that was left behind after this church was reduced to a pile of rubble.”

The restoration committee wasn’t going to give up their fight, and filed suit against the new church. A resolution was found four years later with the creation of the New Santa Fe Cemetery Association. The small burial ground was all that was left of the community, and it became their mission to save it from the new organization.

“In 1975, for $1, the new church organization sold the cemetery to this new committee,” said Euston. “Even as I recount all that I’ve learned, it still gives me goosebumps and it still shocks me. This church should still be standing. This is a revival, not of religious proportions, but of recollections, memories and the importance of preservation of historic landmarks. Today, we need to stand in celebration of a landmark lost.”

A common theme for the month of October for the Santa Fe Christian Church was homecoming celebrations. An annual homecoming service was held, drawing a large crowd of former members and friends of the church and provided fellowship for the entire community.

“A homecoming in southern church tradition is about the celebration of memories past,” said Euston. “It’s about finding a reason to gather together and reminisce. It is also a celebration of the future.”

Approximately two years to the day after the church was bulldozed, the Little Blue River Chapter NSDAR was being organized in Grandview. It would take another 42 years for the New Santa Fe Historical Society and the local NSDAR chapter to come together to apply for a special grant project to celebrate the historical value of the church that once stood on the grounds of New Santa Fe.

“Little Blue River, in 40 years, had never tackled anything like that before,” said Margo Aldridge, Regent with the Little Blue River NSDAR.  In 2015, Aldridge contacted Trailside Center volunteer Ann O’Hare to see if she knew of any local projects that needed funding.

The project received $1844 in an education grant from DAR and was sponsored by the local chapter. The project was originally submitted in 2015, and after being turned down the group resubmitted in 2016. They were notified in March of this year that the Santa Fe Christian Church dedication was approved for funding.


The final homecoming for the former members of the Santa Fe Christian Church revealed a permanent marker dedicated to its memory. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Rodeway Inn property deemed public nuisance


by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Should the former Rodeway Inn motel building, which has been deemed a public nuisance, be demolished or allowed to be repaired? That was the question during the Grandview Board of Aldermen’s administrative hearing concerning the property last Tuesday, September 26.

According to the hearing’s background report, the building at 15201 South US 71 Highway was subject to a high-wind event on December 31, 2011, and sustained damage to the flat roof of the motel. As a result of the damage, the motel was vacated due to interior water leaks. The property owner at that time filed claims with his insurance carrier so that repairs could be made. The owner engaged the services of a structural engineer to develop plans for the roof replacement and worked with the City to have a new, sloped roof constructed and installed over the existing flat roof.

The second phase of the repair and remodel for the Rodeway Inn motel concentrated on the demolition of the interior to provide rooms that met the needs of today's lodgers. The property owner utilized several contractors on the demolition portion of the work with very few issues. The remodel project started to bog down in 2014 when permits were pulled, very litte work was completed and communications with the property owner dropped off significantly.

In August 2014, the City received notification that the property owner had declared bankruptcy. During this process, no work was completed on the structure. The bankruptcy process was completed in 2016. City staff had some meetings with the commercial real estate professionals about the property as they prepared to market it to potential buyers. In May 2017, the property was purchased from the lender. The property was purchased in July 2017 by an entity called RW1 LLC. RW1 LLC, according to its corporate filing with the Missouri Secretary of State, has two owners, Charles Soucek and James Woodley.

Shortly after taking ownership, large quantities of materials were brought on to the site by Soucek, with the intent to have a flea market. City staff, including the Building Official, Building Inspector and Fire Marshal, completed a comprehensive inspection of the property. The composition of materials brought on to the site was cause for concern by the City. In addition, Soucek made little effort to clean up the property or to hire the required professionals to develop plans for the continued remodel of the former motel so that it could be re-opened as a motel or demolished and removed to make way for another allowable use.

The purpose of the hearing was to allow the owner of the building to show cause as to why the building should not be declared a nuisance detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the community. However, if such findings were made, the building would be ordered to be demolished or repaired.

Joe Gall, an attorney for the City of Grandview for the purposes of the administrative hearing, asked to testify first to provide the Board of Aldermen with some background on the property’s ownership before offering a recommendation. While paperwork filed for the LLC show Soucek as the registered agent, according to Gall, the organizer was Woodley.

“I’ve learned some additional information today that I want to share with you at this point,” said Gall. “From the face of this document, we really can’t tell who the owner of the company is. The owner of the company, RW1 LLC, is related to another company, IPX 1031. We didn’t know that and as a consequence, didn’t send notices of the hearing to IPX 1031.”

Gall said that the registered agent, Soucek, was attempted to be served notice of the hearing, however, Soucek died on September 1, after sustaining injuries in a car accident on August 31. The notice of nuisance, sent to Soucek, was signed by his daughter, Susan Miller.

“Under Missouri law, when you’re serving a registered agent, I think a court would find that the delivery of service has to be to the registered agent,” said Gall, “not someone else on his behalf. So, that’s a service issue there.”

Another notice of the public hearing, dated August 28, directed to Soucek was also signed by his daughter, Susan Miller, on September 1, the day that Soucek died.

“I have a bit of discomfort about the validity of the service of this notice of hearing on the registered agent of RW1 LLC,” said Gall.

Miller, who attended the hearing to speak on her father’s behalf, stated that her mother has Alzheimer’s; and because she needs round-the-clock care, she was in her parents’ residence and signed for the notices addressed to her father.

After his death, Soucek’s assets have gone into a trust, with Miller now serving as the successor trustee due to her mother’s health. The property, the former Rodeway Inn, will eventually end up as an asset in that trust.

Gall recommended that, due to the complicated ownership issues with the property that will likely change, the hearing be continued to allow those issues to solidify before returning to look deeper into the evidence on the condition of the building.

“We need to come back and ensure that the proper parties have been given notice and they have the opportunity to appear,” said Gall.


Ultimately, the Board of Aldermen unanimously supported Gall’s recommendation to continue the hearing until Tuesday, October 24, providing Miller opportunity to clean up some of the material on the property that was a cause for concern before the hearing to determine whether the property should be demolished or repaired.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Grandview administration focuses on cultural competency

by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Typically, when students are out of school for district in-service, their teachers spend the day in meetings, talking curriculum and learning new ways of instruction. However, last Friday, teachers in the Grandview School District participated in a visual representation of privilege among their peers and how that affects their teaching.

Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez invited every certified staff member onto the Grandview High School football field for a privilege walk. Teachers lined up evenly, and Rodrequez read a series of statements, asking that each person take a step forward or backward if each statement were true in their lives.

Eventually, the educators were no longer even in their line. Some took several steps forward, some took several steps back, while others remained on the line where they started. The end result was a look into how instances in a person’s life which cannot be controlled often relay into how they perceive the world around them.

“We have a lot of things in common,” said Rodrequez, “but the number one thing we have in common is that we are all educators and we are all teachers. We are all one member of the Grandview family. We support each other, but we also need to understand that there are varying levels of things that happened to us in our backgrounds that impact us every single day.”

He went on to say that life experiences have an impact on decisions that teachers make, the way they teach and the way relationships are built with their students.

“With all the things that we have in common, we still have a lot of differences,” said Rodrequez.
The exercise was part of the district administration’s focus on cultural competency to better relate to students and families. The activity led to conversations regarding unconscious bias and trauma.

“We’re going to continue this work on cultural competency, not just because it is a board priority, but because it is one of the main things that we have to get right,” said Rodrequez. “If we don’t get this right, we will not be as successful with our students and our families as we should be.”

Rodrequez said that if the exercise was done with the students in the district, the outcome would have looked very similar. Several Grandview educators felt uncomfortable throughout the demonstration; some were emotional afterward.

 “It was truly an eye-opening exercise that showcased how each of us comes from a different background with different experiences,” said Grandview High School teacher Diane Euston.

After the privilege walk, district teachers reflected on what they felt and how they can use their own experiences to better connect with students and their families. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Grandview alum returns home to help fill the GAP

Jackie Knabe, at right, Grandview Assistance Program's new Executive Director, receives a donation of school supplies from Burger and Brown Engineering.


by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Grandview Assistance Program’s new executive director may be a slightly familiar face to those who have been in the area for a while. Jackie (Burkhart) Knabe officially began her new role at the beginning of the month, but has already made a splash in the community by helping to bring relief to those who suffered damage due to the recent flooding.

Formerly with Hillcrest Transitional Housing in Kansas City, Kansas, Knabe is a Grandview High School alum with two children. She grew up in South Kansas City and Grandview, and after getting married, became a stay-at-home mom in Lee’s Summit. She ran a daycare in her home for a while and became very involved in the PTA organization at her children’s elementary school.

“When my daughter was heading into kindergarten, I realized that I felt invisible as a person,” said Knabe. “I became just this mother and wife and nothing was for me anymore.”

She began reading a series of books that opened her mind to the world outside of motherhood, and at 38-years-old, decided that she wanted more out of life.  She then reflected on her entire life and weighed the pros and cons of most everything.

“From just being so involved in volunteering at the school at the time, I realized that I knew a lot of women who were in the same place I was,” she said. “I could tell that they, too, felt invisible.”

Knabe would hear of needs in her own community, and began a gift card program where women would buy WalMart or other cards and started a small food pantry. Another mom came to her and told her that the heat was out in their vehicle, so Knabe then organized funding for the family for a new van after enough community members pitched in what they could.

Circle of Hope was born out of this group of moms who would gather together for dinner, crafts and fellowship. She began visiting a different church after reading a book read by the congregation that changed the way she thought about life. There, she met the pastor and they began Coldwater of Lee’s Summit, a faith-based organization which provides food and clothing for those in need in the community.

“They had just started a clothes closet, and I had my little food pantry. So, we created Coldwater,” said Knabe. “The premise of it is that if you have nothing else to give, you can offer a cup of cold water. Sometimes just doing something small is enough to make an impact.”

She then divorced, and as a single mom couldn’t manage the hours of working at Coldwater. An opportunity with Hillcrest Transitional Housing eventually came along and Knabe became a case manager there for four years. She was happy where she was, and wasn’t looking for a change when the Grandview Assistance Program’s executive director position became available.

“It is GAP’s desire and passion to really impact people’s lives and to really help people, not just by putting a bandage on, but to help them learn to be self-sufficient,” she said. “If somebody is willing and the circumstances are right, you can change their lives for the better. To get to do that in Grandview, where I came from, it just really spoke to me.”

She is excited to be able to give back to the community that raised her, as she said she had a wonderful experience growing up here. Knabe brings a fresh set of eyes and new ideas to the organization, and would like to see GAP further their financial education and training for their clients. She’d also like to partner with as many other area resources as she can.

“I definitely want to get involved in the community more than just GAP,” she said. “Everything that was said during my interview process for GAP just aligned with what I am all about. I can’t wait to get past this learning curve I’m in right now and really get in there.”

Knabe would also like to expand volunteer opportunities to get more citizens involved in the organization. She feels that GAP’s hours are not aligned with when families can typically volunteer to serve and she’d like to find a way to offer an opportunity for those who may not have had one before to become involved.

“I want kids in there working, and teenagers and families,” said Knabe. “I think it’s important that we offer an array of options for people in the community to be able to give back.”

She’d also like to create a welcoming and inviting space for clients using GAP’s services and those who are there to volunteer.

“I want us to be able to say yes as much as we can, and I’m working on figuring out a way that we can do that,” said Knabe. “I don’t want to just give people a fish, I want to find ways that we can teach them to fish.”


Established in 1991, GAP’s mission is to assist in a dignified manner families and individuals in Grandview and the Grandview School District with emergency assistance and guidance toward ultimate self-sufficiency. Community members looking to volunteer with GAP can do so by either emailing Knabe at grandviewassistanceprogram@gmail.com, or by calling 816-761-1919. Currently, Grandview Assistance Program is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and days align with the Grandview School District. They are located at 1121 Main Street in Grandview.