Operation Breakthrough is a unique nonprofit agency that provides an array of vital social services to inner-city children and their parents in Kansas City, Missouri. In the early 1970's, two nuns, Sister Berta Sailer and Sister Corita Bussanmas, who operated St. Vincent’s Grade School, chose to help a distraught mother, who, at the time, was on the brink of losing custody of her children. Sisters Sailer and Bussanmas assisted this mother by taking her children into their home.
As a result of the compassion, vision, and tireless efforts of Sisters Berta and Corita, and due also to substantial community support, Operation Breakthrough has expanded into a 64,000-square-foot child development center that serves more than 600 children daily. Operation Breakthrough is a United Way agency, and most of the families it serves live below the federal poverty line. Some of these families are homeless, and are in various transitional living situations. Some of the services provided by Operation Breakthrough are early childhood education, family assistance, medical and dental care and adult counseling for parents.
Western District of Missouri’s Involvement
Over the past decade, Western District of Missouri court employees have developed a special relationship with Operation Breakthrough. Our court family has established an annual tradition of contributing Christmas gifts to needy families connected with Operation Breakthrough through Adopt-a-Family. For the past six years, our court family has also collected school supplies for children served by Operation Breakthrough.
In the past year, the Probation and Pretrial Office has further expanded the court family’s relationship with Operation Breakthrough by referring a high volume of offenders there to complete their assigned community service work hours. Offenders who are assigned to the agency for community service work normally complete general maintenance and cleaning duties. Such community service work serves two important purposes. First, it saves the agency the cost of having to pay staff or recruit other volunteers. Second, but of equal importance, when offenders perform community service work at a children-focused agency, it provides offenders an opportunity to give back to the community in a meaningful way, which benefits their reintegration into society.
During the past year, offenders assigned to Operation Breakthrough have performed several hundreds of hours of community service. Periodically, offenders and probation officers work together on special projects at Operation Breakthrough. Recently, Senior Probation Officer/Community Service Specialist Sebastian Bonner partnered with offenders and assisted in the painting of classrooms at Operation Breakthrough. During the summer of 2009, Senior Probation Officers Chi King and Bonner assisted Operation Breakthrough in a special food distribution project targeted for inner-city children and their families.
According to Debbie Skaggs, Volunteer Coordinator for Operation Breakthrough, having offenders perform community service at her facility has been of tremendous benefit. She emphasized, “Operation Breakthrough is required by licensing and certification requirements to provide a clean, safe environment for children. With a building our size, keeping everything clean is quite the challenge. Without the offender program I am forced to recruit volunteers to help in this area.”
As we experience another holiday season and celebrate, among other things, the spirit of giving, it is a great time to reflect on how our court family has embodied that spirit with a special organization in the community, both during the holiday season, and throughout the year.