2021 Innovators & Influencers Honoree: Stedmond Ware

The Kansas City metro has tens of thousands of fascinating citizens within its population of 2.34 million. Talented, passionate people are drawn here—or remain in this vibrant, 15-city region—for the arts, sports, music scene, and its generosity, both in spirit and philanthropy.

Distilling those numbers to highlight just nine individuals and one couple was quite the editorial trick. Some made the list based on career excellence; a few for how they deftly pivoted during the pandemic to serve the needs of others. Like true creatives, two of our profiles could have starred in more than one category, bridging charity and music, art and fashion and technology. 

With great pride, we introduce you to our Nonprofits honoree, Stedmond Ware.

Photo by Tom Styrkowicz

Nonprofits | Stedmond Ware

When an in-person meeting with Stedmond Ware couldn’t happen, he was worried his enthusiasm for Kansas City Center for Inclusion wouldn’t come through.

He needn’t have stressed; the KCCI board member’s personality practically vibrated over the phone. It’s no wonder he was tapped to become board chairman shortly after the organization was founded in 2017.

Stedmond discovered KCCI after moving to Kansas City from Mississippi in 2016 to propel his career path with North Central Regional Offices of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “I work with nonprofit organizations and foundations in the Kansas, Missouri, and Minnesota areas as a federal grants officer for AmeriCorps, the largest volunteer-based grantor in North America.” Stated in stronger language, he helps alleviate poverty and build communities through financial assistance.

“Strengthening communities is something that’s driven my career and not-for-profit life,” Stedmond says. “That’s at the heart of what we do at KCCI; create safe, inclusive spaces for Kansas City’s LGBTQIA+ community.”

The center provides education, resources, and activities “where all can bring their authentic selves and feel safe, welcome, and included,” he says. As a gay, Black man growing up in the south, Stedmond understands discrimination first-hand.

“I made a vow early on that I would exceed all expectations placed on me,” he says. He serves as a role model for people dealing with self-doubt and oppression. “I want to let people know we see you, we hear you, we celebrate you.”

KCCI’s recent move to 3740 Broadway provides the space needed for support group meetings, computer labs, and a resource library. The building also hosts space for KC Care Health Center, which provides free and confidential rapid-response HIV testing.

Ongoing programs include Queer Voices Book Group, a monthly book club in partnership with the Kansas City Public Library, and Inspired Scribes Creative Writing Group to give authors and writers a chance to develop skills and share their artistic work with others.

“We’re doing so much to provide a light for the LGBTQ community,” Stedmond says, “but there’s so much more to do. We’re volunteer based with one employee.

“We’d like to create stronger partnerships with organizations like the Mid-America LGBT Chamber of Commerce to tap into job openings, for instance. By working together with other resources, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he says.

There’s strength in numbers, starting with one young man from Mississippi with big dreams matched by a big heart.

Read about the other 2021 Innovators & Influencers honorees here.

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