The Shawnee couple was deeply affected by their little neighbor, Lucy Weber, who was fighting brain cancer. Jill and Michael Chalfie were inspired by her young spirit as well as everyone in the community who pulled together to help her and her family.
When the cancer took Lucy’s life at 17 months old, Jill and Michael Chalfie decided to act on their inspiration. So, they started a local chapter of the group Kids for Peace, which organizes service project, in her honor.
“When Lucy was sick, people really went out of their way to do nice things for her family,” Jill said. “It brought out generosity and kindness in people.”
In 2012, their local chapter started small, with just a few families. Seven years later, their group has more than 100 local student-members in the Kansas City metro area, mostly from Shawnee, Lenexa and Overland Park. The group tackles service projects and leadership opportunities that help out their communities.
“One of the big things I’m always telling them is to recognize needs around them and work to meet those needs,” Jill said.
For example, Kids for Peace members also helped start the Great Kindness Challenge in the Shawnee Mission School District.
“My Kids for Peace kids have been doing it at Benninghoven since 2013; we’ve been pushing for everybody to participate,” Jill said. “I’m super excited that all the Shawnee Mission schools are now participating in the Great Kindness Challenge.”
Kindness, generosity and service to others
At the Shawnee council meeting Monday, Mayor Michelle Distler honored the Chalfies and their young members for their years of service to the community. And several Peace members recited a peace pledge declaring their resolution to be kind, care for the earth and unite together for peace. The Chalfies tailor projects to reflect the peace pledge by giving opportunities for members to meet the people they help.
“For example, if we make sack lunches for the homeless, we go out and hand those out,” Jill said. “We make Thanksgiving dinners; we personally deliver those. If we collect Christmas presents for kids in need, we go spend time with those kids and interact with them.”
The group helps out at animal shelters, senior centers and the Ronald McDonald House. Lucy’s Kids for Peace also collects toy cars for Henry’s Haul, another volunteer group that brings the toys to Children’s Mercy.
The group’s biggest project every year, the Bedtime Project, is the Chalfies’ pride. Each year, the group meets with about 70 children living in poverty. Phoenix Family connects the group with these children; together, they celebrate one afternoon of fun, games and music. The Peace members also give gifts of new pajamas, pillows and blankets, board games, new books, hygiene items and underclothes.
“It’s amazing to see how much support we get for that event and just loading this gym up with 70 kids who each have a huge pile of stuff to unwrap,” Jill said. “It’s the biggest and best project we do each year.”
Jill Chalfie said she’d like to see her group grow, but she also hopes other local chapters can start as well.
“Every little project that we do in and of itself may not be completely impactful for any one kid, but over the course of time, I see every project as a building block,” she said. “The more building blocks we give our kids, the more it becomes natural for them to learn to serve others.”