Thank You For Joining Us At RECESS!

Thank you to our donors, guests, volunteers, and board members alike and all who showed their support for the Urban Neighborhood Initiative at our first-ever ‘gala with a twist,’ RECESS! We heard from inspiring speakers, the youngest of authors, and helped generate excitement around celebrating ten years of the UNI vision. We are honored to have strong local corporate and individual partnerships that made RECESS! a success. Building communities with purpose on purpose is impossible without genuine engagement with the vibrant urban core we serve.




Thank you to H&R Block for awarding Mrs. Karen Slaughter the Neighborhood Champion Award! Karen is a community builder and connector who is passionately committed to the redevelopment of Kansas City’s urban core—its elders and its children. We offer our deepest thanks for her tireless efforts to improve the lives of everyone in our community.


We would also like to recognize H&R Block as the recipients of our first ever Champions of Hope Award. In 2019, H&R Block made a commitment to build sustainable connections in neighborhoods and for small business owners through a community impact program called Make Every Block Better. Here in Kansas City, our 10 neighborhoods have, and continue to receive the benefit of their generosity. Their investment of $500 thousand dollars has helped us provide scores of home repairs and host community-building events. We could not have accomplished what we have, without them. 




Urban Neighborhood Initiative Names New President & CEO

Equitable Housing Champion Jamee Rodgers Selected to Replace Retiring Dianne Cleaver 

KANSAS CITY, MO – The Board of Trustees of Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI) are pleased to announce that Jamee Rodgers has been named its incoming president & CEO. UNI, a nonprofit corporation, evolved as one of the Greater Kansas City Chamber’s “Big 5” initiatives  and in partnership with the United Way of Greater Kansas City. UNI works with 10 neighborhoods in the urban heart of Kansas City to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty  and systemic racial inequities. Rodgers will replace founding president & CEO Dianne Cleaver, who is retiring at the end of the year. 

Rodgers most recently served as senior director for the Dallas Leadership Foundation, a non profit focused on developing leaders to advocate for and improve communities through social advocacy, community education and economic development.  

In that role, he led executive teams and oversaw advocacy, social engagement, community engagement and outreach focusing on fair and equitable housing, digital inclusion, education, economic mobility, community development, and workforce development within the Dallas metro.  

Rodgers has earned a Doctor in Philosophy with a focus in Executive Leadership, as well as a Master of Arts with a focus in Ministry and Nonprofit Organizational Leadership. Additionally, he has completed relevant fellowships, including John Maxwell Leadership and Prosperity Now Racial Wealth Divide. He is a Certified John Maxwell Leadership Coach, and Certified John Maxwell DISC Assessment Trainer Consultant.  

“Jamee is a dynamic, passionate leader who goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to advocating on behalf of the organization and the communities he works within,” said Dave Harrison, chairman of the UNI Board of Directors. “He has the tools to offer creative ideas to address the challenging needs of our community.” 

Rodgers succeeds longtime UNI leader Dianne Cleaver, who has served as the organization’s leader since it was founded in 2012.  

Harrison said, “Dianne and Jamee will have some transition time together before she retires. We are so grateful for the strong foundation Dianne has left UNI and we look forward to working with Jamee and our neighborhood partners to continue the remarkable progress that has been made in our neighborhoods in the last few years. However, there is much more work to be done.” 

She and Rodgers will have some transition time together before she retires at the end of the year. 

“Jamee is a strategic thinker with a rich history of working with neighborhoods, building organizations and establishing collaborations,” said Cleaver. “He has demonstrated proficiency in raising funds to support a mission for which he is dedicated and has proven to be an innovative leader who will successfully lead UNI’s next chapter.” 

Throughout his 20-year career, Rodgers has managed programs with an aim to advocate and strengthen communities’ economic and leadership capacity to address key barriers to affordable stable housing. Those include livable paying wage jobs, economic development and mobility, and human capital development for quality way of life with dignity. He has led community partnerships and outreach, developed strategic plans for successful engagement, and cultivated relationships with local, state and national government officials while successfully increasing existing partner base. 

Rodgers’ first day on the job is November 8th, 2021. 

“I count it the highest honor to be selected to lead this wonderful organization into its next era of service and growth,” said Jamee. “Every position I’ve held and every class I’ve taken has prepared me for this opportunity. I am both excited and energized to continue the great work that is being done.” 

UNI works with 10 neighborhoods between Truman Road and 52nd Street, Troost to Prospect. In those neighborhoods, 37-percent of residents live at or below the poverty level and another 28-percent are between 100-percent and 200-percent of poverty. More than 18-percent of these neighbors did not complete high school and another nearly 37-percent have no education beyond high school. The neighborhoods face all of the challenges inherent in areas of concentrated poverty.  



KC Cares Interview with Dianne Cleaver

Watch President and CEO Dianne Cleaver talk with Ruth Baum Bigus from KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice. KC Cares tells the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and connects them with the community. 


Click on the above photo to watch KC Cares interview with Dianne Cleaver.



Need Help Paying for Internet?

The Internet Access Support Program has funds available to pay for Internet service. If COVID has made it more difficult for you to afford Internet, the IASP can help you:

  • Establish new service
  • Pay off an old balance
  • Pay for ongoing service

The IASP can pay for up to 6 months of service. The program is only open to families with limited income. To qualify, you need to earn less than 2x the federal poverty rate. 

Funds are limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first served basis. So do not wait. Apply now! Visit or call (816) 200-0599 to apply.  

For more information about The Internet Access Support Program, visit



Your Amazon Shopping Habit can Help Urban Neighborhood Initiative!

You can help raise money for Urban Neighborhood Initiative through your Amazon purchases! Just designate us as your beneficiary on AmazonSmile, and a percentage of your eligible purchases will come back to us, with our gratitude!


How to Get Started

Go to on your desktop. Go to “Your Account” and select the option to choose or change your charity. You must select Urban Neighborhood Initiative to activate the donations. It will be automatic from that point forward. Just remember, you must start shopping at (instead of the typical in order for your purchases to qualify for charity donations. While on a web browser, adding a bookmark to may make it easier to return and start shopping at AmazonSmile.

If you shop through a mobile app, the process is much simpler. You can set it and forget it. Go to your Amazon mobile app and select the three horizontal lines at the bottom righthand side of your home screen. Scroll down the list the populates and you’ll see the heading, “Programs & Features.” Just under that, select “AmazonSmile and then you can designate your charity as Urban Neighborhood Initiative.

For more information about AmazonSmile, visit



New City Beautiful Movement: Restoring KC’s Parks and Boulevards

President and CEO Dianne Cleaver discusses one of UNI’s biggest initiatives, the Vacant to Vibrant project. The initiative focuses on four action items: clearing tax sale titles, promoting affordable housing, hosting UNI partner meetings and maintaining urban farms.

Click on the above photo to read Flatland KC’s article.



This Kansas City plan can fight racial inequity with practical, affordable housing

President and CEO Dianne Cleaver’s Op Ed featured in The Kansas City Star calls Kansas citizens to examine the hundreds of years of racial inequity in the area and shares how they can work to right the wrongs of systemic racism. UNI invites people to come together and make real, lasting change by improving lives and restoring hope for residents who deserve the same opportunities as their neighbors in Kansas City’s higher income ZIP codes.

Click on the above photo to read Dianne Cleaver’s Op Ed in The Kansas City Star



#WeSeeYouKSHB: Urban Neighborhood Initiative helps community through COVID-19 pandemic

As we adjust to the ever-changing nature given the COVID-19 pandemic, we have adapted our efforts as well. As reported on NBC Action News, prior to the pandemic, our tasks included general community clean ups, minor home repairs and connecting neighbors. Now, our efforts are focused on helping elderly and home-bound residents grocery shop, pick up prescriptions and whatever else we can do to help the most vulnerable stay safe at home.

Click on the above photo to watch KSHB’s segment.



Kansas City Black Leaders Say COVID-19 Disparities Reflect Deep Inequities

The Coronavirus is infecting black people at disproportionately high rates. The stark contrasts in underlying chronic conditions and lack of health insurance compared to white Americans make getting COVID-19 even more deadly for the black community. KCUR interviewed UNI’s President & CEO Dianne Cleaver in this story about how the pandemic is magnifying existing inequalities and underlying problems that our community needs to address.

Click on the above photo to read KCUR’s article.



UNI Receives Grant From H&R Block to “Make Every Block Better”

We’re grateful for H&R Block’s commitment to making our hometown better. The company recently announced plans to invest in programs nationwide that support neighborhood revitalization, starting with their investment in our Urban Neighborhood Initiative.

They are joining with us to improve social connections and make needed home repairs in our 10 Kansas City neighborhoods through their program called, “Make Every Block Better.” UNI received a multi-year grant from H&R Block to help fund and host community-building events that promote meaningful connections among residents. Additionally, the grant will fund home repairs throughout our 10-neighborhood area in the urban heart of the city.