It’s not a normal year, Alyx Bartrom said, acknowledging the obvious and embracing opportunities to innovate a more-than-30-year-old community tradition.
Guadalupe Centers is one of Kansas City’s most critical nonprofits, serving more than 10,000 individuals and families each year through a wide array of programs and services in areas including education, health, social services, youth recreation and development.
“You have to either adapt or you get left behind,” Bartrom, director of fund development and marketing for Guadalupe Centers, said of the century-old non-profit and social service agency’s upcoming Blanco y Negro Awards Gala — set to stream online Oct. 30.
Click here to register or for more information about the gala.
“Like so many others, we weren’t going to do anything. We were just following the guidelines,” she added, detailing a year that’s seen the organization forced to cancel a slew of other events and make major pivots within programs that include its K-12 charter school.
But despite the hardships of 2020, Blanco — Guadalupe Centers’ largest fundraising event — isn’t something Kansas City could afford to miss, even if the organization could scrape by with it on pause, Bartrom said.
“It really is a community event. It’s an opportunity to bring our stakeholders and our community together and celebrate the organization and the work that we’ve been doing for our constituency,” she continued, detailing the two-hour program, set to honor scholarship winners and share the organization’s community impact. Set against a backdrop of local art and entertainment, the event is a key piece of the region’s Hispanic heritage celebrations.
“We’ve been around for 100 years and a lot of Kansas City doesn’t don’t know who we are and what we do,” Bartrom said, noting curious viewers can expect to discover the organization’s overall impact is far beyond what local perceptions might believe it to be.
“The misconception I hear the most is, ‘Do you only serve Latinos?’ And the answer is no. … I would recommend [viewers] tune in for one hour and — if anything — they’ll have a better understanding of our mission, of our work and the services that we provide and how they impact everybody.”
Additional event highlights include a special curbside catering menu made available through Brancato’s catering and a live painting, set to be sold as part of the gala’s silent auction — which boasts such prizes as a seven-night resort stay in Mexico, a five-day safari tour in Africa, and plenty of Kansas Chiefs memorabilia.
And while reimagining the event in the virtual space required less preparation than a more traditional gala, it provided the organization with a unique cultural challenge; reinventing the way Guadalupe Centers offers its annual altar or ofrenda in honor of Dia de Las Muertos — Day of the Dead.
“Typically we would set up an altar and you would have pictures of loved ones that have passed away and that’s a way to remember them,” she said, noting in 2020 attendees can send in pictures of their loved ones, to be virtually displayed during the event.
As innovative as it is, the change has evoked a mixed reaction within the Hispanic community, Bartrom said.
“Our community is so used to it being a physical altar,” she said. “Some aren’t sure what we’re trying to do and some are really eager to participate in that. We’re just kind of testing the waters and seeing how we transition from the traditional, physical cultural staple to now something that’s all online and virtual.”
Celebrating Dia de Las Muertos? Click here to participate in the virtual ofrenda.
As Bartrom examines the new world created by COVID-19, she said she understands the long-held traditions could remain in the virtual world on a semi-permanent basis.
“I look at it from more of a business standpoint. If this is more financially successful for us, why wouldn’t we [keep the gala virtual?] But you also have to con you have to consider so many other things,” she explained.
“We want to make sure that this event continues for another 30 years. What’s that going to look like? Is it this new format, is this the new standard? Or maybe it’s a blend. It’s hard to say.”