Operation Breakthrough has been offering a hand up to urban-core residents striving to GetUp for 45 years. Located at 31st and Troost, this organization provides education, health care and social services to low-income Kansas City families.

It started in the living room of two nuns – Sister Berta and Sister Corita – who wanted to help mothers in poverty get care for their babies and toddlers so they could work. Now, Operation Breakthrough serves more than 400 children daily in its early learning and after-school programs and offers education and support to their families.

Fifty-five hours a week, Operation Breakthrough’s doors are open to children ages 6 weeks to 14 years old. One in five is homeless. Many live in neighborhoods where they hear gunfire. Yet they Get Up every morning and come to Operation Breakthrough, excited to see their friends, eat breakfast and dive into learning. They have no idea that anyone would consider them “at risk.” They are focused on learning letter sounds, painting masterpieces, baking bread, programming robots, volunteering in the community and getting their homework done.

Operation Breakthrough helps children and their families Get Up and keep going in the face of adversity. So the boy who spent his infancy living in a car learns to walk and talk within weeks of enrollment. The girl who spent her childhood at Operation Breakthrough, with no mother or father in her life, graduates as the valedictorian of her high school. The mother whose mother introduced her to drugs and prostitution as a child takes advantage of every resource that can help her raise her own little girls to be educated, self-sufficient, healthy adults.

Says Operation Breakthrough CEO Mary Esselman: “Our children and families often fall because of circumstances beyond their control. Our job is to offer that hand up that says, ‘Come on! You can do it! Get back out there!’ And they do!”

(photos courtesy Gloria Baker Feinstein)