When Kansas City was merely a dot on the map, enterprising Malayalis ventured to reach here in search of educational and professional opportunities. Tom Thomas (1967) and Paula, and Mani and Rebecca Mani (1969) who came in the nineteen-sixties are probably the first two Malayali families to put deep roots in Kansas City. The early seventies saw the arrival of KT and Rose Joseph (1970), Zach Thomas (1971), Sivasankara and Rema Menon (1973), Abraham Athialy (1973) and Thomas Kurien (1973) in pursuit of education. Thomas Kurien became a casualty of the American dream when he died young. All in this group, except Zach eventually left Kansas City in search of opportunities elsewhere, some after decades in this area.
More Malayalees came in the second half of the seventies and scattered groups unaware of each other settled in different parts the metropolis. Thomas and Mariamma Athialy (1975)and Santhamma (1976) were the nucleus of a growing Malayali community in Olathe area. Paul and Queeny Poulose (1975) settled in Leavenworth. Jose and Susie Alexander (1975), CK Ramachandran (1976), Abraham and Susie Mathew (1976), and George and Molly Varghese (1977), were among a community that nucleated around the University of Kansas. Omman and Molly Abraham (1978), and Divakara Menon (1978) were also among the early settlers who braved adversity and isolation to establish themselves in Kansas City and surroundings. Probably, the first major gathering of much of the Malayali community was a family function at George and Molly Varghese’s home in 1979. The early pioneers softened the culture shock for the new arrivals and made them feel at home in Kansas City. The nostalgic images of coconut trees, the backwaters and cardamom hills inspired them to take on and endure the early struggles. Upholding the traditions of Kerala and yet bridging the chasm of cultural divide, the Malayali families of Kansas City quickly adapted to the milieu of the Midwest.
By late eighties, there were about forty Malayali families in and around Kansas City. Although private get-togethers were common, the first Malayali public gathering and celebration in Kansas City was the Christmas Party at the Berkshire Village Apartment Hall, at 18th and Roe in December 1989, organized by Alexander and Elizabeth Mathew, Joseph and Goody Thomas, Zach and Mary Thomas and Abraham and Susie Mathew. About thirty families attended it. This was followed by the first Onam celebration in 1990 at the Lenexa Community Center, organized under them leadership of Alex and Elizabeth, Satish and Mary Bhaskar, and Joseph and Jenny Melookaran. Since then, year after year, without the rigors of an organization, solely propelled by friendship, Malayalis of Kansas City started celebrating Onam and Christmas. For several years, Lenexa Community Hall was adequate for the festivities. Over the nineties and by the turn of the millennium, the Malayali community has grown to become a sizable group in the Greater Kansas City area. Intelligent, enterprising and industrious by nature, Malayalis have indelibly imprinted the proud name of Kerala in the heart of the Heartland.
Over the years, the need for a formal organization surfaced many times in friendly discussions. As the Malayali population grew, we needed larger venues for the celebrations. Since many talented and dedicated individuals had settled in Kansas City, there was impetus for better planning and more sophisticated cultural presentations. The Onam -Christmas Committee of 2001-2002 led by Alexander Mathew and Sreekumar Nair reviewed the issues and after much debate, decided to streamline the operations in order to improve the effectiveness of our efforts. With that in mind, the Committee took their first step in reforming the group. After an opinion poll conducted among all Malayalis in December 2001, it was decided to change the operational year to coincide with the calendar year. Thus, each new Committee would assume charge in January, plan and lead the Onam and Christmas celebrations and then hand over the charge to the new Committee in the New Year.Another pertinent issue that has come up was the availability of suitable venues for Onam and Christmas celebrations. As the Malayali community grew in numbers, finding a large enough meeting place became increasingly difficult and expensive. It became evident that just by registering as a not-for-profit organization we could access many community resources and yet curtail our expenses. The committee of 2002-2003, comprising of Alexander Mathew, Jayan Abraham, Jose Alexander, Krishnakumar Nair, Manoj Puravoor, Ronie Chazhoor, Sreekumar Nair, Sunoj Abraham, and Tesy Mohan, researched the relevant matters and held several discussions about getting ourselves registered as not-for profit organization It was rather obvious that the benefits of becoming a registered not-for-profit organization by far outweighed the hardships. The preliminary drafts of the guiding principles (KAKC Manifesto) and the rules and regulations (KAKC Bylaws) were written. Another referendum conducted among the Malayalees in December 2002 about registering as a not-for-profit organization was in favor of the KAKC movement. Thus, in the early part of 2003, Kerala Association of Kansas City was registered as a non-profit organization.
NON-PROFIT SOCIAL WELFARE ORGANIZATION
Enchanting Kerala, aptly called God’s own Country, is in southern part of India & roughly 30 million there speak predominantly Malayalam & are called Malayalees. To improve administration of community activities & streamline organizational structure we registered Kerala Association of Kansas City (KAKC) as a Non-Profit Organization in 2003. KAKC was recognized by IRS as Federal Tax-Exempt 501(C)(4) Social Welfare Organization in May 2004