The Volker Neighborhood is named after William Volker, a Kansas City entrepreneur of the late 1800’s. Volker was often called Kansas City’s “First Citizen” for his generous and philanthropic behavior.
Not only did he employ hundreds of persons, he also lavished the greater part of his fortune on public services and philanthropy. Nicknamed “Mr. Anonymous”, many of his donations were made anonymously and he neither asked nor desired thanks. At the time of his death in 1947, he was distributing over 100 checks a month to those in need, many of whom were students whose only “note” was their word to repay him. He donated the initial property for University of Missouri Kansas City’s present “Volker” campus, and several area hospitals including Childrens Mercy were major beneficiaries of his generosity. William Volker established a giving, caring spirit for the community at-large that is an inspiration for the neighborhood and organization that bear his name.
The Volker Neighborhood Association was started in the 1970s as the result of urgings by then-councilman Joseph Shaughnessey. Shaughnessey saw that the city government was ignoring the issues of decline in the older central city neighborhoods while extending preferential treatment to a burgeoning suburban growth. He urged neighborhoods to organize and unite behind a common purpose, and Volker responded with zeal.
The association focused initially upon the needs of the neighborhood’s deteriorating infrastructure, and successfully lobbied the City for improvements to its curbs, gutters, sidewalks, lighting and park facilities. Financing for early improvements came in part from the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The association also took a leading role in encouraging the City to strictly enforce housing and property code violations. Through these and other efforts, the neighborhood earned a reputation, or “name” at City Hall for its pro-active approach.
This reputation is due in large measure to strong neighborhood leadership, beginning with its founders, Bernie Hiller and Keith and Maxine Manion, and continuing with George Niewrzel, Kathleen Brock, and others. The association has been fortunate to be able to attract committed individuals for leadership positions while drawing equal strength from the numerous devoted Volker residents who comprise the general membership.