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Banking on KC – Mindy Corporon

Banking on KC – Mindy Corporon

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host Kelly Scanlon. Thank you for joining us.

Kelly Scanlon:

With us on this episode is Mindy Corporon, founder of the Faith Always Wins Foundation, and author of a new book, "Healing A Shattered Soul." Welcome Mindy.

Mindy Corporon:

Hi Kelly. Thank you so much for having me.

Kelly Scanlon:

Oh, it's my pleasure. It's so good to talk to you again.

Kelly Scanlon:

Tell us about the circumstances that led to your founding of the Faith Always Wins Foundation.

Mindy Corporon:

It's interesting how I can talk about this so openly, because I have talked about it since literally the evening of April 13th, 2014. And if your listeners were in the Kansas City area at that time, they'll probably immediately remember where they were when they heard that there had been a shooting at the Jewish Community Center and then Village Shalom.

Mindy Corporon:

The murders took three lives on April 13th. They were taken by a white supremacist. And the first murder was my father, William Corporon MD. And the second was my oldest son Reat Underwood. He was 14 years old and a freshman at Blue Valley High School. And the third woman murdered was Teresa LaManno. Those are the circumstances that pushed me into a world I didn't really want to go into. I had no intention of leaving my company. I had every intention of staying there throughout the rest of my career. And, of course, it shattered our family, but then all of our circumstances changed. And that's how the Faith Always Wins Foundation was born.

Kelly Scanlon:

Tell us about the foundation. What is its mission? What do you hope to accomplish with it?

Mindy Corporon:

The Faith Always Wins Foundation promotes dialogue for the betterment of our world through kindness, faith, and healing. And what we focus on are helping everyone and anyone who is interested in attending. Right now, for the last two years, we've had remote interfaith panels, and interfaith dialogue. So, we host interfaith dialogue conversations for people to listen and be part of. And so, these interfaith conversations have gone over very, very well. So, that's a huge component of what we do.

Mindy Corporon:

The other really big experience that many people and, hopefully, many of your listeners will remember and know about is SevenDays: Make a Ripple, Change the World. And that's a kindness experience that we host every April.

Kelly Scanlon:

What is the larger objective of those conversations?

Mindy Corporon:

And let me back up and say, why. The why is that, in our particular instance, the murderer was taught hate by his family, by his father in particular. And he had a huge ignorance about Judaism, and I would assume other faiths, but Judaism in particular. And he was intending to murder on Jews April 13th 2014.

Mindy Corporon:

What we want to help people with is not tolerance. I don't want people to tolerate one another. What we want is we want people to understand one another and have respect. Now, that does not mean that we proselytize nor do we try to have a Jewish person become Muslim, or someone who's Muslim following Islam become Christian. We offer opportunities for people just to understand more.

Mindy Corporon:

And I'll tell you where this came from. Is that, Kelly, I didn't know that much about Judaism. I had not been to a synagogue before my dad and Reat were murdered. I'd never been to any of their high holidays. I knew Jewish people, and was aware that they had a different faith, but I didn't know anything about it. And I felt very ignorant. And so, I was thrown into, and actually threw myself into understanding Judaism as well as I could. And I write about that in the book, you mentioned, "Healing A Shattered Soul." I am very vulnerable in that book and talk about my ignorance, and the fact that I grew up in a place where there were no Jewish people, everyone I knew was Christian, everyone.

Mindy Corporon:

And so, it's more than tolerance. It's understanding and respect. For instance, why do Muslim women wear a headscarf? And that scarf, that cover is called the hijab. I didn't know that it was called the hijab until I took the time to learn that. And so, we're offering other opportunities. There are some out there already, there are other foundations, and other organizations that offer interfaith community activities. And we're walking alongside of them, and hosting them for the purpose of the fact that my family was murdered because someone thought that their hate of the Jewish faith was okay.

Kelly Scanlon:

Right. And they murdered Christians so, they didn't even accomplish their objective. Your father was just there to drop your son off for a tryout for a musical.

Mindy Corporon:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). A singing competition, that is correct. All three of them were Christian. My dad and Reat would have been considered Methodists. They were members of the Church of The Resurrection. And Teresa LaManno was Catholic and she was a member of St. Peter's Parish.

Kelly Scanlon:

Every April you host a series of events and activities. Tell us about that.

Mindy Corporon:

Oh, I love talking about SevenDays.

Kelly Scanlon:

I know you do.

Mindy Corporon:

I do. I hope you can hear me smiling.

Mindy Corporon:

So, SevenDays has seven themes. Love, discover, others, connect, you, go, onward. And in the past seven years, we have created activities for the community to join us, and to highlight what does it mean to love? What does it mean to discover? And we've put on really amazing activities and events. We've had wonderful speakers.

Mindy Corporon:

Just recently, we had Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish from Canada. He's a Palestinian doctor and he suffered greatly in 2009. He had three of his children murdered from missile fire. He was living in the Gaza Strip and he's now in Canada, and has his own foundation. Another presenter we had was Jacqueline Murekatete. She is a Rwandan genocide survivor, who survived the Rwandan genocide at the age of nine. And then, a really interesting speaker was Christian Picciolini, who is a reformed white supremacist.

Mindy Corporon:

So we've done a lot more than that, but those are some really key individuals that we have brought into the community to help our community understand people from where are they from, and what are they doing, and how did they survive their own tragedies?

Mindy Corporon:

Christian Picciolini in particular, Kelly, I have to share with you. When we were discussing how to market him, we put up a billboard that said, "Is your neighbor a white supremacist?" And we got a few phone calls. And one of the phone calls was you're supposed to be a Christian organization. And, first of all, I had to correct that person and say, "No, we're not a Christian organization. We are all faiths. It's called Faith Always Wins and it's agnostic, atheist, Buddhism, Hinduism, pagan. It's all faiths are allowed."

Mindy Corporon:

And then he said, "Well, you must be trying to kind of like poke the bear and get our attention with that type of talk." I said, "Yes, I'm glad you noticed it. Please come and listen to Christian Picciolini explain to us how people choose hate," because that was so eyeopening for me after losing my father and son to someone so filled with hate, I needed to understand that there are many, many ways that humans of any age can take the path of hate over kindness. And our objective is to help people choose kindness.

Kelly Scanlon:

You started this movement here in Kansas City, but you've acquired a global following. So, how do you reach beyond Kansas City's borders and boundaries to take this message throughout the world?

Mindy Corporon:

Well, one way that we've done that is by having these global and broad speakers come in. And then, their followers start following us.

Mindy Corporon:

Another present presenter that we had was Valarie Kaur and her faith is the Sikh faith, and she's in California, and she's a producer and she's written several books. And so, now, I've got followers from her, and followers from Christian, and followers from Jacqueline Murekatete. And we have followers yes, from all over the world because we've done a reach out to people that are different from us, that are outside of our bubble.

Mindy Corporon:

Kansas City is wonderful and is amazing. And I can speak to that from a person who now doesn't actually live there, but everything I do is in and around the nucleus of how I was cared for by all of my friends and people I didn't know in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Kelly Scanlon:

You talked about a few of the events and activities that you have, but tell our audience how they relate, because either you told me at one point, or I read about it somewhere, your activities, they relate back to your father, your son, to Teresa. Talk to us about that.

Mindy Corporon:

Yes. So, we have been very intentional how we've built everything. One big intentionality is that we created a youth advisory board initially. And now, that youth advisory board is called the Kindness Youth Leadership team. And we have about 60 applicants every year. We end up having about 20 to 25 high school students that are very active, and involved in helping us create everything associated with SevenDays: Make a Ripple, Change the World. So, youth is a huge component because Reat was 14 and that's our Kindness Youth Leadership team.

Mindy Corporon:

Other things that are associated with my dad and Reat are our Kindness Walk. We will host our Kindness Walk in April of 2022. And we've gotten clearance from the National World War I Museum to host it there again. So, on April 24th, Sunday, we will have a walk and the tie in to Terry LaManno, and my dad, and Reat are none of them were runners. They weren't runners, they were walkers. And a lot of times people have said, "Well, you need to have a 5K." And I said, "You know, they weren't runners. And we've got to continue to think about how did this all come about? It came about because of them." And so, those are some key things.

Mindy Corporon:

And then when we, as a foundation, give scholarships, we have given scholarships for performing arts. The Faith Always Wins Foundation has given medical scholarships because my dad was a physician. And so, those are all things that are very important and tied into the mission of what SevenDays does and means in the Faith Always Wins Foundation.

Kelly Scanlon:

Can you talk to us about some of the real changes that you've seen as a result of these initiatives and efforts?

Mindy Corporon:

Yes. We have a lot of students who have been involved over the years. And as they have gone on to college, I can count four who wrote their college entrance essay about their work on SevenDays. And they wrote their college entrance exam essay about the meaning of Faith Always Wins, the importance of understanding, the importance of having kindness. And then, those students and others carry that with them.

Mindy Corporon:

One idea in particular that is on the SevenDays website that came from a student was really us putting our actions out there in the public. When we are told about someone who has received unkind language, or hate, or been discriminated against, we will take action on that. And so, we have that on our SevenDays website and it's like a kindness bucket. And we offer them a gift. We let people know this is something that anyone could do.

Mindy Corporon:

If you see a neighbor that's being treated badly. If you're at a gas station and someone's being treated poorly, I know we tend to feel like, "Well, it's not our business. We shouldn't get involved." But sometimes what it takes is a look, a head shake, walking close to the person that needs your help, just being physically supportive of them, a smile. And so, those things are important ripples. And then, of course, there are the really big ones where if you were to really speak up and speak out on behalf of someone in a kind way.

Kelly Scanlon:

And I know you've gotten involved in some of the larger initiatives that we've all read and heard about on the news.

Mindy Corporon:

I was interviewed a lot right after the Tree of Life Synagogue murders. The Tree of Life synagogue shooting happened, well, this October 27th, it will be three years. And I made myself available in Kansas City, and came in to just speak to our own community about that, and the horrific tragedy that that was.

Mindy Corporon:

I've also spoken in Pittsburgh. I was called to Pittsburgh to speak there. And then, Kelly, from my podcast platform From Real Grief, Real Healing, I interviewed Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who was the rabbi that was there and still is on staff for them. And then, I just yesterday recorded a podcast with Marnie Fienberg and her mother-in-law was one of the 11 who was murdered. And Marnie Fienberg is channeling her grief in much the same way that I'm channeling mine. And she has opened a foundation and an activity called 2 for Seder.

Mindy Corporon:

So, I feel like a lot of what I do is help other people grieve. And some of the other people that I'm helping grieve had something very traumatic, similar to what I had, happen. And then, there's just the everyday grief. And I try to make myself available to help people understand that our grief is our own, and we all heal from it differently. And there are steps that we can take together. We can hold hands with one another, similar to how I have held hands with Sunayana Dumala. And she's one of my best friends.

Mindy Corporon:

Unfortunately, Sunayana's husband, Srinivas Kuchibhotla was murdered. And, again, our Kansas City listeners will remember the shooting in Olathe, Kansas at the Austins Bar and Grill. She's been very integral in helping with SevenDays: Make a Ripple, Change the World. And her work is on behalf of everyone in the world, so that we all live in a better place.

Kelly Scanlon:

You mentioned your podcast, you also have a book. The podcast, as you said, is Real Grief, Real Healing. And then, your book is Healing A Shattered Soul. That was just released this year in May, so it's only a few months old.

Kelly Scanlon:

What did you hope to accomplish personally with that book? And what do you hope the book can do for others?

Mindy Corporon:

Personally, I hoped to explain to people how completely shattered not only I was in our family was, but how completely shattered people are when they lose someone because you can't see it when you look at me. And so, that was the main objective was to take people into the pain, and help them understand how dark it is for someone when they've had a significant trauma. And then, offer and explain how we've worked ourselves through it. So, that's one big aspect of why I wrote it was to show people how painful it is and that it doesn't leave you. It never leaves you. It's as if my arm was cut off. And, while you can't tell it, that's how I feel , I feel that.

Mindy Corporon:

And then the other aspect, Kelly, was the mental health despair that we were in, the high concern we had for losing our other child. Our second son Lucas was suicidal twice. And it wasn't that we were keeping it a secret. It's just that we were living life and living through it. And it wasn't a huge topic of conversation when we were going through it. We were literally so frightened that we could lose him.

Mindy Corporon:

And that prompted our move to Florida, that prompted our move away from Kansas City on behalf of Lucas to help him heal. But I wanted people to hear and see that this can happen to other families. And if there's a family close to you, or someone close to you, and you're not sure how they're surviving, maybe the loss of a child, or something significant in their life, then consider that it can be as dark as what my book tells you it is. And be there with them. And then, what I offer them, what I offer people in many chapters, and then certainly the last several chapters are all the ways that humans can help other humans get out of that darkness.

Kelly Scanlon:

SO, that book is Healing A Shattered Soul, and that is available through all major book outlets, bookstores, and online, Amazon and your website too, probably.

Mindy Corporon:

I'd like to say too, that it's available through Front Edge Publishing. And if anyone wanted to buy 10 or more books, it's just easier to come straight to me.

Kelly Scanlon:

To those who worry about what appears to be an increasingly polarized society, what would you say to them? You maintain such a positive outlook. And I know you say you can't see what is going on inside of you but, outwardly, you maintain this posture that we can win. Faith always wins, and that kindness always wins. What would you say to them?

Mindy Corporon:

What I'll tell you is that humans can be led down the wrong path. And the way that we get led down the wrong path is when we confine ourselves to a circle of people, a circle of voices that all say the same thing. So, when we are in a circle of people that look like us, dress like us, live in our space, and all say exactly the same thing if you're doing that, if any of you listening are looking around thinking, "Oh, that's where I am. I'm with only people that look like me, dress like me, are in my community." I would request that you get outside your bubble, and find people that don't look like you, and don't talk like you, and maybe don't worship like you, and don't live where you live. Go see other parts of even the community in Kansas City, because that's where when you look on TV and you see that people are angry, and maybe you're not angry, and you don't know why they're angry, you need to get outside your bubble.

Mindy Corporon:

Now, if you're angry all the time, you need to have conversations with people in what, I would say, is a more curious way rather than a defensive manner. And that would lead me to talk about starting the REAT Sisters. Reat is my son's name. And his name is spelled R-E-A-T. His name was Reat Griffin Underwood. And on his 21st birthday, he spent that in heaven. And I felt really compelled to do something in his name, in his honor. And so, I created REAT Sisters. And REAT is an acronym. It stands for respect, engage, appreciate, trust. Kelly, if everyone respected, engaged, appreciated, and trusted we could move mountains. We could use so much. And so, I gathered eight Black women, it ended up being nine Black women and eight white women, and I was one of those eight. And we started having Zoom calls and we have Zoom calls monthly.

Mindy Corporon:

We've actually read two books together. We've interviewed one another. We've shared information about foundations. We've shared information about work. We've just talked about things openly. And it took several meetings to gain trust. So, that word trust at the end is so important. And I know just walking out on the street, and going to see someone you don't necessarily have that trust, so you've got to start with that. You've got to start with having relationships with people who are not necessarily just like you. And that's where we can become a better society.

Kelly Scanlon:

How can our listeners get involved with the Faith Always Wins Foundation or any of your programs for that matter?

Mindy Corporon:

Faith Always Wins does have a website. It's faithalwayswins.org, and you can sign up, and get on our email list. And so, when we do have an activity, you'll get that email.

Mindy Corporon:

But SevenDays: Make a Ripple, Change the World will be active again. If you have a child, or grandchild who is a high school student in the Kansas City metropolitan area, let them know that they can apply to be on the Kindness Youth Leadership team. If you are an adult and you want to participate in either helping mentor our Kindness Youth Leadership team members, or where you want it to be a volunteer for any of the activities that we do, then you can message us at givesevendays.org. So, I'm at mindycorporon.com and they're all interconnected in some way or another. We need funding and you can find that donate button on either one of our website pages to help the entities continue.

Mindy Corporon:

And I want to mention, Kelly, it's not fleshed out yet, but we are considering, and really starting to work with educators on creating kindness resources for middle schools and high schools. We just had two big focus group meetings and a retreat. And one of the topics that kept bubbling to the top was kindness resources under the area of social/ emotional learning.

Kelly Scanlon:

You have a program in the workplace as well, don't you?

Mindy Corporon:

I do, yes. I have a company that I started in 2018 with Lisa Cooper, she's my business partner. And it's called Workplace Healing. And we are creating technology that helps managers know what to say, and when to say it to their employees who have had a life disruption.

Kelly Scanlon:

So, so very important. Again, you can go out to faithalwayswins.org and everything that Mindy has been talking about today, the different programs, and so forth they're all interrelated. If you can just remember faithalwayswins.org. You can get to all of the other websites that she mentioned, and all the different programs and initiatives that she's been discussing today.

Kelly Scanlon:

And Mindy, just thank you for all that you do.

Mindy Corporon:

Kelly, thank you. I appreciate that.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, president of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Mindy Corporon for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC.

Joe Close:

Although, Mindy has had firsthand experience with tragedy, violence and hate she refuses to let that define her, her family, her community, or our world. Instead, she focuses on overcoming hate with courageous kindness. And by promoting dialogue and conversations that strive for understanding, and respect of others despite our differences.

Joe Close:

Each of us can play a role in creating better world through acts of kindness, large and small, by reaching out and genuinely trying to understand others that may seem to be different than we are. And through active involvement in our communities. Remember, when you make a ripple, you change the world. Thanks for tuning in this week. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.