By David Markham
A Shawnee native who brings years of fundraising, legislative strategy, and land acquisition experience was recently welcomed as JCPRD’s new development director.
Kelly Blandford started in her new position on Jan. 23.
“Kelly is joining the JCPRD team as our new development director and I couldn’t be more excited,” said Deputy Director Rhonda Pollard. “Successfully completing a $17.5 million fundraising campaign to grow conservation work across the state, Kelly’s proven experience as the director of philanthropy for The Nature Conservancy of Kansas will bring a depth of experience to JCPRD to assist in our efforts in growing and expanding The Parks and Recreation Foundation of Johnson County (TPRFJC). In addition, her passion for environmental policy, urban conservation, and non-profit management will serve our agency and community well.”
“The Parks and Recreation Foundation of Johnson County creates an intersection between an incredible public service agency and a valuable non-profit both seeking to conserve natural resources and green space and improve the quality of life for everyone in the community through award-winning programs and services,” Blandford said. “I look forward to guiding that connection and creating more opportunities for community support and engagement. I am passionate about building relationships and partnerships that bring new perspectives and growth.”
As development director, Blandford’s responsibilities will also include securing donations through the implementation of a fundraising plan. She will work closely with JCPRD staff to identify needs and generate funds for facilities and programs, and will also serve as executive director of the foundation. She will support TPRFJC in their fundraising efforts, and will work to identify individual donors, grants, charitable events, marketing opportunities, and corporate investors to assist JCPRD in achieving its goals. She will also serve as a member of JCPRD’s Administrative Team.
“I am most excited about the diversity of programs and services JCPRD has to offer,” she said. “In my third week here, I met with our Natural Resources Team and learned about the leadership we provide in native prairie restoration and habitat management in our region. The next day I met with our team from Theater in the Park and learned about the incredible shows and educational programs that support performing arts across the Kansas City metro. There is truly something for everyone, and through The Parks and Recreation Foundation of Johnson County, we are seeking to reduce the barriers to participation for disadvantaged and underrepresented communities in the greater Kansas City area.”
Established in 1977, The Parks and Recreation Foundation of Johnson County is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that cultivates financial support and community engagement through strategic philanthropic initiatives.
Blandford comes to JCPRD after having worked for The Nature Conservancy since August 2016, becoming director of philanthropy in 2021. For about six years prior to that, she worked for Tetra Tech in Fairfax, Va., as an environmental scientist and project manager. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology with an emphasis in ecology, evolutionary biology, and biodiversity, and a master’s degree in environmental economics and policy from Duke University. Blandford grew up in Shawnee and graduated from Shawnee Mission Northwest High School.
After nearly a month with JCPRD, Blandford sees the passion and dedication of the agency’s staff and volunteers as its greatest strength.
“Every person I have met in the few short weeks since I started has inspired and challenged me,” she said. “This is definitely a “go big” organization and I hope to contribute to that by growing support and sharing our remarkable story.”
The district’s greatest challenge, she added will be to continually grow and improve, and to adapt quickly in a changing world.
“Over the last few years, we’ve seen significant shifts in the way we live our lives,” she said. “I am amazed at JCPRD’s dedication to creativity and innovation, and even more importantly to truly listening to the needs of the community.”
She also has in mind some big goals for her new position and for JCPRD.
“My goal is to bring broad awareness and recognition to the foundation and to the role private philanthropy can play in providing outstanding community resources to everyone,” she said. “The Parks and Recreation Foundation of Johnson County has the potential to bring more depth to the programming offered through JCPRD and even greater impact to the communities we serve. No matter what your interests and passions are, JCPRD has something to offer. There are so many ways to get involved and to better the community you live in. The foundation is one of those ways and we would love to hear from you. Please reach out and look for us at JCPRD events throughout the year.”
Blandford is currently officed in the JCPRD Administration Building in Shawnee Mission Park, 7900 Renner Road, Shawnee and Lenexa. She can be reached at [email protected], or at 913-826-3448.