Anna Spady

Why Making Movies Cares



That awkward moment when you realize your friend is a rock star…happened to me about a year ago.

When I first met Diego Chi and he told me he was a bassist in a band, I pictured Making Movies as a small, garage style ensemble that played the local Kansas City scene and maybe had one official C.D.  Our conversation quickly turned to other things, and soon we’d bonded over our mutual love of KC, disdain towards chitchat and passion for volunteering.

So a few weeks later I was completely flabbergasted to find out he not only had his music on Spotify, but Making Movies had even been featured on the infamous NPR Tiny Desk. On top of that, they were currently very busy working late nights at the recording studio while also planning a national, multi-month tour.

That’s when it hit me — I’d inadvertently made friends with a real, live rock star.

But the fact that it took me so long to grasp just how big a deal they are is actually what I love most about Diego and his band. When you talk to them, they won’t brag about their exciting lifestyle or impressive achievements. They’ll tell you how much they love spending their free time running a nonprofit that gives pro bono music lessons to at-risk kids in the city. They’ll talk about how rewarding it’s been to work to raise domestic abuse awareness.

In other words, they’ll talk about why they care…SEE BELOW!

Diego taught me that it doesn’t matter how glorious or mundane your job is. What matters is what you care about and what you give towards that passion. He’s taught me not to wait until you have it all together before you serve. He’s taught me “to start” now.

Start with us, as we watch Making Movies this Thursday, Nov. 19 at 2015 The Call KC Benefit Concert. GET TICKETS HERE!

P.S. Can’t make the show but still want to be part? Volunteer here or donate here.


Q1. What is the Musica Project, and how did it start?

Diego: The Musica Project began as an idea to use the relationships we’ve developed over the years with other musicians in town to offer music education to underprivileged youth in the Historic Northeast. We started by doing a week-long summer camp at the Mattie Rhodes Center, a nonprofit that has worked in the area for many decades.

Now, the Musica Project is transitioning into becoming a formal organization– a network that empowers artists to use music and music education as a tool for social change by connecting them to organizations that share a similar vision. We plan to launch it officially in 2016.

[To learn more, or to donate, contact Diego at]

Q2. What did you wish people knew about volunteering, about giving back?

Diego: You have to start. I think most people get caught up in thinking they have to be a ‘big deal’ before they are able to give back to their community. I know we did. But that changed during one trip to San Antonio, as we watched practically unknown local musicians use their talents to organize events, forums, and music classes. They didn’t wait to become rock stars first, and they are having an impact on their neighborhoods. Their example taught us that whatever you can do will be enough, because most people never even start.

Q3. What’s the best moment for you when you help someone? When you teach them to play music, when you put on a benefit – concert. What makes it worthwhile?  

Diego: For us, it has all circled around the word empowerment. When a student learns to play a song, we have empowered them to bring happiness to their life and the lives of those around them. When we connect an artist to an organization, we are empowering them to do something special in their community. And it feeds back to us, energizing us to keep moving forward with our art and keep building communities that look like an America we want to live in.

Q4. Who inspires you to give back?

Diego: Personally, I have been impacted by a man named Terry Lowry from San Antonio. He recently retired from an organization he created called Network for Young Artists (NYA), that inspired much of the way we decided to run our programs. NYA gives young people in San Antonio the opportunity to take instrument, dance, and voice lessons at a fraction of the cost and connects them to venues all around town so they can perform.

Recently NYA and Terry were a recipients of the Smithsonian’s American Latino Influencer Award– it is an amazing organization, and he is an amazing man.

Q5. What’s your dream for Kansas City? How would you like to see it grow, change, develop?

Diego: Kansas City is in an interesting place right now — lots of growth and excitement, like I have never seen. I hope this newfound energy continues to get folks from all over the metro to participate in the city proper. If we can get the good people of the midwest to look beyond the good of their homes and invest in the good of the city, I think Kansas City will become an incredible community, and a beacon in the middle of the US. Let’s get there.  


Written by VolunteerMark contributor Anna Spady of

“She softly said, ‘I now have no home again.’ Those six little words, ‘I now have no home again,’ will forever echo in my mind.”

Those are the words of Mother’s Refuge executive director Robert Zornes, describing his memory of the fire that destroyed their community home the night of Oct. 8, 2012.

Mother’s Refuge is a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving young, single pregnant women a loving and supportive home. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mandy Taylor, the nonprofit’s volunteer coordinator, and what struck me most about her description of their organization is how everyone becomes “family.”

“Sometimes people act as if we enable bad girls,” Taylor said. “But really, these girls have had real issues. They’re at-risk, even been homeless. Many have never really even been parented. They just want someone to listen, love them and be there for them. It’s something most of them have never had.”

The organization is dedicated to unconditionally loving and supporting new mothers, while simultaneously preparing them for life on their own. Their cozy home is filled with up to nine young women and five babies at any given time and is intentionally longer-term than other similar programs — up to almost two years. That duration uniquely enables the staff to tailor their support to the individual needs of each woman and child.

Core values of the program include:

  • Stability The linchpin of the nonprofit is a solid home base. According to Taylor, it’s oftentimes the “first real home the women have ever had.”
  • Education The program requires the women to further their education, pursuing either a GED, high school diplomaor college degree.
  • Life Skills Money management, cooking and managing a home are just a few of the lessons taught.
  • Resources When desired the staff helps facilitate adoptions, provide nursery equipment and baby clothes as well as host an after-care program for their graduates.

In their pasts, these women often faced homelessness. Like Zornes relayed, last year’s house fire forced them to face it again. Not all girls have been rejected by their families, but most have been living friend to friend or in at-risk environments all their lives.

That’s why so many have been laboring to restore the Mother’s Refuge house. Taylor reported that since the fire, there have been volunteers on site working every day towards rebuilding the structure. And they still need help.

The organization’s greatest current needs are help with manning its upcoming garage sale and transforming its once-ravished home into a more cozier one. They specifically need people willing to volunteer with construction, plumbing, sheetrock and cleanup. The goal is to move the families back in by midsummer of this year and be settled in by August. Follow them on Facebook for complete updates on the rebuild.

Lastly, Taylor makes a point of telling volunteers that if they don’t see an opportunity that appeals to them, just let her know what does. She has volunteers doing everything from gardening to training mentors to helping moms get set up for apartment life.

“Everyone has something to offer,” Taylor said.

What is your something?

For a list of current volunteer opportunities with Mother’s Refuge, visit the nonprofit’s VolunteerMark page and sign-up today.