It doesn’t necessarily matter who gets the credit for revitalizing western Independence as long as the services are provided for residents, said the NorthWest Communities Development Corporation’s interim director.

It doesn’t necessarily matter who gets the credit for revitalizing western Independence as long as the services are provided for residents, said the NorthWest Communities Development Corporation’s interim director.

Bill Rogers, a lifelong Independence resident, spoke of children now playing and walking to school in western Independence again during the NWCDC’s annual dinner Thursday night at the Truman Memorial Building. Though the event was the fifth of its kind in the corporation’s 13-year history, it was the first for a special civic engagement award.

Bert Berkley, 86, received the inaugural Richard A. King Civic Engagement Award for his community involvement with the Local Investment Commission. Berkley, the chairman of Tension Envelope Corporation in Kansas City, founded LINC in 1992 and is the co-author of the 2008 book “Giving Back: Connecting You, Business, and Community.” King, who was the youngest elected mayor of Independence and was a prominent Kansas City attorney, died in 2006 at age 62.

“The award is really to honor LINC,” said Berkley, a Shawnee Mission, Kan., resident. LINC, a primarily state-funded organization, aims to work with citizens, businesses and civic and labor leaders to improve the lives of families in greater Kansas City. LINC has maintained a partnership with the Independence and Fort Osage school districts for 15 years. “I accept this not only for myself but also for the people of Independence who have done so much for LINC.”

Earlier this month, Berkley toured western Independence with Independence resident Brent Schondelmeyer, LINC’s director of communications. Berkley said LINC officials look forward to working with the emerging 12 Blocks West nonprofit organization. 

“As a practical matter, the teamwork is here,” Berkley said. “The problem is going to be money. There will have to be additional ways found to raise money and move Independence forward. I believe Independence is an outstanding community.”

Berkley said he shares the community’s pride in the Fairmount Plaza Apartments, the housing development and the plans to create 55 houses in the next three years for a total investment of $5 million.

“From what I am reporting, one would think western Independence is an oasis where all is right with the world, that money is in ample supply and all members of the community can sit back and relax. We all know nothing could be further from the truth,” Berkley said. “This is an old axiom in business that when things are going well, it is important to work harder than ever to maximize success. That’s where we are. Things are going well, and we must work harder than ever to accomplish our long-term goals.”