Meet Joni & Tom Moreland, Starfish Project

Tell us about what you do, why you do it? We run a nonprofit in Olathe. What makes us a little bit different than the other nonprofits is we take a look at the needs within the community and help connect people with the needs.  So one day we might be helping the homeless, the next day, helping the pets, the veterans, that type of thing. So that makes us a little different.

Give me an example of what you’ve done this week. Last year, we had 440 homeless students that started the school year. But this year, since it’s different, we have 200 with needs.  The school district lets us know where and we drop on doorsteps toiletry bags, laundry detergent and food. We don’t know who they are. We just take it to them and leave it on their doorstep. We also are encouraging people to color restaurant placemats. Once they’re colored, we receive them and we laminate them and put them in nursing homes and it’s bringing color to the nursing homes. We’ve also started a pen pal thing because a lot of people in nursing homes are isolated and have no contact.  Most of them are confined to their rooms and they can’t go into the social area so they are really separated from everyone.

What inspires you to do this?  (Joni) My dad passed away when I was eight years old. I just recently lost a second grade teacher and it really made me realize what an impact she made because after losing my dad, she would always let me come in and help her out. What I thought I was doing was helping her, but really what I was doing was dealing with my issues. At the same time, she also showed me how you can make an impact on somebody else’s life by just being there and helping them. So that’s what we’re doing now. Making a difference or being there to encourage people, to make a difference in somebody else’s life.

When friends and family from out of town visit you, where do you take them? (Tom) I’m taking them to my friend’s farm and showing them a cow. I actually have a friend who moved here from Queens, New York. His parents came to town. They were in their late seventies, early eighties. And I actually physically took them to a farm so they could see a live cow. They had never seen a live cow in their lives. When he first moved here, they thought we rode horses and Cowboys and Indians type stuff out here.

What’s your favorite restaurant? La Carreta in Olathe. They have the absolutely coldest draw beer in Kansas City. They store their mugs in a deep freeze. And they’re the big glass goblet mugs. And when they pour your beer and bring it to your table if any of it spilled over the edges, it freezes and has beer ice floating on top.

What three things would you tell your 18 year old self? (Tom) Make sure that it’s the right relationship before jumping into anything stupid. Take care of money.  And help others, don’t always be about yourself, be about the people around you, just be a nice person. (Joni) Life’s really short and don’t take relationships for granted. Don’t always think “Oh, we’ll do that tomorrow”.  You need to do it today because you never know when you won’t get to do it again. 

Something on your bucket list. (Joni) Oh, Nick Vujicic. I would love to meet him, He’s the guy who was born with no arms and no legs. And I want to see the Northern lights. That’s my other thing. (Tom) Start working on my third million because I gave up on my first two.

Any pet peeves?  Don’t say you’re going to do something and don’t do it.

If your life had a theme song, what would it be? Good to be Alive by Andy Grammer 

There’s an emergency and you have a chance to run back into your home to grab one thing…what is it?  (Joni) Photos. I just can’t replace them.

What skill or craft would you most like to master? (Tom) That’s an easy one for me. The piano. I wish as a child, my parents could have afforded it. I wish I learned how to play something. A piano, a guitar, anything because I love music so much.

What’s a quote that motivates you or inspires you? (Joni)  Together we are making a difference. I say that all the time.

Is there someone who inspires you? (Tom) Joni’s number one. And I mean that very sincerely. She has changed my life so drastically. She changed my whole outlook on life.

How did you guys meet? Bikers for babies! We met at the Harley Davidson dealer in Lawrence and Don Post is the reason we met. He felt like we needed to meet because he introduced us

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Do you know someone who is a positive influence in our community? Please let us know, we would love to meet them for consideration to our Artist Project!