Congratulations to Mbugua and Josephine Njoroge, our 2020 honorary Mr. & Mrs. Irish! Each year, the Brookside Business Association selects representatives that have made significant contributions to the association and community and Mbugua and Josephine have done just that. Brookside residents for over 40 years, and Brookside merchants for over 20, Mbugua and Josephine are well known and very active in Brookside and across Kansas City. Whether you find them in the office at Mail Pkgs Etc, serving together at the Waldo-Brookside Rotary Club, enjoying music on the patio at HJs Youth and Community Center, at Brookside merchant meetings, or involved in one of the many, many community organizations they serve, they’re sure to greet you with a smile. “We love Brookside. It’s community centered. You can walk to small businesses and the grocery store. Everything you need is right here.” And they share the same love for the parade. “It brings a real camaraderie - brings people together of all generations, from across the (KC) metro.”
Since moving to Kansas City in 1969, they’ve made Brookside home, raising two children (now both adults) and planted deep roots. Originally from Kenya and Louisiana, they met in Lawrence, Kansas while Mbugua attended Baker University and Josephine attended the University of Kansas. Both have worked very hard for their success and have supported each other along the way. Fun fact – in addition to Mail Pkgs Etc, they previously co-owned the Africa Shop, one of the first shops at Crown Center in the 1970’s.
Today they live in the same house they bought 42 years ago and are proud Kansas Citians. They’re also instrumental figures in the history of the Brookside Shops. For over 20 years, Mbugua and Mail Pkgs Etc, 6300 Main Street, have served Brookside’s and greater Kansas City’s shipping and shipping support needs. Known for outstanding customer service and a variety of shipping options, Mail Pkgs Etc continues to meet nearly every shipping need. “Whether you are shipping for your business or a care package to family overseas, we do it.” Over the years they’ve shipped it all whether by boat, plane or carrier. From Bibles to overseas missions to care packages in China. One of the strangest – skeletal remains with scoliosis to be studied by a university in Canada. No matter what you are shipping or whether it needs to get there overnight or next week, Mbugua works hard to ensure your packages get to the right location on time. Another important tenet of their business – reduce, reuse and recycle. “We try hard to reduce our carbon footprint by recycling religiously and reducing waste.” Their efforts also include using recycled materials and boxes, and constantly looking for new ways to reduce shipping waste and encourage others to do their part too.
Before moving to Brookside, Mail Pkgs Etc, was the continuation of the former Business Supply Company started in 1956 and previously located at 75th and Wornall. Long-time residents of the Wornall Homestead neighborhood, Mbugua and Josephine moved the business to its present location in 1998. The business was a perfect fit for Brookside which was also known for personal customer service and mom and pop businesses. “The space had previously been a clothing store, and was a shipping store right before we moved in. Before that it was a gas station since the 1930s.” You can still see the original brick walls and location of the former station’s restroom. Today you’ll find the space full of shipping materials ready for your needs, and personal decorations, many with a story about Brookside or their now adult children.
Mbugua came to the United States from Kenya as one of the hundreds of east African students who received scholarships to study in the US and Canada during the famous Student Airlift of the late 1950s and early 1960s, funded by then Senator John F. Kennedy and the Kennedy Foundation prior to his presidency. The program brought hundreds of African students to America for higher education, including Barack Obama Sr., President Obama's father. “I was young and persistent. I’d visited the library at the US Embassy often. I had heard about the program, and knew I really wanted to go.” His persistence paid off and he found a home in rural Kansas, but it wasn’t without hard work. “l lived on a farm with a host family and worked in exchange for room and board. I learned to milk cattle and milked 100 each morning from 4 am until I went to school at 8 am.” Mbugua also learned to plant and harvest wheat and soybeans during his time on the farm. His hard work has continued since. From owning and operating businesses to helping found the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City, and previously serving on the Wornall Majors Home Board of Directors to serving on the Waldo-Brookside Rotary Club, Mbugua is rarely idle.
Like Mbugua, Josephine also came to Kansas through her studies. Originally from Louisiana, Josephine was recruited to complete her doctorate at the University of Kansas. Although KU was known for very famous athletes like Gale Sayers and Wilt Chamberlain, the campus wasn’t very diverse. “It was different and unequal, and life was hard for the black students attending at that time.” Josephine was one of many outstanding students recruited to KU to help change the culture and to lead positive changes for black students.
Josephine has always been a determined leader in and out of the classroom. She’s a former history professor, past president of both Operation Breakthrough and Habitat for Humanity, prior volunteer docent at John Wornall House Museum, and most recently Parent Liaison for the Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology and member of the Community Advisory Group for the Nelson Atkins 30 Americans exhibit. Today she’s as active as ever serving in the Waldo-Brookside Rotary Club, Wornall Homestead Homes Association board, and the Brookside Business Association Board and Events Committee which plans the parade and the Brookside Art Annual held each year. In recognition of her accomplishments, Josephine was honored in 2019 by the Shepard’s Center as one of Kansas City’s 70 over 70.
The Brookside Business Association and CID are honored to recognize Mbugua and Josephine as our 2020 honorary Mr. and Mrs. Irish. Join us Saturday, March 14th at 2 pm to honor them both and enjoy all the Brookside St. Patrick’s Warm-Up Parade festivities.