Michael Coburn Award - Matthew J O'Connor, Kansas City Attorney
As of 2020, It's been slightly over 12 years since Matthew J. O'Connor won the Michael Coburn Award.When the storms began brewing off the Gulf Coast in 2005, Kansas City attorney, Matthew J. O’Connor had no idea that his life was about to take a dramatic change in course as well. As the storms hit and the devastation from Hurricane Katrina ripped through the heart of Louisiana, he knew he had to take action.
“I was driving with my daughter, Faith, “said Matt O’Connor. “And as we were listening to the news reports come in, she asked me what would happen to all the children who had lost everything. At first I didn’t have an answer for her and then I knew I had to do something.”
That “something” turned into a massive local relief effort, collecting goods, supplies and volunteers and caravanning to assist the refuges in Louisiana. Ultimately O’Connor made three trips over more than a year, devoting hundreds of hours and leaving his practice, not only delivering more than 60,000 lbs. of goods but also assisting in the rebuilding effort working on homes and churches destroyed by Katrina and Rita. The efforts by him and his volunteer team were recognized by Heart to Heart International in 2005.
What began as the answer to a child’s question grew into something much bigger, causing O’Connor to create Neighbors4Neighbors From the Heartland, designed to help serve individuals and families “left behind” here in Kansas City.
O’Connor’s latest effort was the “Bread and Water” campaign to help Kansas City’s homeless population. When temperatures this August soared to record levels, Neighbors4Neighbors (with the help of Jersey Boyz sandwich shop) delivered sandwiches and cold water, along with information about services and programs available through Hillcrest Transitional Housing to the homeless in the River Market, Plaza and North Kansas City areas. By the end of the weeklong campaign, the volunteers had delivered more than 400 sandwiches and cold drinks to Kansas City’s homeless population.
It is these efforts and O’Connor’s ongoing commitment to those in need that has led to him being named the 2007 Honorable H. Michael Coburn Community Service Award Winner.
Created in 1995 as part of the Legal Aid of Western Missouri’s 30th Anniversary Celebration, the Honorable H. Michael Coburn Community Service Award serves to recognize and honor annually one Kansas City attorney who has demonstrated outstanding community service and outstanding service to the administration of Justice in the Kansas City area.
It also serves to pay tribute to the late Honorable H. Michael Coburn who, in addition to working for domestic violence reform in the criminal justice system, was also deeply committed to a wide range of community and civic causes.
“I am completely overwhelmed and honored to receive this award, “said O’Connor. “When I began this journey I had no idea where it would lead. I have learned that giving is a way of life and that it can truly change your life. Once you start down the path you see that every individual can find a way to make a difference. All it takes is taking that first step.”
Matthew J. O’Connor has been a practicing attorney for more than 12 years. The O’Connor Law Firm is located at 523 Grand, Suite 1B and will be opening a branch office in Platte City this month. In addition, Mr. O’Connor also serves as an adjunct professor for Park University, is a published author and serves as a regular legal commentator for various national programs on FOX News Channel.