Your community foundation’s 19th Toast to Our Towns Gala will be on Saturday, Sept. 6, where we once again will celebrate and recognize outstanding people who make this a great community. It truly is an Eastern Jackson County celebration bringing together all of the communities in this region with seven area mayors recognizing their Citizens of the Year.

While they are referred to as a Citizen of the Year, according to the mayors, the recognition is for a long-term commitment to the community. The award recognizes people who have devoted countless hours and provided support to many causes, commissions and projects over many years. They can always be counted on to offer their support, roll up their sleeves and get involved, simply because they love their community. They have a community service spirit, and when asked about their service often just respond “Isn’t that what everyone should do?”

Mayor Carson Ross from Blue Springs is pleased this year to recognize Ted and Betty Meyer as his Citizens of the Year. Moving to Blue Springs in 1961, they founded Meyer Music Company in 1966 and have been active community leaders for nearly 50 years. Ted is a past president of his Rotary Club, and Betty has been active in the Women’s Civic Club. They have been active chamber participants and involved in countless projects during their decades of service, including actively supporting music programs.

Mayor Mike Todd from Grain Valley is pleased to recognize Allen Lefko as his Citizen of the Year. Allen is president of the Bank of Grain Valley and has been in banking for nearly 60 years. He has been involved with and supported most of the successful projects in Grain Valley including the establishment of the A-Plus program and Choices program with the school district. He is a board member of the Grain Valley Economic Development Task Force and Grain Valley Assistance Council and coordinates and sponsors monthly Grain Valley senior citizen luncheons.

Mayor Eileen Weir from Independence is pleased to recognize Jill and Bill Esry as her Citizens of the Year. This dynamic duo has been involved in countless organizations in the community. Jill currently serves on the Independence Board of Education, the Independence Council of PTAs, and Meals on Wheels to name a few. Bill is president of Blue Ridge Bank & Trust, on the Independence Chamber of Commerce board, and is a past president of Rotary. He is the current presiding chieftain for Tribe of Mic-O-Say (all you Scouters out there know how big a deal this is) and past chair of the Heart of America Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Mayor Matt Mallinson from Sugar Creek is pleased to recognize Chief Herb Soule as his Citizen of the Year. Herb is a lifelong resident of Sugar Creek and has served the city as a police officer since 1967. He founded Sugar Creek Police and Fire Explorer Post 2, pioneered Child Video Printing in the Metro Area and was instrumental in the development of the Homeland Security Program for the state of Missouri. Herb has a passion for representing Sugar Creek around the area and has served on numerous boards in the community.

Prior to our Gala event on Sept. 6, we are going to have special reception in August just for the Citizens of the Year at Mayor Matt Mallinson’s family vineyard on North River Boulevard in Sugar Creek. This citizens reception is always a great gathering where the mayors can share their personal stories and personally thank these individuals who are doing so much for their community. Please join me in congratulating the 2014 Class of our Citizens of the Year. Your community foundation is pleased to provide the opportunity to recognize these fabulous community champions.

Phil Hanson is president and CEO of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, based in Independence.