The Truman Heartland Community Foundation is honoring several local volunteers for their community efforts over many years.
The group’s Humanitarian of the Year is Norman Swails, citing his efforts for the expansion of such local groups as the Community Services League, Hope House, Sunshine Center and the Truman Library.
He also played a key role in the formation of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation. He was the presiding bishop of the Community of Christ, which in the mid-1990s sold the old Independence Regional Health Center and used those proceeds to create the Independence Regional Health Center Foundation. That organization was merged with the Independence Community Foundation to become today’s Truman Heartland Community Foundation.
The foundation, which promotes philanthropy in Eastern Jackson County, has assets of $34 million and makes annual grants of more than $3.5 million. Donors can set up family foundations, scholarship funds or other charitable vehicles.
Swails said he’s surprised and pleased at the award but added that many others who give their time and effort are deserving.
“I think it’s the feeling that we are really born to help other people. ... Leadership flows more from passion than position,” he said.
As for himself, a lot of it goes back to the ideals learned in the Boy Scouts, he said,
“And the idea of ‘Do a good turn daily’ really stuck,” he said.
The awards are presented at the foundation’s 19th annual Toast to our Towns Gala on Sept. 6 at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center.
Other award include the Heartland Corporate Citizen of the Year – Corporate Copy Print in Independence, owned by Tom and Susan Waters. The business, 20 years old this year, has helped such groups as the Community Services League, the Independence Square Association, the Salvation Army, the Rotary Club, Hillcrest Transitional Housing, the Independence Arts and Film Festival and Independence Chamber of Commerce.
Doug Hammer is the Paul M. Thomson Advisor of the Year, an award named for a former leader of the foundation. Hammer is a past president of the Rotary Club of Independence and past chairman of the Independence Tourism Advisory Board. He’s also served on the Truman Heartland Community Foundation board.
Cities across Eastern Jackson County name their Citizens of the Year, also honored at the gala. They are:
• From Sugar Creek, Herb Soule, who is the city’s marshal and chief of police/fire in 2001. He is a lifelong resident and has served the city for decades, starting as a patrol officer. He founded Sugar Creek Police and Fire Explorer Post 2, helped in the development of the state of Missouri’s homeland security program and played a key role in the Jackson County Drug Task Force. He has received the Award for Valor for Heroism in Line of Duty.
• From Blue Springs, Ted and Betty Meyer, owners of Meyer Music in Blue Sprinsg since 1966. Betty is a past president of the Young Women’s Civic Club, and Ted is a past president of the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce.
• From Independence, Jill and Bill Esry. Jill is vice president of the Independence Board of Education, has been a longtime school volunteer, including PTA president at two schools, and has been involved with the Junior Service League. Bill is president and CEO of Blue Ridge Bank & Trust in Independence, and he is a past president of the Missouri Independent Bankers Association. He’s been on the boards of such groups as the Independence Chamber of Commerce and Blue Springs Economic Development Corp. He’s deeply involved in Boy Scouts, having served as president of the Heart of America Council and, this year, presiding chieftain of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say, an honorary camping society within Scouts.
• From Grain Valley, Allen Lefko, chairman of the board of the Bank of Grain Valley and Grain Valley Bancshares. He has served on a variety of local boards, including the Grain Valley Economic Development Council currently. He’s also supported programs for the Grain Valley police and schools.