We often use this time of year as a chance to reflect on the past year and recall its highlights. As I look back on 2017 and see what’s trending on social media or creating headlines in the news, I see a great deal of focus on the things that are dividing us as a country. I think it is important now more than ever that we do not lose sight of the things that are uniting us and bringing us closer together.

Here is my perspective on the things that are bringing us together as an Eastern Jackson County community. In particular, one incredible force for good is our family of Community Foundation donors in Eastern Jackson County. At the Truman Heartland Community Foundation we have the privilege to serve many charitably minded people who very quietly make our community better through their generous philanthropy. You won’t see the work they do trending on Twitter or creating sensational headlines. Regardless, it is a crucial force that brings our communities closer together each and every day.

This year the total grants from your Community Foundation will once again exceed $3.2 million from more than 640 different funds. Our approximately 200 Donor Advised fundholders made more than $1.7 million in grants to hundreds of different charities. In addition, nearly all of our Donor Advised fundholders support multiple charities each year because they recognize the need for a network of services in the community.

In the spring of this year, our 83 scholarship fundholders provided 224 scholarship awards totaling $224,664 and this fall though our annual competitive Community Grants program, we were able to award 57 grants totaling $261,568. Our community would be a very different community without this philanthropic support. This support from members of the community are the true highlights of our year and that support only continues to grow. In 2017, we were pleased to welcome 33 new funds to the Foundation as more charitably minded people joined their neighbors in supporting their community. What an incredible force for good that continues to grow stronger and brings our community together.

The support of our family of donors also enabled us to launch our Boomers Get Connected initiative on October 1. With 500 baby boomers reaching retirement age every month in our Eastern Jackson County Community, our goal is to provide opportunities for boomers as they are nearing or moving into retirement to get connected with organizations in the community that can utilize their volunteer time and talents. The benefit for the organizations where they are volunteering is obvious, however, we know that it’s also beneficial for the boomers who are volunteering to stay active and engaged in the community, giving back, and coming together with others to make an impact. Again, an incredible force for good bringing the community together.

I am encouraged and inspired by the amazing work I have seen done in this last year. Looking forward to 2018, I am making a New Year’s resolution that I hope you will all join me in having. To look for what unites us as a community instead of focusing on what divides us. Let us all focus our energy in the new year on being a force for good. I hope you all have a safe and Happy New Year!


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