When Grain Valley needs community help, Nancy Totton is often the person who can do it.
Before most of her neighbors in Grain Valley have had their first cup of morning coffee, Nancy Totton has collected dozens of bags of cans for a local charity project, walked her dog, checked in on her neighbors, moved their trash cans from the curb to their garage doors and thought about 1,000 ways to make her community a better place.
“I’ve never met anyone like Nancy,” said Jeff Witherspoon, the sales manager of EnvioStar Waste Service, who works with Totton on can and cardboard recycling programs for area schools and charities.
“She never stops. I don’t even think she sleeps. When I get a call at 7 a.m., I know it’s from Nancy.”
Allen Lefko, the president of the Bank of Grain Valley and another Grain Valley philanthropist, agrees with Witherspoon.
“I don’t know how Nancy manages to help so many people,” Lefko said. “It’s people like Nancy that make Grain Valley special.”
Totton’s biggest project, and one she wants everyone in Eastern Jackson County to be aware of, is Neighbor Helping Neighbor. This Friday and Saturday at the Valley Speedway, residents of Grain Valley can receive a free admission to the races with a proof of residency and three non-perishable household items (canned goods, soap, toilet paper, cleaners, tooth brushes, tooth paste, diapers, underwear for all ages, socks and gas cards).
Non-residents can gain $2 off admission by supplying three items.
“Nancy always has an idea on how to help people,” said Dennis Shrout, Valley Speedway owner. “She has more energy than anyone I know.”
After meeting with Witherspoon for a quick breakfast at JJ’s on Main in Grain Valley, Totton heads to her backyard to grabs the countless number of bags of cans she has collected for the Neighbor Helping Neighbor campaign.
As Witherspoon backs his truck to her fence, she places bag, after bag, after bag over the fence.
“Two weeks of collecting cans at Valley Speedway and the area businesses,” said Totton, who stopped at a neighbor’s house to grab a five-gallon bucket full of cans, “not bad, huh?
“I just can’t stand to think about people in need, especially when you can do something as simple as save an aluminum can and that can help them.”
While the cans go to help those in need, the cardboard is part of a program to aid Grain Valley, Blue Springs and Oak Grove high schools.
“We’re going to award scholarships and funds to help kids who need help,” Witherspoon said. “When Nancy got on board, we knew it was going to be a success.”
In front of Totton’s home, a massive trash bin was overflowing with cardboard that had been donated over the past week.
Page 2 of 2 - When she isn’t collecting cans or cardboard, Totton has rescued more than 70 abandoned and abused dogs, donates food to area pantries and shoes and clothing to thrift shops.
She also collects portable dog kennels, because she says, “If there is a disaster, and the owner does not have a kennel, they will put the dog down. I don’t want to see that happen, and anyone who needs a kennel can stop on by.”
As the last bag of cans is placed over the fence, she takes a deep breath and wipes the sweat from her brow.
“This just proves what neighbors can do, when they work together,” she said, grinning. “Besides, all this keeps the crazy old woman off the street. It keeps me out of trouble.”