By Bill Althaus
If anyone believes that one person cannot make a difference in the world, please call Melodie Chrisman at her new Blue Springs Community Services League office.
The number is 816-229-0033.
She is a difference maker who will quickly change your mind and inspire anyone who listens to her message of hope, love and philanthropy.
"I know I can’t change the world, but I hope to make an impact in Eastern Jackson County," said the personable Chrisman, who is the new Blue Springs CSL site manager at 200 Southwest 10th St. in Blue Springs.
"And I know one person can make a difference, because I have – and I hope to be making a difference in this community for a long, long time."
Chrisman’s enthusiasm and love of community radiate like a warm sunset as she talks about her new position and her passion for helping.
While attending a Citizen’s Police Academy Class in Blue Springs just over three years ago, Chrisman met Donnie Cosentino, whose family members own Price Chopper stores in Eastern Jackson County.
"Price Chopper and Donnie are big Harvesters (the Community Food Network) supporters, and we go to talking about the need for food in Blue Springs," Chrisman said. "Donnie turned out to be my angel."
Now, ironically, Chrisman can become an angel for her home community.
"CSL is really about people helping other people," she said. "I am the captain of the ship but it would not sail without the volunteers and the donations from our community.
"I know that when I talk about poverty, most people in Blue Springs think, ‘Poverty? In Blue Springs, in my community, no way?’ But it’s here and it affects so many people – especially children.
"There are more than 1,200 indigent kids (homeless or living from place to place or in a local hotel) right here in Blue Springs, and it’s really impossible to get a real number because so many families don’t turn in information concerning their living situation to the school district."
While the subject is sobering, Chrisman’s mood is upbeat and spirited. She has just returned from the annual CSL Christmas Store, where 130 Blue Springs families were able to go to a local church and pick out gifts and foods for the holidays.
"We served 130 families," she said, "but we could have – and need to – serve so many more, But it is such a neat event. We bring in 12 families every 15 minutes.
When Chrisman started her monthly one-woman food drive at Cosentino’s, she contacted Blue Springs CSL site manager Debbie Brenner.
"I sit back and think that three years ago I called Debbie to tell her what I was doing," Chrisman said, "and now, I’m sitting in her chair. She made such an impact on me and our community and I want her to know I’m going to do everything I can to make the Community Service League grow and help as many people as possible."
Brenner is one of Chrisman’s biggest fans.
"Melodie is amazing," Brenner told The Examiner in a feature story that ran when Chrisman had the food program in full gear. "First of all, she is so consistent. We know that one day a month she is going to bring us a lot of food – and it’s going to be fresh, with a good date on the label.
"What she does is so important, but it’s also so simple. One day a month she recruits people to go with her to Price Chopper and they ask shoppers – who are already there shopping for themselves and their families – to get a few extra items for us.
"It is amazing how one person can make such a difference for so many people in her community."
And now, she has the chance to bring that commitment to the Blue Springs CSL.
"We’re going to have a Community Services League Extreme Makeover on Jan. 5," Chrisman said. "We’re going to paint and do some electrical and plumbing improvements and give folks who come in a little bit of privacy as they talk about their situation."
As if by cue, a middle aged woman comes into the CSL office and begins visiting with a staff member while others walk around selecting some food items and looking at clothes.
"That conversation should be private," Chrisman said. "And it will be private after our makeover. We want people to come into our offices with their dignity, and just as importantly, leave our offices feeling good about themselves while they still have their dignity."
Chrisman will be at the Blue Springs office on Tuesday and Thursday. Monday, Wednesday and Friday she will retain her paralegal job at The Starke Law Office.
"We want people to come into our offices ready to help themselves," she said. "If they are willing to help themselves, we will do anything we can for them. We’ll help with a resume, getting them some new clothes for job interviews and we’re always here to help with food for their families."
When asked about her goals for the Blue Springs CSL she just smiled.
"This is my passion because I care so much about others," she said. "I hope to be here 15 years from now. This is my calling and this is my dream job. I am so blessed and I want to help others feel blessed.
"Can one person make a difference? You bet they can."
Chrisman – whose son, Jordan, won the 2009 Buck Buchanan Award given to the top lineman or linebacker in the Kansas City metro area while playing for Blue Springs – still oversees the monthly food program at Cosentino’s which is now fueled by countless volunteers. If you or a church or school group would like to volunteer call her at the Blue Springs office.
If anyone would like to find out more about the Blue Springs Community Services League, or any of the leagues around Eastern Jackson County, call the Independence Community Services League, which has the only 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. staffed office, at 816-254-4100.