The Community Services League, which serves thousands of people in Eastern Jackson County annually with assistance ranging from food shelves to school supplies to job readiness programs, turns 100 this year.

The group, which has 10 locations in Independence, Blue Springs, Grain Valley and elsewhere, is a reflection of what President and CEO Doug Cowan calls “the community's collective concern for people in need.”

In addition to its day-to-day activities, the group has a busy schedule for its anniversary year. One effort starts this Sunday, with a Harlem Globetrotters game at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence.

That's where the group kicks off a “100 Barrels for 100 Days for 100 Years” event. Barrels – perhaps more than 100 if enough organizations sign up, Cowan said – will be set out across the community for donations. Those donations are food from Sunday through Feb. 24, personal hygiene items Feb. 24 to March 24, and school supplies March 24 to April 24. Several businesses and churches have already signed up. 

The Community Services League traces its history directly back to Bess Truman. She was in an ecumenical Bible study group that got into a discussion of putting one's faith into action. The result was the Community Welfare League, with a focus on helping children and families in need.

“She was one of the 22 founding women,” Cowan said.

And she stuck with it for decades.

“She actually stayed very involved right up to until the point that they went to the White House,” Cowan said.

To celebrate that part of the organization's story, it's holding a “Founders' Night at the Museum” on Feb. 26 at the Truman Library in Independence. Some items related to Bess Truman's connection to the Community Services League will be on display. It's from 6 p.m. To 8:30 p.m., and it's $125.

Other 2016 events include the annual Outpouring of Hope gala in April and a centennial gala in November.

To learn more about the Community Services League or to donate, go to

Cowan said the focus isn't really about the Community Services League itself but rather the community that supports it and the fact “that we care so much to help people when they're down.”

He pointed to several other local social service agencies and said, “when we all pitch in, we can do a lot.”

Those who have gotten a helping during a tough time, he said, are changed by it.

“They don't ever forget,” he said.