When the Independence Unit of Church Women United began searching for a recipient for its eighth Human Rights Award for outstanding community service in Independence, the organization zeroed in on Sara Scheil, whose countless community projects span the entire city as she goes about making a difference in a quiet manner.
In appreciation of all the good deeds this indefatigable volunteer has done at her church – St. Paul United Methodist – and throughout the community, this “quiet and humble” humanitarian will receive the award at its 2018 Human Rights Day celebration at 10 a.m. Sept. 10 in the Chapel and Community Room at First Christian Church, 125 S. Pleasant St. Everyone is invited. Sara is following in the footsteps of Barbara Potts, the first female mayor of Independence and second recipient of the Human Rights Award.
Debbie Culver, former recipient of the award, says Sara is a volunteer who does everything in a very quiet way.
“If you didn't know her and saw her doing all these things, you wouldn't be aware of the work she does,” Debbie says, “because she never talks about it. She just does it, I think, because of her faith in God; she wants to share and spread her good works for her fellow man, her community, her country and she wants to take proper care of the earth and works diligently to do that.”
A qualified Master Gardener, Sara takes care of the grounds of St. Paul organically. She plants flowers and bushes conducive to pollination and butterflies, Debbie explains, adding, “Sara is also a naturalist. And in both roles – the gardner and the naturalist – she volunteers her services in the community, which is a requirement for those in the master programs.
It seems as though Sara's work is never done. Across the street from the Methodist church at Sterling Avenue and 36th Street is a community garden Sara started. She also rents out plots in her organic community garden for a nominal fee – just enough to pay for water and upkeep. Next to the garden is a small orchard under her care.
Produce from Sara's garden doesn't go to waste.
“As the main gardner, Sara has provided our free Wednesday meals at the church. Last year, she provided 500 pounds of organic produce for the meals,” Debbie says. “She does this every year. So we have a free meal every Wednesday from 5 to 6 p.m., and every week Sara brings pounds and pounds of fresh organic produce from her garden to serve. The meals are open to the public.”
Sara's other acts of kindness include organizing and hosting bike safety courses for neighborhood children, teaching people how to garden organically, and as a Missouri Extension home economist, hosting healthy cooking classes as well as offering children a series of beginning community cooking classes.
But that's not all. Sara has taken it upon herself to help troubled youth who are required to serve community service for misbehavior, Debbie says, adding: “She works with them. She reports on them. She has them work in the garden, and she keeps them busy.”
The theme of this year's Human Rights Day is “Reaching for Wholeness in Solidarity With God's Creation,” says Susan Lundquist, Human Rights Committee chair.
“There are many different kinds of awards that highlight human rights. On an international level, it really opens our mind, because there are a lot of people who live in extreme poverty,” she says. “There are people in our own community that are hungry, and not just for food. They need socialization and a place to be accepted for who they are, or to be part of the neighborhood. Strong neighborhoods make strong communities. Strong churches add the moral fiber.”
Noting Church Women United and what it means is important to our community, Susan says, “Our churches work together, and they don't all agree. We agreed that our motto 'Agreed to Differ, Resolved to Love, United to Serve' is our guiding principle.”
Says Susan, “We want to encourage all units to search for ways to bring wholeness to our families, our churches and our communities. We agreed that we are all searching for wholeness.”
Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.