The city of Independence picks a local organization or individual to honor as part of the annual Truman Public Service Awards. This year, along with Doug McCain accepting the award on behalf of his father, the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Independence chapter of the American Field Service Intercultural Programs will be honored as well.
Cheryl Coffman, AFS district representative for Independence, said the organization fulfills the theme of public service through the way exchange students visit the community and educate residents about life in other countries, showing everyone that our similarities outweigh our differences.
“We may have different colored skins, and we may have different opinions, but we’re all the same in being God’s children,” she said. “We’re not all that different.”
In the approximately 60 years AFS has been operating in Independence, the number of participating families has grown from a single family hosting a student at one school, to all schools receiving new foreign students, according to Coffman. She said there’s been as many as eight exchange students visiting a school at one time.
While the organization has been functioning for well over a decade in Independence, Coffman said she wasn’t expecting to receive the award.
“When they said something to us about it I was surprised,” Coffman said.
Coffman said one of the key elements of the local AFS organization that helps it shine in the community is the giving nature of its volunteers. She confirmed AFS volunteers don’t get paid for their services, but it hasn’t stopped them from staying with the organization throughout the years.
“We’ve had long-lasting volunteers,” she said. “I don’t know if there’s a trick to the whole thing, but we’re doing it for the love of the whole experience.”
Coffman will accept the award on behalf of the Independence AFS organization at 10 a.m., this Saturday at the Truman Memorial Building, 416 W. Maple Ave. The event is free and open to the building, and residents are encouraged to attend.