I am pleased to tell you about the seven 2019 Citizens of the Year who will be recognized at this year’s Toast to Our Towns Gala. It’s a great honor for your Community Foundation to be able to join with area mayors to recognize individuals who have worked for many years serving their communities in various capacities and are in my eyes unsung heroes, working behind the scenes to improve their community.

Selected by their mayors, these individuals exemplify a spirit of service to their communities. They’ve been chosen for their years of consistent involvement.

Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross recognizes the Meyers family for 20 years of philanthropy and community engagement. Owners of Meyers Funeral Chapel, Marty and Kim Meyers are committed to helping families honor their loved ones. Along with brother Dennis Meyers and his wife Julie, Meyers Funeral Chapel supports many Blue Springs nonprofit organizations, including Rainbow Center, Blue Springs Rotary, Community Services League, Blue Springs Historical Society, St. John LaLande Catholic Church and Blue Springs Downtown Alive.

Grain Valley Mayor Mike Todd recognizes Dr. Brad Welle for his profound impact in Grain Valley and in the lives of students across Eastern Jackson County. Brad is the deputy superintendent of schools for the Grain Valley School District. Brad plays an instrumental role with Bright Futures Grain Valley, which served approximately 300 students in the last school year. He serves on the board of both Kansas City Young Audiences and Eastern Jackson County Youth Court and volunteers with the Grain Valley Assistance Council.

Independence Mayor Eileen Weir recognizes Randy (posthumous) and Kathleen Vest, long-time supporters of the Japanese Sister City program and dedicated volunteers. Kathleen taught in the Independence School District for 17 years and has supported many Independence nonprofits as a grant writer and board member, including the National Frontier Trails Museum and the Puppetry Arts Institute. During his life, Randy was a project engineer for Missouri Water Company for 13 years and served as director of the Independence Water Department for 17 years. In retirement, Randy served on the Public Utilities Advisory Board and led tours at the National Frontier Trails Museum and the Chicago & Alton Train Depot, where he was a board member.

Lake Tapawingo Mayor Tom Goddard recognizes Tomi Bellinghausen for more than 30 years of service to the Lake Tapawingo Women’s Club. Serving as the club’s president for the last 10 years, Tomi’s leadership has helped with park improvements, beautification efforts, community fundraisers, wildlife management and lake events. Additionally, she has spearheaded initiatives that focus on building community and enriching life at Lake Tapawingo, including scholarships for graduating high school students and monthly community programs and activities for lake residents.

Lee’s Summit Mayor Bill Baird recognizes Dr. Jay Rapley as an example of extraordinary character and conviction. In 2017, Jay, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Rockhill Orthopaedics, was hit by a car and suffered a severe spinal cord injury that has left him paralyzed. However, with the help of technology and through phenomenal determination, Jay made a successful return to the career he loves and continues to give back to the community as the team physician at high school sporting events.

Raytown Mayor Michael McDonough recognizes Vicki Turnbow, president of the Raytown Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. Vicki goes above and beyond her position, providing support to the Raytown Main Street Association, Raytown Quality Schools Citizens Advisory Committee, Community Emergency Response Team and as a Trustee of the Raytown Education Foundation Board.

Sugar Creek Mayor Mike Larson recognizes Don Border for 45 years of service as a reserve firefighter. After serving four years in the United States Marine Corps, Don joined the Sugar Creek Fire Department as a reserve firefighter. Over the years, Don has received numerous firefighter and medical certifications from the state and now plays an important role by transporting a second pumper to the scene of a fire and establishing a water supply. Outside of the station, Don volunteers to cook at community events, including the Sugar Creek potluck, back to school night and teacher recognition lunch.

As you can see, we have a great group to honor this year. I hope you will join us when we recognize the Citizens and our four main honorees at the 24th Annual Toast to Our Towns Gala on Sept. 28 at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center.

Phil Hanson is the president and CEO of Truman Heartland Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to improving the communities in and around Eastern Jackson County.