As we head into the holiday season, your Community Foundation is reminded of the many ways that philanthropy strengthens our community. Just a few weeks ago, Truman Heartland celebrated the 24th Annual Toast to Our Towns Gala. With more than 700 attendees, it was a great celebration of the many generous individuals and organizations here in Eastern Jackson County.

Tom and Carman Duvall were recognized as the Heartland Humanitarians of the Year, GEHA as the Heartland Corporate Citizen of the Year, the Drumm Farm Center for Children received the Heartland Service Award, and George N. Koepp was awarded the Dr. Paul M. Thomson Professional Advisor Award. Together, with seven local mayors, Truman Heartland awarded the Citizens of the Year awards to individuals and families who exemplify what it means to be a community servant and philanthropist.

The success of this event was due to supporters like gala committee chair Judy Forrester, who has served as the gala committee chair for eight of her nine years on the Truman Heartland board. In those years, Judy’s leadership has helped raise nearly $2 million for the community. We are incredibly grateful for Judy; her vice chair Candy White and their dynamic gala committee; Brad Speaks, who chaired the gala sponsorship committee; and all of the individuals and businesses whose generosity helped make this year’s event an evening to remember.

At the event we shared that your Community Foundation is on track to have another outstanding year in grantmaking and scholarships. We are on pace to exceed last year’s total of $4.4 million. And we continue to see generous giving to funds at the foundation, with this year’s contributions on pace to exceed last year’s record total of $7.2 million.

We also shared some exciting news about our new community initiative at the gala. Last month the board voted to launch our Job Skills Training initiative and create a collaborative partnership with four organizations working in this arena: the Community Services League, the Mid-Continent Public Library, the University of Central Missouri and the Herndon Career Center. Our common goal is to provide job skills training to low-income working adults in the community. We believe these organizations bring unique assets to the table and by working together, we can successfully equip families to work their way out of poverty.

We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to celebrate philanthropy in Eastern Jackson County and want to thank the many people who support our work in our community. Stay tuned for updates as we move forward with our new Job Skills Training initiative.

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 through cooperation with community members and donors. For more information on charitable giving, visit www.thcf.org or call Truman Heartland at 816-836-8189.