Independence Citizens of the Year: ‘Always ready to pitch in’

Crumbaughs chosen by mayor as Independence Citizens of the Year

By Mike Genet
Stan and Michele Crumbaugh, this year’s Independence Citizens of the Year for the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, have contributed to the community for years through numerous organizations and their party supply and rental businesses.

While looking through the list of past citizen of the year honorees from the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said she had a thought some area mayors have probably experienced.

Weir remembered Stan and Michele Crumbaugh, and then said, “Gosh, I can’t believe that they’re not on it.”

When the mayor told the couple she had selected them as Independence Citizens of the Year for Truman Heartland’s annual Toast to Our Towns Gala, Stan said jokingly, “We told her if she looked a little harder she would find someone more deserving.”

“It’s very humbling when someone brings that to you,” Michele added. “Totally unworthy, but we felt very honored.”

The Crumbaughs and fellow citizen honorees from around Jackson County will be honored during the 25th annual gala, which is Sept. 26 and will be conducted virtually, hosted at the Midwest Genealogy Center and with dozens of watch parties around the area.

For more than 30 years, the Crumbaughs owned Party Patch, Independence Rent-All, Inc. and Beagles Rentals, neighboring businesses on the city’s north side where one can rent or purchase party supplies, and rent tools and equipment. They also have volunteered through numerous organizations over the decades.

“They did so many events in town, you just couldn’t calculate how much they gave with their business and with in-kind donations,” Weir said. “They’re always the people you turn to when you need a creative idea, and they’re always ready to pitch in and help.”

With their businesses, the Crumbaughs have been a vital part of several charitable events, including the Truman Library Institute’s Wild About Harry, Drumm Farm’s annual dinner, the Boys and Girls Club’s Dinner on Ice and the Toast to Our Towns Gala.

Stan served more than 20 years on the Drumm Farm Center for Children Board of Directors, helping guide the organization from when it was floundering in the 1990s to the thriving foster care service of today. He is also a past president of the Board of the American Rental Association.

Michele is a member and past president of the Junior Service League of Independence. She’s also volunteered with organizations such as the Missouri School Nutrition Association, Boys and Girls Club of Eastern Jackson County, Hope House, Child Abuse Prevention Association, Vaile Victorian Society and the Truman Presidential Library and Museum.

Both are second-generation graduates of William Chrisman High School, though they didn’t meet until a blind date after their school years. The couple has been married 41 years. While their businesses naturally put them in contact with many people in the community, Stan said their robust community involvement started rather simply.

“We helped a friend out, whether through church or an organization that perhaps our kid was involved in, that had a mission that was appealing to us,” he said. “Once you get started, if you volunteer and you do a decent job, there’s always the next thing, and then the next thing and the next.”

Stan said he most enjoys “seeing a project from start to finish, seeing the success and seeing what the success brings to the stakeholders,” citing Drumm Farm as a prime example.

“I always feel like whatever I give, I get even more in return,” Michele said. “Through my years in Junior Service League, it exposed me to a lot of areas in the community in need.

“Whether it was a parade, or a Truman event … the work that went into it was second to the gratification and meeting people,” she said. “I was in a business that had a lot of resources for celebratory events, to be able to help at a ground level.” 

Michele notes that she and Stan haven’t lived the volunteer life alone, as their two children (now adults) helped over the years.

“Our kids received a lot of exposure to volunteer opportunities, and I think that’s been good for them,” she said.

One particular event Weir recalls was a Wild About Harry fundraiser back when it was still at the Truman Library.

“They had a big tent in the parking lot, and Barbara Potts was being honored, and the power went out,” Weir said. “They just ran over into their shop, got a generator and hooked it up and got the power back on.

“There are hundreds of people in Independence who’ve either hired them or gone to events that they helped at.”