Phil Hanson: Honoring those who shape our communities

Staff Writer
The Examiner
The Examiner

Each year, your Community Foundation has the privilege of recognizing individuals and organizations who have made a significant philanthropic impact in Eastern Jackson County at our Toast to Our Towns Gala.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the event and on Sept. 26 we will host a gala like no other in our organization’s history. This year’s Toast to Our Towns Gala will be delivered live through a dynamic online celebration. The one-hour celebration of philanthropy will start at 7 p.m. and be broadcast to more than 40 different watch parties throughout the region. During the event, we will recognize Brent Schondelmeyer and Lee Williams as our Heartland Humanitarians of the Year and Speaks Chapels as our Heartland Corporate Citizen of the Year. The Junior Service League of Independence will receive our Heartland Service Award, and Adam Kliethermes will receive the Dr. Paul M. Thomson Professional Advisor of the Year Award.

Our 2020 Heartland Humanitarians of the Year, Brent Schondelmeyer and Lee Williams have worked across sectors to drive community initiatives in Independence and across the region for more than 30 years. Brent, a journalist and well-known local historian, is the deputy director of Local Investment Commission and oversees programs that help strengthen older and low-income neighborhoods throughout Eastern Jackson County. Lee retired as library director at Graceland University and is an advocate for public health initiatives.

Together, Brent and Lee advocate for historic preservation and civic improvements and contribute to the community by working behind the scenes with several nonprofits and on local initiatives. Lee is a past president of the Health Sciences Library Network of Kansas City and has led local efforts for the 2006 Clean Indoor Air Act. Brent is a leader at First Christian Church of Independence and a current trustee and past president of the board of Mid-Continent Public Library.

Speaks Chapels is our 2020 Heartland Corporate Citizen of the Year. A third-generation, family-owned funeral provider, Speaks Chapels has been serving the Eastern Jackson County community for more than 80 years. Under the leadership of President and CEO Brad Speaks, it supports the community during times of grief, and through their commitment to philanthropy. Speaks Chapels’ employees are active volunteers, many serving on the boards of area nonprofits. Additionally, the company lends financial support to nonprofits throughout the region and to community projects, such as the Independence Uptown Market and Harry S. Truman Library and Museum renovations.

Celebrating 75 years of continuous service to the community in 2020, the Junior Service League of Independence is receiving our Heartland Service Award. An organization of dedicated women who have a passion for community leadership, service to others and personal growth, JSL has been connecting and empowering women to positively impact the community through service since 1945. From advocating for arts education and women’s healthcare to leading volunteer programs and historic preservation projects, the women of JSL have provided countless volunteer hours and significant financial contributions that have shaped the fabric of Independence and the greater Eastern Jackson County community.

Adam Kliethermes is our Dr. Paul M. Thomson Professional Advisor of the Year. A second-generation investment adviser for Edward Jones, Adam brings a unique perspective for financial planning. Adam earned a master’s of accountancy and J.D. from the University of Missouri and joined Edward Jones in 2011. Having grown up in the business and community he serves, Adam has a distinct ability to develop strategies that serve his clients and the community. The past chair of Truman Heartland’s Independence/Sugar Creek Advisory Board, Adam played an important role in expanding the Community Foundation’s Professional Advisor network.

These four honorees embody the spirit of giving in Eastern Jackson County and are a special example of what a community can achieve when people work together for a greater cause.

You can find more information about this year’s honorees, plans for the online event and how you can sponsor a watch party and join in the celebration on Saturday, Sept. 26 at www.thcf.org/Gala.

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. For more information on charitable giving, visit www.thcf.org or call Truman Heartland at 816.836.8189.