Phil Hanson: Supporting our students in 2020 and beyond

Staff Writer
The Examiner
Phil Hanson

Like many events, the Community Foundation’s annual scholarships program was canceled due to the coronavirus safety concerns. While we may not be able to celebrate in person this year at our traditional ice cream social, support for our students reached an all-time high. For 2020, Truman Heartland Community Foundation is awarding $470,435 in scholarships to students in the community.

Our scholarship program is a community undertaking. With the help of 374 dedicated scholarship reviewers, the scholarships committee reviewed 926 applications for the 124 scholarship funds. We are grateful for the hours they spent reviewing applications and thrilled to award 326 scholarships this year to 235 deserving students.

Throughout the last 38 years, Truman Heartland has partnered with many generous individuals and organizations to create scholarship funds with the Community Foundation – individuals like Mary Katherine (Bush) Axtell. Mary was the daughter of a Saline County cattleman and farmer. In 2019, Blue Ridge Bank and Trust Co., which administered Mary’s charitable will and trust, organized a scholarship fund through the Community Foundation to provide perpetual support for students of Ray and Carroll County. This year, the Mary K. Axtell Scholarship is awarding $65,000 in scholarships to 13 students.

In addition to support this year, the Axtell Scholarship and many others at the Community Foundation are renewable. Many schools and universities offer single-year scholarships and financial aid packages that cover expenses during a student’s freshman year, but higher education is a multi-year investment. Renewable scholarships provide the support students need to help with the financial aid gap and continue to pursue their educational dreams.

The Community Foundation’s annual Scholarship Ice Cream Social has been one of my favorite events of the year, and we really regret that we had to cancel it this year. It is not only an opportunity to celebrate new scholarship students, but also a chance to reconnect with students whose scholarships are being renewed. It is really inspiring to witness the gratitude from students and their families and the relationship between donors and students, some that are just starting and others that have grown stronger over the years.

Since they won’t be meeting at the event, we adjusted our communication with scholarship recipients and donors to help make sure these connections still happen. Like the parents, teachers and coaches who have guided their high school years, these caring scholarship fundholders will be there to support and celebrate their accomplishments during college and as they make plans for the future. Thanks to program sponsor Stewardship Capital, each donor will receive a special packet with an ice cream voucher and information their scholarship recipient has provided to help them connect and possibly host their own ice cream social over Zoom.

Scholarships are an important asset to our students and our community. If you are interested in supporting the education of students in our region, we would be pleased to work with you to create a scholarship fund that fits your values and has the potential to make an impact for generations to come.

– Phil Hanson is the President and CEO of Truman Heartland Community Foundation. Truman Heartland Community Foundation (THCF) is 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 or call Truman Heartland at 816-836-8189.