When Doug Cowan began working at Community Services League more than two years ago, he heard a phrase that stuck in his mind.

When Doug Cowan began working at Community Services League more than two years ago, he heard a phrase that stuck in his mind.


“Just because you are poor doesn’t mean you have to receive poor services,” Katherine Barton told Cowan, who is now the director of development and acting executive director for CSL. Barton, a past president of CSL’s board of directors, was the chairwoman of the Brighter Futures capital campaign, which raised more than $2.5 million toward the new Central Headquarters in Independence.


“For me, personally, it was my mantra throughout this campaign,” Cowan told a group of several dozen donors and CSL board members Thursday evening at the unveiling of the organization’s donor wall. “We aren’t just building a building to make something nice, to redevelop a corner or to do something nice for our staff. We were helping those who can’t help themselves and those who needed additional services. Just because they were disadvantaged doesn’t mean they had to settle for disadvantaged services.”


In March 2011 – during the year of its 95th anniversary – CSL opened the doors to its new Central Headquarters at 404 N. Noland Road. The new, modernized facility features second-floor storage space, as well as more space for food and clothing drive items and office/cubicle space for employees.


Tears formed in Cowan’s eyes as he recalled a story about the impact the new facility has made on CSL’s clients. Most people have a difficult time entering CSL’s facilities, Cowan said, calling it a “humbling experience” when someone reaches a point in his life where he or she says, “I need help.”


“A woman came through our front door, not too long ago, and she told us that this new facility made her feel dignified,” Cowan said. “It made her feel like she had value and she had worth as a person – and she didn’t feel bad about getting help. I know we’ve made countless people feel more dignified about asking for help. If just one person in Eastern Jackson County feels better about themselves, then we’ve done our jobs, and that’s a good thing.”


About five years ago, the CSL board made the decision to “move forward” because its existing facilities at 300 W. Maple Ave. were too small and lacked storage space, Barton said. The Brighter Futures campaign officially began in March 2009, and one side of the new donor wall displays those individuals and entities that made donations of $1,000 or more.


“The one thing I’ve learned in capital fundraising is that capital campaigns take a little bit of faith,” Cowan said. “We are celebrating the faith that you had in this project because we told you what we had to offer, but you couldn’t see it. We showed you some drawings, but still, you couldn’t really touch it.


“You didn’t know what it was going to be, but you had the faith to make an investment in Community Services League. You had the faith to make an investment in our community. You had the faith to make an investment in the clients we serve.”