Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has.

- Margaret Mead

In 1982, ten people came together to create something unique in Eastern Jackson County. They wanted to establish an organization that would focus on improving the lives of people living, working, and serving communities throughout the region. Forty years later, Truman Heartland Community Foundation is a vital partner in local philanthropy for more than 800 fundholders. We've come a long way from our humble beginnings and have no intention of slowing down any time soon.

Our fundholders have made enormous contributions to their communities over the years, from supporting education and wildlife conservation to historic preservation and human services. Ten years ago, in 2012, THCF fundholders distributed just over $180,000 to 47 nonprofits through the competitive grant process. During the process, local nonprofits compete for this pool of funds, writing proposals in support of their mission-driven projects. This year, nearly $500,000 was made available through the Jelley Family Foundation Endowment for Children's Education Grant Awards and the Community Grant Awards programs, an increase of 173 percent over ten years ago.

The people who choose to give through their Community Foundation give to causes for which they care deeply. Some invest in traditional and non-traditional education, helping hundreds of students each year get the education they need to follow their career dreams. Ten years ago, 70 funds provided $172,000 in scholarships to 157 students. In 2022, THCF received a record 1,396 scholarship applications and provided more than $740,000 in scholarships to 300 students.

For the last 24 years, THCF has engaged area student leaders in local philanthropy through our Youth Advisory Council (YAC). Whether reviewing youth-focused grant applications, raising funds for their endowment, or volunteering in the community, YAC students experience the positive power of philanthropy firsthand. The 2020 pandemic seriously dampened recruitment efforts since most schools needed to utilize remote learning with little or no opportunity for peer-to-peer interactions. Although the group went from 120 student members in 2019 to around 70, they raised $7,000 for their endowment, providing grants to support the mission of Angel Flight Central, Giving the Basics, Marion Hope, and Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

Our fundholders engage directly with Foundation initiatives, such as YAC. Ten years ago, in addition to youth philanthropy, our focus was on the Community for All Ages initiative. THCF worked with local seniors to help them find volunteer opportunities and ensure needed services were available and accessible. Today, the focus is on assisting hard-working adults to get industry-recognized certifications that lead to good-paying jobs and in-demand careers.

Job Skills for New Careers is a collaborative initiative that brings together educational institutions, such as the Metropolitan Community Colleges and the University of Central Missouri, funding partners, like Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and KC Scholars, and Mid-Continent Public Library and Community Services League to provide wrap-around services. The social service aspect is leveraged to improve successful completion rates. With Foundation fundholder support providing more than $200,000 in flexible funding for wrap-around services (such as rental and utility assistance, gas cards, groceries, etc.), people are empowered to build a successful work-life and navigate barriers that prevent them from reaching their long-term goals. In four years, Job Skills for New Careers has helped 345 local adults get the training needed to create financial stability for themselves and their families.

As with every business, there have been ups and downs over the years. Even though 2012 was a banner year for grants and scholarships, with $4.3 million going out to the community in 2022 total grants and scholarships were $6.3 million, a 46 percent increase. Truman Heartland Community Foundation continues to be a trusted partner in local philanthropy through the support of generous donors, steadfast leadership from our volunteer Board of Directors and local Advisory Boards, and a robust nonprofit community.

As I look beyond the New Year, I really am about the future. THCF has the privilege of helping people give back to their communities in so many meaningful ways. Fundholders choose to direct their giving to organizations and causes that mean the most to them, and the Foundation works to make it all happen through a simple and seamless process. As we welcome new fundholders into the Foundation family in the coming years, I am excited to see the positive impact their thoughtful gifts will have on individuals, children, and families throughout the region.