Independence, MO – I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power people have to improve their communities.
It started several weeks ago. I was doing pre-campaign study interviews for a metropolitan Kansas City organization and had the opportunity to visit with Sister Berta Sailer, co-founder of Operation Breakthrough.
For four decades, Sister Berta and Sister Corita Bussanmas have championed the needs of mothers and children, building Operation Breakthrough into a $6 million family services center. Today, it’s the largest single-site child-care provider in Missouri.
Operation Breakthrough’s tremendous impact is the result of two people identifying a need in their community and deciding to become a solution. Plenty of examples of individuals making similar differences exist right here in Eastern Jackson County.
Paul Arend was the longtime scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 221 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Independence. During his tenure at the troop’s helm, hundreds of boys became Eagle Scouts.
Many touched by Arend – widely considered one of America’s best scoutmasters – remember the positive impact he had during their formative years. One of the three camps at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation in Osceola, Mo. was renamed Camp Piercing Arrow to honor Arend, and the Heart of America Council recognizes Scouters each year whose service embodies his qualities.
Another Eastern Jackson County leader of influence was Bess Wallace Truman, often remembered as the first lady during President Harry S. Truman’s time in office. Our native son and daughter led our country through an important period of change.
Less known but equally impactful was Bess’ hand forming the Community Services League in 1916 with her Bible study group. Inspired by evangelist Billy Sunday, a group of young Independence women decided to find and help the poor and sick. This year, the Community Services League will serve more than 8,000 people at its Central Resources Building at 404 N. Noland Road in Independence and community centers elsewhere in Independence as well as Buckner, Oak Grove, Grain Valley and Blue Springs.
And from 10 a.m. to noon today in the William Chrisman High School gymnasium, the Junior Service League 2011-12 provisional class will convene a T.A.K.E. Defense Training Program for girls and women 12 and above. T.A.K.E. Defense has trained more than 20,000 girls and women since its founding in 2005 in memory of Ali Kemp, who was killed in 2002 while working at a Leawood swimming pool.
Each Junior Service League provisional class is required to carry out a project that benefits the community. Class Secretary Katie Cowan said her group wanted to do something that would have a meaningful and lasting impact.
Although the class is free, conveners are suggesting a $20 contribution per participant to cover the event’s costs. Each trainee also is invited to donate an item that will benefit Hope House and the women and children it serves. Check out the Hope House needs list at www.hopehouse.net/hope-house-needs-list.
“Even if people can’t give money or a Hope House item, we want them to come,” Cowan said. “We want them to get the training they need to protect themselves.”
Empowering girls and women. Serving families in need. Helping boys become leaders. These are just a few of the great things people in Eastern Jackson County are doing to improve our community.
Thanks for all you do to improve your area. Your service makes a difference.