B Magazine Newsmakers: Answering the call to action in inspiring ways
Following is an abbreviated version of remarks made by Southeast Missourian publisher Jon K. Rust at the B Magazine Newsmakers Awards reception on Sept. 5 at First Midwest in Cape Girardeau.
It's a pleasure to be with you tonight to recognize several impressive individuals, who have made a significant impact through business engagement and success, and through community involvement and volunteering.
At B Magazine, we call these "movers and shakers" the "Newsmakers."
We appreciate that First Midwest is the official sponsor of B Magazine Newsmakers.
Heather is vice-president and manages the Sikeston branch of Farm Credit, which holds a $155 million lending portfolio, helping growers in the region thrive and succeed. She has been chair of the area's largest foundation, with the Missouri Delta Medical Center, and past president of the Sikeston Rotary Club. She is also active in the American Heart Association, Restore Haiti Mission, Sikeston Area Economic Development Corporation and Minor Baptist Church.
With an MBA from Southeast and business degree from the University of Missouri, Heather plays a vital role helping local farmers.
She particularly knows the kind of risks and hardships farmers face, because she grew up in a family steeped in farming.
She told B Magazine, "Farmers have all this money in a crop and they have to go to bed at night and pray to God the crop produces a good yield. There are so many variables in the risk they go through."
Heather, thank you for your commitment to Sikeston, for your leadership roles in community organizations, including your church, and for helping the regional economy through investing and supporting our local farmers.
Tyler is a successful financial planner, who joined his father's firm, Cuba Financial Group, nine years ago and has been instrumental in nearly tripling the business and expanding it to 15 states, in part through technology.
As part of the First Allied Securities broker network and a speaker at national conferences, he was recently elected from more than 1,000 advisors to being one of 12 people on the group's Advisory Council, becoming the youngest member in history to serve in this important and prestigious capacity.
While business alone takes a lot of focus, Tyler has also been deeply engaged locally outside of work. From serving as the current president of the SoutheastHEALTH Ambassador Board to helping local youth, including as member of the Cape Parks and Recreation Foundation board, the Boys and Girls Club of Missouri board, a coach at Notre Dame High School and volunteer with Junior Achievement, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Read to Succeed.
Tyler told B Magazine: "There are a lot of needs in the community, and I feel if we can address those needs at the youth level, we can make the future of this community even better."
Tyler, thank you for being not only the kind of innovator in your business that seeks to share lessons learned across your industry so that others can succeed, but that you have a heart for kids and a passion to see them develop into future leaders in their own homes and in our communities. Congratulations.
Dawn is chief banking officer at The Bank of Missouri, where she has implemented numerous advances to the benefit of clients and staff. But what has drawn our attention over the years is Dawn's support and board leadership of Old Town Cape, which has had a profound impact on downtown Cape Girardeau.
Dawn originally became involved in Old Town Cape as part of the vitality committee, then several board positions, rising to president of the organization from 2016-18. No longer president, she stays engaged as a board member.
Dawn told B Magazine, "Small businesses are the lifeblood of our community... and if you have a thriving downtown area, that is one of those draws... that makes people feel like, 'Wow, there is something going on [here].'"
Dawn, thank you for the beneficial ways you grow partnerships, whether between employees and clients at The Bank of Missouri, or in helping downtown thrive.
On the weekends, Kendra drives animal transports throughout Southeast Missouri as part of animal rescues. This, she told B Magazine, helps her de-stress from the difficult stories she feels privileged to be trusted with during the week. And what are those stories?
They are some of the most difficult one could ever imagine. Kendra is director of the Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence, where last year she and her organization helped nearly 500 children and 150 adults who had been sexually abused.
"There's just such a huge need," Kendra told B Magazine. "And it's not something that people want to talk about, and it's not something people want to think happens. But we know it happens. So once you know, if you can do something to help, you've got to do it."
In his nominating letter, Cape Girardeau Chief of Police Wes Blair wrote: "When Kendra went to work for SEMO-NASV, she undertook the daunting task of turning around an organization that was, quite literally, on the brink of extinction... Many would shy away from undertaking such a monumental task, especially one whose needs and partnerships are so diverse. On top of the challenges of simply running an organization, dealing daily with victim traumas adds to the stress and burden of the position. Kendra has tackled this feat with a persistent 'can do' attitude and is never seen without a smile on her face."
Kendra, thank you for taking care of the most vulnerable among us, for doing this with love and caring, diligence and strategic resourcefulness. Thank you for building honor and respect, and establishing at the heart of everything you do, trust.
The owner of Executive Property Management in Cape Girardeau, Jeremy has grown his company from managing 50 units 10 years ago to more than 625 today. He credits his success to treating property owners with respect and integrity.
A few years ago, though, Jeremy and his wife Raelenna felt a stirring in their hearts to create a community gathering place that would break down barriers, draw diverse people together and offer important programs and training.
They were both already busy, involved in overseas missions, foster parenting and raising a big family. But they were also determined, and three and half years later, their dream is taking root with the opening of a place called One City, located at 610 Independence in Cape. There, relationships are developing through fine arts programming for kids, job training classes and so much more.
Raelenna shared about her husband: "At One City, Jeremy has been able to bring so many people together, people from different walks of life and different areas of town with the hopes of bringing a sense of unity to our community."
Thank you Jeremy for investing your time and passion into unifying and transforming our community for the better, by serving others with integrity and respect, and recognizing and elevating the dignity of all. We look forward to watching the continued progress at One City.
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Dr. Chelsea Grigery
According to a study by the non-profit "Institute for the Future," 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven't been invented yet. According to the study: "The ability to GAIN new knowledge will be more valuable than the knowledge itself."
That's what makes Dr. Chelsea Grigery's impact on this area so profound. A doctor with SoutheastHEALTH pediatrics, one of the questions she asks her kids, middle school and up is: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
And, she explained to B Magazine, "Almost always I get a response that they want to be something in the science and technology field."
But when she asks what they're doing to prepare for that, it turns out, not much.
For several years Chelsea has been helping these kids by steering them towards the Regional Science Fair -- and with her leadership, the Science Fair has grown dramatically, by roughly 10 percent last year, making it the largest in history: with 442 projects and 652 student participants. One of those participants went on to attain a fourth-place finish in the International Science Fair, which hosted nearly 1,800 students from 77 countries. This year, she is the director of the Regional Science Fair.
Chelsea understands how powerfully science fairs and science study can shape a life. As a student from Sikeston, she competed regularly in school, ultimately placing third place in the International competition as a high school senior. That accomplishment brought her significant scholarship money and a lot of attention, leading to her vocation as a doctor.
To her, participating in science fairs was "a total game-changer." Now, she's helping others find their path forward through science.
Chelsea, congratulations on your success igniting life-altering passions, paying your achievement forward, and providing a tangible place for kids to learn about and launch in truly exciting ways, the world of the future.
When the Safehouse for Women celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017, the state director of public safety described it as one of the best run in the state, led by people called to serve a noble mission.
"It is a shame we have this resource," he said. "But it is essential. Safe House is truly safeguarding people who might continue to suffer or live in fear without it."
Leading Safe House for Women is Jessica Hill. And during the past four years, she has helped grow its programs and expand its facilities in powerful ways. Among the accomplishments: a new transitional housing program, a batterers intervention program, child therapy, and a new Women's Council. She has also played a key role in Cape Girardeau's Project Homeless Connect.
In addition to all this, Jessica has led the effort to build a new 40-bed shelter. About two-thirds of the $2.1 million needed to do this have been raised.
Jessica told B Magazine: "I would like for the community to look at our clients as people who have gone through a tough time, but they're going to make a fresh start and in the end, they're going to be world-changers."
Jessica, thank you for your hard work, your team building, your expertise and your compassion, turning hopelessness into a safe place for people to change the world.
As I said in my opening remarks, there were dozens of people nominated for a B Magazine Newsmaker Award. Several of them were nominated more than once.
Crissy received nine separate and detailed nominations, each one filled out with great love and respect for what she does as executive director of Hope for One More, a non-profit that works with Hope Children's Home in the mission to find local foster care children a nurturing home.
I could recite some of her many accomplishments in this role -- and what she does and has done is a very long list, from starting the Hope Chest boutique store and foster care backpack program, to being a state-certified Master Foster Care trainer. Instead, let me read to you some of the general comments made by those who nominated her:
"Crissy has a passion to instill hope in the heart of each displaced child in Southeast Missouri. This passion is the driving force behind her pursuit to develop programs and services designed to help provide love and care and increase positive outcomes for their futures."
From another: "Crissy has a huge heart and never asks for recognition. She really is the meaning of 'serve the lives of others over your own.'"
And another: "She is a biological parent, a foster parent, and an adoptive parent. She can see all sides of the foster care system, and is very empathetic, but very logical in trying to find solutions for difficult situations."
Each one of these comments comes from a different nominator: "Many people say something needs to be done, but don't act on it. She not only acts on it, she inspires others to get involved, too."
Crissy told B Magazine, "Everybody has some sort of gift, ability, talent to do something for someone else. Basically with my job, I give opportunities for people to be able to do that. To me, it's not really work, it's just what I do."
To borrow slightly from another nomination: Crissy, thank you for being an example of how we can all use our time and voice to make a difference in not only the life of a child but in whatever we may be passionate about. Your labor of love is appreciated and celebrated.
An editor of a newspaper is naturally engaged with the community through his or her occupation. But there are those editors, those people, who do their work, diligently and competently, and those who do that, but who also go above the call of duty.
Bob Miller invested hours of his time beyond his normal duties, often on weekends and late at night, sometimes throughout the night, to oversee and contribute to a series of stories about a man who was wrongfully convicted to life in prison without parole.
Think about it. Put yourself in that man's place. Condemned to prison for a crime you did not commit.
To many people the newspaper investigative series wasn't a positive event, because it uncovered corruption and exposed a breakdown in the American justice system -- and Bob and the newspaper were pressured in various ways.
In the end, the stories written by Bob and his team gained attention, brought new evidence to light, and helped lead to the Missouri Supreme Court freeing the man after nearly 18 years of incarceration.
Bob told B Magazine: "When you're talking about justice and how we as a nation have agreed to conduct ourselves and what innocence and guilt and how that is supposed to be pursued -- if that is compromised, that can affect anybody."
For his efforts, Bob and the Southeast Missourian were recognized in a feature on CBS national news, giving the newspaper credit for helping to set a great wrong... right.
Bob, concerned about justice, you courageously helped set an innocent man free. Thank you for your diligence to the truth, your compassion, and your belief, that shining a light on illness and corruption, can lead to important change.
LaKrisha is the owner and founder of a local performing arts studio in downtown Cape Girardeau, where she teaches, creates and sparks excellence. Founded by LaKrisha in 2015, On Cue now provides programming for more than 300 students on a monthly basis, including special needs children, and it has 15 on staff. The studio has already grown three times into larger space.
LaKrisha regularly helps and organizes student involvement and participates herself in everything from hospital cancer fundraising galas, pin-up fundraisers, Comic-Con events, local parades, and the Vintage Now fashion show to benefit Safehouse for Women. The list goes on.
LaKrisha is an entrepreneur, but it's not just the business of what she does, it's how she does it. For example, through her (and her husband's influence) she adapts popular stories into top-notch musicals for kids with original music and scripts. Alone, her business endeavor would be worthy of notice, but what sets LaKrisha further apart is involvement in events that help the community.
LaKrisha told B Magazine, "I love what I do. The teachers that I have love what they do. I think if you're passionate about your job and you're passionate about your vision, it shows in all things you do, and others want to be a part of it. I've been very blessed."
LaKrisha, through your business, volunteering, teaching and unique personal participation in community events, you have dramatically elevated the local quality of life. Thank you for your passion, dedication and vision.
One of the affirming aspects of Newsmakers is to recognize individuals who have made great impact, but who may sometimes rarely be in the public eye. These are humble people, who do what they do because it is right and good, and because it will help others. Not because it brings them riches or fame. Bob has been a leader of a successful company that does business all across the country, Nations Starter and Alternator. Its mission: "To serve customers with integrity and expertise in the specialized field of starters, alternators and electrical system service."
Thirty-two years ago, a man traveling through the area walked into the shop needing some help, and when Bob found out what the man did as part of Sports World Ministries, he joined the effort and founded a branch here.
Since then, each year, Bob and Sports World have been bringing professional athletes into more than 15 Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois junior high and high schools to share encouragement about life and testimonies about finding a higher calling. The organization's tagline states: "You're not born a winner. You're not born a loser. You're born a chooser."
Through personal stories, speakers help students recognize the consequences of their decisions while challenging them with a message of hope to reach for their goals.
Annually, more than 5,000 students hear the inspirational message, and it is common for several boys and girls to reach out to share how they were contemplating suicide, or otherwise lost in despair, before hearing it.
Bob, who leads the fundraising efforts so that these speakers do not cost anything to the schools, has also brought the speakers before business groups, church groups, Teen Challenge, adult prayer breakfasts and SEMO athletes.
He isn't paid, but he certainly has felt rewarded. He told B Magazine: "Where there's an opportunity to make a difference in a life, we want to be on that front line, and this organization allows that to happen. It's been quite a blessing."
Bob, for your quiet efforts to help young people (and old) develop the tools that will help them make wise choices to win in life, and to do that exposing them to the message of Christ, thank you. And God Bless. You are making a profound difference.
Laura Coalter Parker
When the family insurance company that Laura leads as president thought about moving out of the less-than-desirable building it was founded in by her late father, her love for heritage convinced them to remodel instead. And that, Coalter Insurance Group, did, completely gutting and rebuilding the building, honoring its legacy but surpassing it at the same time.
Laura told B Magazine, "As we move into the future, everybody likes bright, new and shiny. But you can also take the oldest property and make it the most beautiful, too." Laura hopes what she has done will light a spark for other businesses to follow, renovating historic areas of our communities.
In a way, strengthening heritage and resurrecting the old might be a metaphor for much of what Laura does, gaining B Magazine's attention. Whether it is through her volunteering as a sorority adviser at Southeast Missouri State or at the Sikeston Hospital Ball or Lia Sophia fundraisers for regional foodbanks... or whether its through her service as long-time PTO president of Sikeston's Lee Hunter Elementary School, involvement with the Cape Chamber or Rotary Club and other entities, she helps light a spark for longstanding local institutions, including the very neighborhood where she works.
Thank you, Laura, for the way you honor legacy, in your values and your investments, your commitment and service. Your father would be proud.
Andrea is a home-schooling mother to two who discovered an important need when substitute teaching a Sunday school class for children with special needs: Churches are not always accessible to families, leading them to step away from church and potentially, the Bible.
So, roughly five years ago, she founded what has become Access Ministry at Lynwood Baptist Church, and one step at a time, has built a program that provides community and Bible teaching to people with disabilities, connecting families, caregivers and members of the church with each other and to resources in the region.
The group also hosts family breakfasts, bowling parties, movie days, and even a summer camp with singing, dancing and drama.
Andrea told B Magazine: "Everyone has a place. Every person that was born was created with a purpose. And I tell that to them at every event: 'When you leave today, we want you to know you have a purpose. God loves you and this church loves you.'"
As the nominator for Andrea wrote: "Andrea is proof that a position, job, title or paycheck do not a philanthropist make."
Thank you, Andrea, for making a difference each day in our community, embracing those who could be marginalized, so that they can worship and find their purpose. Thank you for your servant heart.
Dr. Kenneth Stilson
For those who read the Southeast Missourian, Kenn Stilson is no stranger. Chair of the Jeanine Larson Dobbins Conservatory of Theater and Dance and director of several productions at the River Campus each year, Kenn and his students have been regularly featured.
Nearly four years ago, though, Kenn embarked upon something new, and that was writing his own musical in collaboration with then-student Cody Cole. What eventually emerged was the heart-wrenching and ultimately hopeful story, "An American Hero," about a young Irish immigrant who joins the U.S. Army during World Word II, and follows his journey through war-torn Europe while his new wife -- and then the both of them -- struggle at home.
Kenn told B Magazine, "It is a story about how war is hell, but love, family and honor provide hope for a better future."
"An American Hero" was selected a finalist among 210 entries to perform this past July in New York off-Broadway at the largest international musical festival in the world. It won "Best of Festival" and the top "Individual Performance Award," among other recognitions. The result further placed the spotlight on the incredible talent in Cape Girardeau and at Southeast Missouri State.
Kenn told B Magazine: "When you write a show, it's just in your head, so it's very solitary. I sit in my office, and I turn off these horrible fluorescent lights, and I wrap myself in a little cocoon, and I write, and I'm not thinking about anything else beyond that, except telling the story. But then when you produce it, then it becomes this really large, collaborative animal that takes more than 100 people to produce ... nobody got paid for this. Everybody did this out of a love of their craft and love of the art."
Kenn, congratulations on the success of American Hero, and thank you for pouring heart and soul into helping students achieve their best and delighting audiences in Cape Girardeau and well beyond.
For full stories about each of the recipients, visit bmagazine.io.
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