Celebrating the Difference Makers in Southeast Missouri

There's no shortage of hard news in the world, but there are also individuals doing good work in their community, industry and schools worth celebrating.

B Magazine, our regional business magazine, recently announced its list of Difference Makers for this year. It's an impressive group of 14 individuals, with some names you'll recognize and others you may not but who are quietly doing wonderful things in Southeast Missouri.

Here's a recap of this year's lineup:

* Russell Grammer, co-founder and co-director of Prodigy Leadership Academy in Cape Girardeau County. Grammer charted a new path for education in this area with some impressive results. Prodigy now has a permanent location, adding additional space for classrooms at what was formerly known as Shadow Rest Ministries.

* Dr. Frank Nickell, longtime history professor at Southeast Missouri State University and board chairman of Cape Girardeau's Kellerman Foundation for Historic Preservation. Nickell played a particularly important role in 2021, giving numerous talks about Missouri history during the state's bicentennial year.

* Christy Mershon, the interim director of SEMO's Economic and Business Engagement Center and a serial volunteer for numerous causes in the area.

* Tom Bolen, known mostly for his efforts with the Capahas baseball team. Following in his parents' footsteps, Bolen, a former Capahas player, now manages the team. He also works for the U.S. Postal Service and is involved with St. Mary's Cathedral School Board of Education and Jackson Park Board, among other efforts.

* Ken Bateman, president and CEO of SoutheastHEALTH. Bateman was the visionary behind Cape Girardeau's new behavioral health hospital and led a multi-year effort to bring the 102-bed facility to fruition in partnership with Universal Health Services.

* Shawn Kinder, principal at Woodland High School. Kinder has led an effort to not only help students excel in the classroom but also shepherd them in community service projects.

* Rachel O'Loughlin, Code Labs program manager. O'Loughlin runs the free Codefi program that teaches web development skills to new high school graduates and those trying to make a career change.

* Dr. Tamara Zellars Buck, chair of the Department of Mass Media. Zellars Buck has taken her journalism and legal background into the classroom, helping train the next generation of journalists at Southeast Missouri State University. Zellars Buck is also active in organizations, including PORCH.

* Merideth Pobst, communications director for Jackson R-2 School District. Pobst leads the communication efforts for the Jackson School District, but her efforts go far beyond the office. She's helped launch programs for the district, raise funds for the school's foundation, co-hosts a morning show on the Christian radio station and is active in her church.

* Danny Rees, founder of the Christian Boxing Academy. Rees uses his passion for the sport as a ministry and mentorship platform.

* Charlotte Craig, longtime executive director of Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center and champion of the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri. Craig, who spent a career helping humans, is now one of the biggest advocates for abandoned animals served by the shelter. And in the last year, her work has been especially important as the Humane Society has fundraised for a new facility.

* Cooper McKelvey, loan officer with Farm Credit-Southeast Missouri. McKelvey has championed several charitable efforts in the Sikeston area ranging from a baseball camp to Christmas gifts for families in need.

* Tamara Holt-Roth, co-owner of Storybook Entertainment, has used her background in events to provide special memories for children — including those whose families were struggling financially as well as "Make-A-Wish"-type events.

* Eric Ticer, a charge nurse in the Saint Francis Medical Center Emergency Department. Ticer has been a frontline health care worker during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We encourage you to read more about each of this year's honorees in B Magazine or online at semissourian.com/DifferenceMakers. A reception to honor the 2021 B Magazine Difference Makers will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at One City in Cape Girardeau. RSVP online at bmagazinedifferencemakers2021.eventbrite.com. Special thanks to sponsors Executive Property Management and your local Edward Jones Financial Advisors.