July 25, 2020

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Toast to Our Towns Gala, benefiting the Truman Heartland Community Foundation. This year’s event will be delivered live through a dynamic online celebration on September 26, 2020 and recognize individuals, businesses and organizations who have made a significant philanthropic impact in Eastern Jackson County and surrounding communities.

Presented by CommunityAmerica Credit Union, the one-hour celebration of philanthropy will start at 7:00 p.m. and broadcast to more than 40 different watch parties throughout the region. During the event, Truman Heartland will award the Humanitarians of the Year, Corporate Citizen of the Year, Heartland Service Award and Dr. Paul M. Thomson Professional Advisor of the Year. These recipients embody the spirit of giving and inspire others in their community through generous acts of philanthropy and volunteer work.

Brent Schondelmeyer and Lee Williams, Heartland Humanitarians of the Year

As community builders and advocates, Brent Schondelmeyer and Lee Williams have made a reputation of giving of their time and talents. For more than 30 years, the couple has worked across sectors to drive community initiatives in Independence and across the region.

Brent is the Deputy Director of Local Investment Commission (LINC), a nonprofit focused on neighborhood revitalization. In this role, he oversees programs that help strengthen older and low-income neighborhoods throughout Eastern Jackson County. A journalist and published author, Brent is a well-known local historian and a vice president of the State Historical Society of Missouri.

Lee retired as Library Director at Graceland University and is an advocate for public health initiatives. Alongside Brent, she led local efforts for the 2006 Clean Indoor Air Act, to prohibit second-hand smoke in public places, one of the first in the region.

With a unique ability to network and connect, Brent and Lee contribute to the community by working behind the scenes with several nonprofits and on local initiatives.

Lee is a past President of Health Sciences Library Network of Kansas City. Brent is a current trustee and past President of the Board of Mid-Continent Public Library.

Together, Brent and Lee advocate for historic preservation and civic improvements. Both served on the Independence Heritage Commission and have been deeply involved in local campaigns related to funding for city services and streets and parks projects.

Brent is a leader at First Christian Church of Independence which is partnering with Drumm Farm Center for Children to develop a youth drop-in center. The center provides a safe, welcoming space where homeless students in the Independence and Fort Osage School District can get a meal, “shop” the church’s pantry for snacks and personal supplies and get connected to resources and support through Drumm’s Street Outreach Services program.

Speaks Chapels, Heartland Corporate Citizen of the Year

Speaks Chapels is making a positive impact in the community through their business and community engagement.

Established in 1936, Speaks Chapels has been serving the Eastern Jackson County community for more than 80 years. A third-generation family-owned funeral provider, Speaks Chapels supports the community during times of grief and through their commitment to philanthropy.

Under the leadership of President and CEO Brad Speaks, Speaks Chapels’ employees share their time and talents with nonprofits throughout the region. Over the years, Speaks and his team have volunteered and served on the Boards of several nonprofits, including the Independence Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Council, Independence Rotary Club, Fort Osage Educational Foundation, Meals on Wheels, Kiwanis Club, Neighborhood Dinner and Truman Heartland Community Foundation.

Speaks’ focus on philanthropy stems from a belief that all people are of worth and that a genuine community cares for its own. They support causes that improve the lives of people, lending their financial support to nonprofits like Hillcrest Transitional Housing, Community Services League, KC Scholars and Child Abuse Prevention Association, and to projects that improve the fabric of the community on a macro level, like the Independence Farmers Market and Harry S. Truman Library and Museum renovations.

Junior Service League of Independence, Heartland Service Award

This year, Junior Service League of Independence is celebrating 75 years of continuous service to the community.

Junior Service League of Independence is an organization of dedicated women who have a passion for community leadership, service to others and personal growth. True to its mission of connecting and empowering women to positively impact the community through service, the women of JSL have provided countless volunteer hours and significant financial contributions in Eastern Jackson County for the past 75 years.

From advocating for arts education and women’s healthcare to leading volunteer programs and historic preservation projects, JSL has been part of shaping the fabric of Independence and the greater Eastern Jackson County community.

Adam Kliethermes, Dr. Paul M. Thomson Professional Advisor of the Year Award

A second-generation Investment Advisor for Edward Jones, Adam Kliethermes brings a unique perspective for financial planning and a commitment to charitable giving strategies that serve his clients and the community.

The Kliethermes family has been serving Independence for more than 40 years. Adam’s father, Mark, opened his Edward Jones office on the Independence Square in 1978. After attending the University of Missouri, earning a Master’s of Accountancy and JD, Adam joined the firm in 2011. Having grown up in the business and community he serves, Adam has a distinct ability to develop legacy plans that meet his clients’ financial and charitable goals.

Adam is the past chair of Truman Heartland Community Foundation’s Independence/Sugar Creek Advisory Board. As a member of the Development Committee, Adam helped expand the Foundation’s network of Professional Advisors in Cass County, emphasizing the benefits of charitable giving for both financial advisors and their clients.

The 2020 Citizens of the Year, chosen by area mayors, will be honored during the Toast to Our Towns Gala broadcast and during a pre-Gala event sponsored by Centerpoint Medical Center. This year’s Citizens will be announced later this summer.

The 2020 Toast to Our Towns Gala is presented by CommunityAmerica Credit Union and benefits Truman Heartland Community Foundation. Broadcast support is provided by GEHA and TruckMovers. Additional support is provided by Dana Forrester Watercolors/Melanie Moentmann, SS&C; Dunn Family Foundation; Edward Jones Advisors; Humphrey, Farrington & McClain; Midwest Trust; and Speaks Chapels.

The Toast to Our Towns Gala will be held online on September 26, 2020. This one-hour celebration of philanthropy will start at 7:00 p.m. and broadcast to more than 40 different watch parties throughout Eastern Jackson County. Information about sponsoring a watch party is available at www.thcf.org/Gala.

Truman Heartland Community Foundation (THCF) is a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to improving the communities in and around Eastern Jackson County through partnerships with community members and donors. Truman Heartland serves the region with assets of more than $50 million and annual grants surpassing $4.8 million. Please visit the Community Foundation’s website at www.thcf.org or call 816.836.8189 for more information.