Norman Swails, this year’s Truman Heartland Community Foundation Humanitarian of the Year, took a little time to reflect when asked about his proudest moment.
And for good reason. He’s got a lot to pick from.
Should he talk about his key role in building the Community of Christ Temple in Independence and serving as the church’s presiding bishop? Or should he discuss his membership and subsequent 32-year professional relationship with the Boy Scouts of America?
The 83-year-old retired bishop said one of his biggest accomplishments started in a dark moment. The Community of Christ was facing overcrowding at a home it had furnished for domestic abuse victims. About 35 victims were relying on the safety of the only house that the church had provided.
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Swails said the moment was a critical learning point for him because it showed him how a clear crisis could drive change. It also reinforced the importance of having others around to help someone effect change.
“You have to get the right people, and it’s follow through and follow through,” he said. “You accept little bits of failure. You’ve got to be enough of an entrepreneur to have the vision of what can be.”
And where others saw an overcrowded house of desperate refugees, Swails saw what would become Hope House, a domestic violence victims’ resource center that today serves more than 200 survivors at its Independence and Lee’s Summit locations.
The Clarksdale, Mo., native said his commitment to the betterment of others is rooted in his early training as a member of Boy Scout Troop 136. Swails said his admission to the group and his baptism are moments of near equal importance in his life.
“I kind of took that very seriously,” he said. “Now, what I just said makes me sound real goody two shoes; it’s not that. I just selected what I call a human service career.”
Swails is a consultant with various local philanthropic efforts, but is trying to commit more time to his other passions: reading, writing and family.
He and others will be recognized Sept. 6 at the foundation’s Toast to Our Towns Gala at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center.
The Heartland Corporate Citizen of the year is Corporate Copy Print, a 20-year-old company owned by Tom and Susan Water. The company has donated thousands of dollars of printing to nonprofit groups in Eastern Jackson County.
Doug Hammer, a principal with Edward Jones, is the Paul M. Thomson Advisor of the Year. He has served on the boards of Truman Heartland and many other entitites and has helped with dozens of community service projects.
Citizens of the Year, chosen by city mayors, also will be recognized:
Blue Springs: Ted and Betty Meyer established Meyer Music, which was named Heart of America’s Family Business of the Year in 2003. They have supported local school music programs, the Rotary Club and St. Mary’s Medical Center among other activities. Meyer Music is a previous recipient of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation’s Corporate Citizen of the Year.
Grain Valley: Allen Lefko, a banker, served as the CHOICES program coordinator and funded the Grain Valley School District’s A+ Program. He’s helped with the Grain Valley Police Department’s annual shred event, the Victim’s Rights Golf Tournament and been on a bevy of boards and community committees. Most recently, he’s been tapped for the Grain Valley Economic Development Council.
Independence: Jill and Bill Esry are third-generation residents of Independence who’ve together led lives of civic involvement. Bill, president and CEO of Blue Ridge Bank and Trust, has been active in economic development endeavors and in the Boy Scouts. Jill, a veteran PTA volunteer, is vice-president of the Independence school board.
Lake Winnebago: Ophthalmologist Steve Silverstein has worn a number of hats in Lake Winnebago: police commissioner, alderman and mayor pro tem. He takes a strong interest in public safety matters.
Lee’s Summit: The Tominias are the only family on this year’s list of recipients. While managing their furniture store, Cameron’s, individual family members have been active in Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Inc. and volunteered with the sesquicentennial planning committee.
Raytown: Michael “Mike” McDonough, traffic sergeant with the Raytown Police Department, has previously been recognized as Raytown’s Police Officer of the Year and received at least two lifesaving awards. He serves on the Raytown Charter Commission and has been active in community organizations.
Sugar Creek: Public safety chief Herb Soule has served Sugar Creek for more than 45 years, starting as a police patrolman. He had a leading role in developing the Homeland Security Program in Missouri and has received the Valor for Heroism in Line of Duty Award.
Sept. 6 event
For more information on the Truman Heartland Community Foundation’s Toast to Our Towns Gala, visit www.thcf.org.