Lee's Summit Journal

Teaching our future leaders about philanthropy

Phil Hanson
Phil Hanson

On April 6, students in the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) of Truman Heartland Community Foundation were once again out doing their part to feed the hungry in our community. Students from the 13 participating high schools were at four Hy-Vee locations in Eastern Jackson County from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Through their efforts and the generosity of people in our community, we estimate that our YAC students collected more than 40,000 food items and personal hygiene items for Community Services League, Lee’s Summit Social Services and Raytown Emergency Assistance Program.

We are very proud of the students in our YAC program, one of the only opportunities for high school students from across the region to come together to work as a team to benefit the community. Most any other time students from different high schools come together it’s about competition not community building.

Students see the value in this program, and membership continues to grow. Starting with just 12 students in 1998, it has grown to nearly 190 participants this year. We are grateful to Henri Goettel, the YAC volunteer adult facilitator, who has led this program since its inception. Goettel is a great mentor for our students, and it is clearly a labor of love.

Very soon we will be celebrating with our graduating YAC students as they prepare for high school graduation and the future. At our annual Senior Recognition Dinner, attended by our board and the parents of YAC students, these graduating students share their experiences in the Council. It is always inspiring to hear what they have learned about philanthropy and life as a result of their participation in YAC and the impact it has made on them.

At the same time, we are welcoming new students to the YAC program. Prospective students and their parents recently attended orientation to learn more about the “school of philanthropy” at Truman Heartland. And in this school, there is no summer break.

In fact, YAC students will be very busy this summer assisting our grants committee. YAC students review grant proposals from nonprofits seeking support through our competitive grants process, make on-site visits and then share their experience with our grants committee. Additionally, YAC students will award grants to youth-serving nonprofits from their own endowment fund. We greatly value their perspective and contributions to our annual grants program.

At the Community Foundation, we are grateful for the opportunity to educate and engage our students in fund-raising, grant-making and volunteering through our YAC program, helping these future community leaders see the value of coming together for a purpose greater than themselves and helping build community.

Phil Hanson is the President and CEO of Truman Heartland Community Foundation. Truman Heartland Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to improving the communities in and around Eastern Jackson County through cooperation with community members and donors. The foundation serves the region with assets of more than $47 million and annual grants surpassing $4 million. For more information on charitable giving, visit www.thcf.org or call Truman Heartland at 816-836-8189.