- Photos by Anthony Jinson
Honoring the people and places who give back to our community.
Not a week goes by that our community isn’t in some way influenced or inspired by one of our local nonprofits. From the volunteers and staff members, to the philanthropy of our community’s companies, we are constantly overwhelmed by the charitable spirit that resides in Columbia.
It is our privilege at COMO Magazine to honor their generosity by doing what we do best — telling their stories. Join us in celebrating our 2022 Impact COMO winners and honorable mentions.
Most Impactful Staff Member
Jerrell Morton, YouthBuild/Job Point
Since 1965, Job Point has been linking people and jobs by providing career planning and job placement assistance. One of Job Point’s most-successful services has been YouthBuild. The YouthBuild program provides educational opportunity, carpentry training, and leadership development for at-risk youth, and results in affordable housing units sold to eligible families or individuals.
Jerrell Morton has run YouthBuild for 11 years and overseen the operation and management of a $1.3 million grant from the Department of Labor. Through these funds, YouthBuild has been able to provide free education/training services for people ages 16-24 in Boone County and add to the affordable housing market.
“[We see] the young people we serve through our YouthBuild program enter our doors lost, confused, hurt… find their path to success as they grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally in our presence.”
Jerrell knows his purpose and passion in life is to serve others. He also drives a four-hour commute each day to do so. This work ethic does not go unnoticed.
Jerrell could undoubtedly make more money working elsewhere, yet he chooses to drive from Kansas City to Columbia every day. His mantra is that we are family and he puts that thought into action every day with his staff and students.
Whether it’s personally visiting an employee who is ill, ensuring students had plenty of food during the pandemic shut down, mentoring a new coworker, or calming down an upset student, Jerrell approaches all challenges using the philosophy of Love and Logic, Brenda Overkamp says.
Jerrell has many goals for the years ahead.
“Over the next several years, I would like to lead or be a part of two initiatives which would impact us locally and across the state of Missouri,” he says. “Locally I would like to work with a committee/team to address teenage homelessness. My statewide initiative addresses the need for the YouthBuild program model to echo across Missouri under a state funded coalition. Both initiatives will allow Columbia to lead the state and the nation in an innovative approach towards the protection and education of opportunity youth.”
Kellye Dubinski, City of Refuge
Since 2015, Kellye has been the office manager at City of Refuge.
“She has given much of her time, energy, and personal space, all in order to provide basic needs to our refugee neighbors and friends,” Leah Glenn says. “She believes in treating others with dignity, and helping others gain access to what they need so that they can be successful.”
Kellye shares life principles that have guided her along the way:
“Giving of oneself to others in need is one of the most gratifying things I have found in my life. When I die, there is nothing I can take with me. But if I have spent my time well, I will have left a little part of my heart with every person I was able to help,” Kellye says.
Mark Kirchoff, Flourish Initiative
For the past three years, Mark has been overseeing the daily operations of the Flourish Home, a program that houses people ages 16-20 who are housing unstable. Since opening in October 2020, the Flourish Home has housed 23 people for more than 1,650 nights.
“Mark is a one-person show! He has hired and trained all the staff. He handles all HR functions, fundraising events, facilities maintenance, programming, and outcomes measurements,” Jessica Macy says.
“I would see to it that every person in Columbia had a safe and stable roof over their head daily. I believe that housing and shelter are a basic human right, and not just a privilege for those who have earned it,” says Mark. “We should collectively do everything in our power to reduce the stigma of homelessness and to educate our community on the complexity of the issue.”
Most Impactful Volunteer
Catherine Armbrust, CoMo Mobile Aid Collective
Starting in 2018 as JB Mobile Soup Kitchen, CoMo Mobile Aid Collective has expanded their initiative to deliver direct mutual aid to marginalized citizens of Columbia with care and dignity.
In addition to building upon their mission, CoMAC has grown their available resources to include emergency seasonal assistance, meals, camping supplies, transportation to medical appointments, pet assistance, heaters, supplemental water and cooking fuel, and a first-aid clinic at Loaves & Fishes.
One of the major leading forces behind CoMO Mobile Aid Collective is Catherine Armbrust. Catherine credits many with her and before her for the continued growth and support.
“I would not be able to physically, or emotionally do this work without the support of our wonderful team. Our core members (Dirk Burhans, Kelsie Smith, Stephanie Yoakum, Melissa MacGowan, Margaret McConnell, Gayle Link Chang, and Heidi Bennet) keep each other on track with humor and love. We also have a fantastic community of cooks, supply donors, financial donors, and other volunteers that keep us running,” Catherine says.
“Cat recently presented a strong argument to our Columbia City Council members asking for their support to offer these folks a place to rest, a place to eat, rerouting bus routes so they can get to places like the social security office and to simply treat them with respect as human beings,” Melody Whitworth says. “Cat is a strong voice for the unsheltered, displaced members of our community and is making a huge impact on this ever growing issue.”
“I really appreciate being able to connect with folks who have varying, but similar goals to CoMAC,” Catherine says. “I continue to learn so much from them and our team. It really reinforces the fact that it takes a holistic perspective to assist folks. We must work together as a community! None of us are in this alone.”
Sarah Greenlee, Kindness and Inclusion Programs, Columbia Public Schools
Sarah Greenlee is the founder of Kindness and Inclusion Programming in CPS including clubs such as the Kindness Club, Be-A-Friend/Make-A-Friend Lunch Club, and the Unite Programs. “The Kindness Club and other inclusion programs allow all students, both general education and special education, to benefit from both the programming itself and the inclusion opportunities the programming provides. The programming and curriculum emphasize that everyone is valuable, a part of our community, and has something to contribute,” Sarah says.
“Sarah saw a need within her students to decrease bullying and negative behavior towards other students, especially special needs kids,” Kim Dude-Lammy says. “With her help and encouragement, we now have kindness clubs in every middle and elementary school in the Columbia Public Schools.”
Greg Grupe, Heart of Missouri United Way / Boone County Children’s Services Board
Greg Grupe’s involvement as a volunteer with Heart of Missouri United Way began in the mid 1980s. He is also one of the original Boone County Children’s Services board members.
“There are so many different ways each Boone Countian can find ways to serve and give back,” Greg says.
“Greg’s work goes well beyond United Way. As a member of the BCCSB, Greg’s work as a teacher in Columbia Public Schools for 30 years included an untold number of discrete acts of mentoring, helping, and advocating for high school kids. Greg has always been drawn to helping at-risk youth and still seeks ways to be involved years after kids have left school,” Andrew Grabau says.
Most Impactful Executive Director
Kelsey Hammond, Columbia Art League
Having been the executive director of the Columbia Art League for three years, Kelsey Hammond jokingly refers to an executive director as part octopus, part magician, part contortionist, and part cheerleader.
“You’ve got your hand in everything, you’re trying to make funding appear out of nowhere, you’ve got to remain incredibly flexible, and you happily share your enthusiasm for your mission and what your organization does,” Kelsey says.
Ann Merrifield says Kelsey’s success speaks for itself.
“The Art Bus pilot program hosted 243 children, children’s classes enrolled 170 during the school year and 100 in summer workshops; CAL paid out over $44,000 to artists this year. CAL curated 29 gallery shows in 2021 and managed the Community Exhibits Program that hung 520 art works by local artists in government offices and businesses in Columbia, and put on 36 outreach events in the past year.”
“Of all these accomplishments, we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about Kelsey’s accomplishments with Art in the Park,” Ann says. “With 73 artists and almost 15,000 attendees, Art in the Park appealed to diverse audiences, showcased new features and expanded the presence of community non-profits such as the Missouri Symphony Society and 10 other local nonprofits.”
Kelsey credits the incredible volunteers, board members, community members, artists, and former directors for keeping CAL going for the last 60+ years. “I am so happy to work for an organization that was built on the idea that Arts are essential to being human,” Kelsey says.
Mathew Gass, Burrell Behavioral Health
Mathew Gass’ list of personal goals and accomplishments with Burrell Behavioral Health is a list to be proud of. He has big goals over the next few years.
“To create an environment where every person in this community has access to the behavioral healthcare they need and knows how to refer a friend, co-worker or family member to care when needed,” he says.
“To get an idea of the volume of care under Mat’s leadership, think about this: In the last fiscal year, his 10-county area, including Boone, provided more than 173,000 services, serving nearly 12,500 clients. This represents a services increase of more than 68 percent, and a 30 percent increase in clients served, in just one year!” says Nathan Fleischmann.
Enola-Riann White, Columbia Entertainment Company
Enola-Riann White has been executive director of Columbia Entertainment Company for nine years. Some call CEC the “best kept secret” having now been around for 44 years!
Enola-Riann wants to get the word out.
“I don’t want us to be a secret. We have wonderful volunteers and so much talent on the stage and behind the scenes. These people deserve to have their talents appreciated and their hard work recognized,” Enola-Riann says.
“Enola-Riann oversaw the return to our performance space and facilities so that we could present live theater to our community. CEC was able to return to our facility and stage six productions in large part thanks to the detail-oriented hard work of Enola,” Jim Little says.
Most Impactful Board Member
Ashley Emel, True North of Columbia
Ashley Emel has been a part of True North of Columbia for the last three and a half years, and board president since 2021.
“There are so many things that motivate me. For True North, it is the victims. I want this community to be a better and safer place. I want those that are in need to have the support and or shelter they need to keep moving. No person should feel they are alone when in a horrible situation. I have two girls of my own and want them to be safe and live in a safe community. I want to know when they are alone, they are OK. I also want to raise my children to know that there are many people that may not be as fortunate as they are and if they have the means to give back and don’t, then I didn’t raise them well.”
According to Jennifer Graves Hickam, also of True North, Ashley has helped form True North’s protocols and procedures during an unprecedented pandemic, has initiated partnerships with new donors and sponsors, has worked hard to maintain the professionalism and cohesiveness of the board while ensuring agency staff remain supported during crisis periods.
“Throughout it all, Ashley has never lost her passion for serving victims of domestic and sexual violence and continues to bring her strong work ethic and an attitude of ‘we can do this’ to every problem or challenge brought before her,” Jennifer says. “True North has never been stronger — both financially and programmatically — and this is in large part due to Dr. Emel’s calm in the face of challenges, her ability to listen and guide staff appropriately, and her leadership of the board. The impact she has had on True North and our community has been positive and tremendous.”
Carson Coffman, Love Columbia
Serving as board president of Love Columbia for the past five years, Carson Coffman credits the founders of Love Columbia.
“They have been amazing, they work tirelessly to identify and serve those in our community who need a hand up from a tough spot they find themselves in,” Carson says.
“Carson is a gifted encourager,” Love Columbia executive director Jane Williams says. “He sees possibilities and opportunities and can build hope in even the most difficult moments. He is a fearless and inspiring leader who has encouraged us to press into pandemic need, the housing crisis and give it our all to bring hope and joy to those who need it most.”
Janet Davis, The Center Project
Janet Davis is the facilities coordinator on the board of The Center Project, and has been for the past two years.
“People do not realize quite often that a volunteer role is not our job in life. It is something we have a huge heart for and do in our free time outside of our regular life responsibilities,” Janet says.
“Janet has gone above and beyond over the last year supervising the renovation project for TCP’s new house. She has coordinated with innumerable contractors, made herself available night and day, and poured gallons of her own sweat into TCP’s space to make it beautiful and welcoming. Janet is an invaluable resource for The Center Project and I am so grateful for her hard work and dedication,” Amanda Jacobs says.
Most Impactful Fundraiser / Event
An idea came to Beth Shepard in 2014, which is now known as Cranktivus.
“I really had no idea what I was doing or that it would become the event it is today, but I am so happy it has become a fun and fulfilling event for people to participate,” Beth says.
In a nutshell, Cranktivus is a food drive on two wheels. The way the event works is that participants show up to Walt’s Bike Shop where they receive a grocery list. The list has five items they need to get from five different stores. From there, they take off on their bicycles to secure the items. Upon their return to Walt’s, they then have ingredients to help create a holiday meal to donate to the Central Pantry. Cranktivus has grown from 11 riders in 2014, to 150 riders in 2021. Last year alone this fundraiser donated 280 meals and over $2,000.
“Beth is highly involved in the local cycling community, where she’s known for making the sport she loves inclusive and fun. Cranktivus is special because it is an inspiring example of one person rallying their community to turn a great idea into meaningful action,” says Kerri Schafer.
“I think the biggest misconception about Cranktivus is that you have to be a hardcore cyclist to participate. It is exactly the opposite,” Beth says. “The event is set up for everyone to succeed and we have so many avenues for people to participate and still have a really great time while helping folks that deal with food insecurity.”
Little Black Dress Gala, True North of Columbia
Sarah Butler, development coordinator for True North, says Little Black Dress would not be successful without their staff, volunteers, and board members.
“This fundraiser would not be possible without the work of our board members and committee volunteers who give their time to make this event better each year. Additionally, the event would not be successful without our loyal event sponsors and attendees whose financial contributions make the event successful, allowing True North to continue to provide services to victims of domestic and sexual violence in our community at no cost,” Sarah says.
“This fundraiser is True North’s largest fundraiser and is a fun event for so many women in our community. Because so many attend, this is True North’s largest fundraiser of the year. The money raised helps support women of domestic violence and assault,” says board member Ashley Emel.
State of Inclusivity Conference, Journey Committee
The Journey Toward Inclusive Excellence formed following a presentation focused on implicit bias observed in the expulsion rates in early childcare centers across the country. In response, the Journey Committee saw the benefit of continued collaboration, working toward making Boone County, Missouri a model for inclusive excellence. The Journey Committee kicked off its first Journey Toward Inclusive Excellence Conference in 2018.
“We are so excited to begin creating opportunities for networking and collaboration for DEI professionals and those doing work in DEI spaces. We want to discuss the needs in the community, network, and share resources and ideas for action each quarter at locations around town,” says Kari Utterback, planning committee team member.
Most Impactful Philanthropic Company
Veterans United Foundation
Last year the Veterans United Foundation celebrated their 10-year anniversary, and what better way to celebrate than giving away $10 million to more than 100 nonprofit organizations.
“We gave our Veterans United employees (who are our donors) $10 million to spend in their local communities. Not only was this impact enormous for those who received grants, but it directly connected our coworkers with the mission of the Foundation and the reason they contribute part of their paychecks to the Veterans United Foundation,” says Erik Morse, president of Veterans United Foundation.
Just a few of the many local nonprofits who have benefited from the Veterans United Foundation; True North of Columbia – $1.2 million; North Village Art District – $231,530; Rainbow House – $1 million; Welcome Home – $286,000; Job Point – $575,000. Veterans United Foundation has also pledged $1.3 million to the Columbia Housing Authority.
Erik says what excites him about working in the nonprofit sector in Columbia is the collaboration, “Somehow we have more than our fair share of brilliant hearts and minds in this small (but still large) community. We’re loaded. And the more everyone is collaborating and working together on making Columbia better for everyone who lives here, the more that becomes evident.”
Boone Electric Community Trust
Established by the Boone Electric Board of Directors in 1997, the BEC Community Trust helps fund local 501 (c)(3) organizations and public entities, such as local school districts, within the Boone Electric Cooperative service territory.
The Boone Electric Community Trust has awarded more than $4 million in grants to local nonprofits, benevolent groups, school districts, and local fire and law protection agencies.
The Boone Electric Community Trust is managed by an independent volunteer board appointed by the Boone Electric Cooperative Board of Directors. The Cooperative donates 100% of the administrative expenses related to the Trust, so that every dollar can be used toward helping people and helping the communities in Boone and parts of Audrain, Callaway, Howard, Monroe and Randolph counties.