HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Next month the United Way of the Mark Twain Area will honor five people from the community who exemplify the agency mission of empowering individuals to achieve their potential through education, financial stability and healthy lives.
The United Way will hold its first Evening of Philanthropy sponsored by Benson Financial and WGEM with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. March 9, at the Star Theater and Pavilion, 215 South Main St., Hannibal. Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the United Way office at 573-221-2761, or online at unitedwaymta.org.
The late Ralph Griesbaum of Taylor will receive the Life-Long Philanthropist award.
When Griesbaum learned that food banks have historically been short when it comes to donations of meat, he came up with a solution. Griesbaum helped coordinate and fund Project Protein which purchased pigs at a discounted rate, processed and packaged the meat and distributed it to local food banks. Through his efforts more than 350,000 pounds of meat was sent to food banks in Palmyra, Canton, Ewing and Hannibal.
Griesbaum personally raised nearly $20,000 for the program and provided more than 1.4 million protein rich meals to local families in need.
Kevin and Denice Blew of Clarence will win the Philanthropic Couple Award.
Some say parenting is the hardest job a person will ever have. The Blews take parenting to a higher level through their work as home parents at Shiloh Christian Children's Ranch. The two have parented more than 100 children who were victims of abuse and neglect over 35 years in the Shiloh system.
Many of the children the Blews parented had been given up as lost causes and faced major life struggles. Thanks to the example of the Blews, many of those children have developed into working adults who benefit society because of the effort the couple put into their lives. Many of the former foster children visit the Blews with their children ,who call Kevin and Denice grandma and grandpa. The couple has ensured that children are empowered to achieve their potential by learning real life skills, learning to believe in themselves, and having a family to count on.
Kate Dougherty of Taylor is winner of the Philanthropic Individual Award.
When Dougherty's son was born with Down syndrome, she never imagined she would find her life's passion. She sought to learn more to ensure her son would have what he needed to be successful in life. While at the National Down Syndrome Congress's National Convention, she was challenged to do something for individuals who have disabilities. A month later Kate, her husband, and a group of friends founded Down Country, a non-profit that provides opportunities for individuals to attend national and international conferences on scholarship. At these conferences individuals learn best practices and bring them back to the tri-state region to ensure individuals living with disabilities in our community have what they need to succeed.
Robert Wealer of Hannibal will be honored with the Philanthropic Youth Award.
While most 12 year old boys spend their time playing video games, watching TV, and are interested in sports. A few years ago Robert, age 8 at the time, learned about individuals in the community not having enough to eat. He set out to do something about the problem. Since 2015 Robert has been hosting food drives in partnership with local businesses and organizations to collect over 27,000 food items. The food is distributed to local food pantries to ensure individuals in the community have the basic necessities of life.
The United Way of the Mark Twain Area works towards the mission, "to increase the capacity of people to care for one another." This is done by creating opportunities for individuals to give of their time and finances to local organizations that work to empower individuals to achieve their potential through education, financial stability, and healthy lives.