Civic engagement, the power of voluntary associations

Lee's Summit JournalJune 11, 2014 

One element of the unique character of Americans is our passion for volunteerism. This was recognized early in our history by French Historian Alexis de Tocqueville who visited our young country in 1831.

“Americans combine to give fêtes, found seminaries, build churches, distribute books, and send missionaries to the antipodes. Hospitals, prisons, and schools take shape in that way. Finally, if they want to proclaim a truth or propagate some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form an association. In every case, at the head of any new undertaking, where in France you would find the government or in England some territorial magnate, in the United States you are sure to find an association. I have come across several types of association in America of which, I confess, I had not previously the slightest conception, and I have often admired the extreme skill they show in proposing a common object for the exertions of very many and in inducing them voluntarily to pursue it.” From Democracy in American by Alexis de Tocqueville.

This unique character still thrives today and is the basis for what some call the Third Sector, our Nonprofit Sector. People coming together in voluntary association, volunteering their time and resources, continues to be the life blood of nonprofits in our community. It’s also the work of your Community Foundation as we strive to “Improve area communities by promoting and supporting private giving for the public good.”

One goal of our Community for All Ages Coalition for Eastern Jackson County initiative is to ensure that our community effectively harnesses the energy and talents of our growing 50-plus population to improve area communities. With 10,000 Baby Boomers per day reaching age 65 nationally, and 2,000 every month in our local community, we know that we have many people who are entering their retirement years and have incredible energy and talents to contribute.

On June 18 our Civic Engagement committee is co-sponsoring a Nonprofit Showcase where more than 40 nonprofit organizations in our Eastern Jackson County Community will be available to talk to people about volunteer opportunities in their organization. It runs from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Pavilion at John Knox Village. No reservation is required to attend this free event and coffee and pastries will be served. If you have been wanting explore new ways to give back to the community through volunteering this is a great opportunity.

A special thanks to Susan Coffman, a member of our Civic Engagement committee for spear heading this event, and to John Knox Village for donating the space that morning at the Pavilion. We hope to see you on June 18 at the John Knox Pavilion and hope you will bring a friend and help spread the word about this event. Volunteerism is vital to our community and nation.


Phil Hanson has been the president of the Truman Heartland Community foundation since January 2010. Raised in the Raytown area he went to Rockhurst University for his undergraduate and UMKC for his MPA.

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