Thomason named 2016 Philanthropist of the Year

2016 Philanthropist of the Year event photos

Verla Thomason, McPherson resident and super volunteer was named the 2016 Philanthropist of the Year at the McPherson County Community Foundation annual ceremony on Thursday, November 17. Warren Vince, “The Can Man” was named runner-up and June Anderson, McPherson Hospital Auxiliary volunteer was named second runner-up. The School Super Heroes received a special recognition for their work in raising funds for school supplies.

Awards were distributed during the ceremony at the McPherson Opera House Theatre. Each year, the Community Foundation requests nominations of local residents who demonstrate a philanthropic spirit “to help humankind as by charitable aid or donations” as defined by Webster’s Dictionary. In addition to the awards, the Community Foundation announced they have exceeded $6.4 million in grant funds being distributed since the first award in 2001.

Thomason was given a certificate and $1000 to grant to an organization of his choice. Vincent and Anderson also received certificates and awards of $750 and $500 respectively for organizations of their choice. A gift in the amount of $50 will be awarded to Good Beginnings Preschool in honor of the School Super Heroes work.

“Every year I am simply amazed at the nominations we receive and the volunteer hours our local residents continue to contribute. We actually received two nominations for Verla. One for all she does in the Inman community and one from Community Thanksgiving/Christmas dinners. She is a tremendous example of giving back,” states Becky Goss, MCCF President/CEO. “Of course Warren and June are incredible too. It’s never easy to decide the winner.”

Volunteering has been a life-long practice for Verla and her family. She has been committed to multiple organizations for no less than eight years. Those benefitting from Verla’s time include: Community Thanksgiving/Christmas Dinners; The Scottish Festival (now “Festival of Cultures); The Opera House; McPherson Water Festival; McPherson Hospital; American Legion Family Night; St. Peters UCC and Pleasant View Home are also regular volunteer sites for Verla.

Warren’s greatest charitable contribution is to military veterans in McPherson County and across the state. Also known as “The Can Man”, Warren donates thousands of dollars to the Kansas Honor Flight program to help veterans travel to their War Memorials in Washington D.C. He uses his own truck to collect cans in McPherson, Saline, Dickinson, Marion, Harvey and Rice Counties. He also personally pays the monthly fees to provide recycling containers around McPherson. Thanks to his efforts, he has provided $38,000 (the equivalent of 77,000 pounds of aluminum cans) to the program allowing for 55 veterans to travel.

June began volunteering with the McPherson Hospital Volunteer Services in 1984. By the end of 2014, she had donated 6,000 of her time to the hospital alone! But, June’s love for volunteering is not just exclusive to McPherson Hospital. She has also dedicated 45 years to Meals on Wheels, served 30 years on the Bethany Home Board of Directors, and 20 years on the Lindsborg Auxiliary Board. When her children were young, she also volunteered her time at Washington Elementary School. She has a true love of life and adventure. Just ask her about her tandem skydiving trips at the age of 75, 85 and 91.

Led by Violet Hanna, Lincoln Elementary second grade student, our elementary school heroes work to collect and deliver school supplies, hygiene kits, shoes and other items some of their peers can’t afford. They’ve also worked to raise money to buy two iPads for Good Beginnings Preschool. School Superhero members range from age 4 to fifth grade and represent all of the McPherson elementary schools, as well as adult contacts with the Moundridge and Smoky Valley schools. The group meets every month to determine how to make it stronger and what’s next! Aside from Violet, other Super Heroes are: Daniel Bowen; Reyna Bowen; Lucy Bowman; Oliver Bowman; Vivian Bowman; Miriam Carlson; Violet Hanna; Lucy Hanna; Sally Hanna; Renae Hendricks; Noah Wilgers; and Hannah Wilgers.

The Philanthropist of the Year award was established in 2008 by the Community Foundation. It was designed to recognize McPherson County residents for their efforts in supporting and promoting the mission of local organizations and the community. Each year, grants are awarded to organizations on behalf of the selected philanthropist. The award has grown from one $300 grant to three separate grant awards totaling $2,250.

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