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Honoring the 2022 Idealists of the Year

City Year’s mission is fueled by a culture of idealism.

At City Year, we define idealism as the belief that you have the passion, skills, and courage to change the world. Idealism isn’t just a positive mindset, it’s a culture grounded in actionable values. Each Year, City Year Kansas City honors individuals who, like our AmeriCorps members, embody the spirit of idealism. They show a commitment to improving the Kansas City area by making a difference in the life of one person, an organization, or an entire community.

City Year Kansas City is proud to honor 13 Idealists of the Year.

Idealists of the Year are nominated by sponsors of City Year Kansas City’s 4th annual Idealist Gala, and many of them come from very different backgrounds. They all, however, share a common trait that we believe should be celebrated – All of our Idealists of the Year have impacted the lives of others through service and volunteerism.

 

Stephanie Blake

Nominated by Mariner Wealth Advisors, Stephanie is the Director of Enterprise Program Management at Mariner Wealth Advisors.

Stephanie is responsible for overseeing enterprise planning and projects across the organization.  She works with the leadership team to identify and plan for key projects to ensure strategic objectives for the firm are achieved.  In addition to her day job, she spends time giving back to the community inside and outside the walls of Mariner Wealth Advisors.  She has played an important role in promoting charitable activities across the firm since joining the organization almost five years ago.  Stephanie spearheaded the first blood drive onsite at the company, which has now turned into an annual tradition.  On top of that, during the pandemic she started her own small business, Crafting Brighter Futures, focused on improving the lives of others by donating all proceeds to local charities.  To date, she’s donated over $10,000 to children’s charities! Stephanie truly exhibits Mariner’s giving philosophy of “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

 

Robin Darden

Nominated by GEHA, Robin is the Director of Business Operations at GEHA.

Robin is the first leader of GEHA’s Veterans@GEHA Employee Resource Group, founded in 2021. As a military veteran – a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force – Robin understands the unique needs of our veteran community and strives to bring perspective towards positive impact for her work and her philanthropic service. In recent years, Robin has been committed to volunteering to support veterans through many Kansas City organizations, including Folds of Honor’s 9/11 Patriots Run, Caregivers on the Homefront’s preparation and distribution of 500 care packages for Veterans Day gifts at a VA Hospital, honoring the fallen at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery with Wreaths of Honor, and honoring military members at Chiefs training camp, where she presented special game footballs to six active service members. At GEHA, Robin inspires her fellow veteran employees through leadership by example. She is often the first to engage about ensuring that GEHA’s community-focused endeavors are equitable, considering important social-emotional elements and the dignity of all involved.

 

Drew Eanes

Nominated by JE Dunn Construction, Drew is a Senior Client Solutions Manager at JE Dunn.

Drew has received multiple honors for his dedication to the community and commitment to important initiatives. This includes the Chevron Pathways to Progress Award, being a Kansas City Man of the Year Candidate for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, completing the Centurions Leadership Program, and being voted the Centurion of the Year in 2020. Drew serves on the JE Dunn BUiLD (Blacks United in Learning and Development) committee, and led partnership initiatives with the Urban League of Kansas City and SWAGG, Inc. that have led to access to opportunity for the minority community.

Drew is a founding board member of the Hadley Project, a $6 million fund which awards grants to grassroots nonprofits led by people of color focused on equity around racial, social, and environmental justice, and Co-Chair of the Launch KC Kansas City Social Venture Studio, a six-month program that is custom designed for social entrepreneurs to grow their business and increase their community impact. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the KCK Chamber of Commerce, the Greater KC Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and MOKAN Basketball.

 

JoEllen Flanagan Engelbart

Nominated by Great Range Capital, JoEllen was a Former Assistant Prosecuting Attorney at the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.

JoEllen lived life in such a way that her mission of helping others–especially the most vulnerable–continues in her name and honor after her passing in 2021. As a Jackson County prosecutor serving in the Special Victims Unit, JoEllen devoted herself to protecting and defending victims of child abuse and domestic violence. She carried this spirit of determination, compassion and self-sacrifice outside of the courtroom, regularly donating her time and talents to Rose Brooks, the Association for Women Lawyers, the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association and its Student Law Academy, the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, the Missouri Bar and Harvesters Community Food Network, to name but a handful.  JoEllen’s inspiring commitment to her community earned her the 2021 Association for Women Lawyers Public Service Award, which has since been renamed the JoEllen Flanagan Engelbart Public Service Award, as well as the 2021 Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association Young Lawyer of the Year Award. Most recently, a scholarship has been created in her memory that will support first-year law students at her alma mater, the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law, who plan to practice in the area of public service.

 

Warren Erdman

Nominated by KC Southern, Warren is the Executive Vice President of Administration & Corporate Affairs at Kansas City Southern.

As KCS’ EVP of Administration and Corporate Affairs, Warren provides strategic leadership in long-term planning and development to meet the infrastructure needs of the railroad and communities it serves. Most notable at this time is his leadership in pursuing federal regulatory approval for the Canadian Pacific and KCS merger, creating the first U.S.-Mexico-Canada rail network. Warren is also engaged in many civic and charitable organizations. He currently serves on the board and executive committees of the UMKC Foundation where he is vice chairman, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kansas City, Missouri Downtown Council, and the Missouri Hawthorn Foundation. He is a member of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Trustees and Westminster College Board of Trustees and a former member and chairman of the University of Missouri Board of Curators. He and his wife, Jenny, are honorary co-chairs of the 2022 UMKC Conservatory’s annual gala. He has been honored with the Governor Mel Carnahan Public Service Award, UMKC Henry W. Bloch Trustee Excellence Award, Mizzou Alumni Association Henry S. Geyer Award, and Westminster College Alumni Achievement Award.

 

 

Shobana Gopal

Nominated by TortoiseEcofin, Shobana is the Managing Director of Tax at TortoiseEcofin.

Since 2008, Shobana has dedicated her time, talents, and treasures to working with Ten Thousand Villages in Overland Park. Ten Thousand Villages is a global maker-to-market movement that breaks the cycle of generational poverty and ignites social change. Shobana actively engages in many activities with the organization, including volunteering twice a month at the store in downtown Overland Park and educating others about fair trade.  She serves as the board Treasurer, as well. Shobana has also been a TortoiseEcofin Foundation Board member for 4 years, working with employees and leaders to allocate funds to make a meaningful impact in our communities. She has also lead and participated in numerous company volunteer opportunities and previously served on the board of the Mariner Foundation.

 

Sarah Patterson

Nominated by Delta Dental of Kansas, Sarah is the Chief Innovation & Marketing Officer at Delta Dental of KS.

In Sarah’s role as Chief Innovation and Marketing Officer, she is responsible for a variety of aspects including managing corporate philanthropy. Sarah’s approach to corporate philanthropy is one of collaborative consultation in identifying nonprofits throughout the state that Delta Dental can partner with to develop programs that meet their ultimate impact goal of improving the oral health of Kansans while focusing on direct care and education/prevention. Sarah has developed one-of-a-kind programs with United Way of Greater Kansas City, Rosebrooks, and HNC Living Foundation to provide direct dental care and treatment for low-income individuals, domestic violence victims, and cancer patients.  To-date, more than 1,200 individuals have been served through these programs.

 

Mary Putney

Nominated by the Petersen Family Foundation, Mary is a Board Member & Treasurer at Miracle of Innocence.

All throughout her adult life, Mary has been an agent of change focusing on some of the most inherent and difficult issues of our day. As a Board Member of the Woman’s Foundation and a church elder who leads mission trips, she has always committed her time and talents to serving others.  But Mary’s light of Inspiration began to glow even brighter when she embraced the challenge of making our system of justice fair and equitable for all. Beginning in 2017, she played a critical role in establishing Miracle of Innocence, a non-profit entity formed by two men who served a combined 46 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Securing exoneration of the wrongfully convicted and providing care for them upon release has become Mary’s daily mission.  As a member of the Miracle of Innocence Board of Directors and its Treasurer, Mary has been instrumental in securing freedom for the wrongfully convicted and helping them to come home.

 

Karly Scholl

Nominated by Community America Credit Union, Karly is a College Planner at CACU.

Karly whole-heartedly believes that lives are enriched through education and is committed to helping individuals reach their educational goals with the least amount of debt possible.  She excels at helping students and families navigate the college search and financial processes. Prior to joining CommunityAmerica, Karly served in college admissions for over 15 years.  In her previous and current work, she partners with local school districts and community organizations to inform students of all ages about their potential educational path.  It will always be her goal to help Kansas Citians reach their full potential. Karly’s love for working with students extends into our community.  She serves as the Treasurer of 20/20 Leadership, a Kansas City youth development program dedicated to preparing students for life after high school and to addressing social, racial, economic, academic and geographic barriers that may stand in the way of success.  She’s a weekly volunteer reader with Lead to Read while also giving time to school and neighborhood committees. Karly is an alumna of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Centurions program, Class of 2021.

 

Liz Serpa-Flook

Nominated by Kansas City Power & Light District, Liz is a Community Manager at KCP&L.

Liz has a passion for giving back to her community through her church and civic organizations. In her 15 years as Administrator for the The Cordish Companies’ Kansas City Power & Light District, Liz continually inspires her team members to support the community through food and clothing drives, outreach efforts and volunteering. Her favorite integrated community partnerships center around youth and education including Kansas City Public Schools, Lead to Read and KC Biz Fest, where she brings colleagues to mentor youth as they create business plan. She is currently the Chair Emeritus for the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City as well as a board member for the Hispanic Collaborative.

 

Troy Walker

Nominated by Polsinelli, Troy is the Regional Office Services Manager at Polsinelli.

Troy has been a proud Pastor of Skylight Baptist church for 11 years and an employee of Polsinelli law firm for 24 years. He believes that serving others is the most challenging and rewarding opportunity he has and is always wishing he could do more. When the Pandemic first started, he thought of how he could help others who may have been more affected than him. With the help of others, he connected with a food bank, and every week, rented a U-Haul and gathered food to deliver to those in need. Troy also connected with local department stores and passed out free clothes to fellow members of his community. He believes if you want to be blessed, you must first be a blessing to others, and makes the effort to model the change that he would love to see. Troy keeps himself grounded by saying daily, “I might not be able to fix everything, but I can try and do something!”

 

Tamara Weber

Nominated by the Hargroves Family Foundation, Tamara is the Founder and Executive Director of Pete’s Garden.

As the Founder and Executive Director of Pete’s Garden, Tamara is an inspiration in how she utilizes her gifts and talents and motivates others to join with her, to serve those in our community who need help with the most basic necessity – food. Pete’s Garden gets wholesome meals to hungry families by collecting unserved, prepared food from caterers, restaurants, and food service operations, sponsoring local cooking schools and Culinary Arts programs to prepare take-home family dinners, and partnering with social service organizations to deliver meals to families. Prior to founding Pete’s Garden, Tamara already managed a family of her own and held significant roles in corporate America. She now utilizes the skills she developed as a successful executive to create and expand Pete’s Garden to serve those in greatest need across our community.

 

Dr. Allenda Wilson

Nominated by City Year Kansas City, Dr. Wilson is an English teacher at Central High School.

Dr. Wilson challenges her students and pushes them to always do their best along with her AmeriCorps Member, Ms. Alexandria Millet. Their classroom dynamic creates a great learning environment for students to achieve their greatest successes. Dr. Wilson goes above and beyond organizing various events like Prom and benefits for the students such as her ‘snack shop.’ She’s been a great role model for Ms. Millet as she aspires to be an English teacher herself and being paired with Dr. Wilson has been able to give Ms. Millet a space where she can grow and work with her students to her fullest potential.

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