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Presentations

2024 Rural Philanthropy Summit Resources and Speaker Information

Rural philanthropy summit 2024 16x9

Breakout Session Resources

Measuring What Matters: Applying a Rural Prosperity Framework to Your Region

Bonita Robertson-Hardy, Co-Executive Director, Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group

Developing Recreational Activities to Create Thriving Rural Communities

Rachael Freeman, Foundation Coordinator for Cassville Community Foundation, Owner of Element 79 Media Group

  • Information forthcoming

Aging in Rural Communities & Opportunities to Thrive


Bill Achor
, Board Chair, Christian County Senior Services Tax Fund; Bridget Gittemeier, Advocacy Manager, Missouri Council on Aging; Jamie Opsal, Executive Director, St. Louis City Senior Service Fun, Co-Chair, Missouri Council on Aging,

Ensuring Access to Quality Early Childhood Education & Childcare in Rural Communities

Mindy Honey, Silver Dollar City Foundation; Amy Loomis-McDonald, Program Director, THRIVE Birth to 5, Community Partnership of Southeast Missouri


Thriving Communities Panel

Wendy Harrington — Vice President, development, Hannibal Regional Healthcare System

Crystal Narr — Executive Director, Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce

Racheal Martin — Affiliate Coordinator, Barton County Community Foundation; Shelly Haag — Board President, Barton County Community Foundation


Speakers

Bonita Robertson-Hardy

Co-Executive Director, Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group

Bonita Robertson-Hardy is a workforce and economic development professional committed to connecting the public sector, private sector, and nonprofit communities. Through her work, she builds relationships, utilizes her voice to influence policy, and advocates for equity and opportunity in public and private organizations. Since joining the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group in 2021 and becoming the Co-Executive Director in 2022, Bonita has worked to highlight the importance of equitable rural prosperity by lifting up the diverse voices of rural practitioners and researchers.

Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, Bonita worked at the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), a community foundation serving 13 rural and urban parishes in southeast Louisiana. During her time at GNOF, she served as Director of Workforce Initiatives as well as Director of Civic Leadership. In these roles, she developed employer-led workforce partnerships to train jobseekers and incumbent workers, established an initiative to provide post-hire supportive services for employees at their worksites, led the strategic planning process for the equitable revitalization of an economic development zone within downtown New Orleans, and worked to support and catalyze progressive initiatives to promote growth and equity throughout the region. Bonita holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Healthcare Management from Howard University and a Juris Doctorate from Loyola University College of Law.

A native of New Orleans, Bonita, currently serves as a board member of Louise S. McGehee school, is a past fellow of the Association for Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) Connecting Leaders Fellowship Program, and previously served as a commissioner of the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority. In her spare time, Bonita enjoys playing the ancient game of mahjong. She currently resides outside of Washington, DC, with her husband, Bradley, and their son Luke.

Chris Thompson

CEO, West Central Missouri Community Action Agency and West Central Community Development Corporation (DBA new Growth)

Chris is currently Chief Executive Officer of West Central Missouri Community Action Agency and West Central Community Development Corporation (d/b/a New Growth), both headquartered in Appleton City, Missouri. West Central is one of 19 community action agencies in Missouri, serving nine primary counties in the West Central region of Missouri. West Central administers the following: housing assistance and services for the homeless, food security, multi-family housing, home weatherization, energy and emergency assistance, and workforce solutions, to name a few program areas.

New Growth is a West Central initiative focused on community economic development throughout the West Central region and beyond, and administers New Growth Transit, a rural transit network; Start Here business acceleration network; Missouri Rural Development Partnership; New Growth Women’s Business Center; 5-State Heartland Region Food Business Center; and New Growth Capital, a rural micro-lending program and credit-building program, to name a few current initiatives.

Prior to his work at West Central/New Growth, Chris practiced as a commercial real estate attorney for over 15 years, worked in the field of rural community economic development through a national poverty initiative, and worked in the Atlanta area with such partners as Emory University on various community entrepreneurship and community development efforts.

Rachael Freeman

Foundation Coordinator for Cassville Community Foundation (CFO), Owner of Element 79 Media Group

Rachael Freeman serves as the Affiliate Coordinator for the Cassville Community Foundation. She also serves as the Director of Marketing at Element 79 Media, where she partners with the City of Cassville on tourism and economic and community development. Cassville is home to Roaring River State Park, which attracts over 1.2 million visitors each year. Freeman works alongside community leaders to strengthen the partnership between Mo State Parks, the City of Cassville as well as work on initiatives that encourage tourists to drive the seven miles into the heart of Cassville. Freeman is a member of the Cassville Rotary Club and serves on the Crowder College Foundation board. Her most notable appointment is vice president of the Cassville Wildcat Basketball Booster Club. Freeman graduated from Central Methodist University in 2009 with a degree in Communication and a minor in Business. In her junior and senior years, she was awarded the top student in the Communication Department. She was also a four-year letterwinner for the women’s basketball team. Freeman graduated from Cassville High School in 2005. Freeman and her son, Jackson, reside in Cassville and enjoy serving Jesus, hanging out with friends and attending birthday parties.

Bill Achor

Board Chair, Christian County Senior Services Tax Fund

Bill Achor resides in Ozark, Missouri, with his wife Debi. Bill graduated from Central Methodist University. His work career spans over 55 years in transportation & logistics, culminating with ownership of his cartage company, OBD Xpress, LLC, which is still in operation. He started volunteering at his local Senior Center about 9 years ago, delivering meals to the homebound. His volunteering moved into leadership by becoming a board member and then board president for 6 years. He is currently board chairman for the Christian County Senior Services fund plus on the board of the Ozarks Transportation Organization and also Missouri Council on Aging (MCoA).

Bridget Gittemeier

Advocacy Manager, Missouri Council on Aging

Bridget Gittemeier serves as the Advocacy Manager for the Missouri Council on Aging (MCoA). Before joining MCoA, Bridget served as a Community Options Specialist at Aging Ahead providing information to older adults, caregivers, and professionals in Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, and St. Louis Counties. Bridget also has experience in community mental health and worked as a community-based case manager for those experiencing severe and persistent mental health illness in St. Charles. Bridget has always had a love for working with older adults which began by spending much time with her grandparents and their friends from a young age.

Jamie Opsal

Executive Director, St. Louis City Senior Service Fund; Co-Chair, Missouri Council on Aging; Secretary, MoALSO

Jamie Opsal is the Executive Director for the St Louis City Senior Fund since its inception in 2018. Prior to this position, she served as the Project Director for Seniors Count aging coalition that was instrumental in getting the initiative of the ballot and passed in the City of St Louis to establish the fund. Ms. Opsal’s professional experience includes positions as Accreditation Manager and Health Education Supervisor for the St Louis County Department of Health, Director of Senior Centers at Mid-East Area Agency on Aging and Director for Catholic Community Services Office in St. Peters, Missouri. She has a master’s in science in Gerontology from the University of Missouri St Louis with an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Gerontology from Avila University. Jamie grew up and has lived in St. Louis her entire life. She is married and has three children.

Mindy Honey

Executive Director, Silver Dollar City Foundation

Mindy Honey is the Executive Director of the Silver Dollar City Foundation (SDCF), the philanthropic arm of the 1880s theme park Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO. The SDCF gives grants to 14 school districts in Stone and Taney Counties to support area children. Prior to her time at SDCF, Mindy served for seven years as the Director of Community Relations for Skaggs Foundation where she helped facilitate more than $7.1 million in grants to improve health and wellness in Stone and Taney Counties, including leading a project to bring mental health services to uninsured students throughout the two-county area. Mindy has also worked as the Media Relations/Communications Coordinator for Cox Medical Center Branson and was the Managing Editor at Branson Tri-Lakes News.

Amy Loomis-McDonald

Program Director, THRIVE Birth to 5, Community Partnership of Southeast Missouri

Amy Loomis-McDonald, is the Thrive Birth to 5 Program Director at the Community Partnership of Southeast Missouri (CPSEMO). Amy has 30 years of experience working in the Early Childhood field in various positions: Intensive In-Home Services, Parents As Teachers, First Steps Liaison, Licensed Foster Parent/Trainer, and for the past 19 years has been the Program Director overseeing staff and program compliance for the Early Childhood grants for SEMO University, switching over to CPSEMO as of August of 2023. Amy has a B.S. in Child Development from Southeast Missouri State University and a M.S. in Adolescence and Youth Counseling from Kansas State University. For the past 19 years, Amy has trained parents and childcare providers throughout SE Missouri utilizing Parent Cafes/Community Cafes, Nurturing Parenting and Conscious Discipline. Amy has four adopted children and currently has an elevated-needs foster son as well as guardianship of her grandson (aged nine) and of a four-year-old.

Wendy Harrington

Vice President, Development, Hannibal Regional Healthcare System

Wendy Harrington leads the Hannibal Regional Foundation and also serves as Vice President, Development for Hannibal Regional. Dr. Harrington, a native of northeast Missouri, is passionate about sustaining and enhancing the excellent healthcare services provided by Hannibal Regional. As President of the Foundation, Dr. Harrington manages all efforts to raise, fiscally manage and disburse privately donated funds to Hannibal Regional. As Vice President, Development, Wendy leads the areas of Marketing, Business Development, Volunteer and Guest Services, and Pastoral Care.

Previous to her role with the Foundation, Wendy led a Business Research Group for the University of Missouri and was the Director of Marketing for a national pharmaceutical company. Dr. Harrington holds a Bachelor of Science degree from William Woods University, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Doctoral in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Wendy also holds a CFRE certification (Certified Fundraising Executive).

Crystal Narr

Executive Director, Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce

Crystal Narr, Executive Director of the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce, grew up in Chillicothe, MO and attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies from Missouri Western State University. Through her many community minded interests, Crystal found her niche in the non-profit sector leading downtown revitalization efforts with Main Street Chillicothe for 6 years before accepting her current role in 2014. She serves in volunteer leadership roles in numerous community & state organizations including Chillicothe Rotary Club, Livingston County Library Board, Bright Futures Chillicothe, A+ Advisory Committee and the Grand River Technical School Institutional Advisory Board. She is currently serving on the Missouri Arkansas Kansas Oklahoma (MAKO) Chamber Conference Board, is the current Vice-President of Leadership Missouri and will be the 2025 Chair of a 19-county regional legislative event: Great Northwest Day at the Capitol. She also served as the 2021 President of the Chamber of Commerce Executives of Missouri and held a seat on the Missouri Chamber of Commerce & Industry Board of Directors. Crystal enjoys raising her three sons alongside her husband, Travis, on their farm outside of Wheeling, MO.

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