Celebrating Service to Others

The annual Humanitarian Award honors those who have dedicated their lives to others.

Honoring Steve Edwards

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CoxHealth CEO honored as 2020 Humanitarian at Springfield's National Philanthropy Day celebration

Steve Edwards, President and CEO of CoxHealth, received the 2020 Humanitarian Award for his leadership and advocacy on behalf of southwest Missourians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edwards has shown forthrightness and compassion in informing the community, advocating for best practices to protect the region and personally seeding a philanthropic fund to support employees affected by the virus — all while leading the CoxHealth staff in adding and repurposing facilities and securing equipment and supplies to respond to the pandemic.

For the first time this year, the CFO partnered with the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Ozarks Region Chapter to present the Humanitarian Award as part of its Nov. 10 National Philanthropy Day celebration, which recognized deserving individuals and organizations in many facets of philanthropy. The event took place virtually out of respect for community health protocols.

Honoring Lives of Service

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Since 1990, the CFO, in partnership with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, has honored an individual or individuals who have demonstrated a significant record of service to one or more causes in Springfield or regional communities. The award was founded by the late Jewell Thompson Schweitzer, a local philanthropist whose generosity touched the lives of many.

Past Humanitarian Award Recipients

The award criteria describe a humanitarian as “an individual who has the courage to take decisive action, the wisdom to face aggressive challenges, and the willingness to sacrifice to affect these causes that have a long-term impact on the betterment of the community.” The award is designed to recognize a living person; posthumous nominations are not accepted. The nominations will be evaluated by an independent committee of three members of the clergy and three community leaders under the direction of the Chamber. The winner typically receives a $5,000 cash award, which he or she has traditionally donated to a favorite charity.

2020 – Steve Edwards, CEO of CoxHealth

2019 – Jill Bright, retired founder and executive director of Diaper Bank of the Ozarks

2018 – Tricia Derges, founder of the Lift Up Someone Today medical mission

2017 – Dr. David and Linda Brown, founders of the Gathering Tree and Eden Village, for their work with the homeless

2016 – Hearld Ambler, retired Managing Partner of BKD LLP, for his longtime work assisting seniors with paper and online tax preparation

2015 – Kurt Larson, Springfield attorney and founder of Safe and Sober Missouri anti-drug and -alcohol program for teens

2014 – Morey Mechlin, retired executive director of Care to Learn, advocacy on behalf of children

2013 – Shawn Askinosie, socially conscious entrepreneur and philanthropist

2012 – Randy Russell, advocate for the arts and children

2011 – Roseann Bentley, lifetime of community service

2010 – Doug Pitt, Care to Learn and efforts in Tanzania

2009 – Roger D. “Dusty” Shaw Jr. and William Shaw, work in Thomasville and Oregon County

2008 – Bill Stalnaker, Boys and Girls Club and The Kitchen

2007 – Marie Prater, The Kitchen Foundation

2006 – Pat Walker, Founders Park and Springfield beautification

2005 – Bill & Virginia Darr, Families for Children

2004 – Dr. Judith Gonzalez, Hand in Hand Ministries'

2003 – Wade E. Palmer, Help Give Hope

2002 – Dr. John Bentley, Health needs of the underserved

2001 – Harold Bengsch, Springfield-Greene County Health Department

2000 – Judge Thomas Mountjoy, Teen Court

1999 – Paul & Cyndy Teas, Camp Barnabas

1998 – John Harp, Greene County Foster Program

1997 – Dr. Jim Blaine, Greene County Medical Society

1996 – E.E. “Johnny” Johnson, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Mo

1995 – Rev. Dorsey Levell, Council of Churches of the Ozarks

1994 – Linda Duncan and Janie Brunette, Multiple Sclerosis Wellness Program

1993 – Leonard Spellman, Children’s Shoe Bank/Kiwanis

1992 – Calvin Allen, Springfield Community Center

1991 – Sister Lorraine Biebel, The Kitchen

1990 – Mary Beth O’Reilly, Hospice

Award Criteria

The selection committee shall consider:

... all people in Southwest Missouri, regardless of age, race, sex or religion and shall also consider any recommendations from the general public;

... the visibility of the cause or the person in the community so that others will be inspired by their humanitarian activities;

... that the person may be a volunteer or an employed person, and if employed, the quality of the humanitarian effort shall exceed that called for by the position;

... that because the award recognizes the human factor in humanitarianism, the quality of the recipient’s personal involvement with others in need of assistance or support will be carefully considered.

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