A member of the community and a Warrensburg High School senior received community service awards Wednesday for helping the community in various ways.
The awards were given to Kaylee Henry, a WHS senior, and Shirley Briscoe, a volunteer coordinator for Manna Harvest at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, during the MLK Community Service Awards Luncheon at Fitt-Kickers Pub. The event was hosted by the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce and the UCM Student Experience and Engagement Office.
Henry was nominated for the award by her English teacher, Jennifer Fowler, for the humanitarianism she has shown in her high school class.
“It made me really grateful for my community…and I felt really honored, too,” Henry said during a Muleskinner interview. “I feel like we live in a very progressive community already but I feel like there are more changes to be made and if I can help them myself, then why wouldn’t I?”
Henry spoke at the Lafayette County Juneteenth festival on June 22 in Higginsville, Missouri, to celebrate the abolishment of slavery and acknowledge local African-American citizen accomplishments. She was invited to speak by the chairman of the NAACP.
On their way back from the festival, they got into a car accident that resulted in her spending three months in the hospital on life support. She had to have emergency surgery, and she had to learn how to walk, talk, eat and breathe right again.
“I didn’t take it as a misfortune, though,” she said. “It just made me realize how grateful I am and how blessed I am to have my family, my friends, my community and all the people around me. It just made me want to do even more in my community.”
Henry said it is important for everyone to remember MLK to inspire people to make changes in their towns.
“MLK: a great man who started a change that we all needed to see,” she said. “He’s also an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a change in our world. I feel like that’s why it’s important for us to remember him on this day and all the rest of our lives…He’s a great man to be remembered.”
As volunteer coordinator for Manna Harvest, Briscoe helps feed people through the Nehemia Feeding Program five nights a week at the Shilo Missionary Baptist Church.
Briscoe worked at UCM for 30 years as a laboratory technician at the UCM Health Center. Her past co-worker, Ginny Mctighe, is the one who nominated her for this award due to the services that Briscoe provides for the community.
Briscoe has reached out for volunteers from the UCM community, such as fraternities and sororities, to serve food at the church, along with many other church members around the area and senior citizens.
“We serve them restaurant style and we treat them just like going out to a restaurant,” Briscoe said. “We treat them and we talk to them and we wait on them. It’s not just the homeless that we feed. It’s people that are having a hard time and maybe lost their job, or a hard time making ends meet.”
On the first and third Saturdays of the month, Briscoe said Manna Harvest does senior commodities and food giveaways. She said people line up at 6:30 a.m. from the corner of Main Street all the way down to Market Street. They don’t get out of the cars as the volunteers hand people the packages.
“I feel blessed and fortunate. I feel like I have a connection,” she said. “It makes me feel good that I can reach out and help…That was instilled to me by my mom, about giving. I always gave and I look for nothing in return.”
Briscoe said she wants to bring a homeless shelter back to Warrensburg. The town had a shelter called the Destiny House that closed down about three months ago. She said it was sold and will now be used as a drug rehab facility. She said she is worried about the homeless sleeping in the woods around town during the cold months.
“We don’t have a shelter anymore. They have nothing. Nowhere to go,” she said. “I just wish we could get together and find some land and build something…I just wish we could find somewhere and get them off the street…it would make a big difference.”
Casey Lund, mayor pro tem and the guest speaker, said the community service awards are important because they inspire others to volunteer in their communities.
“It’s paying homage to those folks that put in so much work and so much effort. It’s great to acknowledge their efforts and encourage them to keep doing them, and also to let others know and be inspired by what they do,” Lund said. “If they see that here today they are able to have the huge impact that they do, then maybe it will make them think twice about making their own contribution or impact in our community.”
Lund said people need to remember Martin Luther King’s message more than once a year.
“It would be great if we learned his teaching and principles more often, but at a minimum we are able to do it every year at this event,” he said. “We are able to see some of the changes and effects that other people like Shirley and Kaylee have done in the community.”
Editor’s Note: This version of the story corrects the last name of Shirley Briscoe.