In March, four individuals in the community who live out the mission and vision of the United Way within their own lives will be honored at the United Way's first annual Evening of Philanthropy sponsored by Benson Financial and WGEM.

The United Way of the Mark Twain Area works in the community to empower individuals to achieve their potential through education, financial stability, and healthy lives.

Next month, four individuals in the community who live out the mission and vision of the United Way within their own lives will be honored at the United Way’s first annual Evening of Philanthropy sponsored by Benson Financial and WGEM.

Life-Long Philanthropist: The Late Ralph Griesbaum of Taylor

Food banks have historically been short when it comes to donations of meat. When Ralph Griesbaum was presented with an idea to take care of this problem, in true fashion, he made it happen. Ralph helped coordinate and fund Project Protein which purchased pigs at a discounted rate, processed and packaged the meat, and distributed it to local food banks. Through his efforts this pumped over 350,000 pounds of meat into food banks in Palmyra, Canton, Ewing and Hannibal. He personally raised nearly $20,000 for the program. His efforts in this program provided more than 1.4 million protein-rich meals to local families in need.

Philanthropic Couple: Kevin and Denice Blew of Clarence

Some say being a parent is the hardest job a person will ever have. Kevin and Denice Blew take parenting to an entirely different level through their work as home parents at Shiloh Christian Children's Ranch. The two have parented over 100 children in the course of 35 years who were victims of abuse and neglect. Many of the children they have parented were given up on and had many life struggles. Now many of these 100+ children are working adults who benefit society because of the effort the couple put into their lives. Many of the kids visit the Blews with their children who call Kevin and Denice Grandma and Grandpa. The couple has ensured that children are empowered to achieve their potential by learning real life skills, learning to believe in themselves and having a family to count on.

Philanthropic Individual: Kate Dougherty of Taylor

When Kate Dougherty's son was born with Down Syndrome, she never imagined she would find her life’s passion. She sought to learn more to ensure her son would have what he needed to be successful in life. While at the National Down Syndrome Congress's National Convention, she was challenged to do something for individuals who have disabilities and don’t have someone doing all they can to ensure they can be successful. A month later Kate, her husband, and a group of friends founded Down Country, a non-profit that provides opportunities for individuals to attend national and international conferences on scholarship. At these conferences individuals learn best practices and bring them back to the tri-states to ensure individuals living life with disabilities in our community have what they need to succeed.

Philanthropic Youth: Robert Wealer of Hannibal

While most 12-year old boys spend their time playing video games, watching TV and are interested in sports, Robert Wealer adds something else to what he cares about. A few years ago, Robert, age eight at the time, learned about individuals in the community not having enough to eat. He was going to do something about this problem. Since 2015, Robert has been hosting food drives in partnership with local businesses and organizations to collect over 27,000 food items. This food is then distributed to local food pantries to ensure individuals in our community have the basic necessities of life.

Join the United Way at the Evening of Philanthropy to celebrate these individuals on Saturday, March 9 at the Star Theater and Pavilion in downtown Hannibal. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with dinner served at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling the United Way office at 573-221-2761 or online at http://unitedwaymta.org/events.