Deamber Brand of the Springfield School District accepted the Citizen of the Year Award . (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Deamber Brand is always smiling. Her smile is contagious and worthy of being shared with the rest of Springfield.

Brand is the volunteer coordinator of the Cents of Pride program at Sunshine Elementary School. The pop-up store serves students who, based upon their family income, might not otherwise get new clothes, hygiene products and toys on a regular basis. Student participants have the opportunity to earn money at school that they can spend on “needs” and “wants” at the Cents of Pride store each month.

“We allow consistent access to basic necessities that so many of us take for granted,” Brand said. “A tube of toothpaste, conditioner is huge, deodorant, a toothbrush. We also allow for those little treats that make a day just a little brighter.”

The Hauxeda honored Brand and her efforts with the inaugural Citizen of the Year Award. She accepted the honor at a reception at the Gillioz Theatre in downtown Springfield May 15. Brand's honor was part of the Daily Citizen Distinguished Citizen Awards. The program is sponsored by Great Southern Bank.

Cents of Pride students not taken for granted

Deamber Brand and her partner Jason Buchek at the Hauxeda Distinguished Citizen Awards on May 15, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Brand, with that infectious smile and an ability to leave you walking away feeling good about yourself when you meet her, sets up and runs the monthly pop-up shop at Sunshine Elementary. It’s one of 14 sites in the Springfield Public Schools system where Cents of Pride operates.

“We strive to provide an opportunity that (students) can do this in a manner of quiet dignity, so they can access the needs,” Brand said. “They earn their dollars, they can come in once a month, they can grab what they need.”

Hauxeda Board of Directors member Fritz Jacobi introduced Brand and presented her award. Jacobi said he was surprised to learn that shoes are the No. 1 item Cents of Pride provides to students at Sunshine Elementary School.

“Think about that,” Jacobi said. “That’s something that we all take for granted everyday — shoes.”

The Citizen of the Year Award, sponsored by Volt Credit Union, recognizes an individual (or couple) who exemplifies good citizenship through one or more of the following traits:

Volt Credit Union
  • Active participation as a community volunteer or providing public service.
  • Active involvement in voting and encouraging others to vote.
  • Staying informed and helping others avoid misinformation or disinformation.
  • Taking responsibility for solving a community problem.
  • Promoting respect for the law, government, justice, freedom, equality, peace and the common good.

Volt Credit Union will donate $1,500 to Cents of Pride at Sunshine Elementary in honor of Brand's award win.

“You are about to put so much shampoo on heads and so many shoes on so many feet,” Brand said.

Catalyst for Good: Brian Fogle

Brian Fogle (left) accepts the Catalyst for Good Award at the Gillioz Theatre May 15, 2024. (Photo by David Stoeffler)

The Catalyst for Good Award, sponsored by the Pitt Technology Group, recognizes a person or organization making a positive difference in addressing key issues covered by the Daily Citizen through its focus on public affairs issues.

Brian Fogle served as president of Community Foundation of the Ozarks from 2008 to his retirement in February 2024.

Fogle looked around the room May 15 and noted how many of his friends and colleagues were in attendance. He joked that he felt a bit like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn attending his own funeral.

He shared a personal story of his daughter, Ellen Fogle, adopting a child from the foster care system in October 2023.

“Sometimes, people step up and say, ‘I’m going to do more, I’m going to commit my life to make a world better for a person.’ My daughter did that with her foster son that she adopted back in October,” Fogle said.

Fogle arranged for Pitt Technology Group to donate $750 to CASA of Southwest Missouri and $500 to Jasper County CASA in celebration of the award.

Care to Learn is dedicated to addressing the health, hunger and hygiene needs of children, partnering with schools to fill emergent needs that stand between a child and their ability to learn. Founded by Doug Pitt in 2008, the organization recently fulfilled its 3 millionth need. Chief Executive Officer Krystal Simon joined Care to Learn in July 2021.

Catalyst for Good: Care to Learn

Krystal Simon of Care to Learn accepted the Catalyst for Good Award at the Hauxeda Distinguished Citizen Awards on May 15, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Care to Learn operates 46 chapters in school districts across southwest Missouri. The organization helps educators connect students with resources to meet their “health, hunger or hygiene needs,” that can remove barriers to learning.

“When we see a need, we’re always going to find a way to jump in,” Simon said. “Collectively, this community cares a whole lot about children.”

Simple items, hygiene products, clothing or even sleepwear can help lift a child’s self-esteem, Simon said.

“We know that being a kid is super special, and we believe that they should feel awesome, and included and a part of the team,” Simon said. “Most of the time, it doesn’t take much effort on our end to meet the need of a child.”

Pitt Technology Group donated $1,500 to Care to Learn — an organization Doug Pitt founded himself in 2008. Care to Learn celebrated meeting the 3 millionth need of a child in a Care to Learn-affected school district in 2023.

Clif Smart, Distinguished Service Award winner

Clif Smart at the Hauxeda Distinguished Citizen Awards on May 15, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

The Daily Citizen Board of Directors selected outgoing Missouri State University President Clif Smart, who will retire at the end of June having spent 13 years leading the MSU system.

The Distinguished Public Service Award, sponsored by Great Southern Bank, recognizes a Greene County resident who has left a mark through a distinguished career of public service.

Smart said “sometime in the middle of life,” he figured out he could take actions that would be significant and meaningful for other people, and that became more important than personal success to him.

“For me, being a university president was not ever about making as much money as possible, or attaining fame, or getting a better job,” Smart said. “It was about looking out for the interests of others — our students, our employees, our alumni, our supporters and members of our community. And isn’t that what public service is all about?”

Hauxeda Chairman of the Board Tom Carlson relayed a personal story from his grandson, who is a student at Missouri State. He talked about seeing Smart on the Springfield campus.

“He talks about how he sees (Smart) walking around the commons and being kind to people, stopping and talking to them, and it’s heartfelt,” Carlson said. “For him, it's not been a job, it's been a calling, and our community is so much the better for it, Clif.”

How the Distinguished Citizen Awards happen

Bridget Dierks, Doug Pitt, and Rob Fulp at the Hauxeda Distinguished Citizen Awards on May 15, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Award recipients are all selected by the Board of Directors of the Hauxeda.

“We’re really here to celebrate our community and to celebrate the good people who make up Springfield,” Hauxeda CEO David Stoeffler said. “Part of our mission at the Daily Citizen is to not just be a source of news, to not just particularly be a source of news that dwells on the negative that goes on in the community. We also want to be here to celebrate the positive things that are going on in the community and to celebrate the good people who make Springfield what it is.”

The presenting sponsor of the Daily Citizen Distinguished Citizen Awards is Great Southern Bank. Supporting sponsors are Pitt Technology Group and Volt Credit Union, with added support for the event through a strategic partnership with the Gillioz Theatre.

Great Southern Bank regional managing director of commercial lending Rob Fulp thanked the four award recipients on behalf of Great Southern. He also thanked the Hauxeda for organizing the recognition event.

“Thanks to the Hauxeda for all you are doing,” Fulp said. “I mean, it’s been a complete game changer since you have all arrived.”

Rob Fulp gave the welcome announcement at the Hauxeda Distinguished Citizen Awards on May 15, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Rance Burger

Rance Burger is the managing editor for the Daily Citizen. He previously covered local governments from February 2022 to April 2023. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 17 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@hauxeda.com or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger