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Donor Stories

A rich history of giving back to the region

Arthur E. Stilwell founded Kansas City Southern in 1887 with a bold vision to provide a direct north-south rail route to the Gulf of Mexico, moving grain, coal, lumber and other minerals across a growing nation.

Considered to be eccentric during a time when other railroads adopted an east-west route, Stilwell pushed forward with his dream of the north-south rail line, undaunted by those who labeled his aspirations unrealistic. Stilwell's strategy—and Kansas City Southern—was an unqualified success.

For more than a century, the leaders and hard-working railroaders at Kansas City Southern have embraced Stilwell's tenacious ingenuity, making Kansas City Southern what it is today. Deeply committed to the community, the company established the Kansas City Southern Charitable Fund at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation in 1993 and later launched a matching gifts program to encourage employees to experience the joys of charitable giving.

A Legacy of Listening and Building Together

"Do justice; love mercy; and walk humbly with your God," Beth Smith learned as a child. Both parents and grandparents (Lithuanian immigrants) were observant adherents to Judaism. "I wasn't born with a silver spoon but a community spoon in my mouth," Beth mused.

Ed Smith, one of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation's seven founders, and his wife, Beth, were for many years one of Kansas City's dynamic duos. Beth was influenced by the bright and charismatic Marjorie Powell Allen, also a founder of the Community Foundation. They worked together to establish the Central Exchange, an interracial and intergenerational venue where women "could pick up the check." And in 1979, Ed and Beth established the Edward A. and Beth K. Smith Philanthropic Fund.

Ed has since passed on but Beth continues to support the nonprofit sector. She considers her forte to be "drawing strength and wisdom from others; listening and building together." And that is the spirit of the Women's Employment Network Fund — also housed at the Community Foundation — one of the many legacies Beth has given to Kansas City.

Revitalizing the Heart of Kansas City

The Dickinson family's roots in the region run deep. Gary grew up on a family farm in northern Missouri and met Ann, from Hannibal, in college. Ann and Gary raised four children and pursued an active life of community involvement during their 30 years of marriage.

Gary founded Bank Midwest in the early 1970s and oversaw its impressive growth until he was tragically killed in a car accident two decades later. Ann continued Gary's legacy as chair and owner of Dickinson Financial Corporation, headquartered in Kansas City.

In 1998, Ann and her family established the Gary Dickinson Family Charitable Fund at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation to fulfill the family's wide range of charitable priorities. The Dickinsons are especially supportive of Kansas City’s downtown revitalization, a tribute to Gary's passion for local and regional economic development.

Strengthening Our Community, Investing In Its Future

Philanthropy was a new adventure to Helen Nelson in 1980, but she was committed to giving back to her community. Helen established a donor-advised fund at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation to organize her philanthropy — and she loved every minute of it.

For nearly two decades Helen appreciated the expertise and research the Community Foundation provided about issues affecting Kansas City. She also enjoyed receiving updates on the impact of her grants. Helen was passionate about supporting downtown revitalization, education, accessible arts and medical research.

At her death, Helen bestowed a living legacy for Kansas City's future generations. Her generosity will live on through the Helen H. Nelson Fund, dedicated to fulfilling Helen's charitable dreams for Kansas City’s future.

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