The 2023 recipients of Blue River Community Foundation’s Spirit of Community Awards were recently announced.
First awarded in 2016, the intent of these awards is to shine a light on the extraordinary generosity and leadership of outstanding individuals, families, or companies who demonstrate community spirit through their service and giving. An award also is presented to a Shelby County nonprofit organization that has shown a measurable difference in bringing about a positive change in the community.
The recipient in the individual/family/business category receives $500 to direct to any nonprofit organization in Shelby County. The nonprofit organization recipient is awarded a $500 grant to continue their impactful work in the community.
BRCF has announced the 2023 Spirit of the Community Award winner in the individual category is Kay Koenig (photo, far left). Her leadership, generosity, commitment, and advocacy to ensure our community is accessible for all is an inspiration and an exceptional philanthropic example for Shelby County community members to follow.
Koenig’s nomination came from Susan Furgeson, who wrote:
“Kay has spent countless hours over the last several years working to make Shelby County more accessible. She was instrumental through her service on the Major Health Partners (MHP) Patient and Family Advisory Council in making certain that the MHP building has ample handicapped parking spaces and automatic doors for the main restroom facilities. She recently re-joined the council where she continues to share her time and knowledge to encourage improvement in accessibility.”
Koenig served on the Mayor’s Livable Communities Coalition and met monthly to discuss issues related to mobility and accessibility. As part of her service on the coalition, Koenig evaluated accessibility at various community events and provided feedback about ways to improve accessibility at these events. She was recently asked to re-join the coalition and agreed to do so.
More recently, Koenig donated automatic doors and the installation costs to the Grover Center, the Strand Theatre, and Cagney’s Pizza King. She has hosted ribbon cutting events for the installation of the doors with the goal of raising community awareness around accessibility needs.
Koenig also has generously given her time to a variety of organizations that have asked her to provide advice and feedback on ways they can make their premises more accessible. She is currently working with Shelby County Players as it continues plans for a new facility.
Koenig has enjoyed her work in this area so much that she wants to teach others about the joy of giving back to the community. To that end, in celebration of her 80th birthday last year, she threw a “Pay It Forward” party. With her invitations, she described her experience in giving back, and encouraged others to do so as well.
As extra incentive, she sent checks with many of her invitations and asked the recipients to donate the money to a cause they cared about. She asked the recipients to let her know where donations were made, and she shared information about these great causes at her party. She even had “Pay It Forward” stickers made so that her guests could put reminders on their calendars to continue to think about ways to give back in the future, hopefully developing new “Pay It Forward” habits.
Despite having significant mobility issues of her own, Koenig is tireless in her efforts to improve accessibility for others, and to educate the general public about the importance of accessibility.
In the nonprofit category, BRCF received multiple nominations for Little Yellow Jackets Preschool. In 2023, Early Learning Shelby County will break ground on a new facility to offer care for children ages 0-5.
However, the new center will not be able to handle all of Shelby County’s childcare needs; a county that is in a childcare desert. Providing quality early learning opportunities is an effort of many organizations in the area and this year’s Spirit of the Community award winner in the nonprofit organization category is a group that is excelling.
The Little Yellow Jackets Preschool at Morristown Elementary has grown its program to provide care for 60 children in its first two years of operation. The program has obtained a Level 3 Paths to Quality rating, providing children from ages 3-5 with high quality early learning opportunities.
Early Childhood Education Director of Morristown Elementary School, Ashley Evans, shared the following with BRCF:
“We have worked hard to obtain the ability to provide our families with tuition assistance programs to ensure all children have the opportunity to receive a quality education despite financial circumstances. We are working hard to make a difference in this community by providing a program that not only impacts our children in a positive way, but helps strengthen our community as a whole. We strive to be the best we can be to our students and families and believe that providing opportunities for students to learn about inclusion, focus on kindergarten readiness, and provide a play-based environment that meets students where they are but helps build them up through knowing they are loved, brave, and can do anything they put their minds to.”
Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email. Go to shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.