There Is Nothing More Powerful Than a Volunteer

By Joe Sweeney

Being the youngest child, I was also a candidate to suit up as Santa for nieces, nephews and others over the years, and thankfully, I’ve never outgrown the suit. Metaphorically, of course. I’ve had the pleasure of wearing the suit since I was a kid and I can’t begin to tell you the fulfillment of bringing joy to the young hearts of so many kids and families over half a century.

Recent years have been a challenge with the pandemic and limitations with events but Christmas 2020 was epic. The Down Syndrome Innovations team—forced to cancel the Holiday Party for their kids and families—stimulated conversation which led to many dozens of kids on a Zoom call with Santa. This was the year the North Pole annex in Lee’s Summit debuted. 

Now, speaking to children one-on-one is not too challenging, but when confronted with a question that places one story inconsistent with another, I found myself immediately outnumbered by many, and the stress exceeded that of any print deadline.

The day we bought Ingram’s in February 1997 was the day we dedicated the theme of the December edition to the subject and business of philanthropy. We view philanthropy as a cornerstone of community, but for Kansas City, in particular. We believe philanthropy and serving community need aligned with business and government create the three foundational pillars of our greater Kansas City region.


The last few weeks have stimulated many stories and great memories of larger-than-life business and community leaders. Many have retired; regrettably, others are now gone. I could write a book and next year for our 50th, I very well may on the remarkable people and memories from my time at Ingram’s and service to KC. 

I see a trend and believe it’s creating a void in what I believe is still Kansas City’s greatest asset. Leadership and corporate engagement is changing and I’m not sure we’ll be able to preserve it as before. Gone or retired are many Goliath leaders that have, over many decades, engaged their teams on a massive scale to serve the region’s philanthropic needs. Now, don’t get me wrong: Many individuals and organizations are doing far more than the norm. In fact, all of the Local Heroes and Corporate Champions honored in this edition, and thousands more like them, are paying it forward in grand scale. This movement established by our city founders creates for Kansas City a pinnacle example of how a city should be built. To help thy neighbor.

In 1998, we launched Ingram’s 40 Under Forty, and this spring, we’ll name our 1,000th honoree. Key selection criteria involve substantial community engagement and service on boards and commissions.

Another program we started in 2016, the Ingram’s 250, includes executives who we believe are the most powerful in the region. Here’s a case and point example of my concern. Less than 30 percent of the executives named in 2022 were on the same list when the program began seven years ago. This massive turnover at the top brings concerns on several levels. Especially when coupled with a challenging work force. Companies are required to do more with less. 

It’s not easy being a chief executive in today’s climate with so many challenges. The i250 are inordinately achieved leaders and they helped build the culture at the organizations they lead today. From our point of view, we’re seeing a decline in corporate engagement and the non-profit community is challenged as a result. This is not unique to Kansas City. What is challenging involves tradition of philanthropic giving and voluntarism as a foundational pillar of our city. 

My hope for the New Year is to see the corporate community evaluate its role in our region and to challenge their teams to engage where they can. It’s a privilege and honor to serve this region and to deliver this year’s Philanthropy edition of Ingram’s. 

Our Season’s Best!

About the author


Joe Sweeney

Editor-In-Chief & Publisher


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