Columbia College staff and faculty once again joined together in support of the community they call home. With a growing need for assistance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the college set out to raise $10,816.29 to support 29 local nonprofit organizations that are partners with the Heart of Missouri United Way.

Volunteer efforts began in September with the United Way’s Day of Caring. In just one hour, 25 employee volunteers assembled 200 care kits that that included personal hygiene items, such as shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, combs and wipes. Partner agencies distributed the kits individually to adult and teen clients.

“Living United means linking arms to share solutions to challenges that impact our community,” said Missy Montgomery, senior director of Philanthropy and a member of the Heart of Missouri United Way Board of Directors. “It is about heads, hands and hearts working together to mobilize access to resources in the areas of education, health and create financial stability.”


(L-R) Lathon Ferguson, chief development officer for the Heart of Missouri United Way; Mike Alden, campaign chair; Dr. David Russell, Columbia College president; Missy Montgomery, senior director of Philanthropy at Columbia College; and Andrew Grabau, President/CEO for the Heart of Missouri United Way

On November 3, more than 100 guests attended the college’s fundraiser kickoff, where “walking tacos” have become synonymous with philanthropy. Participants enjoyed a build-your-own taco bar while making gifts to the campaign through online payroll deduction, purchasing Jeans Day stickers and entering to win Cougar-themed prize baskets and priority parking spots on campus.

Montgomery welcomed attendees and introduced special guests Andrew Grabau, executive director of the Heart of Missouri United Way, college president Dr. David Russell and former Mizzou Athletic Director Mike Alden, who served as this year’s campaign co-chair with his wife, Rockie.

While food and games are fun, the heart of the campaign remains true to its roots – helping those in need. Columbia College has contributed more than $221,000 to the United Way over the last 20 years. And this year, the college presented another leadership-level gift totaling $10,816.29.

Every dollar raised has a lasting impact on the community. For example, $5 could provide an hour of out-of-school programming or $150 could sponsor a child’s literacy kit for a full year.

 “It is inspiring to see how this event has brought members of our Columbia College campus community together,” Dr. Russell said. “One of our values is that ‘we believe a liberal arts core curriculum produces globally engaged citizens who are creative, curious and ethical.’ We are united in carrying out our mission of improving lives through education and supporting our neighbors in need.”

A special thanks goes out to the college’s United Way committee members Vicki Brooks, Samantha Davis, Phyllis Grant, Emily Heckencamp, Elizabeth Meister, Missy Montgomery, Tera Palozola, Carolyn Preul and Kathy Willows.