There are a lot of things we’d like to forget about 2020. But seeing our community come together and support each other is not one of them.

While we knew we wouldn’t be holding the big Progress Awards event as usual, we knew there would still be plenty to celebrate this year. As we began receiving nominations, we saw that to be true. The unsung heroes of our community didn’t shy away from the challenges of a pandemic; they stepped up.

In these stories, you will read about Janice Dawson-Threat, who has supported children’s educations for 20 years through her tutoring program, Grade A Plus. COVID-19 meant she was also making sure they had meals and support for virtual education.

As small businesses struggled to stay afloat, Keith McIver worked diligently with the city to make sure minority- and women-owned businesses had the resources and support they needed to apply for assistance to weather the economic challenges.

Stephanie Browning worked with city and county leaders to make tough decisions to mitigate and slow the spread of the coronavirus. Her work during the pandemic is a small slice of the more than 20 years she has served as Columbia/Boone County director of Public Health.

True North continued to be a beacon of hope for those facing unsafe situations at home. Director Elizabeth Herrera-Eichenberg is continuing to work toward the organization’s goal of a community free from domestic and sexual violence where healthy relationships thrive.

Needs have continued for the refugee community. Lori Stoll, co-founder of City of Refuge, is a light for the families and helps meet their physical and emotional needs. Much like Sherman Brown Jr.’s goal of treating everyone like gold, Stoll said she follows Mother Teresa’s saying, “Do small things with great love.”

In this section you’ll find more stories of the people working behind the scenes in Columbia to make our community what it is.

There are many more stories out there, and we had to make some tough decisions. We gathered editors and the 2019 winners to consider every nominee and select the winners you will find in this section. We want to be clear that no one who advertises with the Missourian had any say over the winners.

We are excited to introduce you to this year’s 2020 Progress Awards winners, finalists and nominees . We hope you will join us in celebrating these individuals and organizations.

If you think someone is missing in this group, don’t worry. Nominate that someone next year.

  • Managing editor for digital and director of community outreach for the Columbia Missourian and associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism

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