Category Archives: Do Some Good

Community & Culture: Spiva Center for the Arts

This textile by Sara Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin, titled “Outside My Picture Window / Mayfair 33502”, is displayed with a list of the streets of East Town, Joplin. The artwork represents the historic African American community where the artist was raised and nurtured. The exhibition at the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts is open through March 13th.

Anyone who has visited L&P’s Corporate Office has seen the extensive collection of paintings which grace our hallways. Two of our former CEOs, Harry Cornell and Felix Wright, were passionate collectors of fine art. This appreciation led to Leggett & Platt’s long history of supporting the arts within our local community. The current exhibition at the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts is a perfect representation of the importance of this philanthropy — educating all of us about the history of the Joplin community, while also highlighting the accomplishments and work of African American artists, musicians, athletes, and poets.

The show, scheduled to run through March 13th, features three unique exhibits, curated by nationally acclaimed fabric artist and Joplin native, Sara Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin. Her own work is featured in one of those exhibits, entitled Journey: Legacy, East Town.

According to Ms. Ruffin’s artist statement, East Town is an exhibition curated in a mixture of textiles designed to engage the viewer in a visual conversation. Many of these textiles are accompanied by poetry written by Sonia Sanchez, a writer and educator considered by many to be the leading female voice of the Black Revolution.

“This collection is a touchstone of accounts, experiences, and contributions of Joplin’s East Town,” says Sara. “It shares a people’s journey, facing the hardships and adversities of building a viable community during a time when African Americans were not welcomed to live in or around Missouri and its surrounding areas.”

The work also highlights the rich resiliency of Joplin’s historic African American community, where she was raised and nurtured.

“The African American residents of Joplin persevered through all adversities. They used their talents, gifts, and education to build a strong and vibrant community in spite of all the challenges that besieged them,” shares Sara. “We are all the legacy of their gifts.”

United Way Agency Spotlight: Boys & Girls Club

We value a culture of giving and encourage our employees to Do Some Good. Throughout the course of our Corporate campaign, we have shown a spotlight on several of the incredible agencies that United Way serves in our local community. Times may be difficult, but we have witnessed communities rising to meet hard moments. If in a position to give this year, we encourage you to support your local agency, too.

Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri

Many working families in our community have come to rely on the exceptional care their children receive at the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri. At only $25 per semester, their after-school program is very affordable  saving families money during a time when funds have never been tighter. Participating children develop ongoing relationships with caring, adult professionals while interacting and having fun with friends their own age. The program has been carefully designed to advance academic success, character, and healthy lifestyles.

This year presented several creative challenges. The staff used the shut-down to complete a planned renovation and expansion of their facility but were able to move to an alternative location for their summer program. The pandemic also required them to operate at a reduced capacity and to implement additional safety protocols. Taking these measures allowed the participating kids to be kids again: playing with friends, spending time with mentors and heroes, watching guest speakers, and participating in a variety of fun activities.

In addition to the other changes, Boys & Girls Club also worked to strengthen their virtual programming this summer. This meant even more kids were learning through targeted and engaging activities. Staff utilized social media and created video content to help to minimize learning losses during the pandemic, often encouraging kids to share their results and engage using hashtags.

“We take a very educational approach to our program,” says Rhonda Gorham, Executive Director. “We focus on providing them with learning opportunities in math, reading, and especially science  which is fun because it can be messy!” During the school year, staff also require all students to complete their homework, which frees up their evening to focus on time with their families.

Throughout the rest of this school year, the Boys & Girls Club is committed to encouraging the kids in their program. They also hope to increase the number of students they’re able to serve. The United Way donations they receive are vital to that service  covering staff salaries, project materials, meals, and other expenses of the program.

“We look forward to a time when we can welcome volunteers into our doors again. It was really nice to have those extra hands,” says Rhonda. “However, people can help in many other ways. We really appreciate it when people take the time to connect with us on social media and help to share our message. Our club is working to build our community… starting with each of the children we serve.”

United Way Agency Spotlight: Jasper County 4-H

We value a culture of giving and encourage our employees to Do Some Good. Throughout the course of our Corporate campaign, we’ll be spotlighting several of the incredible agencies that United Way serves in our local community. Times may be difficult, but we have witnessed communities rising to meet hard moments. If in a position to give this year, we encourage you to support your local agency, too.

Jasper County 4-H 

At the beginning of every meeting and event, 4-H members make a pledge to the American Flag and the 4-H flag. They repeat in unison, “I pledge my HEAD to clearer thinking, my HEART to greater loyalty, my HANDS to larger service, and my HEALTH to better living  for my club, my community, my country and my world.”

This promise clearly encompasses what 4‑H aims to do. Through their clubs, kids and teens complete hands-on projects in areas like health, science, agriculture and civic engagement in a positive environment — where they receive guidance from volunteer adult mentors and are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles. Jasper County’s program has several active clubs in the area, which are delivered by the University of Missouri Extension.

Pictured above are five of the eight 4-H members who served on the livestock judging teams this year. These kids completed this state contest virtually. Jasper County 4-H’s junior team placed 5th in the State and the senior team placed 6th — both within their respective divisions.

With projects on more than 75 topics, 4-H has something to interest every child. Some of those learning opportunities include: geocaching, robotics, international exchanges, horsemanship, pets, starting a business, arts and crafts, raising animals, woodworking, photography and gardening. Many clubs have also taken on critical societal issues, such as addressing community health inequities, engaging in civil discourse and advocating for equity and inclusion for all.

The program emphasizes equal opportunities for kids who may be underserved as well. “We want to ensure that all the children in our program develop a partnership with an adult who can mentor them,” says Sarah Townley, 4-H Youth Program Associate. “The influence of a positive adult role model can really benefit a child throughout their entire life.”

Last December, Jasper County 4-H Teen Council rang the bell for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Donation Drive.

As with many other local non-profit organizations, the issues presented by the pandemic have been a challenge. However, staff and volunteers of 4-H have worked diligently to continue presenting engaging learning opportunities for their participants. While they were unable to meet in person, many clubs provided virtual options, and leaders adjusted the requirements for specific achievements. The children were even able to compete in a closed-door Jasper County Youth Fair, where they were able to safely compete in livestock shows. Other projects were judged remotely. While somewhat altered, these changes provided goals, normalcy, and community to many kids, during a difficult time.

The Jasper County Youth Fair is normally the largest fundraiser for Jasper County 4-H, so these changes have brought financial hardship as well. They are extremely grateful for the consistent support they receive from the United Way, as it enables them to continue the work they do with youth in our community.

“United Way allows our kids to go and do things they have never been able to before,” says Sarah. “Those dollars are often used to cover registration fees and expenses for the kids to attend state and national contests, summer camps, and leadership conferences. We really want to provide opportunities for all the kids we serve.”

In February (pre-Covid), the local Senior Meats Judging team competed at the Missouri State 4-H meat judging contest — and took First Place!

United Way Agency Spotlight: Joplin Family Y

We value a culture of giving and encourage our employees to Do Some Good. Throughout the course of our Corporate campaign, we’ll be spotlighting several of the incredible agencies that United Way serves in our local community. Times may be difficult, but we have witnessed communities rising to meet hard moments. If in a position to give this year, we encourage you to support your local agency, too.

Joplin Family Y

The Joplin Family YMCA has been a fixture of the Joplin community for 129 years. You might know them best for their fitness offerings, which include cardio and strength equipment, group classes, and personal training. However, they’re more than just a gym and the name says it all – Joplin Family YMCA.

Staff at the Joplin Family Y work every day to strengthen the foundations of our community through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Often, this mission impacts the families they serve in a very personal way.

When schools shut down during the pandemic, many essential workers struggled to find safe childcare. As a response, the Joplin Family YMCA implemented an Emergency Childcare Program to assist those families, which provided a healthy breakfast, lunch, snacks, assistance with their school’s remote learning activities, daily fitness activities, crafts and STEM projects.

Nikki’s son was one of 46 local children served by the program. It provided a safe, fun atmosphere for the kids, and allowed parents to continue serving our community during the crisis. “I’m very grateful,” said Nikki. “This program offered us both some consistency during a very difficult time.” Nicki even noticed that her son’s attitude greatly improved thanks to his experience there. While daily life felt very unfamiliar and chaotic during that time, the Emergency Childcare Program helped families navigate it together.

Like other nonprofit organizations around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a large toll on the Y. They were forced to manage facility closures, suspend memberships, and cancel all sporting programs. Enrollment in their afterschool programs in Joplin, Webb City, Carl Junction, and Carterville were also severely impacted. These unexpected financial pressures forced them to make many tough decisions regarding operating expenses. However, they remain dedicated to providing a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment for the community, the members of the Y, and our local children.

As they begin to reopen their programs, the Joplin Family Y is particularly grateful for the support they receive from the United Way of Southwest Missouri. “The gifts we receive from United Way allow us to better focus on the families we serve,” says Cookie Estrada, Chief Executive Officer. “The health of our community is more vital now, than it has ever been.”

The Joplin Family Y welcomes the specialized talents of community volunteers as well. You can support their mission by providing services including Information Technology assistance, landscaping, reading to children, coaching, or by serving on their Board of Directors.


United Way Agency Spotlight: Children’s Haven

We value a culture of giving and encourage our employees to Do Some Good. Throughout the course of our Corporate campaign, we’ll be spotlighting several of the incredible agencies that United Way serves in our local community. Times may be difficult, but we have witnessed communities rising to meet hard moments. If in a position to give this year, we encourage you to support your local agency, too.

Children’s Haven

The staff at Children’s Haven face crisis every day. While the unique circumstances of this year’s pandemic have made their work more challenging, the goal remains the same – to support children through a family crisis with as little interruption to their life as possible.

Children’s Haven serves as the only shelter in our area where parents can preserve their custody, despite being separated from their children temporarily. The home provides a unique and crucial service to families struggling with homelessness, hospitalization, fear of abuse or neglect, lack of food or utilities, parents seeking mental health or substance abuse treatment, or even in situations involving incarceration.

In addition to a safe, temporary home, the Children’s Haven program provides a full-range of services designed to make them feel comfortable including:

  • Transportation to “home schools,” doctor’s appointments, and other activities
  • Educational support including homework assistance, school supplies and collaboration with teachers
  • Nutritional support including meals and healthy snacks each day
  • Field trips and fun activities
  • Case management to connect families to resources to solve the crises they are facing

Children are cared for by professional, trained, and screened Child Advocates, who work diligently to maintain a positive space for the children.

Leggett & Platt has supported the mission of Children’s Haven since their beginning in 2003, even donating mattresses to offer the children a comfortable place to rest their head at night.

To protect the health of the children they serve, volunteers are not allowed to help in the home this year. Stephanie Theis, Executive Director, is very proud of their team as they have taken on additional responsibility. “Our staff are dedicated to keeping us going 24/7. They continue to rise to the challenge of meeting the needs of these kids every day.”

The financial donations they receive from United Way are also very important. “So many things are changing each day,” says Stephanie. “Knowing we can count on that consistent support is a huge relief to us.”

United Way Agency Spotlight: Children’s Center of SWMO

We value a culture of giving and encourage our employees to Do Some Good. Throughout the course of our Corporate campaign, we’ll be spotlighting several of the incredible agencies that United Way serves in our local community. Times may be difficult, but we have witnessed communities rising to meet hard moments. If in a position to give this year, we encourage you to support your local agency, too.

Children’s Center of SWMO

Children’s Center of SWMO exists to provide a safe haven for children undergoing investigation of and treatment for abuse.

With a child-friendly setting and specially-trained staff, the Center helps children feel as comfortable as possible, even while undergoing forensic interviews, medical examinations, or trauma counseling sessions. The hallways are filled with brightly colored superhero art. They also feature real superheroes –displaying the handprints of local children who have completed the Center’s therapy programs.

Every handprint represents a child’s story and gives voice to hurt, hope, and healing.  Here is the story of one:

A preschool teacher made a hotline call after noticing bruising on a young student. The 5-year-old victim had been enduring physical and emotional abuse from his mother’s boyfriend. While he hadn’t told a safe adult about his abuse, it was materializing in anger and aggressive behavior. The boy was brought to the Children’s Center and during his interview, he disclosed details of the abuse. The child also received a medical examination that determined physical evidence to confirm the allegations. The recorded interview and medical examination proved vital in the investigation and prosecution of his perpetrator.

The young boy was immediately recommended for Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) to help him heal. During the first session, his (non-offending) grandmother reported he was suffering from severe nightmares, irrational fear, uncontrolled anger, and was struggling to control his emotions. He had a lack of attachment that made him feel unsafe and fear abandonment.

The clinical child therapist began by teaching him to do deep belly breaths, a relaxation coping skill called balloon breathing. Then, they began a session of play therapy which allows children to express their feelings in creative ways.

At first, the boy chose a lamb to portray himself and asked the counselor to choose a “bad guy.” She chose an alligator and the boy self-directed the puppet show, which featured a very relatable plot. The lamb was brave, safe, kind, and encouraged others to be nice. He was attacked by the alligator, but then he was able to convince him to stop. In the end, he built a safe place to protect all the animals and himself by building a fence around them. His play naturally created boundaries and safety.

After seven months of these weekly sessions, the boy’s symptoms subsided to a normal range. When asked how he felt, his response was: “Happy, calm, loved, and surprised.” He also knew he was safe at his grandparents’ house, his school, church, and at The Children’s Center.

This little one’s story didn’t end with the disclosure of abuse, it continued until he processed through his trauma. The Children’s Center helped him find his voice and new hope.

During his last session, the boy directed one last puppet show. He picked two dogs to play the good guys. A wolf and a T-Rex were chosen as bad guys. Just as many times before, the brave lamb saved the day.

Giving Hope Through United Way

As a longstanding partner of United Way, Leggett & Platt believes now, more than ever, we need to live united.

2020 has impacted each of us in different ways. Throughout the pandemic, our local United Way agencies have pushed to expand their programs to respond to increased need – all while adjusting to greatly depleted resources. In an effort to protect the health and safety of their clients, many have even lost valued on-site volunteers. Despite these challenges, they continue to provide vital services to our community, including medical assistance, literacy training, family counseling, and safe havens from abuse.

To learn more about United Way’s impact in our community, check out this video:

Today, we are launching the annual 2020-2021 pledging campaign at our corporate office. Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be spotlighting several incredible agencies funded by our local United Way agencies. Times may be difficult, but we have witnessed communities rising to meet hard moments. If in a position to give this year, we encourage you to support your local agency, too.

Together, we can give hope where it’s needed most.

Making a Difference, One Mask at a Time

When Deb Veronda learned about the shortage of masks during the COVID-19 crisis, she got right to work. Deb is the HR Assistant at our Sponge Cushion facility in Morris, Illinois, and she wanted to help make the office a safe and healthy place to work.

“When the pandemic began,” said Deb, “all I kept hearing on the news were reports of shortages of personal protective equipment. I knew I had to get busy sewing to protect those dear to me.”

Deb has used her own resources to make hundreds of cloth masks – not only for her coworkers but also for her family, friends, and healthcare workers in her local community.

“I love to quilt in my spare time, so I have quite a stash of material. I began pulling fun fabrics with the hopes of lifting the spirits of the tireless souls working on the frontlines.”

To recognize her efforts, Deb earned L&P’s SafeGuard Leadership Award for going above and beyond to look out for others.

And Deb’s outlook is inspiring. “I have always believed in kindness,” she said. “If we could all be kind and take care of one another, this world would be a much better place.”

Thank you, Deb!

Finding Ways to Help During the COVID-19 Crisis: Our Team at Genesis Seating

As people around the world are impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, many are finding opportunities to step up and provide help, assistance, and resources in a great time of need. Our team at Genesis Seating is doing just that.

Genesis Seating in Kentwood, Michigan, typically produces upholstery for furniture. They’re now making cloth face masks for Spectrum Health, government and non-profit health care organizations.

“We started production this week and are hoping to produce roughly 80,000 masks for Spectrum,” said Kevin Kuske, Genesis Seating Private-Label President.

“We did not need to retool any equipment, but we did need to work with Steelcase and Spectrum to develop a design, source materials that do not conflict with other health care supply chains and train our sewing team to make these masks. We are bringing back to work employee volunteers to staff this effort.”

Kuske said employees greeted the opportunity with enthusiasm.

“Our team was ecstatic to help out,” he said. “Many of them have family members and friends who work for Spectrum and other health care groups and they want them protected. We all want to feel like we are helping bring this crisis to an end, and this is the part we can play to help protect those on the front line who are putting their health at risk every day to care for those in need.”

This story was originally written and published by Spectrum Health Beat.