Sue Heckart was the guest of honor at an invitation-only dinner held Thursday night at Convention Hall in Sedalia.

She was named the 2021 MPRA Philanthropist of the Year, and was presented with a plaque by Gary Gates, MPRA executive director, after showing a video that featured Heckart and the currently under-construction Heckart Community Center.

“It makes me feel very honored and humbled,” Heckart said when asked about the award from the MPRA. She was notified about the award a month ago. “It's very special,” she added.

“I appreciate this and I appreciate everybody coming and honoring me this way. It's really about honoring the legacy of my parents,” Heckart said, adding that the grand opening of the Heckart Center will take place in one year. March 18 is the 20th anniversary of her mother's Stella's death.

Sedalia Parks & Rec Executive Director Amy Epple said she was excited that Gov. Mike Parson and his wife Teresa were able to attend the catered event, along with 100 invited guests.

“Sue's done so much for this community, so we're excited to be able to show our appreciation for her,” Epple said, adding that the donation from Heckart is the biggest Sedalia Parks & Recreation has ever received.

Sedalia voters approved the 78,000-square foot community center in a special election Aug. 6 by an 80 percent margin.

The ballot measure proposed a one-eighth-cent sales tax increase for public parks and storm water control. The election also asked voters to remove the sunset clause from an existing capital improvement sales tax.

The cost of the community center would not exceed $20 million, it was reported at the time. The increase in funding will pay for the principal, but not the rest of the cost.
Sue Heckart proposed to pay the interest on bonds, with naming rights to the community center. The only stipulation was that the project be completed in time for the 20th anniversary of her mother Stella's death, March 18, 2021.

“She really wanted the community center to be open today, be we could just not make that happen. So we'll be doing that next year at this time,” Epple pointed out.

Work on the 92,000-square-foot complex is being done by general contractor Paric Construction, based out of St. Louis.

According to the video presented by Gates, The Heckart Community Center has always been a dream of Sue Heckart’s, because it was an opportunity for her to honor the legacy of her parents Dell and Stella Heckart while investing in the people of Sedalia.

“Her family business was built with mutual trust and respect between her family and the families they served. In that same spirit, she believed that the community of Sedalia deserved a place where everyone can come together and share experiences and create memories while improving the quality of life of all.

“Sue Heckart, a strong business woman, community leader and philanthropist wanted nothing more than to bring her parents dream of a Community Center to the people of Sedalia.

“The Heckart Community Center would not have been possible without Sue’s generous gift in memory of her parents. This gift will be felt for generations to come, and will be a big game changer for the community of Sedalia. We are forever grateful and thankful that Sue knows and values the importance of Parks and Recreation and trust us to honor her parents legacy with this outstanding facility that will forever impact the Community of Sedalia,” the video narrative concluded.

The Heckart Community center is being built on the former site of Jennie Jaynes Stadium in Liberty Park.

Progress is moving right along, according to Epple. "There's no doubt we will have or grand opening March 18, 2022. The roof is completely on, windows are 75 percent complete, walls are going up in the office, we already have showers in the locker room, so the main thing that really slows up down is the pool," she said.