Heart of Downtown: Whiteman AFB military family earns Warrensburg Main Street community volunteer award

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

When military members think of community, they may think of their immediate surroundings, like base housing and their coworkers and wingmen.

Despite a year of shutdowns, masks and social distancing, however, one Air Force family at Whiteman Air Force Base was determined to reach out to community neighbors beyond Whiteman’s Spirit Gate. This month, their year-long efforts were recognized when Warrensburg Main Street Inc. celebrated their contributions with the “2020 Heart of Downtown” award.

The Main Street team surprised Whiteman AFB’s Mitcheltree family with their “Old Drum” Trophy during the organization’s virtual “Evening of Excellence” event Jan. 14. The Heart of Downtown award recognizes individuals or groups who have gone above and beyond to help Downtown Warrensburg achieve its goals and “make ideas come to life,” according to a Main Street news release.

“We were asked to come interview with a panel; we didn’t know we’d be presented with the award, so we were definitely surprised,” said Master Sgt. Brandon Mitcheltree, a security forces defender by trade and currently the superintendent of the 509th Bomb Wing Inspector General’s office.

Together with his wife Monica and his two children, Grace and Leam, Mitcheltree has contributed hands-on work renovating downtown office space, contributing countless hours to clean up efforts and landscape maintenance work throughout Warrensburg, as well as various other volunteer support events.

“We did a little bit of everything,” Mitcheltree said. “For us, it was about lending a helping hand to a small community -- giving back is what we’re all about and we try to pass those ethics on to our kids, too. When you have the ability or capacity to give back, you should.”

The Warrensburg Main Street Evening of Excellence recognizes volunteers and groups who have contributed to the partnership campaign and celebrates shared accomplishments of the previous year, said Warrensburg Main Street Executive Director Jill Purvis, who has lived in Warrensburg on and off for the past 26 years as the spouse of an Air Force pilot at Whiteman AFB.

“[The Mitcheltrees] have been an amazing support and volunteer resource for our organization,” Purvis said. “This family is very special to Warrensburg Main Street … We are so lucky they chose us to invest their time and talents.”

From the time they arrived on station in 2019, Mitcheltree and his family have jumped right in to volunteer work in Warrensburg’s downtown, taking each opportunity to give hands-on assistance to their new community. The couple chose to support Main Street because of its mission to promote, improve and preserve the unique character and economic vitality of downtown Warrensburg, Mitcheltree said.

“We love this area,” Mitcheltree said. “The way the community and installation support each other through our Sister City and Base Community Council programs is just great. We wanted to help this small yet growing community with our contribution and Main Street’s staff is extremely knowledgeable, making it a great resource and starting point for us. They are always looking for volunteers and are really helpful to Airmen who are looking for ways to give back.”

Despite the adjustments and challenges COVID brought, the Mitcheltrees were undeterred and volunteered more than 400 volunteer hours together, Purvis said. Mitcheltree’s wife Monica even became a member of the 2020 Main Street staff as the farmer’s market manager and was able to increase the size of the market by 75%, allowing the local market vendors to have a safe and successful outdoor season despite the pandemic.

“We definitely like to do this as a family just to give back,” Monica said during the award presentation. “We like to help each other out to pursue different things, giving something positive to the community and we believe that is something we show our kids as well – and we hope that’s something that catches on.”

For Brandon and Monica the reward of their hard work, however, is a job well done and the friendships made along the way. 

“We never look for the accolades in doing this sort of thing. We do it because we like to do it,” Master Sgt. Mitcheltree said. “There are a lot of local non-profit businesses that benefit when volunteers come to help out, especially given the state we are in right now with COVID, when many people are struggling. I certainly recommend Airmen look for these sorts of opportunities on and off base. You’d be surprised what you get out of it at the end of the day, the people you meet and the experiences and connections you make. “

To watch the full Evening of Excellence presentation or more information about Warrensburg Main Street, visit their website at www.warrensburgmainstreet.org. If you would like to get involved or would like more information, please contact Jill Purvis, WMS executive director, at info@warrensburgmainstreet.org or 660-429-3988.

Looking to find or list your volunteer events at Whiteman AFB? Check out the Volunteer feature in our AF Connect app!