Callaway County woman receives humanitarian award

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FULTON - Connie Cashion is the 2018 winner for the city's Jane Bierdeman-Fike Humanitarian Award.

The award goes to a Fulton or Callaway County woman who makes contributions to the community through "social justice, environmental justice, economic equality, community building, education, and diversity embracement," according to a press release.  

"I was not expecting it, not at all. I already had all my votes for all the other ladies," Cashion said.

Cashion received the award for the free store she started in Fulton called From HIS HOUSE to Your House. Here, those in need can get free clothes, furniture, and other items.  She said it's important to recognize people from all economic backgrounds.

"I think that many who are in the low, low income or just over low income think we have nothing to offer. They think because maybe we don't have college degrees, we don't have a large income, that we have nothing to bring to the table," she said. "I'm hoping today they know, yes, everybody counts. Everybody brings something to the table. And we all need each other."

Cashion was one of six women nominated for the award. The public submits nominees, but the Fulton Human Rights Commission chooses the finalists and winner.

"We look at their role in the community, what skill-set they have, the organizations they support," said Carmen Brandt, president of the Fulton Human Rights Commission. "Jane Bierdeman-Fike supported all people and fairness and equality. So as we look at choosing someone, we want that person to look at diversity, how have you helped the community, what is your role in the community."

This was the fourth annual awards ceremony. Brandt said the Human Rights Commission first presented this idea about five years ago because she saw a missing component in the community.

"We had human rights events for children, we knew men received awards all the time," she said. "We have women who are constantly giving to the community, so let's recognize them in this way."

Brandt said Cashion was chosen because of her drive to help so many people.

"She wasn't looking for fame or fortune," Brandt said. "She saw a problem in the community, an area that needed to be addressed, and she decided to take that on to help this community."

Cashion was inspired to start the store from her own personal experience.

"I raised six children. My husband and I worked, but it was hard to make it," she said. "There wasn't this kind of help, there wasn't as many food banks, and there wasn't places for free, so we didn't have this help."

She said she wishes she could have taken her children to a store like this.

"I know that there's other moms and dads who lay awake at night and cry because they can't get their children something. But this free store makes it possible," she said. "And its not about just getting something, it's about getting it with dignity. They don't have to give me a story, they don't have to qualify. They can come in and we give hugs, and I try to make sure I greet everybody. I want everybody to know they count."