In accepting his honor today as the 2013 Humanitarian, Shawn Askinosie urged those who were there to celebrate him to draw upon their darkest moments to find the joy that will help them define their lives.
Drawing from Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” – “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked” – Askinosie recounted the worst days of his life when he was a kid sitting beside his father’s bed as he died of cancer, the experience that many years later led him to create Lost & Found to help grieving children.
“I’ve never been so desperate and never really been so heartbroken,” he recalled. Those dark days also led him to volunteer in the hospice-like palliative care unit at Mercy Hospital where several times he read, prayed and held the hands of patients as they died.
“What I experienced in those moments remains probably the greatest joy I’ve ever experienced in my whole life,” he said. “It was an overwhelming sense of love. I think part of it was because I wasn’t thinking about myself for those moments.”
Putting service to others above oneself is the guiding principle in selecting the annual honoree for the Humanitarian Award created in 1989 by longtime CFO supporter Jewell Thompson Schweitzer. She and Susie Turner, president of the Junior League of Springfield, presented this year’s award to the former criminal defense attorney who made a mid-life career change to found Askinosie Chocolate.
Turner said the JLS nominated Askinosie for “empowering others to make social mission a part of their lives.” The nomination cited Askinosie’s work here with Lost & Found, the Missouri Hotel, the Chocolate University African experience for high school students, and teaching business skills to students at Boyd Elementary and Pipkin Middle schools. The JLS also recognized his international work to provide business training, sustainability practices and community development in Tanzania, Ecuador, Honduras, and the Philippines where he works with local farmers to source the cocoa beans for his artisan chocolate.
Askinosie credited his wife, Caron, for her support and perseverance in the success of Askinosie Chocolate and their related ventures. He also announced that he will split his $3,000 cash award between Lost & Found and Chocolate University, the program he shepherds at Drury University to prepare the high school students he takes on biannual visits to Africa to learn and work in the villages where he buys cocoa beans.
Askinosie is the 28th person to be honored over the 24 years since the Humanitarian Award was created. The nominations are considered by an independent committee chaired by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. This year’s selection committee was comprised of the Chamber’s Chair-Elect Jeff Schrag, Dan Friberg, Jennifer Kennally, Morey Mechlin, Ron Ponds, the Rev. Mark Struckhoff, and Dr. Robert Spence.