Whether it's providing school supplies to the back-to-school annual health fair at Mexico United Methodist Church, or stuffed animals to children at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital–Audrain over the holidays, Melody Farnen is community-service minded.

It is this dedication to Mexico that past presidents of the Mexico Area Chamber of Commerce have selected her as the 2019 recipient of the Col. C.R. Stribiling Jr. Community Service Award. She will be honored at the chamber's annual meeting Jan. 17.

She isn't the only person or organizations receiving an award that night. Robby and Cara Miller will receive the President's Award, KXEO/KWWR will receive the G. Andy Runge Ambassador Award, the civic award will go to Northeast Community Service Agency, Don Decker will receive the philanthropic award, Mexico Public Schools Extra Curricular Activities will receive the Excellence in Tourism award and Darlene Shopher with the Mexico Middle School guidance department will be celebrated as Educator of the Year.

Farnen is totally surprised to be receiving the honor, she said. She has been in business in Mexico since 1995 after returning to the community to help care for her father who was undergoing cancer treatments. She credits her staff and her customers for not only her business' longevity but also her ability to support the Mexico community.

"I feel very honored to be receiving this award," she said in a chamber news release. "Without [my staff and customers] I would not be where I am today."

Farnen wants the Mexico community to feel like they are part of her family, she said in the release.

Past projects conducted by Farnen and her staff are school supply drives for back-to-school events, donating stuffed animals to the hospital for children staying at the hospital over the holidays and sponsorship of the Audrain County Relay for Life and relay teams. The school supply drives usually happen the night before the health fair at the United Methodist Church, she said.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for these kids to get started on the right foot because I feel like the kids, if they start out the school year with a new book bag or something that makes them feel special, their whole year might go a little bit better," she said.

Farnen also supports her alma mater, Hannibal-LaGrange University.

"We try to do something different so we're not doing the same thing each year. We try to mix it up. We try to do things here in town like the Christmas lights and the Santa" she said.

Farnen is an active member of the Village Square Association, which works to promote and support downtown Mexico businesses. "It's very close to my heart. I'm a past president several years ago. That's been very close to me," she said.

The close working relationships between all the downtown businesses helps more than just the downtown area because each one gives back to the community in some way, Farnen said.

"We all try to support downtown business owners, [whether they are a man or woman], we all try to support and encourage them to follow their dream," she said.

When Farnen doesn't have a particular product a customer is searching for, she often will recommend another downtown business, which may have what that customer is seeking, she said. "[That] strengthens our downtown, which strengthens our town in-and-of-itself," Farnen said.

She participates in the community service projects because she wants to show her love to the Mexico community.

"I don't want recognition for it. I just want to help someone have a little bit better life. I love people and I love to try to help people whatever stage of life they're in," Farnen said.

cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com