My friend Michael P. McMillan was a superb choice for The St. Louis American's 2020 Person of the Year. Though having Mike in St. Louis is like having Michael Jordan in the NBA – any year, he deserves the MVP Award. In 2020 Mike rose to our regional challenges as president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis as he has never done before.
The Urban League's massive organization of coronavirus relief supplies kept countless families in our region from going hungry.
If I might suggest a runner-up or even co-MVP for our community to celebrate, looking back on the hardships and heroism of 2020, however, I would ask your readers to consider Dr. Kendra Holmes.
Holmes was promoted to senior vice president and chief operating officer for Affinia Healthcare in August, five months into the region's response to the pandemic. With the full faith and support of Affinia CEO Alan Freeman, she led the health center’s spirited response to the COVID-19 pandemic, partnering with many groups to administer countless tests all over our region. She has done as much as any one single person in the region to limit the spread of the new coronavirus and prevent the loss of life..
Of course, Dr. Holmes has not escaped the notice of The St. Louis American. I celebrated when she received the St. Louis American Foundation's Salute to Excellence in Health Care Award in 2016.
“I did always know I wanted to work in an environment that would have contact with underserved individuals, so that was my mission,” Holmes told The American.
I have seen her serve that mission up close and directly. After I was elected St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney on a reform platform in 2018, we initiated the office's use of alternate treatment courts and introduced new prosecutor-led diversion initiatives. Recognizing the need for community support to divert non-violent, low-level offenders from both prison and crime, we formed a Diversion Advisory Group. Our dedicated and tireless chair is none other than Dr. Holmes.
She is joined in that work by your 2020 Person of the Year, the Michael Jordan of St. Louis civic service, Michael P. McMillan. The Save Our Sons program that the Urban League created in the ashes of Ferguson under Mike's direction is one of our many community partners that Dr. Holmes helps to keep engaged with our mission.
Our region is fortunate to have community leaders like Dr. Kendra Holmes and Michael P. McMillan committed to improving this place we all love so dearly.
Wesley Bell is St. Louis County prosecuting attorney.
Our mission is simple. There are heinous, violent crimes that must be prosecuted aggressively. But there are low-level, non-violent crimes where treatment is often a better remedy than prosecution, and we believe in providing a way out of both prison and the stigma of a conviction for those willing to work with us and heal themselves.