Everyone can do something to make the community a better place.

That was the message of the 2017 Outstanding Young Person Tom Abbott, who was presented with the award at the Union Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Distinguished Service Awards Banquet Saturday, Feb. 3. Missourian Managing Editor and last year’s recipient, Gregg Jones, presented the award.

“Tom willingly gives his time because he believes he can help make a difference.” Jones said. “His service is a way for him to give back to the organizations that have supported him.”

Abbott served on the Franklin County Fair Board for a decade.

He started as a volunteer and quickly gained more responsibilities and began taking on more roles.

Over the past 10 years, he has served as the trash chairman, gates chairman, advertising chairman, food book chairman and treasurer.

“As he took on each of those roles, he made each spot more efficient than it had been — all while building relationships with community organizations and sponsors to help benefit the Fair,” Jones said.

Additionally, Abbott was the driving force in getting Square, a credit card-reading device, to help with ticket sales at the gates.

He worked tirelessly to save the Fair money by establishing relationships with many area businesses. Abbott also helped create the relationship between the Fair and the Union High School FFA organization.

“Without the help of the young FFA students, many tasks wouldn’t get done, such as fencing, setup, and helping at the gates and events,” said Kate Schroeder with the Franklin County Fair.

In a support letter written by Ann and Norm Schroeder, the couple said Union High School has benefited from their alum who has been giving of his time for many years since his graduation.

Abbott supports the FFA trap team, Union FFA and FFA Alumni, UHS junior wrestling and wrestling teams.

He has volunteered with concessions for baseball and football teams, Project United, Special Olympics and other community events.

In the nomination, Abbott was called a “Champion for the kids” because of his service to young people, especially Special Olympic athletes who he works with in track, softball and bowling.

He also has helped local youth find a safe place to stay when needed, and he has supported younger people through drug rehab and recovery.

Abbott also is involved with the Washington Town & Country Fair and the United Methodist Church.

He is a graduate of Union High School and East Central College. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Phoenix.

Abbott said he’s always wanted to help others first.

“Volunteering is my first priority in life,” Abbott said. “Everybody has time to do something, whether it’s giving someone a ride or listening to someone who has a problem. Every little thing helps (someone).”