A Course in Giving

Local entrepreneur Patrick J. Cocherl, Jr., who grew up in Gary, Ind., says the most important accomplishment of his youth was earning the status of Eagle Scout. The plaque he received many years ago is proudly displayed on a shelf in the richly-appointed, warm and inviting office of this visionary businessman and Kansas City philanthropist.

Entrepreneur Patrick J. Cocherl, Jr. is inspired daily by his Eagle Scout award and the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law, which continue to guide him personally and professionally.

“I completed my Eagle status between the ages of 11 and 15, and it left indelible marks on me,” says Cocherl. “The 12 points of the Boy Scout Law are the 12 simple words I have strived to live by as my guiding principles in life and business. They are also my company’s motto and vision statement. The plaque reminds me every day to try to live up to those 12 simple, but demanding, words.”

Cocherl and his wife Kathy, who have been married for 42 years, met while he was attending the University of Missouri. Thirty-three years ago, they decided to plant their roots in the young community of south Leawood. In 1987, Cocherl opened his own business, Heartland Services, a circuit-board repair facility that began with four employees in a rented space in Stanley, Kan. Heartland Services later relocated to Leawood. Now, with more than 150 employees and three facilities, it’s one of the largest service providers to dealers and end users of Panasonic office products in the world.

The couple raised their five children in the Blue Valley School District, and during that time, Cocherl welcomed the opportunity to volunteer, first by coaching baseball, and then by becoming a board member of the Blue Valley Junior Athletic Association. Later, he became one of the founders of the Blue Valley Recreation Commission, where he played an integral part in the development of both Blue Valley sports complexes in south Overland Park.

Wishing to serve the school district at a higher level, Cocherl was elected to the Blue Valley Board of Education, where he served two four-year terms and held the position of president three times.

His unwavering spirit of giving back to the community took a more personal turn in 2003, when he and Kathy made the decision to form the Cocherl Family Foundation, which provides college scholarships to Blue Valley students.

“As our children have now completed their secondary and college schooling, we wanted to try and help other people have an opportunity to complete theirs,” says Cocherl. “It is in this spirit that we created the foundation.”

Potential candidates for the scholarships are identified in their senior year, and must submit an application and essays. The applications are reviewed by the entire family, and scholarships are awarded on Class Day in front of parents, teachers and other students. Cocherl says it’s been gratifying that each of his children has embraced this calling, and participates in all aspects of the foundation.

“What we have been blessed to receive in life, we are choosing to give away,” says Cocherl. “We believe in the Bible passage from Luke 12:42-48: ‘To those whom much is given, much is expected.’ As a family, we are grateful to be able to reach out and help others in need.”

Once awarded a scholarship, a student can continue to receive funds for up to four years of a college degree, as long as they show marked progress. To date, the Cocherl Family Foundation has awarded 57 scholarships. As the foundation grows in assets, the family hopes to be able to increase the amount of students they can assist.

“We have had the pleasure of seeing a student attend vocational school and now be employed as a welder, and another who graduated with a four-year degree in art design from the University of Kansas, as well as a student who earned a degree in business administration from Kansas State,” says Cocherl, who adds that many of these students would not otherwise have had the opportunity to attend a technical school or college. “Sometimes all a person needs to get to the next level is a chance. If we can help by giving them that chance, who knows what might happen?”

The foundation’s logo is the crest of the Cocherl family name, along with the word Nondecedam, which translates to “never quit.” The crest is a bold reminder of the generosity of a man with a lifelong dedication to the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law, who continues to devote himself to community service and giving.

“Success is not measured by wealth,” says Cocherl. “Our family’s belief is that what is given to us on Earth is to be given back on Earth — that what we have here is really just a loan from God.”