Gov. Rick Snyder: Thank you to Michigan’s outstanding volunteers for your service
August 31, 2016
By Josh Paciorek
For more than 20 years, the Governor’s Service Awards have formally recognized the outstanding volunteers making a big difference in communities around Michigan.
On Tuesday, August 30 in Saginaw, Governor Rick Snyder attended his sixth Governor’s Service Awards ceremony and thanked the 29 different individuals and organizations who have gone above and beyond to make a positive impact in the state.
“Michigan has a rich tradition of volunteerism, with neighbors helping neighbors, businesses donating goods and services, and volunteer programs working to make a difference,” the Governor said. “The incredible volunteers honored at the Governor’s Service Awards have helped to make their communities better places to live, work, go to school, and grow.”
Last year alone, nearly two million residents volunteered and provided more than 200 million hours of service across Michigan. You can visit www.volunteermichigan.org to find opportunities to join them.
Governor George Romney Lifetime Achievement Award
Doris M. Jacques of Saginaw is admired as a hard worker, trend setter, achiever, visionary, mentor and role model for her sixty years of dedicated service to her local community. She began her “volunteer career” in the 1950’s at St. Stephen’s Church (now St. Dominic Parish) doing miscellaneous errands around the church, co-chaired the “First Nighter’s” family entertainment series for 19 years, organized the first church library, and served on the funeral luncheon ministry. The more Doris involved herself in service, the more friends she made, the more she accomplished, and the more sense of purpose she experienced. This led her to add volunteer service with the Volunteer Auxiliary at St. Mary’s of Michigan hospital in 1960, where she is currently the longest serving volunteer and has given the most hours at well over 50,000 hours. Doris is a co-founder of the Hospital Gift Shop, frequented by hospital visitors, staff and community members seeking gifts and sundries. In 1981 she co-founded Timeless Treasures Thrift Store, dedicated to providing low-cost household and clothing items for the needy. During her 55 year tenure at the hospital, Doris’s inspiring leadership has helped raise $3.5 million through Auxiliary fundraisers, vendor sales, and sales proceeds from the Gift Shop and the Thrift Shop. These proceeds have been used by the hospital for major medical equipment purchases, two Cancer Care Vans, and renovations. As her nominator said, “We cannot estimate how many lives Doris has impacted as she has been so involved in so many areas of St. Mary’s, many before the hospital kept such records. We can tell you she initiates plenty, follows through on everything…everyone likes and respects Doris, from the doctors and nurses to the volunteers and visitors.”
Corporate Community Leader Award
Bank of Ann Arbor (BOAA) has a mission to give back to the community through donations of time, talent and treasure. Since its founding in 1996, supporting local organizations that make the community better has been vitally important to BOAA. Following the lead of BOAA’s CEO, nearly 100 percent of the company’s 185 employees volunteer at or donate financially to more than 200 local nonprofits. Together, the company and staff contributed 4,200 service hours in the past few years and donated more than $1 million to the community since 1996. Support also comes from many employees serving on local boards or committees at the nonprofits. BOAA doesn’t support just one type or cause, but instead spreads their support to areas such as education, disaster relief, food and shelter, disabilities, animal welfare, environmental issues, arts and culture, family and children, sports and school activities, health and wellness and many more. Key community projects BOAA has supported include: helping the United Way of Washtenaw County establish a virtual volunteer center; inspired a March Madness “Brackets for Good” social media donation challenge; and sponsoring Sonic Lunch, a summer concert series that helped revitalize Liberty Plaza.
The Dow Chemical Company in Midland believes effective community engagement occurs through collaboration, conversation and transparency with stakeholders on many levels. DowGives is the umbrella for employee engagement and channels the time, talent and resources of Dow people to address social, economic and environmental concerns in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Dow’s 2015 Community Engagement strategy delivered more than $4 million in financial contributions and 23,000 hours of volunteerism by Dow employees, whose energy and passion made a tremendous impact on many lives. Eighty-five percent of contributions focused on Innovating for Local Solutions to address the numerous challenges communities face, while the remaining 15 percent focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Those 23,000 service hours were provided by 1,359 Dow employees for varying community needs such as neighborhood clean-up projects; STEM projects in local schools; 75 Habitat for Humanity renovations; food pantry assistance; serving on 188 different nonprofit boards; and mentoring FIRST Robotics teams. Financial contributions went to groups such as Chippewa Nature Center Preschool and Day Camp; Temple Theatre Red Carpet Series; United Ways in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties; Donor-Advised Grants, Fast Start, Habitat for Humanity, college student organizations, local schools and more. Dow is especially proud of its 33 year partnership with Habitat for Humanity and 75 year partnership with United Way.
Gast Manufacturing in Benton Harbor has been giving back to the community and helping others since the 1970s. Founder William Gast knew community involvement was important and instilled that in his employees, a trend that continues to this day. The motivation to give back comes from personal experiences and understanding of how much need lies within the community; for example, a current employee who was once homeless toured the local Salvation Army Men’s Shelter with fellow employees and knew he needed to help. That tour led to Gast procuring a $10,000 grant to remodel the shelter, including installing a new roof, countertops, cabinets, flooring, and more. The new roof not only improved the lives of the men living at the shelter, but also saved the much-needed community services also housed in the building, including the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen, Herbie Clinic, and Women’s Service League. Gast employees also give back by: collecting food and supplies for the shelter and food pantry year round; filling stockings for shelter residents and adopting families and foster children for Christmas; donating 50 turkeys to local organizations at the holidays; conducting fundraisers; and donating $43,000 to the United Way’s annual campaign — $11,000 of that being employee contributions.
Mentor of the Year Award
Christine (Tena) Alvarado of Holly has demonstrated qualities needed to be a great mentor with her mentee, Ashley. Patience and persistence have been only two of Tena’s many strengths, providing much-needed structure, consistency and understanding for Ashley since they were matched when she was 6. While Ashley’s mom faces frequent illnesses and hospital visits, Tena advocates for Ashley’s needs, encourages regular school attendance, provides transportation, offers emotional support, and broadens Ashley’s cultural experiences. With Tena by her side, Ashley has made great strides in the classroom, improving her reading level and learning practical skills. Tena offers additional support by taking Ashley to the theatre, museums, and musical events, and attends many of Ashley’s band and dance performances. “Tena has shown incredible dedication through the time she has been volunteering with the Mentors Plus Program of Oakland County Youth Assistance,” said Julie Stitt, program director. Tena has also served on the Mentor Plus Advisory Committee for eight years, served on the Oakland County Youth Assistance Board, served as president for the Holly Area Youth Assistance (HAYA) program and served on the Holly Area Community Coalition. She continues to mentor Ashley as well as other mentees who need help. “She is dedicated, diligent and hardworking. She gives her all to everything she does,” said HAYA secretary Karyn Willis.
Volunteer of the Year Award
Richard Chatman of Detroit is a U.S. Air Force Vietnam veteran who is passionate about helping his fellow veterans have productive, positive lives after their service. And while Richard has done much to assist veterans and their families, he has also helped bring greater attention to these issues among the broader Detroit and Michigan communities. In 2011, he was named the first African-American State Commander in Michigan history, representing more than 70,000 members in the state. Richard’s American Legion Post #372 is known as the “Ghost Post” for its members’ commitment to seek no glory, only quietly support veterans and their families. He helped start the Detroit Veteran’s Day Parade, which started small, but now draws more than 4,000 people. Richard has chaired the Legion’s statewide Homeless Veterans Task Force. He’s also worked with the Wayne County Veterans Community Action Team and the Reboot program for formerly homeless veterans at Piquette Square for Veterans in Detroit. If it’s a veteran issue, it’s a good bet that Richard is involved as he served 1,300 hours in 2015. “I am inspired by Mr. Chatman’s dedication and commitment to not only his secondary activities but his pursuit of awareness,” said Ike McKinnon, Deputy Mayor of Detroit.
Michael McFarlen of Battle Creek is a chef who makes sure his food doesn’t just go to paying customers. The Firekeepers Casino and Hotel chef participates in a wide variety of events and volunteers with 20 organizations to help feed children, first responders and the hungry. Chef McFarlen logged more than 700 volunteer hours in 2015 and has made a lasting impression on the Food Bank of South Central Michigan through his dedication to feeding the hungry and providing food education. His goal is to raise awareness and provide information to underprivileged families in regards to cooking fresh and healthy food choices. Michael and his team participated in 58 events in 2015, serving 22,517 people. Chef McFarlen also regularly volunteers with SAFE Place, a shelter for victims of domestic violence. He helps put on an annual event that raised $60,000 for the shelter in 2015 and $200,000 in the past six years. During the holidays, Michael initiates the distribution of 1,000 turkeys to local food banks. During catastrophes, he jumps into action, coordinating meals for first responders and victims. With the partnership of local Battle Creek businesses, Chef McFarlen and his team delivered more than 60,000 bottles of water to Flint during the recent crisis. He logged more than 700 volunteer hours in 2015.
“One of the most gratifying things for me personally, is the look on someone’s face who has received unsolicited and no-strings-attached assistance,” Michael said.
Wanda Westman of Ishpeming won a battle with cancer 20 years ago and has dedicated her life to helping others ever since. After becoming a cancer survivor, her drive to give back grew immensely. However, through her service she almost feels a little selfish because she gets so much joy from helping others. Wanda has been a regular volunteer at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans through the American Legion Auxiliary for two decades and has served nearly 10,000 hours there. She does a little bit of everything at the Home from running events, to fundraising, to collecting and distributing Christmas presents. She also participates in the No Veteran Left Alone program, trying to help veterans feel comfortable in their final hours. “Her big, kind heart shows through the way she interacts with our veterans and it makes their days happier,” said Bradford Slagle, D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans Chief Operating Officer. “It’s simply not possible to figure out the number of lives she has touched.” In addition to volunteering at the Home, Wanda has been active with Relay for Life for 18 years, serving as team captain for the past 8 years, and helping raise more than $31,000 for the American Cancer Society. She also has helped out with community food programs and served as a role model for her community.
Senior Volunteer of the Year Award
Nancy Bryant of Mt. Pleasant has always had a passion for nursing, beginning as a candy striper at age 14, and eventually earning her LPN license. After retiring, she made a commitment in 2013 to the Isabella County Commission on Aging and started volunteering as a Foster Grandparent. When an opening in the Senior Companion Program opened she jumped at the opportunity to assist older adults maintain their independence. For the past three years, she has provided 2,122 hours of service, freely giving the gift of time and attention to those in need. Nancy provides her clients with the support and interaction that contributes to their overall wellbeing, provides them with a connection to the outside world, and fills a void in their lives by easing their loneliness and giving them a feeling of independence. The time that Nancy spends with her clients can consist of visiting, playing cards, taking the client to a doctor’s appointment, going shopping, or joining with others to share a meal and conversation. Without Nancy, many of her clients would not get this opportunity as their family is either absent or their schedules do not permit them to visit as often as they’d like. Because of Nancy’s visits, her clients have better odds of staying physically, mentally and socially healthy. As one client stated “I don’t feel my normal pains like I usually do when Nancy is here visiting with me.” The benefits are twofold — the client has someone close to their own age with similar life experiences to bond with, and Nancy has stated the friendships she has developed have given her a purpose and a reason to get up in the morning.
Paul Goldsmith of Farmington Hills demonstrates a true commitment and passion for serving his community. While regular service to his faith community and his country have been part of his life for many decades, after his wife passed from cancer Paul made the decision in 2012 to honor her memory by serving the Detroit community full time. A registered architect, Paul has been involved in the “green movement” since the 1980s so it was natural to become an AmeriCorps member with the Detroit Youth Energy Squad (YES). He is currently in his fourth year of service with YES, serving hundreds of students in Detroit Public Schools by helping them make their schools, homes and communities more sustainable. He has been instrumental in bringing technical expertise to the team, and is quick to share his knowledge with colleagues and students, helping create hands-on learning experiences for the students. Paul has dedicated more than 6,000 hours in the past four years to facilitating youth leadership development in Detroit students, as well as the young people in his synagogue. He has impacted more than 400 students through weekly green team meetings and stays connected to students who have graduated from the YES program to encourage them in their educational and volunteer paths. Paul is also a founding member and long-time volunteer for the USGBC Detroit Regional Chapter, which promotes green building practices in Southeast Michigan. Paul’s nominator summed up his service: “As he readily makes known to any student offering a complaint, Mr. Goldsmith is 72 years old. And yet, on any given day of a hot Michigan summer, you can find him perched on a ladder, digging a footing for the foundation of a composting toilet or lying on the floor of a client’s home, showing them how to affix a door sweep. And when you find him, there are two things you can be sure of. One: He will have a student close by, listening and watching intently, then mimicking him, practicing a newly gained skill. And two: he’ll have a smile on his face, a joke up his sleeve, or a piece of wisdom to offer anyone who is fortunate enough to be near. It is obvious by working with him that Mr. Goldsmith finds true joy through serving those around him.”
James (Jim) Polet of Holland is 87 years old and shows little sign of slowing down. He began his volunteer service 20+ years ago with his church and retired in 1993 from the tool and die industry. After retirement he began volunteering more often, primarily helping with construction projects. Jim volunteers with Jubliee Ministries, International Aid and Habitat for Humanity, while also doing handy-man jobs for widowed friends, driving volunteers who do not have transportation, mentoring new volunteers, and encouraging others to serve. He has been a weekly volunteer for Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity since 2003, showing up no matter the weather and doing whatever tasks need completing. Jim has helped more than 41 families receive new homes or home repairs and has served more than 1,400 hours just since 2014. An immigrant to the United States, Jim gives a face to the American Dream and culture and since moving here in the 1960s has given of himself to make it a better place. Helping others seems to be part of his DNA. As his wife stated, “Jim is unable to sit still and is the king of offering his services. He never says no.” His fellow Habitat volunteers had this to say: “Jim is the energizer bunny. He has more energy than anyone on the Wednesday crew” and “We can always count on Jim…he is a great asset to the team” and “He is a joy to be around. Jim makes volunteering fun while working hard to get projects done.”
Lucille Wright of Bath has devoted most of her life to the Girl Scouts, knowing that it gives girls courage, confidence and character. An active Girl Scout herself as a child, she began volunteering after high school with her niece’s Girl Scout Troop in Jackson. After moving to Bath in the 1970’s she became an official Girl Scout troop leader when her daughter’s friend wanted to join but there were no local troops, so Lucille started one. Ever since, Lucille has kept busy as a Troop Leader, Troop and Area Product Program Manager, Trainer, Facilitator and more. Most recently, Lucille is the Cookie Cupboard Manager for the Lansing area where she spends 3–5 days a week for two months overseeing the delivery and storage of cookies for initial troop orders and cookie booths. She also assists at all of the Lansing region’s Cookie Drops where troop leaders pick up their troop’s cookie orders (27,000+ cases!). The Cookie Drops are outdoors in February, usually during the coldest days of the year, but that has never stopped Lucille. When it’s not cookie season, you can find Lucille volunteering in Daisy’s Boutique, the Girl Scout store. Due to her dedication to Girl Scouts, she has earned the highest honors possible, receiving the Thanks Badge in 1990 and the Thanks Badge II in 1995. Lucille not only volunteers for Girl Scouts, but with the Gardner Middle School Library in Lansing, and with Scholastic Book Fairs in Dewitt and Kalamazoo. Scholastic ‘pays’ their volunteers in books, and Lucille always donates hers to local libraries and daycare centers.
Youth Volunteer of the Year Award
Aubrey Cohoon of Spring Lake happily received numerous gifts at her ice skating party for her 7th birthday. However, the overabundance of presents made her think that she would rather help others than receive the gifts herself. For Aubrey’s 8th birthday, she hosted the same party, but asked for donations to an educational fund for two classmates who had lost a father to cancer. The next year, she asked for donations for a local transitional home where a classmate had been living. In the following years, Aubrey, now 12, has continued to put others before herself and has raised nearly $35,000 for Make-A-Wish of Michigan, inspiring countless others along the way. “What makes Aubrey unique is her heart and passion at such a young age,” said Spring Lake Intermediate School principal Benjamin Lewakowski. “She is most definitely leaving an impact on all the people around her — family, friends and complete strangers.” Aubrey also participates in other fundraising events like the River Bank Run and Car Show for a Cause. She has also volunteered to help coach beginning figure skaters with the Muskegon Lakeshore Figure Skating Club and has collected can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan for three years. While she is described as quiet and shy, Aubrey’s actions of helping others have made a loud, lasting impression on her community. “I feel my own wishes and dreams are coming true and I want everyone to feel the same,” Aubrey said.
Sikander “Sonny” Khan of Jackson had his life change in an instant when his father suffered a debilitating stroke, losing his eyesight, his job and nearly his life. A medical team saved his father and Sonny became forever grateful. He began volunteering at Allegiance Health Hospital, where medical staff treated his father. Sonny organizes patients’ charts and prescriptions, transports patients in wheelchairs, while also greeting, guiding and comforting patients and their family members. “If you are blessed with energy and have the opportunity to use it to help make things better for people, you should take advantage of it,” Khan said. “You can change people’s lives in a positive way, and that feels good.” Sonny had a dream of being financially able to bring his grandfather from Pakistan to the United States to meet him for the first time, and it hit Sonny hard when he passed away in 2014 before the dream was realized. Sonny decided to volunteer at a local nursing home to honor his grandfather. During weekly visits Sonny plays games, serves ice cream and connects with senior residents, along with helping them with technology. He also is the director of a high school mentoring program involving more than 160 students, serves on the executive committee of the Jackson Community Foundation Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) and encourages all of his classmates to volunteer. He is in the process of creating the Project United program that will provide low-income students access to educational materials and resources. Overall, Sonny volunteered 333 hours in 2015. “What widely distinguishes Sonny from his fellow youth volunteers is his truly altruistic and independent nature,” said Cynthia Bellew, YAC coordinator. “He is genuine and volunteers because he can see the need in our community and feels a social responsibility to assist. With a compassionate heart, he finds a way to help others.”
Emily Prokop of Birmingham and Eliana Margherio of Bloomfield Hills know teenagers can struggle with self-esteem. At a young age, they also realized that teenagers in homeless or low-income situations could face extra challenges with confidence. In 2014, at ages 14 and 15, Emily and Eliana started Trends for Teens, a nonprofit organization that provides teenagers with new and gently used clothing and accessories. Teens can earn points to “purchase” items by achieving academic, athletic and service–oriented goals. Since its inception, more than 500 teenagers have achieved more than 1,000 goals, allowing them the opportunity to shop for fashionable clothing while building self-esteem along the way. During the last year, Emily and Eliana, now 16 and 17, have redistributed more than $20,000 worth of clothing. “Emily and Eliana have demonstrated that a group of teenagers motivated to help their community can achieve great things,” said Shirley Stancato, President and CEO of New Detroit. The teenagers have launched three Trends for Teens stores in Pontiac, Wyandotte and Detroit with plans to expand throughout Michigan. Both Emily and Eliana also serve as tutors and encourage classmates to volunteer with them. Emily and Eliana plan to continue their mission to help others. “We believe every teenager has the potential to do something great, and it is our goal to make sure he or she understands that individual potential…and achievement of goals can help him or her reach his or her full potential.”
Alan and Anna Sun of Canton created the Little Stars Foundation in 2007 to enrich lives with music. The brother and sister team have put on more than 100 free concerts at 15 nursing homes in Metro Detroit, performing for more than 1,000 seniors. Since many of the concerts occur during the holiday season, the pair has also raised more than $10,000 to provide gifts for the seniors, given during the shows. “While many lucky children and their relatives think of the holidays as a warm, happy time, countless others around the world are struggling to cope with illness, loneliness or other serious difficulties,” Alan said. As talented young musicians, Alan, age 17, and Anna, 14, have been determined to share their gift with other children as well. The siblings organize a four-week violin workshop that has helped 250 children learn how to play the instrument. Outside of music, Alan launched two free programs in 2015, one to help with childhood obesity and also a 3D printer workshop to inspire children to get involved with STEM. Anna has helped the Little Stars Foundation grow to more than 40 members, with musicians ages six to 18 performing for seniors to put smiles on their faces. One senior said, “It brought delightful tears to my eyes as I read about the good works you and your thoughtful group has been doing…With all the mischief in the world these days, it is so wonderful to know that you are out there.”
Caleb White of Commerce Twp. jumped into his parents’ car on a cold Michigan winter night, shivering. As the vehicle pulled away to return home from a circus in Detroit, the five-year-old noticed a man lying on the sidewalk and questioned why he was there. His mother explained to him what homeless meant. Since that night, Caleb, now 13, has been on a mission to help Detroit’s homeless population with his foundation, the Caleb White Project. Each winter the foundation collects, sorts, wraps and distributes care packages. In seven years he has handed out more than 700 boxes that include hats, gloves, socks, hand warmers, food and toiletries. Each fall he is dedicated to ensuring children have everything they need to begin the school year, handing out 850 backpacks filled with school supplies. Caleb not only helps those in need, he befriends them. He started a game night at a women and children’s shelter. “It’s so fun!” Caleb said. “It’s amazing to get to know people and know their stories. I love making those one-on-one connections.” He continues to come up with new ideas to help those in need. For Global Youth Service Day in 2016, he engaged 3,000 volunteers to help build libraries in 10 Detroit homeless shelters. Caleb effortlessly inspires all those around him, leaving the volunteers that serve with him and those in need feeling proud of what they accomplished. “He is giving people experiences that they will cherish forever,” said Erin Manneback, friend and neighbor of Caleb’s family. “I believe that Caleb is motivated by an empathy that most people don’t have. He actually feels what others might be feeling.
Outstanding National Service Program Award
Cherry Health Community HealthCorps members serve in a wide variety of roles that aim to increase the health and wellness of the underserved. This includes providing outreach to vulnerable populations such as low-income families, individuals experiencing homelessness, migrant farmworkers, ex-offenders, LGBT populations, and individuals with chronic mental health conditions and/or substance use disorders. Members become Certified Application Counselors and provide health insurance education and enrollment assistance for Medicaid, Healthy Michigan, and Marketplace plans. Members provide health education and wellness promotion through after-school fitness programs, EatPlayGrow™ workshops for preschoolers, member-coordinated health fairs, and family health programs. HealthCorps members provide services that remove barriers to healthcare access, such as transportation assistance, interpretation services and discharge prevention. Members also play key roles in population health initiatives such as breast cancer prevention education and screening, diabetes and hypertension prevention and management, and linking patients to services that support healthy pregnancies and positive birth outcomes. The Grand Rapids program’s members and volunteers served 51,943 hours in 2015 and have served 154,636 hours in the last three years.
Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (MARESA), and its “Get Ready, Get Reading” program gives 13 community-minded individuals the training and resources to conduct small group literacy support within the Pre-K–5 classroom in Alger, Delta-Schoolcraft, Marquette, and Menominee counties. “Get Ready, Get Reading” is an education-based program that utilizes AmeriCorps members to conduct evidence-based reading interventions at grade schools throughout the Upper Peninsula. MARESA has reached more than 1,700 students over three academic years. On average, 66 percent of these students show an increase in academic achievement. While a majority of service time is spent in the classroom, members actively lead civic engagement and volunteerism in their district, whether it’s leading the annual Regional Russ Mawby Signature Service Project or helping the elderly during Make a Difference Day. Members also have designed youth sections in nature preserves, built literacy centers, interacted with disabled veterans, and painted murals with local children as part of National Days of Service and statewide events. Over the course of a service year, MARESA’s members dedicate a combined 20,400 hours to bettering the Upper Peninsula.
The Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps (MFPC) is an AmeriCorps program created in 2009 to address the housing crisis in Michigan. The program originally increased the capacity of housing counseling agencies by providing foreclosure prevention services and resources to those at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. As the housing crisis has lessened, the program has morphed to meet the needs of community economic development organizations in Michigan. For the 2015 program year, the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM) is running a pilot project that shifts the focus to financial education. Members may focus on providing financial education through hosting financial education classes, hosting community resource fairs, or expanding the IRS’s free tax assistance program in their communities. Throughout the service year, MFPC works to develop its members both personally and professionally by encouraging civic engagement, providing trainings, and preparing them for life after AmeriCorps. Since the program’s inception, MFPC members have helped more than 30,000 individuals through the foreclosure mitigation process. Members and volunteers have served more than 30,000 hours each year.
The Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Otsego County began in 1981 and over the last 35 years has received numerous awards for engaging senior volunteers on a community level. The group started the Otsego County Food Pantry and helped create the Otsego County Volunteer Center and the RSVP programs in Charlevoix and Emmet Counties. A major accomplishment was creating the “Road to Recovery” program, operating the first cancer van in Michigan (second in the nation) — a program that has continually run every business day for the last 18 years. In community partnership with the Otsego County Commission on Aging, RSVP provides more than 700 annual non-emergency medical trips to transport senior, homebound, or disabled Otsego residents from their rural homes to medical centers in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Saginaw, Grand Rapids and Traverse City for appointments. Other notable RSVP programs include: the Otsego Holiday Giving program, Tool Time Tuesday program (providing minor house repairs for senior, homebound and disabled households), American Red Cross Blood Drives, After-School Tutoring program, and E-Volunteering. A total of 336 volunteers served 34,000 hours in 2015.
Outstanding Volunteer Program Award
Flowers for Friends in Petoskey was founded by Girl Scout Troop 379 in 2007 as their Gold Award project. After delivering 7,500 arrangements and prior to high school graduation in 2009, the scouts trained community volunteers to carry the project forward. Volunteers refresh gently-used, donated flowers from weddings, funerals, churches and other events that would otherwise be thrown away and reassemble them into smaller arrangements that are delivered to isolated community members in need of a smile. Since project inception, more than 43,000 arrangements have been delivered to community members at Emmet County nonprofit destinations. Project volunteers are motivated by the powerful impact that a flower delivery can have upon an individual, as well as the positive environmental impact of giving another useable life to the flowers. Flowers for Friends spreads the message that “Someone is thinking about you; someone cares for you; you matter.” Project workspace walls are covered with handwritten notes about the impact of the flower deliveries to such recipients as homebound Meals on Wheels recipients or the Alzheimer’s patient who, upon receiving a bouquet at his respite care location, delivered it directly to his wife who he hadn’t recognized or spoken to for some time and said, “These are for my sweetie.”
Friends of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon exists to serve the people of Michigan and all park visitors by protecting, preserving and promoting the park. The group was formally organized as a nonprofit in 1998, but traces its roots to the 1940s when volunteers gathered to address park issues. Since then, the Friends organization has developed and sustained a number of programs and activities to inspire an appreciation of wilderness for current and future generations. The Friends of the Porkies’ activities target area residents in this rural and economically depressed community, many of whom do not have access to high-quality arts and crafts classes, presentations by award winning authors, musicians, photographers, painters or other cultural events. The 40+ active year-round volunteers: run the Folk School’s arts and crafts classes and maintain the Folk School building; organize the Summer Solstice program, operate the Artist in Residence program; offer mini-grants to fund educational trips to the park for youth; and maintain the Kurt Blake Helmet Fund that provides 50% of the cost of ski helmets purchased for Ontonagon County youth. The Friends of the Porkies also present the annual three-day Porcupine Mountains Music Festival, utilizing 100 additional volunteers, drawing thousands of visitors and providing a much-needed boost to the Ontonagon County economy.
Just Speak Incorporated in Detroit was founded in 2003 by then 17-year-old Brittni Kellom, a survivor of child sexual abuse, whose own experiences led to the realization that young people who have been victimized can be taught the power of their voice. The nonprofit advocates for the prevention of child abuse, sexual assault and neglect. Just Speak offers awareness and prevention programming for children 5–18 and provides sexual assault advocate training to caregivers, organizations and groups. It is unique because its programs are specifically designed to support and empower young people and uses various forms of art expression, mental health professionals, journals, group exercises and mentoring to provide a safe space for young victims to begin their journey to healing. Just Speak also offers court accompaniment, trauma counseling, and long-term resources for families and children. One of the greatest impacts has come from adolescents who have expressed the freedom of being believed, heard, and unafraid for the first time. The impact of learning to advocate for themselves and others turns a victim or possible victim into an engaged bystander, thus bringing about a healthier and more proactive educated community.
Memorial Healthcare Volunteer Services in Owosso has made a huge difference in the day-to-day running of Memorial Healthcare, a 150-bed, nonprofit community hospital in rural Shiawassee County. The 200 volunteers, more than many larger hospitals, provide patient care services, administrative services, employee services and concierge services. They operate the front desk, run the courtesy car, feed chemo and infusion patients, transport patients, provide items to patients that are admitted suddenly, provide baby hats to newborns, operate a newborn screening register to determine newborn high risk behavior and much more. This group has been in existence for more than 24 years and are motivated by a deep desire to keep the community hospital running by helping patients and saving the hospital operating expenses. In 2015 alone the volunteers donated more than 40,000 hours, and some of the individual volunteers have more than 25,000 lifetime hours of service. The newly created “Caring Concierge Program” provides suddenly-admitted patients peace of mind knowing that volunteers can help move their car, call their loved ones, walk their dog, pick up their family from the airport. The volunteers see patients on their worst days and best days and are there to help patients and families any way they can. Last year Memorial Healthcare Volunteer Services received a letter from a family that had just received devastating news and wanted the program to know how wonderful the volunteer in the surgical lounge treated them. “I was truly falling apart. The doctor had just told me that my husband had a very short time to live. I was there alone, not knowing that I could possibly get this kind of news. The volunteer sat with me, tried to call my family for me and stayed with me until someone from my family could get there which was over 5 hours later. She stayed way past her shift just so I would not be alone. You have no idea what this meant to me and my family.”
The Council of Michigan Foundations is pleased to join with the Michigan Nonprofit Association, the Michigan Community Service Commission and Governor Rick Snyder in presenting the 2016 Community Philanthropy Award to Mary Little Tyler of Kalamazoo and Dr. Sam Shaheen and the Shaheen Family of Saginaw.
MARY LITTLE TYLER OF KALAMAZOO
Kalamazoo County’s nonprofit community is exceptional because of leaders and visionaries like Mary Tyler, who has dedicated her life for the past 60 years to making Kalamazoo a better place for all. Her leadership at the Kalamazoo Community
Foundation includes being a founder of Women in Philanthropy and helping with the move in 2014 to the renovated train station. Through the Tyler Little Family Foundation she joined with the Community Foundation and the United Way
in funding the Lifeline Initiative to help nonprofits dealing with the downturn in the economy in 2008.
DR. SAMUEL SHAHEEN AND THE SHAHEEN FAMILY OF SAGINAW
When you think of a leadership example for community philanthropy, Dr. Sam Shaheen and his family standout for the Saginaw community. Members of the Shaheen family have served on the board of the Saginaw Community Foundation since 1988 and have played leadership roles on multiple committees. Sam Shaheen was instrumental in guiding the foundation through the process of securing a permanent home. Recognizing the value of permanent endowed funds for many community institutions, the family has led in creating endowment funds at the Community Foundation for the Saginaw Bay Symphony, and the Junior League of Saginaw Valley to name just two.