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Governor honors Michigan volunteers

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday recognized recipients of the Governor's Service Awards for their exemplary volunteer work throughout Michigan. The evening event, titled "An Evening with the Stars," was at the Gem Theatre in Detroit. 

"Michigan is rich with a culture of volunteerism and service that makes our state a great place to live, work, and play," Snyder said. "As we celebrate the 40 finalists who were recognized at the 2012 Governor's Service Awards, we also salute the impact and service of all of Michigan's amazing volunteers and thank them for their contributions to our state."

The Governor's Service Awards ceremony is an annual event coordinated by the Michigan Community Service Commission, the state's lead agency on volunteerism. This year's honorees were selected from more than 130 nominations submitted by friends, relatives and colleagues to pay tribute to individuals, organizations and businesses who exemplify the spirit of volunteer service. An objective peer review panel and the board of the Michigan Community Service Commission selected the finalists and winners, with final approval of the selections from Snyder.

PHASE 5, one of Detroit's most high-energy Motown groups, joined the governor in honoring the nominees by performing live for the audience. Also participating in the night's festivities were the 2012 Governor's Service Awards sponsors, without whose generous contributions the event would not have been possible. Corporate sponsors are the Ford Motor Co. Fund, presenting sponsor; as well as Acheson Ventures, Ms. Diana Algra, Amway, Butzel Long, Comcast, Comer Holding, Consumers Energy, the Council of Michigan Foundations, DTE Energy Foundation, Lear, the MASCO Corp. Foundation, Meijer, the Michigan Nonprofit Association, Quicken Loans, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  

The 2012 Governor's Service Awards and recipients are:

The Governor George Romney Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteerism: Judge Edward Sosnick of Bloomfield Hills

This award honors an individual who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to community involvement and volunteer service. For more than 50 years, Sosnick has been dedicated to helping vulnerable populations. Since the 1970s, he has been assisting HAVEN, previously known as the Oakland County Center for Rape and Sexual Abuse, to train volunteers and service providers on how to best support victims of sexual assault and domestic violence through the criminal justice system. As a result of his work with HAVEN, Sosnick was appointed by Gov. John Engler to serve on the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention Treatment Board in 1991 and has served on the board for 18 years. Sosnick also is a co-founder of the Oakland County Coordinating Council Against Domestic Violence, and was a driving force behind the creation of the SAVE program, which focuses on the issue of elder abuse. In addition, Sosnick's commitment to at-risk populations led him to create two unique programs during his time as an Oakland County judge: SMILE, an education program for parents going through divorce, and OPTIONS, a program for youth convicted of drug offenses.

The Corporate Community Leader Award: Amway of Ada

This award honors businesses that demonstrate excellent corporate citizenship by giving back to their community through corporate volunteer programs, monetary contributions, in-kind gifts and employee-driven volunteer service. Amway, one of the world's largest direct selling businesses, has a long history of supporting communities. In its 50 years of existence, the company and its founders have given more than $428 million to local initiatives. Aside from their monetary contributions, many Amway employees also donate their time, logging 20,000 volunteer hours at 70 different nonprofits last year alone. In addition, more than half of all Amway employees have volunteered their time for service projects hosted by Amway, including: the construction of 13 playgrounds in the greater Grand Rapids area, assisting the Kids Food Basket in preparing 109,728 meals for 744 children, and providing literacy assistance and mentoring experiences to elementary students. Amway also launched the One by One Campaign for Children in 2003, which serves to provide hope and resources to children in need across the globe. This program has helped 9.5 million children through the efforts of 2.5 million employee and distributor volunteer hours, and $166 million in contributions.

The Mentor of the Year Award: LeeAnn Ludwig of Mount Pleasant 

This award honors an individual who has made a significant difference in a child's life over time through mentoring. Ludwig has been involved with mentoring for many years. In high school, she participated in the school's Peer Mentoring Program, acting as a friend and confidant to others in her classes. Now in her adult life, Ludwig has been successfully matched with her mentee for two years through the Helping Others Prepare for Everything (H.O.P.E.) Mentoring Program. This relationship is especially significant as Ludwig's mentee has faced unique challenges as a young person previously in foster care. Despite this, Ludwig has been there for her mentee. Though her mentee has now moved away to college, Ludwig still makes the effort to maintain the mentoring relationship and has been named by her mentee as "one of the most influential people in her life."

The Outstanding National Service Program Award: Schools of Hope AmeriCorps Program in Grand Rapids

This award honors an extraordinary organization that provides a high-quality national service program which yields a significant impact in their Michigan community. The Schools of Hope AmeriCorps Program is a unique national service partnership between the Heart of West Michigan United Way and the Literacy Center of West Michigan. The program, which originally began with seven AmeriCorps VISTA members in 2007, now has 15 full-time AmeriCorps state members whose service is helping to close the third-grade reading achievement gap in Grand Rapids Public Schools. Schools of Hope AmeriCorps members support 14 in-school tutoring programs, 16 after-school reading programs and seven family literacy programs. In 2011, AmeriCorps members in this program supported more than 300 students in after-school programs, 719 students in in-school tutoring programs, 230 parents in family literacy instruction, and recruited, trained and managed more than 800 volunteers. On average, students in the program improved their reading growth by 1.2 years, helping to put them on track for future success in their education.

The Outstanding Volunteer Program Award: Family Literacy Center in Lapeer

This award acknowledges the importance an organization or club makes in community life. For more than 30 years, the Family Literacy Center of Lapeer has been providing quality programming for residents of Lapeer County. With a small paid staff of only four employees, the Center relies heavily on the support of more than 100 volunteers who act as tutors, administrators, fund raisers and more. Through the services and support provided by their volunteers, the Center is able to offer free one-on-one tutoring for Lapeer County adults who wish to improve their reading, writing, spelling, basic math, or English-speaking skills. Additionally, the program provides tutoring for local children, Parent and Child Together workshops, kindergarten readiness activities, and other hot-topic workshops that cover subjects such as bullying, social skill development and more. In 2011, the Family Literacy Center received more than 9,000 hours of volunteer service, which allowed them to teach workshops to 1,694 people, assist 43 students in obtaining their GED, and tutor 557 adults and 58 children.

The Senior Volunteer of the Year Award: John Hilliard of Kalamazoo

This award honors a senior citizen who has taken action to make his or her community a better place to live. Since moving to the area 10 years ago, Hilliard has been a dedicated volunteer in his local community. After noticing that a need in Kalamazoo County was going unmet - many could not afford the medical equipment they required - Hilliard founded Lending Hands. This nonprofit organization in Portage loans medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers and canes to people in need free of charge. Originally operated out of his home, Lending Hands has continued to grow under Hilliard's volunteer direction, and has had to move to a larger location three separate times. In its seven-year history, the program has lent more than 10,000 pieces of equipment to more than 7,700 clients in 110 southwest Michigan communities, helping its clients to save more than $2.6 million. Though he relies on the assistance of other volunteers, Hilliard has been the primary motivation behind the organization's success and spends his time assisting clients with equipment, repairing donations, developing community relations and more. 

The Volunteer of the Year Award: Anthony Anderson of Buckley

This award honors an individual who strives to improve the lives of neighbors, friends, community or congregation. Anderson is a committed member of the Traverse City community who volunteers his time as a way to honor his childhood mentor. Early in his service career, Anderson served as a volunteer fireman, EMT and middle-school basketball referee before signing up to become a Big Brother in 2005. After joining the Big Brothers Big Sisters program of Northwestern Michigan (BIGS-NW), Anderson was soon enlisted to serve on the BIGS-NW board of directors where he quickly ascended to the role of president. Today, Anderson is still a mentor for an 11-year-old boy, but his commitment to the BIGS-NW program has not ended there. Anderson runs several marathons each year, with 100 percent of community pledges going to BIGS-NW. To date, Anderson has raised more than $30,000 for the program by running in marathons in 20 different states. Aside from his service to BIGS-NW, Anderson also volunteers his time to the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce board of directors and Robin's Nest, a program for children who have lost a parent.

The Youth Volunteer of the Year Award: Deonte Lucas of Detroit

This award honors individuals age 21 or younger who have already begun making a significant difference in their community by volunteering. Growing up in Detroit, Lucas has used service and volunteering to help him steer clear of pitfalls many of his peers have faced. After first volunteering to help plant trees with Greening Detroit, Lucas discovered he enjoyed improving his community. As a result, he has dedicated much of his time to serving others, volunteering with organizations such as Neighbors Building Brightmoor, Earthworks, Blight Busters and more. Lucas found volunteering so rewarding that he enlisted to serve two terms of AmeriCorps service: as a part-time member with Detroit Youth Energy Squad where he gave 550 hours of service to help residents adopt energy-saving behaviors; and as a full-time City Year Detroit member, in which he still serves. As a City Year member, Lucas serves as a tutor, coach and mentor to at-risk Detroit youth.