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2023 Governors Service Award winners
43 winners to receive Governor's Service Award
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Community Service Commission announced the 43 winners who will be honored at the 2023 Governor’s Service Awards Nov. 28 at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.
Individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations will also be honored for their commitment to volunteerism, service or philanthropy.
“Michiganders roll up their sleeves to help their communities and always have each other’s backs,” said Governor Whitmer. “That spirit of service and selflessness defines us and demonstrates the power of getting things done for the people and places you love most. Every year, we come together to honor those extraordinary Michiganders who go above and beyond to serve their community and this year is no different. I look forward to meeting and celebrating all the awardees from across Michigan and hearing their stories.”
To recognize those who go above and beyond, the Governor's Service Awards have been presented since 1994. The Michigan Community Service Commission supports Michigan volunteers, organizations and businesses that are committed to service and play a critical role in improving the lives of our people and communities.
“The award ceremony is an inspirational event that acknowledges the valuable and important contribution of volunteering and giving to the social, cultural, economic, and environmental well-being of Michigan communities,” said Michigan Community Service Commission Executive Director Ginna Holmes. “It pays tribute to those whose efforts inspire and promote the spirit of volunteerism and giving through their exemplary endeavors. We hope it inspires everyone to serve.”
The winners include:
Governor George Romney Lifetime Achievement Award: Helen Knar Cirrito (East Lansing)
Lifetime Humanitarian Award: Roland Hwang (Northville)
Excellence in Philanthropy Award: Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation (Birmingham), Gilbert Family Foundation (Detroit)
Spirit of Hope Award: Tracy Edwards (Lansing), Jeremiah Steen (Detroit), John Zaretti (Canton), Bruce Millan and Barbara Busby (Detroit)
Health Impact Award: Black Women's Health Imperative
Youth Volunteer of the Year: Vishal Swamy (Novi), Skyler McAlpine (Warren), Sawyer Hendrickson (Ludington), Mason Schlafer (Norton Shores), Julian Morris (Saginaw)
Volunteer of the Year: Moussa Niang (Detroit), Diane Young (Benton Harbor), Marcia Gonstead (Big Bay), Cisily Zuniga (Muskegon), Bob Hoffman (East Lansing)
Older Adult Volunteer of the Year: E.T. Buck (South Haven), Brenda J. Byrd (Ypsilanti), Ann Heler (Ferndale), Robert Spencer (Battle Creek), Eleanor Lopez (Mt. Pleasant), Ursulina (Nina) Gulledge (Roscommon)
Youth Impact Award: Sgt. Bryant George (Detroit), My Sister's Keeper (Highland Park), Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency - School Success Partnership Program (Alpena), Gro-Town (Grosse Pointe Woods), Grand Haven High School Interact Club (Grand Haven)
Community Impact Award: Andrew Rickauer (Marquette), Andrea Garcia Ryan (DeWitt), Bread of Life Food Pantry (Baldwin), Suicide Survivors Fund (Marquette), Women of Colors (Saginaw)
Corporate Social Impact Award: Steelcase (Grand Rapids), Kellanova (Battle Creek), The Mitten Brewing Company (Grand Rapids)
National Service Impact Award: Diana Rodriguez-Algra (Lansing), Carolyn Bloodworth (Jackson), Kyle Caldwell (Grand Rapids), Julie Calley (Portland), Sam Singh (East Lansing)
Governor George Romney Lifetime Achievement Award
An individual who demonstrates a lifelong commitment to community involvement and volunteer service.
Helen Knar (Arakelian) Cirrito
Helen Knar (Arakelian) Cirrito has had a life-changing effect on hundreds within the Greater Lansing Region Armenian Refugee Community. For more than three decades, Cirrito welcomed refugee families from all over the world into her home and helped them establish in the Greater Lansing area.
As a descendant of survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, Cirrito’s commitment to helping those in need was ingrained in her. In 1992, as Armenians were displaced by the Nagorno-Karabakh war, Cirrito founded the Armenian Resettlement and Refugee Assistance Trust Fund using her resources, and time. She worked closely with St. Vincent Catholic Charities to secure opportunities for the new arrivals. Cirrito also facilitated employment, education, transportation, and medical care, setting the stage for success and integration into the Lansing community.
What truly sets Cirrito apart is her ability to remember and celebrate the milestones of each person she has helped. Her commitment to the well-being and growth of these individuals is a testament to her dedication and care. As the Armenian American community flourished under Cirrito’s guidance, her efforts continued to expand; more than 90 percent of the refugees she assisted purchased homes, opened local businesses, and provided employment opportunities to other community members. Cirrito s influence has rippled through generations, as young Armenian Americans achieve academic, artistic, and athletic success on national and international stages.
Cirrito’s profound service has not gone unnoticed by her community. Her selflessness and generosity have garnered deep respect and gratitude from everyone she has helped. The Armenian American community stands united in support of her nomination, echoing sentiments of appreciation for her dedication and life-changing work.
“Helen Cirrito is an amazing woman who cherished all of us as her own family and gave us another chance to build a new life in America and succeed. She is worthy of hundreds of awards and recognitions, but she never sought or expected anything in return for all her hard work,” said Asya Vardanova, a member of the Lansing Armenian community. “We are all forever grateful for everything she has done for our entire community."
Cirrito’s legacy is one of unwavering compassion, boundless dedication, and a resounding belief in the potential of every individual to thrive. Her lifetime achievement of saving lives, creating opportunities, and fostering unity is a shining example of how one person's actions can truly make a profound and lasting impact.
Lifetime Humanitarian Award
An individual or family that has demonstrated a lifetime of outstanding civic and charitable responsibility to communities and organizations.
Roland Hwang has exemplified an unwavering dedication to serving his community, fueled by a belief in justice, equality, and social progress for all. Hwang's remarkable service history spans multiple decades and organizations, leaving a lasting mark on Michigan's civic landscape.
After first visiting in 1954 at the age of 5, he has contributed 25,000 volunteer hours to the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit. The group was founded in 1919 by volunteers who sought to help legal immigrants learn English, appreciate freedom and democracy, become citizens, be assimilated into their communities, and learn to understand each other's cultures. Hwang has been on the board since the mid-1980s and has twice served as president.
Hwang’s service demonstrates his hands-on approach to community building. During his ongoing involvement with the American Citizens for Justice he has held pivotal positions within the organization, including president, vice president, and chair of the Attorney Committee. Roland's influence also extends to the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, New Detroit, and the United Way of Southeastern Michigan.
In the legal realm, Hwang's contributions have been monumental. His involvement in the State Bar of Michigan's Public Outreach Committee led to significant legal milestones. Moreover, his leadership roles in the Michigan State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights shed light on critical civil rights and social justice issues. He is a life member of the State Bar Foundation. Furthermore, he uses his influence to advocate for Asian Americans and minority groups. His role on the Michigan Governor's Advisory Council on Asian-Pacific American Affairs has allowed him to offer invaluable insights and contribute to special projects and events that addressed community needs. Hwang’s impact was also felt through his leadership as secretary and President of the Association of Chinese Americans. He has also served in various positions for the Association of Chinese Americans and OCA Asian Pacific Advocates. As part of the Attorney General's Hate Crime Prevention Task Force, he has researched Michigan's provisions for the prevention of crimes against the properties and persons of ethnic and racial minority backgrounds. On a national level, he has dedicated time to the National Asian-Pacific American Bar Association as Central Region Governor and played an instrumental role in the Michigan Asian-Pacific American Bar Association, serving as its President in 1985. His impact extends beyond civic and legal domains to education as well. He has served as both President and Vice President on the Northville School Board, overseeing the education of thousands of students and teachers.
Roland Hwang's lifetime of service, spanning across decades and organizations, demonstrates the impact service can have on a community. His hands-on approach and contributions to the legal realm have driven profound change and illuminated crucial issues. Hwang's legacy is one that showcases the potential of individual action to transform lives and communities.
Excellence in Philanthropy
A foundation or organization that has demonstrated outstanding civic and charitable responsibility to communities.
Gilbert Family Foundation
Dan and Jennifer Gilbert believe that big problems require big solutions. This belief informs both their commitment to curing neurofibromatosis (NF) and building opportunity and equity for Detroit residents. They established the Gilbert Family Foundation in 2015 to advance groundbreaking, cutting-edge NF research and are focused on supporting the best ideas, no matter how radical they may seem at first. Dan and Jennifer’s commitment to NF research began when their oldest son, Nick, was born with NF1. Nick passed away in May 2023, but his optimism and passion continue to inspire this work each day. The Gilbert Family Foundation has made more than $54 million in NF1 investments.
Dan and Jennifer’s commitment to building opportunity and equity for Detroit residents is rooted in their love and long-time passion for their hometown. Through Dan’s “For More Than Profit” philosophy, the Rocket Community Fund, the philanthropic partner of Rocket Companies, and the Gilbert Family Foundation committed $500 million over 10 years to Detroit through investments in organizations and programming that help achieve greater housing stability, educational attainment, and economic mobility for every resident.
The Gilbert Family Foundation and Rocket Community Fund’s commitment to their home city builds on a decade of impactful investments, including the historic decision to relocate the Rock Family of Companies to downtown Detroit in 2010.
The organizations have recently launched initiatives to assist minority contractors with access to capital, provide homeowners with funding to make critical home repairs, assist renters facing eviction with obtaining counsel, give startups access to funding and mentorship programming and more. The Rocket Community Fund additionally manages team member volunteerism and engagement for the entire Rock Family of Companies and works alongside dedicated partners to bridge Detroit’s digital divide.
Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation
Together, Fred and Barbara Erb’s collective passions and values inform the funding strategies of the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation. Established in 2007, the Foundation has a mission of advancing an environmentally healthy and culturally vibrant metropolitan Detroit and a flourishing Great Lakes ecosystem. Their funding supports urban and agricultural runoff reduction, Great Lakes stewardship, environmental health and justice, sustainable business, jazz education, arts, and — in recognition of Fred’s hard-fought battle at the end of his life — Alzheimer’s research. The Erbs believed that the key to creating a better world for both current and future generations is working collaboratively and respectfully together to make wise and compassionate decisions to achieve meaningful and lasting change.
Fred and Barbara’s desire to create a better world, paired with their successful family business experience, shared love of the outdoors, and deep sense of fairness and justice, naturally led them to view their philanthropy through the lens of sustainability – development that harmonizes economic, environmental, and social interests in order to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future. The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation has become the legacy of the life they lived and the result of their desire to make an impact in Michigan and beyond.
Having both been born and raised in metro Detroit, Fred and Barbara Erb knew the value of the Great Lakes to their beloved city. Barbara’s admiration of nature began as a young child spending summers in Bayfield, Ontario on Lake Huron with her family. As an adult, she became passionate about organic gardening and wholesome eating — teaching others the importance of growing their own food, supporting local farmers, recycling and other environmentally friendly practices.
Fred traveled as a young adult, canoeing at Camp Temagami in Ontario, studying engineering in Upstate New York and serving in the United States Army. While stationed near New York City, he developed his lifelong love of jazz music. Upon returning to Detroit and joining his family’s lumber company, Fred committed himself to growing a successful sustainable business. By the 1970s, Erb Lumber became the largest lumber supplier in Michigan.
Since 2007, the Foundation has made more than $150 million in grants to hundreds of organizations.
Spirit of Hope
Individuals serving as a beacon of hope for many and one who lifts up others and inspires people to make a difference.
During the last 35 years, John Zaretti has volunteered countless hours as the President of the Verdi Opera Theatre of Michigan to promote goodwill and friendship among all people through music for everyone’s enjoyment and cultural enrichment. He organized many concerts, presentations, exhibits, and lectures on opera and collaborated with various organizations including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the University of Michigan School of Music, Detroit Opera House, the Dante Alighieri Society of Michigan, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, and many others. Most notably, he brought the La Scala Instrumental Ensemble of Milan, Italy, and the Parma Opera Ensemble from Parma, Italy, to perform concerts with the Michigan Opera Theatre. He has worked hard to infuse others with his enthusiasm and passion for opera and classical vocal music as he helped provide cultural entertainment at the Canton International Fest, Livonia Symphony Orchestra, Wayne County Parks and Recreation, Livonia Italian American Club, Italian-American Cultural Center, Saginaw Museum of Art, Detroit International Institute, Dearborn Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Philharmonic Orchestra, Birmingham-Bloomfield Symphony Orchestra and more. Zaretti, 82, also has given young singers numerous opportunities to sing publicly and worked with musical professionals to mentor them. Zaretti instituted an annual Italian Songs and Arias Vocal Competition for Michigan high school students, now in its 29th year. The winners and finalists receive cash prizes to help further their post-high school educations. Several winners and finalists of this competition are now performing with major opera companies, including New York's Metropolitan Opera House and Milan's La Scala, as well as working as musical professionals outside of opera. This competition inspired Detroit icon and opera trailblazing tenor George Shirley to create the George Shirley Vocal Competition for African American Vocal Repertoire for high school and college students, where Zaretti has served as one of the distinguished judges from its very beginning.
Zaretti’s life work has resulted in several awards, with the highest honor being awarded by the Italian government with the distinction of Cavaliere of the Order of Merit (Knight of the Order of Merit), an honor bestowed by decree of the President of the Italian Republic. Zaretti has shown a tireless commitment to bringing opera to the forefront and is influential in inspiring young singers to pursue a career in music.
Tracy Edwards serves as a catalyst of inspiration for other black women who are considering a career as a physicist. In the near future, Edwards will be one of 150 Black women in the nation to ever be awarded a PhD in physics. She is currently in her third year of a five-year Nuclear Physics PhD program at Michigan State University (MSU), which is the top PhD program for physics in the country. The last time a black woman enrolled in MSU’s PhD physics program was in 1997, which was the year Edwards, 25, was born. Her love for physics began after she learned that the diagnostic test used to identify her brother’s autism was the work of a physicist. The early detection allowed him to get therapy and improve his autism to high functioning. Even with therapy, her brother struggled, resulting in her and her mother spending hours at the library researching Autism. As a result of reading complex material and charting her brother’s progress, Edwards quickly grasped advanced math concepts and excelled academically from her early years in school. At MSU, she thrives academically and is currently engaged with the national research laboratory on campus – the facility for Rare Isotope Beams. Her primary research is focused on creating zinc isotopes that can be used in future medical devices. Outside of the classroom, Edwards supports others to be successful; she is engaged in many of MSU’s diversity initiatives. She volunteers as a mentor for MSU Insight, a program that supports first-generation college students to improve their research, writing, poster presentation, and networking skills. She serves in the Inspiring the Next Generation summer intensive program to expose high school students to advanced physics research and endless career options. Edwards is an active member of MSU’s Physics Graduate Organization where she is responsible for the selection of guest speakers and serves as the host for events. She is the webmaster for the MSU Women and Minority in Physical Sciences. Edwards is also active outside of the university; she serves on the National Society of Blacks in Physics conference committee to ensure workshops are engaging and extended to the local communities. She has been asked by the Michigan U.S. Senators to educate them on the U.S. nonproliferation stance and supporting policies. Edwards has won many awards and received a lot of recognition for her work, but ultimately her goal is to extend the encouragement, respect, and support that she has received from endless resources to others who are following in her footsteps.
Jeremiah Steen has been advocating for the amplification of youth voices and equitable opportunities for underinvested people in communities since he was in high school. In 2018, Jeremiah became the youngest Jane Goodall Roots and Shoots Fund II National Fellow. In that role, he and Jane Goodall strategically designed systems to amplify youth voices in policy development. Jeremiah, 22, founded the Steen Foundation to allow youth to be engaged in grant-making, tailor their career pathway development, and conduct structured organizational critiques for organizations. The Steen Foundation has provided over 100 youth with paid internships and fellowships in conservation, arts, and culture, along with funding to support a youth mural challenge program. In 2022, Jeremiah was selected to become the youngest trustee at the Skillman Foundation in its 62-year history. In this role, he advocates for the aspirations of Detroit’s youth, especially around future building and the problem of underinvestment in communities and families. The Skillman Foundation, in partnership with the Steen Foundation, developed and executed the Gen-Z Design Sessions project to allow Detroit youth the ability to advise leaders of major organizations. Jeremiah serves on various boards and committees including: Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit Plus (KIP:D+), Detroit Audubon Society, Friends of the Rouge, The Soul of Philanthropy - Michigan, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Emerging Practitioner in Philanthropy, Life Leaders, and was on the Skillman Foundation’s inaugural President's Youth Council Cohort. He has received various recognitions including: 2023 Michele Corey Child Advocacy Summit Rising Star Award- Michigan's Children, 2022 Sparky Anderson Youth in Philanthropy Award - Association Fundraising Professionals, 2022 Changemaker Award - SEEN, and the 2017 Ernest Loft Junior Goodfellow of the Year Award. Jeremiah Steen has an unwavering commitment to service, advocacy, and justice for all people — especially Michigan’s youth. He is constantly finding new ways to amplify the youth’s voice across multiple industries and support the mobilization of youth power. Jeremiah Steen is a catalyst for ethical leadership, mission-driven fundraising, and sustainable philanthropy. It is his quest to create opportunities to ensure communities receive the resources they need and create a pipeline, which will ensure underinvested people remain at the front lines when working toward justice.
Bruce Millan and Barbara Busby
In 1957 Bruce Millan and Barbara Busby founded the Millan Theatre Company, while students at Wayne State University. At that time segregation at theatres was common so Millan and Busby decided to make it their mission to prove the power of diversity acting in unity by casting the best actor for the job regardless of the color of skin, race, or ethnicity.
The policy was controversial in its time and still is unique today. They were very motivated to support an anti-racist society by bringing together black and white actors to create the touring group that created shows for children.
In the early 1960s they moved the Theatre to Detroit and gave it a new name – The Detroit Repertory Theatre. They began producing plays for adults and kept the same inclusive casting policy.
Their production of plays maintained a commitment to stories about racial justice, civil rights, stories of the downtrodden and race transcendent casting. Under their leadership, the Theatre became a home for local artists, underground theatre, local jazz music, and a beacon of light in the community.
Neighborhood residents regarded the theatre a safe place during the 1967 riots, as tanks rolled down the street. Since its beginning until they retired, Millan and Busby were involved in every single performance. Together they developed many programs that had a goal of making Theatre more accessible and reaching the unreached.
Busby and Millan remained dedicated to the theatre for 64 years until 2021, when they retired Busby was 88 years old and Millan was 90. They were both fixtures at the theatre until their death – Busby last August and Millan this February. For 66 years the Repertory Theatre has been a fixture in the community, thanks to the tenacity of Millan and Busby. They never wavered from their belief that theatre should be accessible to all and this effort has made them legends in the Detroit area and the entire country. Their commitment of telling stories about racial justice, civil rights, stories of the downtrodden and race transcendent casting continues today.
Health Impact Award
Making an impact on the health and wellness in communities
The Black Women's Health Initiative (BWHI) is a groundbreaking organization that has worked tirelessly to improve the physical, mental, and financial health of the United States' 21 million Black women and girls. Reproductive and social justice are at the heart of the organization's work in policy, advocacy, education, research, and developing leaders. Byllye Avery, a pioneer in reproductive justice, founded BWHI, which has spent more than $65 million on initiatives to remove barriers to Black women's health over the course of its 40 years. Notably, BWHI launched Fair Work, an evidence-based program that addresses workplace discrimination, and strengthened its Rare Disease Diversity Coalition, which advocates for patients of color who face unique challenges. The organization's impact extends beyond legislative advocacy, with signature programs addressing critical aspects of health and well-being reaching thousands. This year, BWHI celebrated 40 years of impactful work in recognition of its pivotal role in shaping the landscape of Black women's health and well-being.
Youth Volunteer of the Year Award
Individuals aged 25 and younger who work hard to make an impact in their community through volunteerism. These individuals create solutions to make lives better and demonstrate the spirit of being change makers.
Sawyer Hendrickson, 14, began serving veterans at just six years old, inspired by her brother’s enlistment in the Marines Corps. It sparked her desire to support those who sacrifice so much for our country. She started by sending a few dozen care packages to her brother and his fellow Marines. Her efforts then escalated, and she created a nonprofit organization named Miss Sawyer's Kids with A Cause. Sawyer annually delivers over 25,000 care packages and 10,000 filled Christmas stockings to veterans and active-duty military members. In addition, she attends about 100 events a year to show her support for the veteran community by speaking about mental health, homelessness, and the hard transition from military to civilian life. She is an advocate for Prisoners of War and Missing in Action and works closely with Gold Star Families to make sure that their lost loved ones are not forgotten. She also successfully recruits students to engage in service. She is a role model for all ages. Sawyer commits herself to the mission of “Remember, understand, and never forget that our freedom isn’t free.”
Through the first 12 years of his life, Skyler McAlpine faced numerous challenges and experienced 53 different living arrangements including homeless shelters, cars and garages. He finally was adopted but lost the adoptive parent to a battle with cancer, and he was placed back into foster care. Living within the foster care system, he developed an awareness of how dramatically it impacts one’s life, the trauma it can cause, and the importance of having mentors and advocates willing to help. Skyler, 17, appreciates his current adoptive family, as it is with their support that he became the first person in his biological family to graduate from high school. Since then, he has become a certified firefighter and is now working on obtaining his paramedic license. Through the years, Skyler has served numerous hours towards the expansion of the Macomb Foster Closet and has helped children in transitional living by providing his friendship and comfort to those experiencing what he once did. His efforts have benefited over 2,000 children in foster care. He also has served with the Warren Wood Food Pantry and distributed over one million pounds of food to over 28,000 people in need. Skyler has turned victimization on its head, going from a severely abused and neglected child to a community change agent.
Vishal Swamy has played a crucial role in promoting STEM education among students in Michigan and nationwide. He established the Michigan chapter of the Shooting Stars Foundation (SSF), which empowers youth to help communities break the cycle of generational poverty through STEM education. Swamy, 15, is currently serving as the SSF National President. He is also the Founder and Chair of the Steward Sustainability Leadership Institute (SSLI) 4-H Club, a platform for youth to engage in environmental projects, promote sustainability, and raise awareness about climate change. As a part of SSLI, he collaborated with the Chief of Environmental Sustainability and Planning for Oakland County Parks to install solar bollards in Michigan. Recently, he served as a speaker, representing SSLI, at the 2023 EGLE Michigan Sustainability Conference and was honored as a 4-H National Youth-in-Action Finalist.
In addition to his environmental work, he has successfully implemented projects and fundraising efforts in support of healthy living, cancer treatment, and community engagement. Vishal’s story is one of determination, empathy, and a deep-rooted desire to create positive change. He has shown that individual actions can have transformative impacts on communities. Vishal’s passion and leadership will serve as an inspiration to others, reminding us of the power we possess to contribute to a better future.
Julian Morris has demonstrated a great resolve and determination to make an impact in his community. He lifts the voices of youth and assists them in understanding how they can make a difference. Morris, 16, has done this through his reporting, mentoring and teaching of writing. When he was 13, Morris started a teen magazine during the pandemic named SWAG (Students with A Gift). The goal of SWAG was to give his peers a platform to talk about the pandemic and how it affected them. The magazine has led Morris to be a strong community voice on issues such as education loss, youth mental health and American Rescue Plan Act funding. Outside of SWAG, Morris spends time with various organizations tutoring and mentoring. In the last two years, he has spent upwards of 300 hours volunteering with the Heads-Up Mentoring Program, helping young students learn to read and write. He also serves with Saginaw STEM as a peer mentor on STEM Saturdays, teaches writing workshops at Jessie Rouse Elementary School, hosts a book club at Arthur Eddy Academy, and created an after-school journalism program at Thompson Middle School. His poise, presence, and positive attitude have led to him becoming a great role model in the Saginaw community.
When Mason Schlafer joined the Boy Scouts of America, he participated in the popcorn fundraiser and set a goal to sell enough to win a tablet for himself. He did not realize the significance that fundraiser would play in his effort to support his community. Inspired by the success of his sales and his ability to dedicate the funds to needs in his community, he decided to be the nation’s top seller the next year. Mason has been the top Scout for the popcorn fundraiser in the nation five different times. He holds the record for most popcorn sold in a season ($102,209) and is the top all-time seller with over $500,000 in lifetime sales. What he has decided to do with the funds raised is truly inspiring. In 2018, Mason used some of the funds to organize his first Feeding America mobile food pantry in Norton Shores. By the end of 2023, Mason will have organized his 33rd mobile food pantry. The organization of each event requires Mason to handle scheduling and location, recruit volunteers, register participants, and handle food distribution. Mason says the feeling he gets from giving back is “immeasurable.” His actions have inspired other scouts and troops to utilize their fundraising in similar ways. Mason lives by the motto “Do a good turn daily,” and he believes small daily acts of positive impact make a larger difference in the community.
Volunteer of the Year Award
Individuals over the age of 25 who strive to improve the lives of people in their community or state. These individuals make impact through volunteering in various capacities with nonprofits and organizations, showing a commitment to strengthening communities.
Moussa Niang provides services to orphans, assists women and children with health issues and aims to build community leaders. He volunteers as the President and CEO of Foundation 221, Inc. a humanitarian nonprofit organization that he founded. Niang also served as the Chairman & Treasurer of Muslim Center Detroit. Since 2018, through Foundation 221 and its strategic partners, Mr. Niang has injected more than $25 million worth of medical equipment and supplies into the African medical system. He has provided access to water to more than 75 villages in Senegal, Mali and Gambia and currently sponsoring over 500 orphans.
While serving with the National Black MBA Association, Detroit Chapter, he launched several initiatives aimed at providing relief and support for communities. He has been an active part of the revitalization effort in Detroit, having served with a team to restore the Brightmoor Neighborhood into a vibrant African-Caribbean community. Niang’s volunteer efforts also include supporting the Muslim Center Mosque & Community Center with food pantries and soup kitchen resources. In addition, Niang volunteers at the Foundation Khadimu Rassul of Michigan as a youth mentor for those in the Brightmoor area and helps to organize youth clubs. Moussa, 40, has already made a tremendous impact in his community and is determined to continue a lifetime of service.
Diane Young has been serving her community since she was 12 years old. The amount of food, clothing, toys, and basic items that she has leveraged for the Benton Harbor community is unprecedented. She not only serves as the leader and volunteer for projects, but she serves as THE connector – she connects people to volunteer opportunities, connects people to resources, and connects organizations to people in need. Over the last 40 years, she has served whenever and wherever a need was present. Diane’s endless energy, seemingly boundless time, and unwavering passion are demonstrated in the following statements from community members. Community members say she is the go-to source for connection in the Benton Harbor Area. If something needs to happen, she has the tenacity and connection to make it happen. Her community members also said:
“Diane is the epitome of grace and dignity. She has a heart for the community.”
“The respect that everyone has for her…. from board rooms to those experiencing homelessness… enables her to drive positive impact throughout the community.”
“She never lacks people to volunteer alongside her. Working with Diane makes you WANT to be a better person.”
Young’s dedication, passion and love for her neighbors is unmatched.
Big Bay (U.P)
Marcia Gonstead has been a fervent and effective leader for more than 20 years in Marquette County. Marcia’s passion for volunteer work developed early in life and accelerated after college. Her more recent volunteerism has been focused on the Big Bay community. Preserving the sense of place and sustainability are the tenants that underlie most of the service that she now supports. She has served on the boards of the Noquemanon Trail Network and the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, the Marquette Community Foundation and on the marketing committee of the Big Bay Stewardship Council. Marcia’s volunteer efforts with the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve include helping with fundraising, planning stewardship events, managing land acquisitions, and coordinating volunteers to implement land and water quality stewardship. For the Noquemanon Trail Network, her service has been focused specifically on the Big Bay Pathway Trail as she helps coordinate trail work and implement fundraiser events, as well as conduct outreach surrounding the trail and organization. She and her husband, Sven, founded the Big Bay Summer Concert series to bring the community together. Her continued work and advocacy for the Big Bay community have helped transform the community into a destination for many tourist activities and helped preserve the environment for future generations. Marcia is one of the driving positive forces who has improved the rural opportunities of the Big Bay community and greater Marquette County.
Cisily Zuniga is a bilingual advocate for Spanish speakers in the greater Muskegon, Grand Rapids, and Holland areas and offers translation and advocacy support to those in need of medical, governmental, transportation or legal services. Fighting for others in underserved communities and making sure all voices are heard is truly a passion for Cisily, as is evidenced by the following involvement: providing event support for the Latina Network of West Michigan; and for the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan; volunteering with the Muskegon County Latinos Festival, engaging with events supported by Latinos Working for the Future, volunteering with Fight the Blight in Muskegon Heights. Last year, Cisily also became involved in the Muskegon Livability Lab that supports community members in working together to find solutions to problems. Cisily was instrumental in the “Driver’s Licenses for All” team’s success and continues to work on the program at the city, county, and state level. Currently, Cisily is working to increase outreach to migrant workers and ensuring that they have access to resources, information, and assistance. Cisily takes pride in all efforts to help the community and looks forward to creating and sustaining equitable change.
Bob Hoffman was driving home after work when a driver cut him off. As Bob started to get angry, he had an epiphany: what if this person had a really bad day or needed to get somewhere for a really important, personal reason? He chose to forgive and send positive vibes outward instead and immediately felt better. The interaction inspired Hoffman to create ePIFanyNow ("PIF" = Passing it Forward) where he gathered friends to do random acts of kindness and return to share stories. People said they felt warmed, uplifted and blessed. The group grew from about 12 to more than 200, and before Bob knew it, he built a volunteer board of directors and formed the nonprofit. A few years later, Bob wanted to recognize youth serving in their community, so he created a model to both acknowledge and fundraise for the youth and their cause. To further highlight people doing good deeds during the pandemic, Bob broadcasted a show featuring heartfelt service stories on Facebook. In addition, he hosts a weekly show called Good Neighbors on WSYM FOX 47 in Lansing, which profiles people passing kindness forward. He also created the Chris Rosati Hero Award in honor/memory of a man who spent his life giving back to others while living with Muscular Dystrophy. Hoffman truly and passionately cares about people and making life just a little better for every person he meets.
Older Adult Volunteer of the Year Award
Individuals 65 or older who are taking action to make their community a better place. These individuals share their many years of experience and are role models for others to serve and volunteer.
E.T. Buck, 98, reminds others that age is not a factor and should not stop anyone from being active and giving back to their community. He began volunteering in the preschool classroom at the Tri-County Head Start through the AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparent program at the age of 80. Over 18 years later, he is still volunteering and making an impact at the school. Throughout his tenure, he has helped over 650 children, ages 3-4, learn and grow. Grandpa Buck, as he is known to his students, makes sure the children, families, and teachers are fully supported. Buck’s ability to be able to tap into each child’s strengths and creativity while making sure that the children stay focused makes him an invaluable asset to the teachers. He is always willing to go above and beyond to make sure that not only the organization thrives, but that the children learn and succeed. He helps by assisting new and returning students overcome their fears, being a mentor for staff and families, providing positive encouragement, and being a friend to those who need one. Staff report that E.T. Buck is a true inspiration as he brings a high-energy and personal touch to the classroom every day that radiates to those around him.
Ann Heler is one of the founding members of FernCare Free Clinic in 2008 and became Board President of Free & Charitable Clinics of Michigan in 2016 and has helped it expand to 42 free clinics across the state. Heler began working on the clinic project when she was 65 years old and offered the gift of time and leadership to get it started. Heler, 81, is still making an inspiring impact. Heler now serves as the Executive Director of Free & Charitable Clinics and has volunteered more than 21,000 hours in the efforts to create a program that provides care for the uninsured and underserved in Michigan. Her work has allowed the Free & Charitable Clinics to connect with resources, grants, and other volunteer physicians, nurses, and pharmacists whose service cannot be measured. Some of Heler’s other efforts for the organization include the development and implementation of a comprehensive Quality Standards program, and significantly advancing the overall quality and effectiveness of the clinics. Her hard work has not gone unnoticed, as she has received multiple awards for her service. Throughout her years of support, Ann Heler has made it clear that she has one goal in mind, to improve access for people who lack the healthcare that they need.
Brenda J. Byrd
Brenda Byrd has lived in Ypsilanti for 50 years and has continued as a loving, caring, distinguished, community volunteer, leader, and clergy member. The 35-year University of Michigan retiree has produced lasting changes for individuals, organizations, and communities as she visited numerous hospitals, convalescent homes, hospice, and jail ministries to advocate and pray for oppressed and grieving families. Even during the pandemic, she inspired numerous people in communities as she tirelessly volunteered her efforts to organizations and nonprofits to find ways to serve and uplift communities. In times of societal hardship and uncertainty, she served the homeless, hungry, youth, and adults with special needs. For more than 25 years, Byrd, 70, has volunteered for local food pantries in the community and served as an executive board member for several local organizations in Ypsilanti. Byrd has attributed most of her lifelong passion to serve to her family, her community and local churches. She shows no sign of slowing down. As a member of the community said, “Ms. Byrd is a true gem to our community. If it wasn't for her care and prayers a lot of our families would be in trouble.”
Robert Spencer is a driving force for the Battle Creek area Habitat for Humanity. He is committed to serving his community, loving his neighbors, and supporting those who need a home. Although Spencer, 84, has back issues, he is involved in all aspects of the construction. He has volunteered over 20 hours a week for the past 29 years, accumulating over 26,000 hours of service. His efforts have helped build an impressive 60 homes, many wheelchair ramps, and complete hundreds of home repair projects. He provides his tools, materials, and truck as he helps homeowners needing assistance. Spencer also uses his many years of building experience to teach construction skills and takes on a leadership role during projects. Robert’s attitude makes him special. He begins his workday by encouraging volunteers with an inspirational message. He is upbeat, loves to joke, and interacts with everyone. The entire Habitat for Humanity team loves him and views him as an incredible role model. He is described by those who work with him as being the most selfless, caring, dedicated person they know. The Battle Creek community appreciates all he has done to make a difference by improving the living conditions of hundreds of people. Robert Spencer is a beloved man, a true treasure to all who know him.
Eleanor Lopez first started volunteering with the AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparent Program in 2009. Since then, she has served more than 15,000 hours. Lopez serves in the preschool room at Victory Child Care & Learning Center, where she is known as “Grandma Lopez.” She isn’t afraid to get down to the children’s level, listen to them, and join in on activities. The trust Lopez builds allows her to help children build their social-emotional skills, motor cognition, and language developmental skills. She also supports children by helping increase their literacy and math skills. Currently, Lopez serves on the advisory board for the program, where she shares ideas on how to enhance the program. She has frequently been part of the Veteran Volunteer Panel, which allows her to share her experiences to help calm the nerves of new volunteers. Lopez also served over 1,000 hours with the Gold Key Volunteer Program, where she rode the public bus during peak school hours, to ensure that children were safe as they traveled to and from school. Throughout her volunteering career, Lopez has taken the time to make sure that children in her community are supported, whether it be in the classroom or on their way home.
Ursulina (Nina) Gulledge
Ursulina (Nina) Gulledge began volunteering in 2018 with AmeriCorps Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) program through the Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency. Since then, she has volunteered more than 1,900 hours, serving Roscommon and Crawford Counties. During her time with RSVP, she has been involved in various community initiatives. Gulledge volunteers regularly with the Crawford County Community Christian Help Center/Food Pantry, assisting with the distribution of essential resources to those who are experiencing hardships. She also participates in the American Red Cross Blood Drives at her local VFW, ensuring a reliable blood supply for those who may need it. In addition, Gulledge volunteers with The River House Resale Thrift Store. Through the stores sales, River House runs its shelter, supporting survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. Earlier this year, Gulledge was one of the recipients of the 2023 Michigan Community Action Volunteer of the Year award. Her ability to bring both comfort and joy to those she encounters creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere wherever she goes. Gulledge’s accomplishments and contributions to the organizations that she serves show why she is a highly valued member of her community.
Youth Impact Award
Individuals or organizations that support youth development. Candidates offer guidance, support, and encouragement to cultivate the positive and healthy development of an individual or group of youth in making a difference in their communities, state, and nation.
School Success Partnership Program
Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency
The Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency has over 50 years of service in 11 counties in northeast Michigan. It covers approximately 6,200 rural square miles and averages 31 people per square mile. Its School Success Partnership Program began over 32 years ago in response to community awareness that school failure was a complex, multi-faceted issue linked to chronic poverty and other life challenges including attendance and youth mental health. It has become an integral resource for students, families, and schools. The longevity of the program is due to the willingness of the partners to collaborate and coordinate services to ensure students and families receive much needed resources. All students in the program are assigned a liaison to bring together a team to resolve barriers and increase the students’ ability to succeed. Students with additional needs are provided supplementary referrals to community resources. The program now serves students across nine of the 11 core counties and has a waiting list of schools that are interested in having the service provided in their schools. The most recent data is to be celebrated as it demonstrated students in the program had an 79% overall academic improvement, 77% improved reading skills, 75% improved math skills and experienced a 99% reduction in absenteeism.
My Sister’s Keeper
Since its inception in 2013, My Sister's Keeper has positively impacted the lives of thousands of under-resourced girls ages 7-24. The organization has successfully forged partnerships with area schools, churches, businesses, organizations, and individuals to provide both school and community-based mentoring services. These partners also help to execute a plethora of activities including academic enrichment, life skills training, field trips, community service projects, career exploration, internships, summer employment, summer programming, life-coaching, and counseling services. The program is continuously identifying new opportunities to help youth find their pathway to success. Most recently they published Keeping It Write! An Anthology Written by Youth for Youth; wrote and produced the stage play, Keep Her; planted community vegetable gardens from which fresh produce was donated to a local food pantry; launched the I AM A KEEPER Mobile App; created the I AM A KEEPER Coloring Book; and developed the I AM A KEEPER 7P’s of Success Mentoring & Life Skills Workbook. But the true success is evidenced in the responses shared by girls in the program. One girl said, “My Sister’s Keeper was instrumental in helping me find my purpose.”
Sgt. Bryant George
Sgt. Bryant George's impact is transformational for so many as he interacts with youth every day whether as a volunteer or while in the line of duty as a paid officer. He serves at the Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL) as part of the Chief’s Neighborhood Liaison Office and helps youth find their greatness while having a positive experience with law enforcement. He has been engaged in mentoring in various ways. He credits his own mentor and coach, Lt. Robert Johnson as the reason he knew he too would one day publicly serve as a police officer. Sgt. George created the Bridging Lost Gaps nonprofit to help increase the enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of black male students from Detroit at Madonna University. Sgt. George quickly found a way to merge his expertise in higher education student affairs and law enforcement at Detroit PAL. As an essential part of Detroit PAL’s Critical Conversation Program, which creates a safe space for youth, community members and law enforcement personnel gather to discuss current events between the police and community. Sgt. George has continued to be a mentor and positive role model for Detroit youth. He was named Michiganian of the Year in 2018 and continues inspires others around him to do more and to create the positive change needed for youth.
Grosse Pointe Woods
Gro-Town created and implemented the Motown is Gro-Town initiative which has distributed 28,000 seed packets to our next generation of gardeners throughout Metro Detroit via public libraries and community centers. With 35 community partnerships, Gro-Town placed “Seed Stations” in each of the Detroit Public Library’s 16 branches. This year’s kickoff celebration “Spring into Gro-Town,” at the Main Library saw the return of the Gro-Town Vegetable Petting Zoo, the dedication of a permanent “Seed Station” in the Children’s Library, and grab n’ go seed starter kits —all free and open to the public. The partnership with Gro-Town has created significant interest in nature and gardening throughout the library community. In addition, children’s librarians create book displays about gardening, have gardening themed story times and craft projects. And it isn’t just children’s services. Detroit Public Library locations have really embraced the idea of gardening, nature and growing one’s own food. The library has expanded book collections on the topics, host a wide-range of adult programs that focus on the topic, and have been so inspired by Gro-Town that librarians are setting up seed libraries and plant exchanges for adult patrons.
Grand Haven High School Interact Club
Rotary International launched its first Interact club in 1962 with the purpose of bringing together young people ages 12-18 to develop leadership skills while discovering the power of Service Above Self. Interact Clubs are required to do a minimum of two service projects a year, but the Grand Haven Interact Club has never been one to do the minimum. Each year they set forth on its giving journey and decide what the service calendar will entail. Projects include Beach Cleanup, Rake-a-Difference, Day of Caring, Box City, Women’s Domestic Abuse Shelter support, Senior Prom, Bowling with Seniors, Adopt-a-Family, Serving Dinner at Degage Homeless Shelter, Adopt a Highway cleanup and Natural Disaster Relief. The Grand Haven Interact Club believes that true service is when two members of the human condition meet and create a connection. This vision drives all acts of service to prioritize relationship building and reflection. Students are constantly put in situations where they interact with those being served and are given time to question the acts of service themselves. Was it the right thing to do? Who did you meet? What is their story? Did you empower those being served? Did you come from a place of privilege? Students are supported in their learning and asked to carry the lessons with them throughout life. The Grand Haven Interact Club has truly lived out the Rotarian moto of Service Above Self.
Community Impact Award
Individual or organization that successfully makes an impact in a Michigan community through volunteerism.
Bread of Life Food Pantry
Bread of Life Food Pantry in Baldwin is committed to providing year-round access to healthy food, focusing on produce and local venison. Since 2015, the program Share the Harvest resulted in the donation of 15,150 pounds of venison with an estimated value of $44,850. The pantry is staffed by volunteers fiercely dedicated to keeping the community fed. Rooted in teamwork and fueled by passion, the pantry responds to Lake County's escalating food demand. Even when tornadoes struck Lake County in 2018, and the pantry was without electricity, they chose to open their doors to provide food and assistance to those in desperate need and served families by candlelight. Since 2015, the Bread of Life has been working on a project called Voices for Food to address food insecurity in rural communities. Partnerships within the community have provided fresh produce from 12 community garden beds, the distribution of 100 bags of fruits and vegetables several times each summer, utility and heating aid, emergency assistance and 750 free children’s books each month. Their partnerships have allowed them to do diabetes screenings, health screenings, vaccines, and provide nutrition education. The Bread of Life Food Pantry is an integral part of life in Lake County to not only help those in need but also unite and rally the community.
Suicide Survivors Fund
The Suicide Survivors Fund, administered by the Community Foundation of Marquette County, serves to provide financial support to individuals and families who have lost a loved one to suicide. The fund was created after its founder, Dave Aro, experienced the tragic aftermath of the suicide of his neighbor and friend. Distressed by the lack of support for the grieving family, Aro and community members personally financed the necessary cleanup and repairs. This incident propelled Aro and others to explore the prevalence of such situations and advocate for assistance in handling post-suicide issues. With 22 suicides each year in the county, half by firearm, law enforcement officials estimated that half of those families didn’t have the resources to hire a company to clean the scene. Through collaborative efforts with local community leaders, the Suicide Survivors Fund was established. They then identified a state nonprofit, Six Feet Over, to oversee the distribution of funds when needed. Six Feet Over leadership envisions a world free from the pain of suicide loss and strives to offer diverse communities access to resources. The Suicide Survivors Fund has garnered substantial community support, receiving over $40,000 in donations. Currently, Marquette County is the only county in the state that has funding for people who need these kinds of services. Dave and other members of the group continue to educate adjacent counties, the legislature, and the public about the importance of supporting survivors of suicide loss.
Women of Colors
Women of Colors (WOC) is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving the Saginaw community since 1993. Founded by a diverse group of women who came together to share ideas for the betterment the Saginaw community. WOC recognizes the values in diversity by not focusing on differences but acknowledging similarities. WOC’s mission is to promote diversity, equity, and inclusiveness to empower families by providing services to strengthen communities and enhance collaborative relations in the Great Lakes Bay Region and beyond. WOC members are deeply committed to serving and engaging the community in health and wellness. The organization is devoted to raising public awareness of substance use disorder prevention services and other public health issues through partnerships and collaborating with agencies and organizations dedicated to the well-being of the Saginaw community. Programs include the Students and Future Technology Program, Great Empowering Motivational Sessions (GEMS), annual Warm a Child for Winter Coat Giveaway, WOC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Boot Camp, WOC Community Forums, Stronger Together, Your Voice Your Choice – Youth Explosion annual event, WOC Substance Abuse and Life Skills Prevention Team, WOC Board, Membership, and volunteers. Women of Colors has made a positive impact on the community for 30 years by providing uninterrupted services and helping over 18,000 community members annually.
Andrew Rickauer’s impact in producing lasting change within Marquette County is immeasurable. Andrew, Executive Director of United Way of Marquette County, spends countless hours outside of the typical workweek volunteering, networking and strategizing about how he can best help those in need. He created Yoopers United in 2020 to support local nonprofits to engage more people in service. Rickauer’s belief that volunteerism is crucial to a community's success is evident through how he and his family volunteer, whether it’s mentoring youth leaders, dressing as the Easter bunny, stuffing thousands of eggs with candy, testing ski trails prior to races or grilling food for athletes and volunteers. He has become a guide to support blind athletes competing in cross country skiing, running and biking. Andrew also serves on multiple boards and committees, often in leadership roles, including the Kiwanis Club of Marquette, Marquette Township Downtown Development Authority, Marquette Trail Running Group, Noquemanon Trail Network, Marquette County Habitat for Humanity, Marquette County Salvation Army and the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy. Rickauer has taken the family value of volunteerism and extended it to the entire community with determination and success. Rickauer shares his belief that every individual has something to offer in service to their community.
Andrea Garcia Ryan
Andrea Ryan's incredible work ethic and endless kindness has helped build a stronger community. Andrea utilizes kindness and patience to “call-in” and engage people in controversial conversations that are often tumultuous and polarizing. The goal is to listen with the intent to learn and understand, not judge. Andrea co-founded The SJ Call-In Coalition in 2020, calling in the community to celebrate differences, create relationships, empower disenfranchised groups, and foster diversity to create a more inclusive, safer, and healthier community. She works to create programs and events that foster inclusiveness and belonging for community members of Clinton County and St. Johns. Andrea has volunteered an estimated 1,950 hours to the Coalition. In 2022, Ryan was named the United Way of South Central Michigan Adult Volunteer of the Year. She is passionate about making others feel safe and comfortable and is willing to share and learn. She started the St. Johns Pride Festival in 2021. Andrea continues to develop programming to build support in her community that celebrates diversity and brings awareness to important issues of change while creating a culture of safety and wellness.
Corporate Social Impact Leader Award
Corporations/Businesses that maximize the collective impact of employee volunteerism and corporate philanthropy to make an impact in Michigan communities. Applicants may be large corporations or small businesses.
Kellanova (formerly known as Kellogg Company) takes great pride in its company-wide culture of volunteering and giving back, which is a key component of its Kellanova Better Days™ Promise social and environmental strategy. The company promotes volunteerism through its Volunteer With Me program, encouraging both company leaders and employees to volunteer in their communities. Since 2015, Kellanova employees have volunteered over 130,000 hours in communities around the world to help make food more sustainable and accessible. They also serve by prepping food packs for children and working at school feeding programs. While Kellanova takes pride in helping communities, they take extra pride in helping out in the town where the company was founded, Battle Creek. They have donated more than $23.1 million to the United Way of South Central Michigan Region over the last decade, invested $500,000 in the Battle Creek Small Business Loan Fund, and donated $500,000 to the Southwest Michigan Accelerator Kitchen to help launch new food businesses in the community. Kellanova has shown that they are willing to do what it takes to make a positive impact in the community, whether it be volunteering or donating resources to make sure that people are fed and fulfilled.
As leaders in the world of work, Steelcase help create places that impact the experiences of millions of people every day. They are working toward a better future for people by building community and belonging with equitable access to opportunity, so they can thrive at work and in the world. To truly make a transformational difference, they need to operate in new ways by establishing a more inclusive and innovative approach where a range of people, taking different actions, are all pointed in the same direction — a global community of changemakers making a local impact. This led Steelcase to create the Better Futures Community, which brings together clients, dealers, employees and community partners to expand upon efforts around the globe through three programs:
- Steelcase Changemakers empowers employees to volunteer and leverage resources, tools and expertise to make an impact in their local communities.
- The Better Futures Lab designs experiences to help our partner organizations learn from each other, grow together, and accelerate and scale their work related to equity, education, and the environment.
- The Better Futures Fund provides capital, consulting, employee time, furniture and more in support of community partners.
Mitten Brewing Company
Mitten Brewing Company, a west Michigan baseball-themed microbrewery/pizzeria with four retail locations, has been a big supporter of the communities in which they do business. They have spearheaded more than 100 volunteer projects. One of their biggest projects, the Mitten Foundation Gold Outing for Hunger, has raised $135,000 since 2017. They have also provided more than 140,000 meals to those dealing with food insecurity and employees also volunteer at the food pantries. The Mitten Brewing Company started the “Love Shouldn’t Hurt” fundraiser that helps pay past-due bills for survivors of domestic abuse in the area. In 2018, the company partnered directly with Safe Haven Ministries to underwrite $10,000 in operating costs at the shelter. In total, the business has made nearly $500,000 in charitable gifts since 2012. These donations have helped eliminate student lunch debt in schools provided an inner-city youth baseball and softball program, and helped pay heating bills. While serving beer and pizza is what they are known for, the Mitten Brewing Company has shown their dedication to serving their community.
Outstanding National Service Impact Award
Individual or organization that successfully supports AmeriCorps members through service to make an impact in communities. AmeriCorps is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and these leaders were instrumental in supporting Michigan's AmeriCorps.
Diana Rodriguez-Algra led the creation and implementation of Michigan Campus Compact and the Michigan Community Service Commission. She was responsible for the expansion of Volunteer Centers of Michigan, a part of the Michigan Nonprofit Association. Rodriguez-Algra moved to Washington, D.C., to help launch programs at the AmeriCorps agency (formerly the Corporation for National and Community Service). As the first Director of AmeriCorps State/ National programs, she oversaw the selection and distribution of over $526 million dollars in federal support for National Service Programs. She utilized her experience with the successful creation of the Michigan Community Service Commission. Rodriguez-Algra has been an important leader of the volunteer component of Michigan’s philanthropic infrastructure since the late 1980s. Diana served as a Michigan Community Service Commission Board member from 2010 to 2019.
Carolyn Bloodworth is passionate about philanthropy, service, and volunteerism in Michigan. She retired from Consumers Energy in September of 2023 after 42 years of service. Carolyn served as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation and the CMS Energy Foundation and was the corporation’s Executive Director of Corporate Giving for the past 30 years. Her responsibilities included corporate philanthropy and coordination of various community relations activities, including volunteer engagement and recognition. She currently serves as a member of the board of directors for the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Habitat for Humanity of Michigan and is a commissioner on the Michigan Commission on Community Action and Economic Opportunity. She has served on a number of local and statewide nonprofit boards throughout her career, including the Michigan Community Service Commission (2008-2016), Food Bank Council of Michigan, Council of Michigan Foundations, Jr. Achievement of the Michigan Edge, Michigan FFA Foundation, and the Michigan FFA Association.
Kyle Caldwell is the President and CEO of the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) which is dedicated to leading, supporting, and strengthening the people, policy, and practices in Michigan’s community of philanthropy with equity at the center of its work. Prior to that, Kyle was executive director of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University and also served as the director for the Pathways to Opportunity Program at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Kyle’s introduction to philanthropy began as an intern and later as the third executive director of the Michigan Community Service Commission, appointed by Governor John Engler and Governor Jennifer Granholm. Here, he learned the power of civic engagement and the need to ensure all have the opportunity to serve with the launch of Michigan's AmeriCorps program. A champion of national service, Kyle served as the Chair of the America’s Service Commissions and was one of the founding leaders of the Save AmeriCorps coalition, now the Service Year Alliance. Kyle helped launch and then lead the ConnectMichigan Alliance (CMA), which created a $20 million endowment to support volunteerism that engaged both state government and philanthropy in a one-of-a-kind statewide campaign. CMA later merged with the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA), of which Kyle became president and CEO, advocating for for-impact organizations in Michigan and at the national level, serving on the boards of Independent Sector, National Council of Nonprofits, Nonprofit Vote, and Points of Light. Kyle remains engaged at the national, state, and local levels by serving on the boards of the United Philanthropy Forum, BoardSource, Michigan Nonprofit Association, Michigan Association of United Ways, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Caldwell served as a Commissioner of the Michigan Community Service Commission from 2013-2016.
Julie Calley has served as a champion of volunteerism and service for many years. She became a Commissioner of the Michigan Community Service Commission in 2011 and was elected chair in 2015. Calley served in that role until she was elected to the 87th District seat in the Michigan House of Representatives. Throughout her career and life, she has been an advocate and active participant in serving others. Calley regularly volunteers in her hometown of Ionia and has demonstrated ongoing support for AmeriCorps and mentoring. She has been a youth leader for multiple programs within her church and has previously worked with Junior Achievement. Calley was also elected as Ionia County Commissioner for District 7 in 2008. She has served on the Ionia County Community Mental Health Board Authority, the Community Corrections Board, the Tax Allocation Board, and the Board of Public Works.
State Senator, 28th Senate District
Sam Singh's story is one of civic engagement and public service. Sam’s parents immigrated to Michigan from India in the 1960s for a better life and an opportunity for the American Dream. From an early age, Sam’s parents taught him the value of giving back to the country that has given them so much. Sam took those lessons to heart, and has spent the past 25 years making a career of supporting the mid-Michigan area through his work in philanthropy and public service both previously in public service as the mayor of East Lansing from 2005-2007, a member of the Michigan State House of Representatives from 2013-2019, and currently as the state senator for Michigan’s 28th senate district. He has also served as president and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association, senior consultant for the New Economy Initiative, and CEO of Public Policy Associates. Sam served as a Michigan Community Service Commission Board member from 2019 to 2022.