Governor Snyder Honors Michigan Volunteers

Contact: Jamie Wilson, Communications Specialist 517-335-7875

Grand Rapids, Michigan – To honor their exemplary volunteer service in Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder presented the Governor’s Service Awards to individuals, organizations, and a business at an awards ceremony Tuesday night. The 2013 Governor’s Service Awards, entitled, “An Evening with the  Stars,” was held at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids.

“We recently launched the Do Something, Michigan! initiative that encouraged Michiganders to volunteer and take action in their communities,” Snyder said. “The 40 finalists we celebrated at the 2013 Governor’s Service Awards are an extraordinary example of that Do Something! spirit. I thank them and all the state’s volunteers for their contribution to our state.”

Three Men and a Tenor, one of Michigan’s most popular musical groups, joined the Governor in honoring the nominees by performing for the audience. Also participating in the night’s festivities were the 2013 Governor’s Service Awards sponsors, without whose generous contributions the event would not have been possible. The 2013 corporate sponsors included Ford Motor Company Fund as the presenting sponsor, as well as: Amway, Comcast, Comer Holdings, Consumers Energy, Council of Michigan Foundations, DTE Energy Foundation, James C. Acheson Foundation, Lear Corporation, MASCO Corporation Foundation, Meijer, Michigan Nonprofit Association, Quicken Loans, and the Rodriguez-Algra Family.

The Governor’s Service Awards are 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 140 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 Governor Snyder.

In total, five finalists from eight different categories were honored at the 2013 Governor’s Service Awards to acknowledge their commitment to solving community issues through volunteerism. During Tuesday night’s event, one winner from each category was selected. The 2013 Governor’s Service Awards were presented to:

The Governor George Romney Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteerism, which is the most prestigious of the Governor’s Service Awards, was presented to Erica Wright of Detroit.
The award honors an individual who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to community involvement and volunteer service. Erica has been a well-known and beloved humanitarian in Detroit’s west-side since she quit her job in 1976 to found and operate the Westside Cultural & Athletic Club west-side since she quit her job in 1976 to found and operate the Westside Cultural & Athletic Club (W.C.A.C). Originally created as a way to reach out to young boys in the poverty-stricken and high crime west-side neighborhood, the W.C.A.C. program has been a saving grace for the past four decades. Today, Erica and W.C.A.C. engage more than 100 children, teens, and senior citizens each year in constructive ways, including athletics, educational sessions, and community service. She is assisted by an all-volunteer staff, many of whom were once program participants themselves, and Erica annually volunteers thousands of hours to W.C.A.C. Since the inception of the program 35 years ago, Erica’s volunteer service has impacted thousands of lives by providing the youth of her community with hope, support, love, guidance, and accountability.

The Corporate Community Leader Award was presented to Eaton Corporation of Galesburg.
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. The Eaton Corporation is a global leader in electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical power management solutions with more than 100,000 employees in 150 countries. At its Vehicle Group, Truck Division location in in Galesburg, the Eaton Corporation employs 450 people who, along with their corporate leaders, are committed to making a positive difference in the communities where they work and live. Through their dedication, they helped to create the Bigs in Business program in 2004, which has connected more than 70 Kalamazoo area youth with mentors at the Eaton Galesburg office. Eaton employees were also founding sponsors of the Kalamazoo Literacy Council’s Scrabble Fest, Comstock Community Center’s Ready, Set, Grow fundraiser, and the United Way of Southwest Michigan First’s United for Change initiative. In total, the Vehicle Group, Truck Division supports more than 100 community agencies each year through more than 10,000 hours of employee volunteer service and nearly $600,000 in employee donations and corporate contributions.

The Mentor of the Year award was presented to Nicholas Bottomley of Kentwood.
This award honors an individual who has made a significant difference in a child’s life over time through mentoring. Nicholas (Nic) has been matched with his mentee Austin since 2007. After meeting through a colleague at work, Nic and Austin entered into a formal mentoring relationship with the help of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Grand Rapids. Over their six year history, Nic and Austin have enjoyed many activities together, including sports, 4-H Mentoring Weekend, concerts, and volunteering. In addition, Nic ensures that Austin prepares for his future by helping him with his homework and encouraging him to talk to different adults about their education and career experiences. The relationship between the two has been so beneficial, when Austin was baptized his parents asked Nic and his wife Lisa to become Austin’s godparents. “Nic isn’t just a friend to me,” said Austin. “He’s family and that’s more than anyone could ask for.”

The Outstanding National Service Program Award was presented to the Region IV Area Agency on Aging’s Senior Volunteer Programs in St. Joseph.
This award honors an extraordinary organization that provides a high-quality national service program which yields a significant impact in their community. The Region IV Area Agency on Aging’s Senior Volunteer Programs is comprised of two national service programs: Foster Grandparents (FGP) and Senior Companions. These programs service the three county region of Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties in southwest Michigan by providing special needs youth with support to be academically and socially successful and frail and elderly seniors with companionship, transportation, and respite care. Region IV’s senior volunteer programs began in 1978 with the FGP program and grew to include the Senior Companion program in 2000. Today, the two programs collectively have 130 senior volunteers who donate 20-40 hours each week, providing a total of more than 100,000 hours of service in 2012 alone. This service provided tutoring and mentoring support to more than 1,500 local youth and in-home support that benefitted 154 home-bound seniors and 84 caregivers.

The Outstanding Volunteer Program Award was presented to Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries Volunteer Program.
This award acknowledges the importance an organization or club makes in community life. Since 1909, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) has been using volunteers to meet the needs of the city’s homeless population. Today, more than 11,000 dedicated volunteers serve with DRMM, giving a collective 40,000 hours each year. In 2012, DRMM added a new component to their Volunteer Services program: outreach. Joining with City of Detroit, Detroit Public Schools, Detroit Media Partnership, and local author Mitch Albom, DRMM spearheaded the unique volunteer initiative 100 Houses. The initiative sought to board- and cleanup vacant and abandoned properties in the city of Detroit in an effort to make the community a safer place to live. Over the course of two events last fall, 100 Houses and the DRMM Volunteer Program recruited more than 1,100 volunteers and succeeded in boarding up nearly 300 houses while cleaning 90 blocks of Detroit neighborhoods.

The Senior Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Mary Amelia Yvonne Clark of Negaunee.
This award honors a senior citizen who has taken action to make her or his community a better place to live. Yvonne first began volunteering in 1994 with the local Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and has logged nearly 9,000 hours of service since then. Beyond her commitment to the RSVP program, Yvonne is a dedicated volunteer for other community initiatives including the senior-based crime prevention program TRIAD, for which Yvonne helps to organize the annual “National Night Out” events; the Alzheimer and Autism wanderer recovery program, Marquette County Life Tracker, through which Yvonne has saved three lives; and the Marquette County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), where Yvonne trains in emergency rescue and survival skills to assist in times of need. Yvonne is also a lifelong volunteer for the American Red Cross and currently serves on their Disaster Assistance Team helping fire victims find shelter, food, clothing, and more.

The Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Barbara Grasso of Woodhaven.
This award honors an individual who strives to improve the lives of neighbors, friends, community, or congregation. Barbara is the founder and executive director of Operation Afghan Iraq PAC/ Americans Thank Our Troops. After learning of a coworker’s son who was serving in Iraq in 2004, Barbara began collecting food, comfort, and toiletry items to send to the young man. Her compassion and dedication to military men and women has expanded over the past nine years and her care package program now includes soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines from across the country. Growing from just a small group of friends to an organization with more than 400 volunteers, Barbara’s Operation Afghan Iraq PAC/ Americans Thank Our Troops has raised more than $55,000 for deployed military units and sent nearly 1,200 care packages weighing 40 pounds each. This monumental contribution would not be possible without the selfless and determined service of Barbara.

The Youth Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Travis McClendon of Detroit.
This award honors individuals age 21 or younger who have already begun making a significant difference in their community by volunteering. Travis is a 15-year old sophomore at Loyola High School with a passion for service. Born with no forearms as a result of a birth defect, Travis has not let his disability stop him; he has been volunteering since age eight. Now a high school student, Travis has taken his dedication to service above and beyond, particularly in the area of the homeless and veterans. In the past year, Travis volunteered more than 125 hours in a variety of ways: initiating a pillow case drive for military members; making cookies and sandwiches for the homeless; repairing homes at Pine Ridge Reservation; writing letters to veterans; planting a community garden; volunteering at a soup kitchen; and more. His kind and generous attitude have earned Travis the respect and admiration of his peers, teachers, and acquaintances alike.

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BACKGROUND: The Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC) builds a culture of service by providing vision and resources to strengthen communities through volunteerism. In 2012-13, the MCSC is granting nearly $7.5 million in federal funds to local communities for volunteer programs and activities. granting nearly $7.5 million in federal funds to local communities for volunteer programs and activities. In its 21 year history, the MCSC has engaged more than one million people in volunteerism and service through its signature programs: Mentor Michigan, Michigan’s AmeriCorps, and Volunteer MICHIGAN. The Governor’s Service Awards is also a premier program of the MCSC. The MCSC is housed in the Michigan Department of Human Services, whose mission is to assist children, families, and vulnerable adults to be safe, stable, and self-supporting. The Corporation for National and Community Service grants the federal funding administered by the MCSC.

Photos of the winners receiving their awards will be available after 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Please contact Jamie Wilson at (517) 335-7875 or wilsonj23@michigan.gov.