Complete Hometown Health Heroes Stories For National Public Health Week

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

March 31, 2004

Hometown Health Heroes Stories

National Public Health Week


Margarita Gonzales, East Lansing, MI

Through her 10 years of service through the Registration and Enrollment Unit of the Ingham County Health Department, Margarita Gonzales is being honored as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes. Gonzales was nominated by the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University.

Gonzales, a Spanish-speaking translator, has helped to link residents in need with appropriate health care services and programs. Through her service in Ingham County, Gonzales has facilitated services to hundreds of citizens through the Ingham County Health Plan, the CAP Program, MI CHILD, Healthy Kids, MOMS Program and many others.

As the Ingham County Health Department outreach representative, Gonzales gains the trust and confidence of citizens by using patience, care and compassion to explain the often-complex enrollment, registration, documentation and qualification processes.

Interacting with the County’s most vulnerable populations, Gonzales uses cultural understanding and linguistic competency to break through barriers to accessing necessary healthcare. The Latino community has grown to know Gonzales by name. She is often asked for personally when residents require services and support.

As a mother of three, Gonzales understands a family’s needs and is sensitive to the urgency and despair a health crisis can create. For her capacity to serve those in need and her continued efforts to connect patients to care, Margarita Gonzales is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Israel Cuellar, Ph.D. at Michigan State University, Julian Samora Research Institute at 517-432-1317.


Nana Dompreh, Flint, MI

Since 2002, Nana Dompreh has served as a Program Assistant at the Ruth Mott Community Health Explorers program.

The University of Michigan School of Public Health has nominated Dompreh, an 18 year-old student at Flint Central High School, as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

Dompreh has completed training on HIV peer education from the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project and has used her knowledge to develop and conduct focus groups and surveys on the subject of HIV and STD prevention. Using this data, Dompreh provided peer-to-peer health HIV and STD education in her community.

Through her continued commitment to youth education, Dompreh joined forces with the Genesee County Health Department to perform in a gonorrhea prevention video.

In 2003, Dompreh convened a group of her colleagues to implement a youth-led newsletter and public health career day at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Dompreh continues to make an impact on her community as a member of the Flint Odyssey House Health Awareness Center mime troupe.

This group provides young people with innovative HIV education through music and drama. She has performed at several venues, including a gonorrheal prevention mini-summit and the Public Health Students of African Descent Minority Health Conference.

For her drive, focus and passion for providing her community with important public health information, Nana Dompreh is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Yanique Redwood-Jones at the University of Michigan School of Public Health at 248-417-6175.


Sharon Dumas-Pugh, Detroit, MI

Throughout a lifetime of striving to learn about weight-issues, Sharon Dumas-Pugh has become a community leader in health and diet education. The Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion nominated Dumas-Pugh as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

Having lost and kept off close to 100 pounds, Dumas-Pugh understand the challenges that surround many women in her community. As the Executive Director of two programs specifically designed for women, Full ‘n’ Fabulous and Teens at Large, Dumas-Pugh works to address a crucial component of obesity – self-esteem.

The two programs, established in 1982, teach diet and nutritional information and positive life-style modifications for healthier living. The programs emphasize tobacco cessation, increased physical activity and an overall positive attitude.

While educating on weight issues, Dumas-Pugh has been known to provide a holistic approach to her students. She will often work to ensure that young women are doing well in school and help many participants develop into productive citizens. Though her clientele is primarily those with low-income, no one is ever denied services.

For several decades of philanthropy and continued efforts to increase the health status of her community, Sharon Dumas-Pugh is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Wende Berry at the City of Detroit Health Department at 313-876-4000.


Barbara Lewis-Clark, Detroit, MI

As Creator of the Henry O. Clark Foundation, Barbara Lewis-Clark has provided her community with numerous stroke-awareness and education forums. The Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion nominated Lewis-Clark as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

In 2001, Lewis-Clark’s husband, Henry O. Clark, passed away from a stroke at the age of 51. Since then, Lewis-Clark has invested her time and resources into creating a foundation in her husband’s name. The Foundation has supported numerous educational events and a stroke awareness conference.

Last year, the Foundation sponsored an all-expenses paid trip for 25 stroke survivors and caregivers to “Stroke Camp” through the American Stroke Association. In addition, the Foundation provides many life-enhancing services such as Detroit River cruises, trips to the Detroit Repertory Theater and many other special, cultural events to survivors and their caregivers.

Among many educational events, Lewis-Clark has spent her time traveling to many organization meetings and presenting stroke information. She has placed stroke awareness ads in various publications and billboards and has just recently recorded and released an R&B song promoting stroke understanding.

For her infallible enthusiasm, tireless efforts to heighten awareness and education about stroke and generous services to stroke survivors, Barbara Lewis-Clark is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Wende Berry at the City of Detroit Health Department at 313-876-4000.


John “Kip” Walker, Unionville, MI

The Superintendent of Unionville Sebewaing Area Schools, John “Kip” Walker, played an active and instrumental role in the containment of tuberculosis (TB) in the community. Walker was nominated by the Huron County Health Department as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

In October 2003, the Huron County Health Department notified Walker that an instructor in the school district had been diagnosed with active TB. Immediately recognizing the very serious nature of the situation, Walker worked with the Health Department staff to complete TB screening in the school.

Walker’s commitment to keeping the school students, staff and community safe was clearly illustrated in his tireless efforts to organize the complete and comprehensive screening. He worked to ensure privacy of the students and staff, and consistently maintained communication with the community, parents, Health Department, and the media.

Walker hosted information sessions for parents and community members and extended all efforts to update necessary authorities of the situation.

The Health Department cites Walker’s work as essential in keeping this threat to public health under control. For his dedication to safety, commitment to the Unionville community and successful emergency management, John “Kip” Walker is recognizes as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Cindy Glaza or Mitzi Koroleski at the Huron County Health Department at 989-269-9721.


John Fitzmaurice, St. Clair, MI

An avid runner and principal of Washington Elementary in Marysville, John Fitzmaurice promotes physical activity among his staff, students and their families through multiple fitness programs and educational events. The St. Clair County Health Department nominated Fitzmaurice as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

Fitzmaurice developed the “Walking Kids” program to promote and active lifestyle at a young age. Getting kids into a routine of fitness is a main focus point of the program, and Fitzmaurice implements the program annually. Also, the Principal offers technical support and advice to other area principals to start “Walking Kids” in other schools.

As part of the “International Walk to School Day”, Fitzmaurice mobilizes the entire community to bypass the school bus and hit the sidewalks for a safe walk to school. He recruits local police, fire fighters and other local officials to walk with the students.

Through creativity and continual drive, Fitzmaurice makes these days a community-wide event. As an active member of the Michigan Action for Health kids Coalition and the St. Clair County Fitness Improvement Group for Youth, Fitzmaurice developed a website to serve as a clearinghouse for all local resources relating to youth physical activity.

The site,, features links to programs, an exercise regime diary and a place for community members to log fitness success.

For the innovative and on-going efforts to keep kids active and the creativity and community-wide commitment, John Fitzmaurice is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Sue Amato at the St. Clair County Health Department at 810-987-5300.


Sandra Spoelstra, Marquette, MI

While taking active steps toward a personal healthy lifestyle, Sandra Spoelstra became a leader in health promotion and physical fitness in her community. The Marquette County Health Department nominated Spoelstra as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

After incorporating a nutrition-driven diet and personal fitness program into her life, Spoelstra sought out to become a role model for others. Spoelstra is known for her contributions toward developing youth sports programs, volunteering on numerous events and dedicating countless work hours to designing a physically active community environment.

Spoelstra established the first girl’s hockey program in Marquette. The program has expanding to five teams and a club team at Northern Michigan University. For over a decade, she has promoted, sponsored and coached little league programs and high school varsity fast pitch programs.

Further expanding women’s sports, Spoelstra played a key role in bringing the Women’s Ski Tour to Marquette, which included more than 1,500 participants. A founding member of the Marquette Active Living Coalition, Spoelstra has dedicated her time to promoting a health lifestyle through various fitness events and health expos in Marquette.

Currently, Spoelstra is working to develop a 500-mile land and water trail system called the Noquemanon Trail Network. For her many years of dedicated service to incorporating physical activity and fitness education into the Marquette community, Sandra Spoelstra is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact George Sedlacek at the Marquette County Health Department at 906-475-9977.


Lori Wesolowski, Traverse City, MI

As a public health nurse in Grand Traverse County for the past nine years, Lori Wesolowski has used her communication talents to reach and serve many vulnerable populations. The Grand Traverse County Health Department nominated Wesolowski as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

Wesolowski is known as a dedicated and compassionate public health nurse in her community, but she is also recognized as a symbol for reaching out to underserved and at risk populations. A bi-lingual Spanish speaker, Wesolowski connects with the Hispanic community and devotes her time to understanding the needs of the people she serves.

Her ability to bridge the communication gap makes Wesolowski an effective public health agent. She is able to bring necessary health education and services to the deaf community, homeless citizens and other special needs individuals. For her commitment to reaching all members of the community and assisting in their health care needs, Lori Wesolowski is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Kit Mikovitz at the Grand Traverse County Health Department at 231-922-4831.


The Honorable Allen Garbrecht, Battle Creek, MI

Judge Allen Garbrecht developed and implemented the first Women’s Drug Court Program in Calhoun County as a method of turning drug-abusers into beneficial members of the community. The Calhoun County Public Health Department nominated Judge Garbrecht as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

Established in January 2003, the Women’s Drug Court Program provides education, employment placement services, life skills support, mentoring, peer support and drug treatment services for eligible drug-abusing women entering the court system.

Judge Garbrecht researched, planned and then championed the program into existence and has remained a key supporter. Firmly believing that assistance is more successful than punishment, Judge Garbrecht has created a system that values lives, strengthens families and creates respected members of the community.

Recently the program congratulated the first round of graduates and is focused on continuing to break the generational cycle of criminality and promoting health families. For his understanding of and dedication to the community he serves, and his continual drive toward creating a strengthened community, the Honorable Allen Garbrecht is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Heidi Oberlin at the Calhoun County Public Health Department at 269-969-6366.


Paul Haan, Grand Rapids, MI

As the project coordinator of Get the Lead Out, a local community collaborative charged with ending lead poisoning in Kent County, Paul Haan is a key leader in lead abatement. Haan is nominated by the Kent County Health Department as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

In the fall of 2001, Get the Lead Out became an organization focused on protecting community members from harmful lead-related issues. Haan was instrumental in providing education about lead poisoning to the community and health care professionals. He further coordinated community assistance for residential lead abatement.

A long-time leader in lead abatement, Haan has created a conduit for change in Kent County. He has built a community partner coalition that includes local foundation members, lead abatement agencies, the local health department and local hospitals.

Under the guidance of Haan, Get the Lead Out has received a grant and technical support from Clear Corps, a national lead abatement organization, to recruit and train volunteers. Haan was instrumental in organizing community partners to apply for a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants for lead abatement services.

In the fall of 2003, the City of Grand Rapids was approved to receive two HUD grants to total almost $5 million to provide lead hazard control services to approximately 450 homes in Grand Rapids. For his focus on lead abatement and dedication to educating the community, Paul Haan is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Mike Mullet or Cathy Raevsky at the Kent County Health Department at 616-336-2220


Kay Kearly, Alpena, MI

Known for her tireless efforts in implementing the Day One program, Kay Kearly, a public health nurse, is a champion of children and families in Alpena. Kearly was nominated by the District Health Department #4 in Alpena.

Implemented more than a decade ago, the Day One program is an outreach service to families of newborns. Though formed in Alpena, the Day One program has now expanded to server families and children in four northeastern counties in Michigan.

The Day One program was the first Healthy Families America Program in Michigan. Day One provides families support through child development activities, counseling services, early childhood family education, life skills training, referral services and peer support programs.

Under the guidance of Kearly, the program has touched more than 1,100 families. Kearly is a strong supporter of child welfare services. She is on the Early Education and Care Task Force, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Task Force and a member of the Children’s Action Network. For her limitless compassion and dedication to Michigan’s children, Kay Kearly is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Sharone Hall or Donna Karsten at District Health Department #4 Day One Program at 989-356-4507.


George and Judy Hemmeter, Saginaw Township, MI

Farm owners, George and Judy Hemmeter have been providing nutritional education and healthy produce to Women Infants and Children (WIC) clients for the past 15 years. The Saginaw County Department of Public Health nominated the Hemmeters as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

In 1989, the Hemmeters became involved in the WIC program through a pilot program called Project Fresh. This project was designed to introduce WIC clients to a farmer’s market and teach them about the healthy fruits and vegetables that grow in Michigan.

Since the inception of Project Fresh, the Hemmeters have been active in expanding and supporting the program. The Hemmeters have worked with other farmers to encourage participation in Project Fresh. They have also made a point to label fruits and vegetables in the Markets with helpful hints and educational messages.

These messages explain the health benefits of opting for fresh fruits and vegetables as a part of a balanced diet. Making the farm accessible to all clients was a major priority for the Hemmeters. Inner city children are able to come visit the farm animals and interact in a way that is not possible in an urban area or zoo.

The Hemmeters have gone above and beyond to give WIC clients opportunities for health and education that were not previously available. For touching the lives of hundreds of Michigan citizens and displaying compassion and guidance for healthy living, George and Judy Hemmeter are recognized as Hometown Health Heroes. For more information, please contact Debbie Dudewicz at the Saginaw County Department of Public Health at 989-758-3800.


Richard Mullally, Muskegon, MI

Richard Mullally has been a dedicated and active advocated of smoke-free environments in Muskegon for nearly 15 years, and has significantly increased the ratio of smoke-free establishments. The Muskegon County Health Department nominated the Mullally as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

A retired high school educator, Mullally involved interested local youth in tracking the spread of smoke-free restaurants in Muskegon County. When he started Mullally said there were fewer smoke-free restaurants “than you could count on one hand”.

Now, Muskegon boasts over 130 establishments that do not allow smoking. Mullally has worked collaboratively with many local Muskegon County agencies to increase the impact of his efforts. Working with Lakeshore Lung Society, he has produced certificates that thank restaurants for providing a “fresh air environment”.

To increase awareness of the smoke-free lifestyle, Mullally carries assorted signs to five to smoke-free restaurants that inform entering customers that they are entering a smoke-free zone. Mullally’s goal is to make smoke-free the norm rather than the exception. For his diligence and efforts in reducing the prevalence of second-hand smoke in Muskegon County, Richard Mullally is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Edward Parsekian at the Muskegon County Health Department at 231-724-6246.


Harry Bonner, Albion, MI

By creating a dedicated program to address the public health issues of the minority populations, Harry Bonner provided vital education and services to his community. The Calhoun County Public Health Department nominated Bonner as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

In 1988, Bonner founded the Minority Program Services in Albion. This program was focused on health education, substance abuse prevention, youth development and strengthening families. The Minority Program Services works to solutions and preventative measures for the minority community.

Bonner creates innovated, culturally relevant programs to address emerging health needs among youth and families. One program, the African American Health Issues Forum, worked in partnership with other area groups to discuss the health disparities within the community. Bonner is known in the community as a leader in public health concerns. He uses his time and focus to promote important issues in a diverse set of cultures.

For his commitment to addressing the needs of the entire community and his vision for creating successful programs, Harry Bonner is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Heidi Oberlin at the Calhoun County Public Health Department at 269-969-6366.


Reverend James Hightower, Benton Harbor, MI

An active community member, Reverend James Hightower has given his time to raise awareness on improving the health status in Benton Harbor. Reverend Hightower was nominated by the Berrien County Health Department as one of Michigan’s Hometown Health Heroes.

In a period of community distress, Reverend Hightower volunteered to co-chair the Health Awareness and Improvement Workgroup as part of Governor Granholm’s Benton Harbor Taskforce. He initiated a community approach to identifying issues in Benton Harbor by administering a health survey.

Reverend Hightower displayed dedication by personally distributing the surveys strategically throughout the community. To spread the healthy lifestyle message, Reverend Hightower pioneered and implemented a health education and awareness project in various churches in the community.

Credited with mobilizing the faith-based community to incorporate health messages, Reverend Hightower utilized an innovative approach to use citizens in the congregation to provide education on diverse health topics.

Through his concentrated efforts on linking the faith community with health topics and showing an active commitment to improve the health status of Benton Harbor, Reverend James Hightower is recognized as a Hometown Health Hero. For more information, please contact Mike Mortimore at the Berrien County Health Department at 269-927-5600.