Awards Highlight Power of Volunteerism

The power of volunteerism gained the spotlight at the 2017 Community Volunteer Awards ceremony held Thursday in downtown Battle Creek.

Seven awards – five individual awards and two group honors – were handed out during the event, which was held at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation headquarters. The awards are held each year by HandsOn Battle Creek, a program of United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region (UWBCKR). A total of 26 nominations were submitted.

Chris Sargent, President and CEO of UWBCKR, said the impact of volunteerism is rooted in partnership.

“Individuals who step up to give their time and talent to the collective work of building a vibrant community help all people realize their full potential,” Sargent said. “We’re proud of our volunteers and thrilled to see the lives they change through their efforts.”

Here is a list of this year’s winners:

Group Volunteers of the Year: Mike Campbell and Carl English. Both men produced at least 120 programs for AccessVision, from elementary school holiday programs to the Community Prayer Breakfast, from Dave Eddy’s “Face To Face” to Sherri Sherban’s “Be Scene On Air,” from the MOSAIC Storytelling Showcases to the Remember a Vet Story Slam and many more. They serve as crucial role models who put community first, and they put it on local television screens.

Board Member of the Year: Jeanne Miralrio. Miralrio dedicates not just her time, but also a purpose and passion. She serves the Hispanic community of Battle Creek by being an enthusiastic team member at community events, such as Voces Family Day and the annual Sabor Latino celebration. She worked with students at Post-Franklin Elementary School to drive the after-school literacy program. Miralrio has led several board committees, even those outside her experience, and she does it with enthusiasm and determination. Last year alone, she led the Voces Building Committee to make sure the organization’s physical space meets the needs of the community.

Service Learning Teacher of the Year: Wanda Miller. Miller has been teaching Service Learning for more than three years at Kellogg Community College. She has taught at least 12 Service Learning specific classes and countless others that allow students to complete Service Learning projects. One student of Miller’s arranged durable duffle bags for children in foster care who had to carry their belongings in trash bags. Another student inspired her peers to spend more time at the library. These young people, and many more, have had the opportunity to use their talents and gifts while exploring career options—all because of the work of this wonderful teacher.

Service Learning Student of the Year: Robin Bolz. This award winner brought some creative magic to touch the hearts of children in the hospital. She created a program called “You Have a Friend in Me,” which collected new stuffed bears for young patients. These bears provided comfort to children who faced a long hospital stay, or whose parents had to work and couldn’t be with them all the time. Bolz connected with donors through several organizations, through personal presentations and through social media. As a result, she gathered 106 new bears in just two weeks—and put smiles on the faces of many young patients who needed it most.

Youth Volunteer of the Year: Kaylee Barnes. Charitable Union in Battle Creek calls Barnes “part of our little family, and we wouldn’t know what to do without her.” She’s been part of the organization since 2015, when she joined as part of the Goodwill Connects Summer Youth Program. She continued to volunteer even after the program ended, on weekends when she left for college, and now that she has a full-time job, she still shows up on her days off. Whatever needs doing, whoever needs help, Barnes is the first to step in and say, “I’ve got this.”

Volunteer of the Year: Mitch Joffe. A tireless worker, Joffe volunteers several times a week at the Cheff Center—with the Veterans Aphasia group, with the Cognitively-Delayed Adults Program, and with the Cheff Center physical therapist’s hippotherapy clients. Joffe brings a quiet, calm patience to every client who comes for therapy. In addition, he is a constant, reliable presence at fundraisers, coming up with innovative programs. Recently, he organized the Cheff Center staff to take miniature horses to a local hospice center—where he also volunteers when he’s not at the Cheff Center.

Continuing Service Award: Kathy Antaya. Part of the Leila Arboretum family since 2004, she has donated nearly 16,000 hours of her time to horticultural programs—at an estimated value of $350,000. Each year, she gives 2,000 hours of her time and her knowledge in Agronomy to the Leila, including the Urbandale Community Vegetable Garden and the 365 Urban Farm Program. She works with many of our local Burmese families in the Urbandale garden, even learning some of their language to create a comfortable exchange. Since 2013, under her supervision, the 365 Urban Farm Program has donated more than 1,500 pounds of produce to Haven of Rest, the Laurels of Bedford, the Urbandale Food Pantry, the Food Bank of South Central Michigan, and much more. Beyond all this, she manages the 365 Farm Stand and the Community Supported Agriculture program; coordinates volunteer work sessions and community service projects; and assists with educational programs. She also volunteers for several other local nonprofits.

Volunteer judges for this year’s awards were Mike Larson, Michigan Association of United Ways; Jasmine Maddox, BC Vision; Tammy Mills, United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region; Ashley Morales, Battle Creek Community Foundation Youth Alliance Committee; and Nathan Smeltzer, PNC Bank.

If you’re interested in being a volunteer, check out our Volunteer page or email us at

Community Volunteer Award winners (l-r): Wanda Miller, Mitch Joffe, Michael Campbell, Carl English, Robin Bolz, Kaylee Barnes, Jeanne Miralrio, Kathy Antaya.