Volunteer Awards Honor Best of Battle Creek

The power of volunteerism gained the spotlight at the 2018 Community Volunteer Awards ceremony held July 26 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 United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region through its HandsOn Battle Creek program. A total of 24 nominations were submitted.

Chris Sargent, United Way’s President and CEO, said the impact of volunteerism is rooted in partnership.

“Volunteerism is a personal investment of time, talent and passion in our community. We’re proud to celebrate these selfless volunteers and thrilled to see them make a positive impact in people’s lives,” Sargent said.

Here is a list of this year’s winners:

Group Volunteers of the Year: Coffee Room Volunteers, Battle Creek Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Ten local volunteers make sure veterans awaiting appointments have coffee, snacks and encouragement. The Coffee Room is open 40 hours a week, meaning the all-volunteer operation requires 2,000 hours every year—80,000 hours since the operation began.

Board Member of the Year: Edward Bujdos. As a board member of S.A.F.E. Place, Bujdos actively volunteers as an advisor to the Albion College chapter of Alpha Chi Omega, serves as a volunteer counselor, serves on every S.A.F.E. Place committee, and raises awareness and funds to address domestic violence through participating in the Walk A Mile In Their Shoes events at Albion College and Battle Creek.

Service Learning Teacher of the Year: Dr. Sheila Matthews, Kellogg Community College. Dr. Matthews has created coaching and mentoring models for community service that are sustainable year-to-year. Her outreach models—including KCC Buddies, focused on school-age children, and Veterans Partnership, serving elderly veterans—both meet community needs and provide high-quality service learning opportunities for KCC students.

Service Learning Student of the Year: Erin Jackson, Kellogg Community College. A two-time intern at Charitable Union, Jackson leads the organization’s effort to raise money for feminine hygiene products for low-to-moderate income women who otherwise struggle to afford these essentials. Because of her initiative, Charitable Union is receiving both funds and donated product. Jackson also launched a survey to fully understand the need in the community and track the impact of this effort.

Youth Volunteers of the Year: Summer Serve Program, Battle Creek Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Every summer since 2007, Battle Creek area students have gathered at the VA Medical Center to interact with elderly veterans, play games, serve root beer floats, take patients for walks, and even join them for field trips, such as a recent visit to the Gilmore Car Museum. These students learn history, compassion and respect. Some have gone on to pursue medical careers. This program has also brought in at-risk youth from the VFW Home for Children in Eaton Rapids to give them the opportunity to volunteer as well.

Volunteer of the Year: Dave McLean, Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center. A tireless volunteer, McLean works with even the most difficult horses, leading them to class, exercising them one-on-one, and engaging their brains to avoid burnout. McLean taught himself how to tame even the most obstinate horses, which strengthens the Cheff Center’s therapeutic riding programs and makes the horses happy. His passion for the work prompts him to regularly thank Cheff Center staff for the privilege of volunteering there.

Continuing Service Award: Jerilee Rose. Rose’s volunteerism is all about spreading the love from Battle Creek to every corner of the world. Each year, she spends countless hours hand-making crafts for children. She also coordinates the work of other volunteers to make clothing, purses, jump ropes, fishing kits and toys. Then, every year, she partners with dozens of organizations and gathers people at her house for a Packing Party, which results in 10,000 shoeboxes full of items that are then sent to children around the world. Many of these children are victims of war, poverty, famine and natural disasters. As many as 100,000 items are needed to fill those boxes—gifts that make a powerful impact on young lives.

Volunteer judges for this year’s awards were:
• Tiffany Blackman, Battle Creek Community Foundation;
• Emerald Diamante, community volunteer;
• Dale Geminder, AccessVision;
• Ashley Morales, a student who has served on the Battle Creek Community Foundation Youth Alliance Council;
• Rita O’Neill, The Burma Center;
• Laura Otte, SAFE Place; and
• Shelly Sulser, Battle Creek Shopper News.