Michigan Community Action Awards

Wayne Metro CAA's Community Action Award winner.Each year, MCAAA recognizes the achievements and contributions of individuals, families, and/or organizations that exemplify the mission and spirit of Community Action. In addition, MCAAA also names its Legislator of the Year to recognize those federal or state legislators who stand up for low income families and individuals. In 2011, MCAAA’s board of directors instituted a special award to be given to an individual whose career accomplishment set them apart as a Pillar of Community Action.

2012 Community Action Awards

This year’s Awards Luncheon took place on March 20 at the Lansing Radisson Hotel. The awards presentations were made by MCAAA president Nancy Macfarlane and luncheon speaker Dr. Thomas G. Coon, director of the Michigan State University Extension.

2012 CAA Volunteer Awards

John Busley (Nominated by Capital Area Community Services)

Mr. Busley, a City of Lansing employee, fills much of his non-work week performing volunteer work for his church and a local food bank. Yet he still finds time to help out at CACS four months of the year when the agency receives and distributes its quarterly Temporary Emergency Food Program allocation. On Saturdays during TEFAP months, Mr. Busley leads a group of 50 volunteers—drawn from high school and church groups, as well as family and friends—in packing approximately 2000 food orders for distribution to the community. It was Mr. Busley who suggested that CACS remain open on Saturdays to accommodate many volunteers who are unable to contribute during the week. Until a few years ago, CACS used volunteers from the GM job bank to pack up its TEFAP food orders. Since that source of help was eliminated, Mr. Busley and his group of Saturday volunteers have kept this important safety net program running smoothly.

Ken Delaney (Nominated by Community Action)

“Walk a mile in their shoes,” is an oft heard expression when considering the plight of the less fortunate, but Ken Delaney takes that phrase a bit further—like 18 miles further. Each year since 1997, Mr. Delaney has led the “Walk across Branch County” fundraiser as part of CA’s Walk for Warmth activities to raise money for energy assistance. The 19 mile hike from Bronson to Quincy has raised more than $60,000. Many “Walk” days have been rainy, cold, and snowy, but Mr. Delaney says the generosity of the folks he has encountered along the way has been a constant. “People will pull alongside and hand over five, ten, even $100,” he reports. An area radio personality with his own show, Mr. Delaney says when he was young his dad would be laid off from his construction job during the winter. “I can empathize with those struggling to pay their heating bill, so this is one small way to help.”

Theresa Delaney (Nominated by Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency)

Thanks to Theresa Delaney, hundreds of Pontiac area families, seniors, and school-aged children are getting much needed nutritional meals. Ms. Delaney contributes her time and talents to OLHSA’s food distribution and summer lunch programs, delivering food and coordinating its packaging and distribution. She often takes on extra challenges, like making sure some of the inner-city kids in the summer lunch program get to participate in field trips like last year’s trip to Cedar Point. She lobbied for expanding the summer meals program hours to give kids a safe place to go during those long summer days. She is a tireless supporter of the agency, spreading the word about OLHSA’s food programs and other services wherever she can, even as she works at her own full time job.

Lula Foco (Nominated by Mid Michigan Community Action Agency)

Lula Foco is a long time community volunteer, with a special allegiance to military veterans—she regularly assists in VFW and American Legion fundraisers, and visits the residents at Saginaw’s Veterans Hospital. A cancer survivor, she also participates in the area’s Relay for Life marathon. At MMCAA, she donates her time to the food commodity distributions at three locations and is known to hundreds of seniors for her warm smile and kind words. In addition, Ms. Foco is a Walk for Warmth committee member and hasn’t missed a Walk for 10 years. She also helps her less mobile neighbors with errands and getting to health appointments. Agency staff say that her dedication, positive attitude, and generous spirit are an inspiration to them all.

Annette Kutnick (Nominated by Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency)

A chance meeting with a Wayne Metro staff person has led to Ms. Kutnick’s outstanding volunteer service. Upon learning about the agency’s programs and services, she quickly immersed herself by becoming a community representative on the agency’s regional advisory council. Two of her favorite programs are the Walk for Warmth and the Community Baby Shower. She has led outreach efforts for financial support by recruiting area retailers to put out collection jars at their checkout counters. When an area family faced a bleak holiday season last year, she enlisted the support of family and friends to collect much needed food, clothing and gas cards to get them through a trying time. Agency staff say she does all of this while reflecting the agency’s guiding principles of providing services with a great deal of empathy and respect.

Nancy Percival (Nominated by Community Action)

Ms. Percival has been a Community Action board member since 2005, but her connection to the agency goes all the way back to 1990 when she participated in some of the first Walk for Warmth events in the country. Based in Branch County, Ms. Percival is the agency’s goodwill ambassador, using her community connections to connect with area donors and sponsors, which she says becomes more difficult in hard economic times like these. But thanks to her efforts, and other like her, Branch County’s Walk for Warmth has generated more than $260,000 and helped thousands of low income families keep safe and warm through the winter. In addition to her Community Action volunteer service, Ms. Percival is a board member of Glen Oaks Community College and a staff member of the area’s Michigan Works! office.

Joe and Katie Roberts (Nominated by ACSET Community Action Agency)

Joe Roberts remembers sitting on his couch about 10 years ago when he saw an announcement promoting the ACSET Kent County Walk for Warmth. Since that day, he and his wife, Katie, have followed that call to volunteer. They have faithfully participated in the ACSET Community Action Walk for Warmth in Kent County every year since and have averaged $800 in yearly donations. The Roberts have engaged family, friends, and co-workers to sponsor them and their commitment to help others be warm. Joe has often been vocal in his efforts to recruit others to do the same; “If they can’t give, at least they can walk,” he points out. Without the dedication and commitment of volunteers like Joe and Katie Roberts, the heart and soul of Community Action would cease to exist say ACSET staff and they want to acknowledge their deepest appreciation for all the Roberts do for their Kent County neighbors.

Eugene Smith, Jr. (Nominated by Saginaw County Community Action Committee)

Having grown up on the south side of Saginaw, Mr. Smith realizes the challenges kids face in an area known for drugs, gangs, and urban blight. In 2007, a year before he joined the SCCAC board, he organized I Am My Brother’s Keeper, a youth group that focuses on positive community involvement and that has been recognized by the City for its work on behalf of its residents. In 2010, “The Keepers” took the lead in organizing SCCAC’s Walk for Warmth, starting in the early morning, marking the route, setting up refreshments and roasting hot dogs. Mr. Smith has also been involved in prison ministry and a training program that prepares young men to be responsible husbands and fathers. As an agency board member, Mr. Smith serves as secretary and chairs the facility and grounds committee and the newly-formed fundraising committee which hosts an annual “Partners against Poverty” awards dinner. He puts in about 25 hours a week in volunteer activities and is one of the agency’s leading community cheerleaders, proudly acknowledging the nickname of “Mr. CAC.”

Linda Stafford (Nominated by EightCAP, Inc.)

EightCAP’s Camp Wah-Wah-Tay-See in Greenville provides at risk youth and special needs adults with eight weeks of summer recreational, social, and educational fun. Linda Stafford has helped make sure that camp-goers have a safe, happy, and healthy stay. For more than a decade as a camp board member, Ms. Stafford has helped raised more than $500,000, including a recent $80,000 drive to provide much-needed accessible restrooms and shower facilities. According to agency staff, she has a gentle and gracious way of “twisting arms” to ensure the financial stability of this special place. In addition to her work with the camp, Ms. Stafford demonstrates her community spirit in many other volunteer capacities including work with the Special Olympics and United Memorial Hospital, for which she won a special “Spirit of Caring” awards.

Larry Winter (Nominated by Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency)

Last year, Mr. Winter prepared more than 250 tax returns for low income customers on behalf of NMCAA’s Tax Assistance Program, including going off site to the Community Living Center where he assisted disabled residents at the independent housing site. His efforts have helped clients receive thousands of dollars in tax credits and refunds. He volunteers three-days a week at the agency and took part in its Super Saturday marathon tax return prep event. In 2011 he contributed nearly 200 hours of volunteer services, and helped the agency prepare required program reports in addition to helping clients. Agency staff praise his cheerful and caring personal style and commitment to customer service.

2012 CAA Participant Awards

Sarah Ferry (Nominated by Mid Michigan Community Action Agency)

Ms. Ferry is being recognized for her continuing progress toward self-sufficiency. The mother of two daughters under five, Ms. Ferry connected with MMCAA through the agency’s Teen Parent Program, which helped her develop and improve her parenting and household management skills. Following completion of the program, she continues her involvement as a teen parent mentor. With help from MMCAA’s housing programs, Ms. Ferry secured a safe home for her family and enrolled her children in Early Head Start, where she is an active participant. She went on to obtain her driver’s license and supports her family by working two jobs. An interest in nutrition led her to participate in MSU’s Project Fresh which enables her to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables. She also trained in CPR/First Aid, further demonstrating her commitment to a safe and healthy home life for her kids. Agency staff praises Ms. Ferris’ positive attitude, reliability, and persistence in meeting the challenges she confronts daily.

Julie Harding (Nominated by EightCAP, Inc.)

Left jobless after 27 years and the Electrolux plant in Greenville closed, Ms. Harding sought guidance through EightCAP’s Michigan Works! office. She enrolled in the local community college and within two years obtained a degree in information technology, but found few jobs available and took a part-time position in a veterinary clinic. When her marriage of 25 years ended, creating even more financial insecurity, she again turned to EightCAP. She learned she was eligible for the agency’s food programs and the Bridge Card program, as well as the Weatherization Assistance Program which led to a new furnace and insulation improvements. While she continues her job search for full time employment, she is working for a temporary agency, but is also volunteering in numerous EightCAP programs including Head Start, Foster Grandparents, and quarterly food distribution events. Ms. Harding credits EightCAP staff with “saving my sanity” through their programs and compassion.

Jeff and Jamie Jantz (Nominated by Macomb County Community Services Agency)

Mr. and Mrs. Jantz have been the definition of involved Head Start parents while their children attend the pre-school program at MCCSA. Each participates in the Parent Policy Council and attends trainings in health care, community activities, and parenting conferences. While serving on the Nutrition Committee, Mr. Jantz combined his interest in nutrition with his artistic and writing talents by initiating a parent newsletter that features health tips and recipes for Head Start families. He is also seeking a publisher for a children’s book he’s written and illustrated. Mrs. Jantz has been active in organizing Head Start parents to advocate for children at state and national levels. Using training she acquired through MCCSA, she has created her own freelance website promotion service. MCCSA staff is proud to have provided a platform on which Mr. and Mrs. Jantz have been able to build their skills and further their education. They are making great progress toward personal and financial success.

Nicole Payne (Nominated by Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency)

Wayne Metro staff members say they are proud to nominate Ms. Payne for a Community Action Award because her accomplishments while working with the agency have been “truly amazing.” Unemployed and turning to family to help her support and house her three daughters, she received a much appreciated boost of support when she was enrolled her children in the Head Start program and return to school. Seeing her children thrive provided the emotional impetus to complete her bachelor’s degree at Western Michigan University and land a meaningful, full-time job. She credits Head Start and Wayne Metro staff for providing parental and leadership training that helped her maintain the often tricky home-work-school balance and for preparing her children for a “life full of learning.” The staff, in turn, credit Ms. Payne for her great perseverance in overcoming challenges and meeting her goals.

Hurbert Whittaker (Nominated by Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency)

While staying in a northern Michigan homeless shelter after a period of incarceration, Mr. Whittaker turned to NMCAA for help in finding a permanent home. Three months later, he moved into his own apartment, providing much need stability and enabling him to consider the future course of his life. In Mr. Whittaker’s case, the future meant looking backward, to a time when his father owned a small hobby shop for rock and stone enthusiasts. This boyhood memory led to his decision to open his own shop. With the help of NMCAA’s matched-savings Individual Development Account program in which participants may receive $2 for every $1 saved, he began amassing resources that would help him realize his dream. He took part in required financial management classes offered through NMCAA and signed on to the local Chamber of Commerce’s SCORE program that connects new entrepreneurs with seasoned business mentors. He recently opened his store, the cleverly-named No Stone Unturned in Kingsley, and plans to expand to other states and internationally. Mr. Whittaker speaks with great eloquence and passion of overcoming obstacles to self-sufficiency at regional Poverty Reduction Initiative events. He says he remains grateful for “the help, support, and confidence I received at NMCAA.”

2012 MCAAA Legislator of the Year

MCAAA named US Representative Sander Levin the association's Legislator of the Year for 2012.

Our 2012 Legislator of the Year is Rep. Sander “Sandy” Levin of Michigan’s 12th Congressional District which includes communities in Macomb and Oakland counties. He is currently the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over all tax, trade and economic growth policies and entitlement spending, including Social Security, Medicare, welfare and unemployment compensation. Unable to attend the awards luncheon in person, Congressman Levin sent a video greeting thanking MCAAA and his local CAAs for the honor. (See it here: http://bit.ly/GFFdaU)

Earlier in career, Rep. Levin was elected to the Michigan State Senate in 1964 and served as the Michigan State Senate Minority Leader from 1969 – 1970. In 1970 and 1974, Mr. Levin was the Democratic candidate for Governor. After a four year assignment as Assistant Administrator in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), he was elected to Congress in 1982.

MCAAA appreciates the many tough stands Rep. Levin has taken in support of American working families throughout his career and more recently. In a Detroit Free Press editorial last November he argued for the extension of jobless benefits to prevent 1.2 million Americans, including 81,000 unemployed Michiganders, from losing much needed and deserved unemployment compensation. He recently introduced the Building American Jobs Act that would finance critical infrastructure projects and provide services that strengthen communities and create jobs for working families. He has also introduced legislation to treat the “carried interest” compensation received by investment fund managers as ordinary income ensuring that these investment professionals pay the same tax rates as other Americans on their compensation for services. He is a consistent protector of SSI and Medicaid benefits and is the author of the "Food Stamp Outreach and Research for Kids Act,” which provides grants to community organizations to help find people who need food assistance and enroll them in the Food Stamps program.

On a local level, Rep. Levin is a frequent visitor to the CAAs that serve his district, including Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency and Macomb County Community Services Agency. His appearance and warm remarks at MCCSA’s retirement party for Frank Taylor earlier this year is emblematic of his personal approach to public service. MCAAA is proud to recognize Rep. Sander Levin for these and many more contributions he has made to the betterment of our country and state.