Volunteer Awards


2016 Volunteer Awards – Winners Announced


Batter up! Let’s hit this one out the park!  Home Run! On Thursday, April 14, 2016 in the Walldorff Ballroom the winners were announced for the 2016 Volunteer Awards presented by the Barry County United Way’s Volunteer Center.

The Barry County United Way Volunteer Center hosts this recognition event during National Volunteer Week each year.  National Volunteer Week is about taking action and encouraging individuals and communities to be at the center of social change – discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to make a difference.

How much does it take to truly make a difference?  By giving of yourself for one hour, you can create possible change that can last far beyond your years.  What does this look like?  How can my one hour really make a difference for someone else?  One hour can mean visiting with a senior who is homebound.  One hour can help teach youth how to be successful through sports programming.  One hour can help feed those who are hungry.  You don’t have to always hit a home run to make a difference.  Sometimes making it to first is all it takes to give back.

On this day, we put you in the starting line up!  You got off of the bench and chosen to swing that bat.  And it is because of your dedication to the team that we are here. We are here to recognize the amazing work that is being done in Hastings, Delton, Middleville, Nashville… all over Barry County.


Thank you to the Walldroff for their always gracious hospitality and for providing some pretty amazing food. And my Volunteer Center Advisory board who helped make this all happen.

Aldo to all of those who sponsored the Volunteer Awards – Coleman Insurance Agency, Commercial Bank, Delton Pole Building Supplies, Dr. Brian McKeown, Flexfab/FHI, Hastings City Bank, Hastings Mutual Insurance Company, Southside Pediatrics, Spectrum Health Pennock and Union Bank.  If it were not for their financial support we would not be able to host this event.



The coach is calling your name as you step up to the plate. You hear from the crowd “Let’s hit it out of the park Slugger!”  The pitch, your swing… CRACK – the ball meets the bat!  And it is going.. going.. gone! It is out of here! Home Run!

Each day volunteers sitting right here in this room are stepping up to the plate and taking a swing at giving back.  Tonight we thank you for choosing to be a part of that starting line-up. You aren’t scared if you will strike out or swing and miss. You have the desire to create change in our community that takes you far beyond the outfield.


Volunteer of the Year –

If you look around the Barry County community, you will notice those who have taken their volunteer service to the highest level – year after year.  The Volunteer of the Year award honors an individual who has demonstrated a long-term commitment to community involvement and volunteer service.

For this year’s winner, she has taken volunteering beyond just herself giving back; she has made it a family affair.  This passion that has been instilled in her entire family demonstrates how dedicated she is in fueling young minds with making the right choices.  Through her work with the Substance Abuse Task Force, which started in 2005, she has become an outstanding mentor for many young people and has provided them with the opportunity to participate in positive county-wide youth projects.

Two years ago, Delton Kellogg Schools found themselves without an advisor for Teens Against Tobacco Use and the Youth Leadership Summit Workgroup. Hearing this, she took action and volunteered to fill this role.  Through this position she has engaged the Delton Kellogg students and encouraged them to become involved in many of the positive activities with the Substance Abuse Task Force. To date, she has already given over 150 hours to helping young people. According to the nominating organization, she sees qualities in kids that they don’t know they have; she sees positive potential in them and helps them find it.  She walks with them and helps them experience new roles.

Now I don’t know about you all, but having someone who is this dedicated the future and well-being youth in our community is a true asset.  For her always being the person to step up to the plate, it is my pleasure to present this year’s Volunteer of the Year award to Ellen Mazique-Sydloski.


Youth Volunteer of the Year –

Volunteers who begin community service at an early age tend to continue volunteering throughout their life.  The Volunteer Center realizes the impact that youth have on our community and the Youth Volunteer of the Year award recognizes a youth, or group of youth, under 18 years old who are taking action to make our community a better place.

After hearing from her friends about how rewarding the Big Brothers Big Sisters program was, this young volunteer decided to step into that “Big” role herself.  As a senior at Thornapple-Kellogg schools, this volunteer is not only excelling in school and participating in many other extra-curricular activities but she is also giving atleast one hour a week throughout the entire school year to mentor a “little.”

So instead of waiting for someone else to take the plate, she has decided to put herself up for bat.  She has never missed a visit with her match and because of this her “little” is more confident, has better social skills and has improved his own grades in school.

As I was reading through the nomination for this volunteer, I couldn’t help but notice how highly she was spoken of.  She has proven to be committed to not only the Big Brothers Big Sister program but also to the child that she is mentoring and help grow.  It is truly inspiring to see a youth who cares so much that they will bend over backwards to help.

For her dedication to this community and helping other succeed, I am happy to present the Youth Volunteer of the Year award to Abigail Wright.


Outstanding Mentor Award –

As many of you know, mentors truly make a different.  They give of themselves personally month after month, year after year.  The Outstanding Mentor Award honors an individual who has made a significant impact in someone’s life by being a mentor.

Next up to bat from the Big Brothers Big Sisters team… This volunteer has taken his positive influence to the next level through the mentoring of his “little brother.”  From the very beginning, he himself has spoken of this being his opportunity to give back to others.  This attitude has helped to make him into the caring young man that he is today.

So a little background that will give you some insight into the transformation that this volunteer has been essential in:  This volunteer’s little brother struggled academically and did not have many friends. The little had lost his father a few years before the match was made and struggled with his confidence thereafter.  Over the past two years this little has experienced amazing growth which can be directly attributed to the time and commitment his big has given him.

This volunteer has gone above and beyond with the responsibilities as a “Big” in the program by introducing in a variety of positive activities and assessing the needs of his “Little.”  With this volunteer’s enthusiasm about furthering his own education, his “little” has also begun thinking about his future and attending collage as well.

What an amazing transformation that can happen when two young people bond and create a relationship that is benefiting both of them.  Look at what can happen when a mentor really hits it out of the park.  For this reason, I am happy to introduce this year’s Mentor of the year award winner, Braedon Halle.


Continuing Service Award –

In each organization there is typically one person who has been volunteering their time and energy year after year.  The Continuing Service Award recognizes the long-term volunteer who has made an impact in an organization for at least five years.

This year’s winner has made the act of changing the Barry County community his mission in life.  From a very young age he began participating with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs which allowed him to start volunteering at just six years old.  This was just the start of his volunteering as he continued and continues to provide leadership to the Boy Scout of American programs throughout Barry County.

I was trying very hard to summarize all of the outstanding work that this volunteer has done for the program.  I found that between the TWO nominations that I received for him, there was no way that we could keep this to an hour tonight. On an annual basis, he is giving back a minimum of 1,000 a year just in scouting alone. The time that this volunteer has given back is astounding and through his childhood, teen years and adulthood he has proven that this community is his passion and he intends to keep growing others throughout Barry County.

When fellow Scouting colleagues were asked what they thought motivated this volunteer, they shared that as a child and youth it was a way of building a brotherhood with his fellow scouts but as an adult his motivation lies completely with the boys in the scouting program.  His main motivation is to ensure that the Scouts are able to have the same and even better experience than he had, preparing them to become the next leaders in the Barry County community and beyond.

It is my understanding that he is a very humble person and has never done any of this for the awards or recognition.  But when a volunteer raises up his whole team at the end of a winning game, we have to acknowledge the VIP Slugger!  So please join me in honoring our Continuing Service Award recipient, Benjamin Bever.

Corporate Service Award –

The Corporate Service Award honors a corporation or small business that has demonstrated excellent citizenship by giving back to their community.  This kind of commitment is truly amazing and can take many forms including, but not limited to, corporate volunteer programs, monetary contributions, in-kind gifts and employee volunteer service.

It’s this facility great?  Aren’t we truly blessed to have such an amazing locally owned business who is willing to step up and give back?  You have seen the ball drop, you have tried the locally brewed beer, and you have tasted their amazing food.  But did you know that the Walldorff packs approximately 108 lunches every single week for the Hastings Area School System’s backpack lunch program?  This program gives an after school meal to any students who would like one, there is no financial criteria, only that you are hungry.  Whether it is packing the lunches themselves (of which they do provide all of the items for those lunches), asking patrons to give back to the program, attending community meetings promoting the program or even reaching out to other local businesses to help – Mike & Susan Barnaart are working to end childhood hunger by insuring that no child goes home hungry.  I don’t know about all of you, but I can’t think of anyone else better to be receiving this year’s Corporate Service award. Please join me in recognizing The Walldorff as this year’s Corporate Service Awards recipient.


Community Health Award –

The Community Health Award is designed to honor those who volunteer to help make our community a healthier place for all.

The volunteer that we are honoring today started her work with the Commission on Aging in 2007 when she joined their team as a Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program counselor. She has volunteered consistently, year-round since that date advising Medicare and Medicaid recipients of all ages about their benefits.    With her assistance, she has helped save residents in our community thousands of dollars and access healthcare options that they otherwise wouldn’t be entitled to receive.

Not only has this volunteer shown her commitment to a healthier community through this programs work, but she is also a third term board member of the Commission on Aging, attends monthly meetings and serves as the chair for their Finance Committee.  She is fully committed to the success of the organization which in turn shows her commitment level to the seniors who are also being served by the Commission on Aging. She truly understands what is means to wrap around this community and provide assistance with a friendly smile… even when the other person might not be smiling back. She is constantly cheering on her team and those she serves as they  bring home the win!

For her strong heart in providing the best care for our community it is my honor to present this year’s Community Health award to Carole Wiggs.


Group Volunteer Award –

The Volunteer Center recognizes that groups are a powerful tool in volunteering and often go the extra mile for those in Barry County.  A group can make a large impact when all working together toward a shared goal in their community.

It truly takes the entire team to win the game; everyone working together to bring every batter across home plate.  The recipients of tonight’s Group Volunteer Award have a long history of helping others at the best of times and the worst of times. They know how to bring someone out of their slump, get their 7th inning stretch in, and come out a victor in the end.

The volunteers at Spectrum Health Pennock are a true gift to this community.  They are the ones you see greeting you as you enter the hospital with a warm smile, the ones you see escorting patients through the hospital, helping customers in the gift shop find the perfect gift for someone who may need a pick me up or to congratulate someone on a new baby.  These volunteers have earned over 6,000 hours of volunteer work and all with a cheerful attitude and willingness to give back wherever needed.

What I found from the nomination of this group is that you may not know that these volunteers exist, you may not even know them when you see them walking through the hospital, but they have taken the time to give of themselves to make sure that anyone who enters that hospital is made to feel welcome no matter what life circumstances have brought them there.

For coming out the victor each day, I am honored to present this year’s Group Volunteer Award goes to the Spectrum Health Pennock volunteers.



Going along with our theme for this year’s event, we wanted to specially honor a few volunteers of which we felt were making a huge impact on our community and truly deserved some much needed recognition.


The Home Run Award

Every strike beings me closer to the next home run.

She is always behind the scenes, a pencil pusher, a letter writer, a phone call maker, a get the job done kind of person with a heart for her community.   With a dedication to the Delton community that most call inspirational, she had been the go-to person in charge for the Delton Founders Weekend for 34 years before stepping down last November.  From contacting businesses, managing money, printing posters, contacting the local press – her generosity with her time and talents is described as unparalleled. She has continued to give of herself unselfishly for years for the love of her community.

For her dedication to the community she lives in and for always swinging at every pitch that is thrown her way, we congratulate Linda Eddy-Hough on hitting a HOME RUN!



The Rookie of the Year Award

The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.

Let’s look at this, what is possible when you set your mind to something and are determined to get it done?  Starting as a youth and growing into a young adult, this volunteer has demonstrated that she can not only be the slugger on the team but can always bring everyone home for the big win.  Through her volunteering with the Commission on Aging, Thornapple Valley Church and the Hastings Public Library, she has exhibited how nothing can hold you back from accomplishing great things.  She started volunteering as a way to gain work experience of which has quickly grown into showing off her creative skills with crafts, fundraising events, party planning and more.  Nothing is going to stop her from continuing to do great things.  She has a drive and determination in proving that anything is possible.  This volunteer is a rookie who is hitting it out of the park. Congratulations Kayla Kalmink for receiving this year’s Rookie of the Year award.


The Bases Loaded Award

Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game. – Babe Ruth

“Caring, compassion and commitment” that is the mantra of this volunteer who continues to identify needs and puts forth her skill of leadership to improve the quality of life for others.  In 1995 she joined the General Federation of Women’s Club – Gun Lake chapter in the Yankee Springs/Barry County area whose purpose is to support the arts, preserve natural resources, advance education, promote healthy lifestyles, encourage civic involvement and work towards world peace and understanding. It was within this club where she found her passion – Service to others. Throughout her time with the club she has taken on many leadership roles including serving as President of the club.  She has grown the local club as well as the state club of which she is now the State President of the Michigan General Federation of Women’s Club.  Even at the State level she continues to mentor the leaders and members of the Gun Lake club and remains the major facilitator of the new member orientation each fall.  She has volunteered 3,500 hours at the local and state level in the past year alone. As you can tell she has demonstrated a true passion for giving back without the fear of striking out. She is committed to improving the quality of life for others by bringing everyone across home plate. This is why this year’s Bases Loaded award goes to Fran Leonard.


As you can see, no one stuck out tonight. We all made it past the 7th inning stretch and we brought every batter across home plate.  Three cheers for Barry County!! Hip Hip Hooray!


To see photos from this event, please visit our Facebook page by clicking HERE!

If you have any questions regarding the Volunteer Awards, please contact Morgan Johnson at morgan@bcunitedway.org or 269.945.4010.

Thank you!