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Annual Celebration 2020

United Way Honors Businesses, Organizations, and Volunteers

At their 2020 Virtual Annual Celebration, United Way of the Lakeshore recognized those whose contribution made a significant impact in our community in the past year. With the help of 7,000 caring community donors, $2,096,614 million dollars was raised in the 2019 campaign and $304,000 has been collected through the COVID-19 Response Fund, making a grand total of $2.4 million. With the wrapping up of the 2019 campaign, Campaign Chair, DJ Hilson, Muskegon Prosecuting Attorney handed over the reigns to the 2020 Campaign Chair, Shawn Buckner, Meijer Corporation.  The highlight of the evening was the awards presentations.

The Spirit of the Lakeshore Award

The Spirit of the Lakeshore Award is given to the organization that embodies the “spirit” of what United Way is and why we do what we do. It is awarded to an organization that sets an example for others by helping United Way of the Lakeshore continue its strong growth. The 2019 recipient of the Spirit of the Lakeshore Award was Cannon Muskegon, for their phenomenal support. Cannon Muskegon has been an outstanding supporter and advocate for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. They have also been a tremendous partner as an annual Signature Sponsor and in sponsoring annual events such as; Golf United and Day of Caring. Cannon Muskegon also held their own independent golf outing securing sponsors from outside vendors, raising over $30,000 for United Way of the Lakeshore. They also increased employee participation in the workplace campaign by 28%. They also match all employees giving dollar for dollar. 

The Legacy of Caring Award

The Legacy of Caring Award recognizes a lifetime of incredible philanthropy, resulting in a lasting impact on the lives of so many in our community. United Way’s strength is built on the foundation of these caring leaders. Community leaders Jim and Kristine Tyler received this prestigious award this year. Jim, Kristine and their family truly embody the “spirit” of United Way of the Lakeshore’s mission; their generosity to United Way and our community over the years is immeasurable. Tyler Sales executed a stellar workplace campaign, engaging employees with a 33% employee participation rate. The Tyler family have also invested in countless initiatives, agencies, events and community economic development. Last year, Jim led our Leadership Circle hosting two wonderful events; one on the AquaStar and another at The Block. Bringing fun to philanthropy, the Tyler family are the leaders.

Community Builders

To build a community it takes a solid foundation, good people, and a strong investment. The Community Builder Awards go to organizations that participate in various philanthropic efforts and believe that by working together, we can change lives. Community Builders this year were the City of Muskegon, Community Shores Bank, Quality Tool and Stamping, Oceana County Public School Districts, The Country Dairy Family, Gerber Life Insurance Company and White Insurance Agency. 
The City of Muskegon – The City of Muskegon has some of the strongest employee participation and dedication in Muskegon. The employees participated in Day of Caring projects, increased their participation in special event fundraisers by 56%, and increased overall employee participation by 18%.
Community Shores Bank – This group of driven community members truly set the pace for the United Way of the Lakeshore’s Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (FIRE) division. Community Shores Bank partnered in collaborative community impact projects, ranked at 90% employee participation, and increased their employee workplace campaign by 42%. This team has a workforce that is highly engaged in community impact and leadership development and participates in several community events to support local agencies to improve lives in our community. 
Quality Tool and Stamping – Quality Tool and Stamping has had representation throughout United Way that proves their dedication and commitment to improving lives in our community. Quality Tool and Stamping was a stand out participant in Day of Caring projects at Johnny O. Harris park, increased employee participation by 33% and increased their employee workplace campaign by 29%.
Oceana County Public School Districts – All 4 School Districts, and Superintendents, of Oceana County have embraced the spirit of the United Way of the Lakeshore Community Builder Award with an average 38% increase in campaign contributions; 62% increase in community engagement activities, including student collection of 475 winter coats, support for Feeding America food truck drives, Golf United, and participation in the weekly  Oceana County Leadership COVID-19 Response and Resource calls, initiated by United Way of the Lakeshore in Oceana County.
The Country Dairy Family – The Country Dairy Family has provided generational support as match sponsors for the Oceana County Dolly Parton Imagination Library, enrolling almost 900 young children since the program began in 2018.  Carrying on the Van Gunst Family legacy, in support of reading readiness and continuous learning, the Van Gunst Family has been recognized as the champions for early literacy in Oceana County, offering early literacy celebrations at the Country Dairy and community reading events in Moo School.
Gerber Life Insurance Company – Fremont location, a member of the Western & Southern Financial Group, presented a $20,000 donation to United Way of the Lakeshore in Newaygo County, as the lead gift for the 2019 Campaign year. In addition, many of the Gerber Life associates have become annual donors, through payroll deduction and readily volunteer to work on projects and events benefitting the Newaygo County community.
White Insurance Agency – White Insurance Agency was honored for their strong support in Newaygo County. With 65% donor participation they increased their giving by 57% and increased their leadership giving by 100%. They serve on the Newaygo County Community Committee, on Community Impact panels and participate in many other United Way events.

Volunteers of the Year

Volunteers who gave of their time and talent were also honored. Awards went to: 
Laura Carpenter, RSVP Volunteer of the Year - Our RSVP Volunteer of the Year has been a rock star volunteer for United Way. It has been joked that new staff had assumed that she too was working at United Way because of how often she was there. She has been a crucial part in United Way Campaigns. She was the campaign chair in 2013, sits on the campaign cabinet and has been a mentor to new volunteers. She sits on the United Way Board, the Lakeshore Community Impact Council, the Community Investment Health Panel, the United After Work Committee and chairs the RSVP Advisory Council. She is an exceptional example of what it means to be an RSVP Volunteer by the hundreds of hours she has served helping people file their taxes through the VITA Program. 
Larry Fife, Senior Volunteer of the Year- Our Senior Volunteer of the Year played a key role in making our Johnny O. Harris project a possibility. He spent months working on the park alone when he approached United Way. He coordinated with the City of Muskegon Heights, several partners and connected the history of fallen officer Johnny O. Harris. Since this project, he continues to volunteer with the Coalition for Community Development, works with the neighborhood associations, Light Up the City and is an RSVP member. 
Olivia Abraham & Elizabeth Keesen, Youth Volunteers of the Year- For Youth Volunteer of the Year, we recognized two outstanding young ladies from Mona Shores High School. These two ladies led a team during the Liveability Lab to begin training high schoolers how to read to young children in daycares. 


Jillian Nowak-Meloche, Volunteer of the Year – Our Volunteer of the Year has been a trailblazer in recent years at United Way. Starting as a Loaned Executive, she has been a part of almost every United Way event or committee. She is the Young Leaders Circle Co-Chair, sits on the campaign cabinet and led an important initiative with her family company, Nowak Machined Products to deliver school supplies to every elementary school students in Muskegon Heights. 

We hoped you enjoyed celebrating with us on May 28th! You can catch the recap video of our Annual Celebration Here: