Muskegon, MI – Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Service Commission have proudly unveiled 42 remarkable individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations set to be celebrated at the 2023 Governor’s Service Awards. The celebratory event pays tribute to those who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to volunteerism, service, and philanthropy. United Way of the Lakeshore (United Way) is proud to announce that two outstanding area volunteers are among the honorees for this year’s Governor’s Service Awards: Mason Schlafer of Norton Shores and Cisily Zuniga of Muskegon.
Mason Schlafer, a Senior at Mona Shores High School, is being recognized as a Youth Volunteer of the Year award recipient. Mason’s journey of service began with the Boy Scouts of America’s popcorn fundraiser, where he initially set out to sell enough to win a tablet. Little did he know, this endeavor would lead him to become the nation’s top seller five times, breaking records with over $500,000 in lifetime sales. However, what truly sets Mason apart is how he’s used these funds to organize 33 mobile food pantries, bringing essential nourishment to his community. Mason’s dedication and the positive impact he’s made have inspired other scouts and troops to follow suit, showcasing the incredible influence of small daily acts of service. Mason was also honored by United Way as a Volunteer of the Year at our 2023 Live United Heroes Celebration in May.
“As we anticipate this upcoming ceremony, I want to thank everyone who has made it possible for me to get to this point. The support from the community over time has been great, and I want to send all the love right back,” said Schlafer. “I hope that myself and the other winners can serve as examples to push our state forward through service.”
Cisily Zuniga, volunteer services and outreach coordinator for Every Woman’s Place, is being recognized with a Volunteer of the Year award. Cisily is a tireless advocate for Spanish speakers across West Michigan, offering translation and advocacy support for essential services. They have been deeply involved in various organizations and initiatives, including the Latina Network of West Michigan, the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, and events supporting Latinos Working for the Future. Cisily’s commitment extends to projects such as “Driver’s Licenses for All,” which they have been instrumental in advancing at the city, county, and state levels. Cisily is dedicated to increasing outreach to migrant workers, ensuring they have access to vital resources and assistance, with the goal of creating lasting equitable change. Cisily was also honored by United Way as a Volunteer of the Year at our 2023 Live United Heroes Celebration in May.
“Giving back to community is part of the change I want to see in the world, and I am so grateful to the organizations that have allowed me to support them with my volunteer work,” said Zuniga. “I invest my time in community because in the words of Audrey Lorde ‘Without community there is no liberation.’”
The Governor’s Service Awards have been a state tradition since 1994, underscoring the essential role of Michigan’s volunteers, organizations, and businesses in enhancing the lives of its residents and communities. This year’s celebration will take place on Tuesday, November 28th at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, beginning at 7 p.m. The event is open to the public, with free admission; however, registration in advance is required.
This year’s honorees exemplify the remarkable spirit of service that shines brightly throughout Michigan, and their dedication to their communities is truly commendable. The awards ceremony promises to be an inspiring evening celebrating their outstanding contributions.
United Way of the Lakeshore is uniting to inspire change and build thriving communities. We tackle the toughest issues facing our community by mobilizing every resource, partner, and voice to solve those challenges. Our Bold Goal is to ensure 10,000 more working families meet their basic needs by 2025.