On April 17, United Way brought over 420 community members together for the fifth annual Spirit of the Community Celebration. This exciting event honors the many ways that individuals and organizations are lending their time, talents, voices and hearts to create a better and stronger community.

“This event is aptly named the Spirit of the Community,” shared Bob Stafford, who served as this year’s emcee. “We have a long history of coming together to make incredible things happen.”

The recently deceased Margaret Ann “Ranny” Riecker was celebrated for her generous philanthropy and the sharing on her heart, passion, intelligence and time.

“Ranny was an inspirational collaborator, demonstrating time and again that we are stronger when we work together toward a shared purpose,” shared Ann Fillmore, Executive Director at United Way.

The first award of the night was the Torch Bearer, which recognizes a United Way campaign volunteer who truly lights the way. This year’s honoree was Sarah Hills from MidMichigan Health. She ensures that everyone at MidMichigan has the opportunity to connect with United Way throughout the year. Beyond the fun activities during campaign, she recently hosted an employee Chili Cook-off to benefit United Way.

Carol Thornton was this year’s Heart of the Community honoree and received an impressive five nominations. Carol has a huge heart for kids, especially those who are vulnerable. After retiring from teaching, she invested that same energy into volunteering at the Department of Human Services, Royal Family Kids Camp and her church. Beloved by all the kids she serves, she is entrusted with the details and emotion that represent the worst experiences of their young lives.

The Young Leader Award celebrates those in their 20s and 30s who demonstrate a passion for philanthropy and volunteerism. This year’s recipient was Victor Hosfeld from MidMichigan Health. Victor is a critical thinker and problem solver, who invests his time to understand the issues and act to be a part of the solution. A passionate advocate, he went door-to-door to capture people’s aspirations, joined a substance abuse steering team and led a panel discussion luncheon to help get other Young Leaders inspired and involved.

Kim Baczewski from the Strosacker Foundation had the honor of presenting The Charles J. Strosacker Award to Sam Price, the Executive Director of Ten Sixteen Recovery Network. Sam sees the potential in the eyes of every person he meets and considers each story of addiction a story of hope. He offers innovative ways to break through the barriers to recovery, launching two recovery houses last year that provide a safe haven to nurture a new sober lifestyle.

Ed Doerner was honored with the Shining Star Award. As the Senior Pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church, Ed is sensitive to the struggles beyond the doors of Messiah. When he sees a community need, his first question is, “Why does it have to be this way?” His next is, “How do we come together to make a difference?” His vision has led to incredible transformations, including Journey’s Coffee House, numerous food give-aways through Filling Midland’s Cup, and free cars and automotive service to those in need at His Hands Auto Care.

“What an incredible evening this has been,” shared Bob Stafford. “Tonight’s winners serve as an example and inspiration to us all.”