On April 30, United Way brought over 420 community members together for the fourth 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.

“We face struggles, just like other places throughout the nation,” shared Judge Dorene Allen, who served as this year’s emcee. “But our response to those struggles is what truly sets us apart.”

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 the Legal Department at The Dow Chemical Company. Last year, this group embarked on a department-wide Penny War, with a unique twist. Any silver or dollar bills were considered sabotage and counted against the team. Depleting Midland of pennies, they raised over $10,000.

Cliff Miles was this year’s Heart of the Community honoree. Cliff’s career as the City Manager provided him with the insights, skills and connections to get things done. He has had an impact throughout the County, helping to provide Coleman with quality housing for seniors, a new library and a new Veteran’s Memorial. He also helped Greendale Township realize their dream of turning an abandoned elementary school into a vibrant new township hall.

The Young Leader Award celebrates those in their 20s and 30s who demonstrate a passion for philanthropy and volunteerism. This year’s recipient was Michelle Bourke from The Dow Chemical Company. Michelle has taken the helm of United Way’s Young Leaders United Council. Her enthusiasm and genuine desire to connect with other professionals has helped to double the membership. A consummate volunteer, she also rallied around Ten Sixteen’s new recovery home project, bringing the people and the resources together to see it through.

Rick Reynolds, President Emeritus of MidMichigan Health and Executive Vice President and Trustee of the Strosacker Foundation had the honor of presenting The Charles J. Strosacker Award to Susan Putnam from Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region. Susan is dedicated to ensuring that all children have access to positive role models to create hope and a life-changing perspective. As Reverend Wally Mayton shared: “Susan has directed her energies and heart into the mentoring mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Her measure of success is fulfilling young, with no one left behind.”

Greg Dorrien was honored with the Shining Star Award. As the Executive Director of West Midland Family Center, Greg takes a holistic and collaborative approach, striving to create win-win solutions. He fosters an atmosphere of non-judgmental learning, creating a refuge that promotes human dignity, safety and well-being for children, their families and older individuals. As one nominator stated: “For Greg, it’s not about territory, who wins or who gets the most money. For him it is about what’s best for the community, the people and the children.”

John Coppens was honored with the Shining Star Legacy Award for his incredible work to improve the lives and conditions of others. A long-time advocate for United Way and our community, his commitment became personal when his wife Gretta was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. Cancer Services came along side to offer support, resources and encouragement. Having learned first-hand the benefits of supporting United Way, John became known as “Mr. United Way,” at Dow Chemical, running campaigns, serving on the board and investing his time on Community Impact panels to ensure that our community’s investment has the biggest impact.

“What an incredible evening,” shared Ann Fillmore. “We are blessed to live and work in a community that is so committed to improving the lives of its citizens.”