United Way of the EUP Celebrates Volunteers

Over 260 people and 30 service groups attended the United Way of the EUP’s Annual Thank you Event yesterday in which volunteers from the entire Chippewa, Luce and Mackinac Counties are celebrated and awarded for the past 12 months of hard work and dedication.

The speaker this year was Johann Ingold and he gave a meaningful and humorous talk on the 10 commandments or rules for volunteering.  The first rule was to “be passionate about the cause”.  He also talked about the importance of youth learning to be a part of their community and that he was happy to see so many youth involved and giving back.

Michigan Student Service Award recipients were Tessa Opalka, Dakota Beck, Allison McKechnie and James Degreif.  Each of these students volunteered over 400 hours of their time during the past 4 years of high school. Each student was given a certificate from Governor Rick Snyder, a medallion to wear at graduation and a letter of recognition from Congressman Benishek.

Presidential Service Award recipients were Sam Devaprasad -GOLD award for 264 volunteer hours in 2011, Tessa Opalka-GOLD award for 262.50 volunteer hours in 2011, James DeGreif -SILVER award for 228 volunteer hours in 2011, Dakota Beck-SILVER award for 216 volunteer hours in 2011 and Allison McKechnie- SILVER award for 184 volunteer hours in 2011.  Each student received a pin to wear at graduation, a letter and certificate from President Obama and a letter of recognition from Congressman Benishek.

Annual Spotlight Recognition awards were also handed out during this event.  All year long we collect nominations for Volunteer, Group and Business Neighbor of the month and then our Volunteer Advisory Board votes on the overall winners for the year.

This year the Business Neighbor of the year, nominated by CLM Community Action Agency, was Autore Oil.  Autore Oil is a family business that has been in operation for over 50 years. Autore Oil does a number of things for the community. Just a few of these things include: fuel donation, transportation assistance, monetary donations, supporter of local schools, as well as a Donation Club that raised funds to help the needs of low income families. “Autore Oil, and especially the Autore family, is an asset to the whole of the Eastern Upper Peninsula, from every small corner village to the bigger cities. We are proud to call them our neighbors”.

This year the Group of the Year, nominated by Mandy Matheson of Sault Schools, was KDR Challenge. KDR Challenge was established by Bonnie Raffaele after her daughter Kelsey Dawn Raffaele was killed in a car accident while using her cell phone and driving on poor road conditions. KDR are Kelsey’s initials and also stand for “Kids Driving Responsibility”.

Bonnie has made the choice to turn a tragic accident into a positive message for young people in an effort to save the lives of others. Bonnie gives presentations, and asks people to take the “KDR Challenge” – to not use their phones while driving. Bonnie, and Kelsey’s best friend Stacey, have presented locally and at various other schools throughout Michigan. Bonnie recently participated in a training held in Illinois hosted by the National Safety Council on distracted driving. In addition, she has been working with Senator Howard Walker to introduce a bill that would ban cell phone usage while driving for young adults under the age of 18.

This year’s Volunteer of the Year was nominated by the Volunteer Advisory Committee and was Alistar McKay.  Al McKay was a man of character and a dedicated lifelong volunteer. Over his lifetime, he garnered several thousand hours of volunteering and community service. He was dedicated to the Catholic Knights of Columbus where he accomplished the 4th degree. He participated in the St. Mary’s Church Choir, the annual Relay for Life and the annual Hospice Madrigal Dinner. He served the Soo Theatre Project and was strongly involved in its renovations, chorus, and starred in productions as a member in several casts over the years. He was on the Board of Directors there for eight years. He was dedicated through service to the United Way Advisory Committee and many of the United Way events but will most fondly be remembered by the committee as the first registered volunteer for the United Way Volunteer Center….. We wish he was here to receive his award that we kept a secret from him, but he did get to enjoy his award for volunteer of the month this past February. On behalf of the advisory committee, his wife Mary McKay accepted his award.

Thank you to all the nominees and award recipients!  For more information on how to nominate a person, group or business that you know is deserving please visit our website at www.UnitedWayEUP.org or contact Tracey at 632-3700.  We hope you can join us next April during National Volunteer Week!

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