2021 Legislative Day and Community Action Awards
May 19, 2021
Please join us at the MCA virtual awards ceremony on May 19th at 1PM Eastern, pre-register here.

We will be honoring outstanding volunteers, clients and the MCA Legislator of the Year.

We encourage members to schedule meetings with your state and federal representatives on the morning of May 19th and to tell them your agency's community action story. An MCA guide with tips on how to talk to legislators is here.
Schedule of Events
  • 9:00—12:45 Legislative Visits
  • 1:00 Welcome Remarks from Chong-Anna Canfora, Executive Director, Michigan Community Action
  • Paula Kaiser VanDam, Bureau Director of Community Services, MDHHS
  • Elizabeth Hertel, Director, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
  • Awards Presentation - Jill Sutton, Executive Director, Mid Michigan Community Action Agency
  • 1:30 Legislator of the Year Presentation
  • 1:40 Continuation of Awards Presentation
Featured Speaker: Elizabeth Hertel
Elizabeth Hertel is the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Previously, she was Senior Chief Deputy Director for Administration, where she oversaw External Relations and Communications, Financial Operations, Legislative Services, Legal Affairs, Policy & Planning, Strategic Integration, Organizational Services, Workforce Engagement and Community and Faith Engagement.
Legislator of the Year for 2021
Senator Curt VanderWall
Nominated by: FiveCAP, Inc.

Senator Curt VanderWall is a valuable friend to Michigan Community Action. Senator VanderWall currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health Policy and Human Services and Vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Economic and Small Business Development. Other committee assignments include Finance and Regulatory Reform, Elections and Environmental Quality. 

He is a compassionate, hard-working Legislator that holds in high regards the work of local community action agencies. Senator VanderWall is knowledgeable of the layers and complexities of poverty. He is an attentive listener who will, without hesitation, use his position to propose and support legislation to help create opportunities and safety nets for those in need. 

As a member of the MI Senate, Senator VanderWall proposed the Resolution to declare Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) as a critical health issue. It passed the Senate and was signed by the Governor. He proposed Tele/Remote Pharmacy legislation, and it passed the Senate and was signed by the Governor. 
2020 Community Action Awards: Clients
Bobby Gardner
Nominated by: Community Action of South Central Michigan

Bobby Gardner suffered from alcohol/substance addictions that led to a downward spiral in his life. When he realized he was at a pivotal point of changing or completely succumbing to his negative situation, he decided to get help. He went through a recovery support service and knew he needed to obtain his GED to have a career with a future. He called Community Action Agency to inquire about our GED program, and through this program he was able to get the support he needed to pass the GED test.
Afterwards Bobby began working as an Adult Home Health Caregiver. He discovered a passion for helping others and decided to continue working his on degree to become an ASL translator.

Bobby is an amazing, upbeat individual, whose troubled past gives him a unique empathy with others who share in similar struggles. After sharing his story on Facebook, many people have reached out to him for words of encouragement and advice. He graciously responds to anyone who contacts him, letting them know that they, too, can get help and improve their situation. His story is an inspiration to all who have the privilege of hearing it.
Taja Rouse
Nominated by: Monroe County Opportunity Program

Taja Rouse is a single mother of three who was tired of renting and wanted to purchase a home. She heard about the Individual Development Account (IDA), applied and was accepted into the program. She opened an IDA and began to save for a down payment and closing costs on a home. During this time, she attended classes on Home Buyer Education, Financial Capabilities, and four one-on-one pre-purchase counseling sessions that were available to assist her in becoming self-sufficient.

Taja met her IDA savings goal and will receive full match money toward her home purchase. She also received a promotion at work in 2019, increased her income, cleared up credit/debt issues and increased her credit score.

Recently Taja applied for a home loan, was approved and will be closing on her home 2/21/2020. She has been dedicated toward moving her family forward from the day she applied to the IDA Program in 2017. Including meeting savings goals and working with staff to address credit and debit issues which may have prevented her from purchasing a home.
Maryann Gubala and Robert Sanchez
Nominated by: Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency

Maryann and Robert decided to travel halfway across the country from Arizona to Michigan in search of a better life and to be closer to family. Unfortunately, when they arrived in Michigan their family did not have room for them to stay. They did not have the necessary funds to pay for a security deposit for a rental home. They thought they had only one option: to camp in a tent on state land. After several months of living in the woods, a local resident told them to contact Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency (NEMCSA), which would be life changing for this homeless couple.

After connecting with NEMCSA's Housing Resource Specialist, Maryann and Robert were placed on the Housing Choice Voucher waitlist. Through the many resources provided by NEMCSA they were able to find a home, access food pantries, make the necessary repairs to their vehicle, as well as to begin saving money for future emergencies.

"Every time I meet with them, they are so excited to share with me what they have been up to. They often express how appreciative they are of how far they have come and the programs they used to better their lives." - NEMCSA Housing Resource Specialist.
Gillian Gines
Nominated by: Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency

Jill has utilized services from both Head Start and Early Head Start. She has expressed a multitude of times that the staff with Early Head Start saw something in her even though she was a shy girl with very few social connections.

Her time with Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency (NMCAA) has molded her into someone that she describes as “blooming”. She is a better mother, wife, and person. She talks at length about how so many people believed in her and how it has meant everything. Jill hopes that she can help someone the same way that NMCAA helped her.

She went from what she calls herself as a “professional volunteer” to a person with a career. Jill has held positions on the Policy Council, the Great Start Collaborative, and the Local leadership group. Jill is taking college classes while being a busy mom and proudly holds her “dream job”!

The words “Helping People, Changing Lives” is part of the NMCAA logo. Jill is truly a fitting illustration of these words. She is an inspiration to her co-workers and to the families she serves, delivering services with a kind and grateful heart. This method of delivery is how meaningful and supportive relationships are built.
2020 Community Action Awards: Volunteers
Bridget M Moran
Nominated by: Community Action Alger-Marquette

Bridget is a volunteer in the Meals on Wheels "Lunch with Friends" pilot program. She spends an hour every week with a senior with memory issues. Bridget and Pam have lunch together, sharing a social time and a chance for a wellness check on Pam. Bridget is a graduate student at Northern Michigan University and has shared her experiences with Community Action Alger-Marquette (CAAM) with her professors and classmates. Bridget has actively recruited new volunteers to this pilot program. Bridget has also helped this pilot program's team leaders evaluate and improve the program. Bridget spends a minimum of two hours each week volunteering for CAAM and has been a volunteer since July 2019.

Bridget is a very bright, warm and caring individual. She has a great future ahead of her and CAAM is very lucky to have her sharing her enthusiasm for Community Action with all in her life.
Tony Treier
Nominated by: Macomb Community Action

Tony first began to volunteer for Meals on Wheels in August of 2004! He delivers three to four days per week in the northern rural portion of Macomb County. These routes typically take 1 1/2 hours to deliver, and Tony will often deliver a second route when we are unable to find another volunteer to deliver. This results in Tony donating four to nine hours every week!  

We feel very fortunate to have Tony as one of our long-standing volunteers. His relentless commitment to Macomb County seniors and his community is very clear. Without such outstanding volunteers like Tony, delivering in the more rural portion of our county would be very challenging and would be very expensive to replace with a paid driver. 
Gary Patterson
Nominated by: Macomb Community Action

Gary is one of Macomb's most veteran volunteers for Meals on Wheels. He first began volunteering November 2001. While Gary is only scheduled to deliver once every two weeks in the rural area of Macomb County, he often volunteers 3-4 days per week. Gary is their go-to volunteer when looking for a last-minute volunteer in the northern part of Macomb County. He delivers from several locations and always answers the call when requested. He also often calls their office to see how he can help that day.

Delivering home delivered meals in the northern rural area of Macomb County can be very challenging. The routes are longer as the homes are more spread out and often takes 1 1/2 hours to deliver. Regardless of the weather or road conditions, Gary always helps the program, even willing to deliver a second route if they are unable to find a replacement driver. Not only does Gary demonstrate such commitment to the Meals on Wheels program, but he also often provides additional assistance and support to the older adults he delivers to. Gary epitomizes the Meals on Wheels slogan of "More than a Meal."
Richard Prittie
Nominated by: Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency

Twenty years ago, Richard Prittie decided he wanted to give back to his small community. He reached out to Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency (NEMCSA) to see if he could "help-out" with the agency's food distributions. Two decades and countless hours later he is still boxing food for fellow community members and bringing smiles to people's faces on a regular basis. 

Any time NEMCSA reaches out for assistance, Richard is there to lend a helping hand. Whether it is late in the evening or first thing in the morning, Richard is available. He never stops until the job is done, working as if he is a paid employee. Even when he cannot be physically at the site, he will make sure that there were other volunteers there to help with the packing of the monthly commodities.
There is no way that NEMCSA can ever repay Richard for the countless hours helping NEMCSA and the food recipients in his community. He truly deserve the recognition of being honored.
Judy Hickson
Nominated by: Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency

Judy has been nominated as volunteer of the year because she is a compassionate, selfless individual who has been volunteering for Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency (OLHSA) for the past thirty years. This year Judy will be 80 years young and exemplifies what it means to give back to the community.
Judy started volunteering for the agency in 1988 where she helped deliver Focus Hope food boxes in Ferndale. Judy was a single mom of four young children for many years. She understood what it meant to have to budget and worry about paying bills. OLHSA's Walk for Warmth really appealed to Judy. In response to this need, for the last 20 years Judy has passionately raised money for the OLHSA's Walk for Warmth. Judy also volunteers for OLHSA’s Golf for Warmth, assisting HIV Care Coordinators and OLHSA’s Holiday Wish Program.

The positive impact Judy Hickson has had on OLHSA, their clients, and the community is immeasurable. Her lifelong passionate endeavor of volunteering is noteworthy. She is deserving of the Community Action Volunteer Award and is an example of how we should live our lives.
2021 Community Action Awards: Clients
Crystal Campbell
Nominated by: Capital Area Community Services

Crystal utilized resources provided by Capital Area Community Services (CACS) to overcome homelessness.  Crystal accessed CACS’s housing program and enrolled in the MSHDA rapid rehousing program.  She also utilized CACS’s food programs and met with her caseworker monthly to help with goal setting and budgeting.  Crystal set realistic goals each month & followed through on them until they were completed. Her caseworker Jessica Woodworth, who nominated Crystal, was quoted as saying “Crystal is one of the most motivated and determined people I have ever met, once she gets an idea in her head, she sticks to it until she succeeds”.  Crystal now works in home healthcare services & has begun volunteering to give back to those that have helped her.   
Brittany King
Nominated by: Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency

Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency (WMCAA) nominated Brittany King as the Client of the Year and recognized her dedication, work ethic and leadership.  

Brittany was experiencing some family hardships including caring for her sick sister and felt little motivation to pursue personal endeavors. Brittany learned about WMCAA's Learn and Earn Apprenticeship Program (LEAP to Teach) which develops early childhood education professionals through hands on learning & direct access to employment opportunities.  Brittany felt it was the right time and perfect fit for her to move forward professionally.  Her will and determination to succeed made her an incredible mentor for younger generations as she led by example in her pursuit to push through difficult situations. 

Brittany was among the first to volunteer and be on the front lines of the food distributions as a way to give back to her community and support WMCAA's pandemic efforts.  Since then, Brittany has been promoted to the Food and Distribution Project Manager in the Basic Needs department at WMCAA and is currently attending college classes in pursuit of a Bachelors’ degree in Elementary Education. She is a shining light to so many and we are grateful to have her on Team Wayne Metro!  
2021 Community Action Awards: Volunteers
HDM Volunteers
Nominated by: Community Action of South Central Michigan

HDM in Branch County is a volunteer-based service providing Home Delivered Meals to home bound seniors. Immediately prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020 meal service was being provided to 67 seniors daily.  

As the pandemic continued, a large amount of additional funding became available, much of this was dedicated to senior nutrition and Home Delivered Meals with the intent of providing nutritional support for seniors who had decided shelter in place at home. 
The volunteer group who delivers Home Delivered Meals in Branch County are mostly seniors. Many have been delivering meals for years. When these volunteers were given the choice to quit delivering meals out of concern for their personal safety, each volunteer elected to continue as referrals poured in, the demand for daily meal service nearly tripled. Our volunteers met the demand and continued to demonstrate their commitment to HDM and our clients.
Additionally, as Community Action attempted to solicit additional local funding to continue to supply meals, our volunteers stepped up and eloquently advocated for the program at County Commission meetings. 
Nola Young
Nominated by: Monroe County Opportunity Program
Nola Young is an essential volunteer for Monroe County Opportunity Program (MCOP). Nola primarily lends a hand in their Food Department; however, she's known to jump in whenever she sees a need. Her passion for assisting the members of the community shines through her everyday actions. In 2020, she has donated 1,397 hours to support their mission. This astounding number averages out to 26.8 hours a week!

Nola has been instrumental in building their capacity in response to the COVID pandemic. She organizes The Food Pharmacy at the Family Medical Center in Monroe. The partnership with this organization (and Nola's dedication!) has allowed MCOP to increase access to fresh and healthy food for people receiving necessary medical treatment. Many of their at-risk seniors have been unable to frequent crowded grocery stores to obtain the supplies they need. The MCOP Lord's Harvest Food Pantry adapted to provide no contact pickups for all their clients. Nola has developed a system to serve food pantry clients curbside. Her genius ideas and go getter attitude has made an enormous impact for those experiencing hunger insecurity. She consistently goes above and beyond to accommodate clients’ special dietary needs and restrictions. In the face of great adversity this past year, Nola has never faltered. Her sunny disposition and desire to serve is an inspiration to all staff. Whether its distributing food, painting offices, or putting together furniture, Nola is honestly game for it all! She truly embodies the Community Action promise. 
Ken and Monica Fleming
Nominated by: Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency 

What does an old water heater have to do with education? Turns out, quite a bit! Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency (NEMCSA) AmeriCorps Senior volunteers Ken and Monica Fleming have been collecting and recycling scrap metal since 2013, with the proceeds going to the scholarship fund at St. John Lutheran School in Rogers City.
During the calendar year of 2020, over 400 tons of scrap were recycled. Ken spent 3,756 hours scrapping while Monica contributed another 1,248 hours. The result was $27,324 that will assist 31 families in paying for tuition for their students. Monica also volunteers to work one-on-one with students, serving an additional 230 hours! 
Ken and Monica are thoughtful, caring people who have found a way to support a cause that is very dear to their hearts. As word has spread, they often receive calls from people who want to donate. They put many miles on their own vehicles driving across northeast Michigan, sometimes driving over 1,000 miles per month.  This project could be replicated anywhere to bring a positive impact to other schools and non-profit agencies; unfortunately, the Flemings can’t be replicated. Their community is thankful for all that they do.  
Edwin and Jutta Olsen 
Nominated by: Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency

Edwin and Jutta Olsen are both members of the AmeriCorps Seniors Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Northeast Michigan. About two weeks into the lockdown Ed began calling the RSVP office asking what he and Jutta could help with. Every volunteer opportunity that came up, Ed and Jutta could be found serving. Since April 1, 2020, through February 28, 2021, they have provided more than 400 hours of service in activities that directly benefited the vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in northeast Michigan.  

They are regulars at the monthly RSVP packing days for the NEMCSA commodity food program, as well as assisting at quarterly TEFAP distribution days in the counties of Alpena and Presque Isle. As a retired Army veteran, Ed also provides non-emergency medical transportation to other veterans who have appointments at veteran hospitals and clinics down state.   

Ed and Jutta have been assisting at clinics throughout the service area of the District Health Department No. 4. During the month of February, they logged more than 600 miles of travel when volunteering at clinics and did not ask for reimbursement. 

Ed and Jutta do not volunteer for recognition; they volunteer for the satisfaction that comes from helping others and knowing they made a difference for someone less fortunate. While many volunteers were unable to assist because of the coronavirus, Ed and Jutta increased what they were doing because of their strong desire to serve others and their community. Ed joined the RSVP in January 2019. His wife, being somewhat younger, didn’t become eligible to be an RSVP member until April of 2020. Even though she was not an official RSVP volunteer until then, she joined Ed for commodity food packing days at the NEMCSA warehouse because volunteering together is that important to them.  
Step Up Northern Michigan - Cathy O-Connor 
Nominated by: Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency

Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency's (NMCAA) youth housing-based case manager has worked with Cathy O’Connor since the fall of 2019. Cathy stepped in to help and has collaborated with NMCAA staff many times. She provided support to many of our clients through a global pandemic that had left many without basic needs. Cathy did not hesitate to work alongside NMCAA staff to provide food and resources to youth that went beyond any obligation she originally volunteered for. She partnered with them to provide a community space that is comfortable for the youth and was consistent in her efforts. She shared some of her connections, resources, and community partners with NMCAA to assist in making sure the needs of young people in our community are met. Her support and consistency were often the only other resource these youth had during such an uncertain and scary time. She provided these services for almost a year but has been connected with the agency for nearly two years.

There are many things about Cathy that are impressive, but her ability to truly care about others and selflessly act upon it is amazing. While maintaining her own non-profit, she has gone far and beyond for members of this community in ways beyond our ability to list.
Michigan Community Action Board of Directors
Jill Sutton, Mid Michigan Community Action Agency

Vice President:
Michelle Williamson, Community Action
(Battle Creek)

Kerri Duff, Gogebic-Ontonagon Community Action Agency

Urban Officer:
Toby Berry, Community Action Agency

Lower Peninsula/Rural Officer:
Lisa Evans, Community Action of Allegan County

Upper Peninsula Officer:
Michelle LaJoie, Community Action Alger-Marquette

At Large Officer:
Melinda Johnson, Blue Water Community Action
(Port Huron)

Directors Council Chair:
Dennis McShane, Chippewa-Luce-Mackinac Community Action Agency
(Sault Ste. Marie)

Community Action Agency Governing Board Representative:
Mary Ann Neopolitan, Monroe County Opportunity Program

Community Action Agency Governing Board Representative:
Doug McFadden, EightCAP, Inc.

Michigan Community Action Executive Director
Chong-Anna Canfora
Michigan Community Action Member Agencies
Baraga-Houghton-Keweenaw Community Action Agency (Houghton)
Blue Water Community Action (Port Huron)
Capital Area Community Services, Inc. (Lansing)
Chippewa-Luce-Mackinac Community Action Agency
(Sault Ste. Marie)
Community Action (Battle Creek)
Community Action Agency (Jackson)
Community Action Alger-Marquette (Marquette)
Community Action of Allegan County (Allegan)
Dickinson-Iron Community Services Agency (Iron Mountain)
EightCAP, Inc. (Greenville)
FiveCAP, Inc. (Scottville)
Genesee County Community Action Resource Department (Flint)
Gogebic-Ontonagon Community Action Agency (Bessemer)
Human Development Commission (Caro)
Kent County Community Action (Grand Rapids)
Macomb Community Action (Clinton Township)
Menominee-Delta-Schoolcraft Community Action Agency (Escanaba)
Mid Michigan Community Action Agency (Farwell)
Monroe County Opportunity Program (Monroe)
Muskegon-Oceana Community Action Partnership (Muskegon)
Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency, Inc. (Alpena)
Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency (Traverse City)
Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency (Pontiac)
Ottawa County Community Action Agency (Holland)
Saginaw County Community Action Center (Saginaw)
Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency (Benton Harbor)
Washtenaw Co. Office of Community & Economic Development
Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency (Detroit)

Each Michigan County is served by a Community Action Agency.
Visit micommunityaction.org to find yours.
Congratulations and
Thank You
to All the
Community Action
Award Winners!
The Promise of Community Action
Community Action changes people’s lives,
embodies the spirit of hope,
improves communities,
and makes America a better place to live.
We care about the entire community,
and we are dedicated to helping people
help themselves and each other.
Michigan Community Action Agency | (517) 321-7500 | info@micommunityaction.org