For me, true givers are not those that simply write enough year-end donation checks to make their tax accountants happy.Â True givers understand that it takes more than money to create a vibrant, livable community and they are willing to give money, time, and heart! Lansing is filled with folks that fit the model of true givers and choosing only 5 was a difficult task. Here are my five favs that make our community such an amazing place to call home.
Preuss Pets & The Preuss Family
In most cities, folks would seriously question placing a pet shop of any sort on a community list of do-gooders, but here itâ€™s no surprise that Preuss Pets and the Preuss Family fit the bill. For starters, the pet shop is unlike most others in their commitment to greening and sustainability. Breeding their own fresh-water fish and propagating live corrals makes them a leader in their industry and a true community gem.Â What makes them one of my favorite givers is their additional commitment to improving our physical environment, our community culture, and the global world weâ€™re living in.
Led by owner, Rick and his daughter Kirbay, the entire staff at Preuss Pets participates in a variety of fundraisers to give back to the local community. Their annual Halloween Spectacular attracted over 400 people in 2010 and raised over $2,000 for the Harris Nature Center Foundation. Year-round, visitors at Preuss Pets can pay $1.00 to feed fish and various creatures.Â These funds are donated to a variety of local and non-local causes. In 2010, contributions were made to; Corralations of Puerto Rico Reef Conservation School, Harris Nature Center, and OTCAâ€™s Compassionate Feast.
You may know her in her current role as Executive Director of the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, her past role as Executive Director of Lansingâ€™s Old Town Commercial Association, or like me, from days long ago when we were serving up fine-spirits at Moriartyâ€™s Pub to make an extra buck during our college years.Â No matter how you know her, you will likely agree that she is most deserving of being included on a list of Doers, Givers, & Superheroes. The organizations, events, and activities Jamie participates in are far too many to list and so I have chosen to highlight one of Jamieâ€™s greatest passions; Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Jamie started three years ago with the BBBS school-based program and was matched with 11-year-old Shelby. The two spent a year enjoying lunch and building a bond that went on past the school year and continues today as part of the community-based BBBS program.Â Of her unique experience and relationship with her Little Sister Shelby, Jamie says â€œI try to expose her to new things. Sheâ€™s the oldest of five children and doesnâ€™t always have time to be a kid. I try to remedy that, which in turn, give me the chance to be a kid!â€
Jamie also serves as the Vice-President on the Board of Directors for BBBS during a time when funding is short and community programs like BBBS are in high demand. Through her role on the Board, Jamie has come to realize how difficult it is to raise the needed funds due to the common belief that BBBS is an organization run entirely by volunteers. The fact is that is takes considerable resources, including funding to maintain the staff to keep kids safe by following up on a regular basis with the Bigs, Litttles, parents, and schools, making new matches, and helping strengthen existing matches.Â Jamie says, â€œIâ€™ve seen the impact that this program has and it is vital to our community and our futureâ€.
Compassionate Feast â€“ Chad Badgero
Chad wears so many hats in our community it is difficult to tell when he is working, playing, or volunteering. Most weekdays between 9-5 Chad can be found working in the Old Town Commercial Associationâ€™s office as part of the Americorps VISTA program but thatâ€™s just how his days start. Afterhours, Chadâ€™s commitment to Old Town and all the great projects and events keep him working in a volunteer capacity that far surpass the number of hours for which he is paid.Â Be it OTCAâ€™s Oktoberfest, Scrapfest, Dickens Village, or events hosted by their Old Town neighbor MICCA like JazzFest or BluesFest, Chad is there happily giving his time and always sporting a genuine and contagious smile.
One of Chadâ€™s biggest passions, quite fittingly, is the annual Compassionate Feast, a project that helps provide local families with all the fixings for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. For over 10 years members of the Old Town community have come together for this event serving an average of 100 families each year.Â Due to tough economic times and a major sponsor backing out at the last minute, 2010 proved to be an exceptionally challenging year.Â Chad and other team members had to scramble to raise community funds to purchase the supplies traditionally donated by that sponsor.Â A stroke of luck came by way of Lansing resident T.J. Duckett, who decided to partner with OTCA and committed to doubling the number of families served. This required an additional $4,000 to be raised and Chad led the way by reaching out to the community and raising enough funds (approximately $8,000 total) to serve 200 families.
When asked what motivates him to be so engaged and so giving of his time, this is what Chad had to say; â€œI began working in Old Town as an Americorps member to become more involved in community service, and to give back to the Lansing community in a way that I hadn’t been able to in the past.Â I am committed to making Lansing a kind, caring, creative, and vibrant community.Â Almost nothing else that we do through the OTCA comes closer to this goal than our involvement in Compassionate Feast.â€
Facebook Status Update, December 16, 2010:Â â€œCancer tested. Mother approved. Since 1983.â€
If youâ€™ve had the pleasure of meeting Justin more than once, youâ€™re probably already aware of what a true survivor he is. Having successfully battled a cancerous brain tumor at the age of 7, most people would be satisfied just to live a normal life hoping the cancer never returns. Not Justin Caine. Justin is the co-founder and owner of Good Fruit Video where a good portion of his work is pro-bono projects for nonprofit organizations. Justin can be seen volunteering at any number of community events from the annual BWL Red Cedar River clean-up days to helping plan and organize IgniteLansing.Â Justin has even founded two of his own community-giving initiatives, Battlefield Brawl, a flag-football tournament to raise funds for Sparrow Hospital Foundation, and Lunch With A Purpose.
Justin came up with the idea for Lunch With A Purpose with the thought that a lot of people giving up an hour of their time for various community projects could make a large impact. Each week, folks are invited to join during the lunch hour for a different volunteer activity. Some of their lunches have been spent folding linens for the Mid-Michigan Ronald McDonald House, donating blood to the Red Cross, or helping out at a local food bank.Â Justin plans to keep the project going in 2011 by officially incorporating as a 501(c)3 nonprofit and hoping to expand the program across the Nation. Just like everything he does, Justin is going all in on this one.Â Recently, Justin and his partner Kraig Westfall and their company Good Fruit Video were named the Innovator of the Year by the City of East Lansing.Â Look for many more great Justin projects in the years to come; he is truly a Superhero!
Erik Larson, Executive Director â€“ Impression 5 Science Center
It isnâ€™t that unusual for an Executive Director of a nonprofit to play an active role in the community where they are located but Erik Larson and his team at I5 go well beyond the norms.Â Personally, Erik is involved with nearly every community-action based group in town and can be seen volunteering his time on a wide variety of projects. From collecting signatures for the Bike-Walk-Lansing petition to helping coordinate Lansingâ€™s 150 Celebration, Erikâ€™s reach extends far beyond the walls of Impression 5 and his love for Lansing is evident in everything he does.
In addition to all the great events and activities presented by Impression 5, Erik has made an extraordinary effort to open the center to hosting other community events.Â Annually, the Board of Water & Light Red Cedar River Clean-up day is hosted by I5, and Erik and his staff are right there volunteering along with other community participants. Erik and I5 also donate their space for the annual Lansing GiveCamp; a weekend-long event where software developers, designers, and database administrators donate their time to create custom software for non-profit organizations.
One of Erikâ€™s greatest qualities and what makes him one of my 5 fav Doers, Givers, and Superheroes is his modesty. Although heâ€™s been given accolades such as being named as one of Lansingâ€™s 10 over 10, Erikâ€™s not big on labels or awards, for him, itâ€™s all about doing, giving, and full-heartedly loving Lansing.