A tweaked mission announced earlier this year at the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region is being supported by a renewed focus on volunteerism. Hence, the HandsOn Battle Creek program acts as a hub, matching volunteers with local volunteer opportunities.

This week, the organization offered accolades to its volunteers, singling out some who - by virtue of a review process - were selected and honored as those who gave, in particular, of themselves.

According to a news release, they are:

Volunteer Employee Group of the Year: Riverwalk Centre’s Bigs in Business. program began in 2014 based on the model of the Bigs in Business program.

Volunteer Group of the Year: Foster Grandparent Program. Led by Community Action, the program offers an opportunity for senior citizens, aged 55 and older, to help build critical skills and appropriate development of our community’s youth.

Board Member of the Year: Jerry Gillette. Gillette spends his time working to rebuild the family structure of those in greatest need. His work relates to all age groups, but his most heartfelt focus is the needs of children. He devotes his energies to helping people change destructive behaviors … investing himself in church and community efforts … and bringing his leadership skills to bear as a member of the CityLinC Board of Directors.

Service Learning Teacher of the Year: Lin Marklin. An instructor at Kellogg Community College, Marklin started to incorporate service learning into her Children’s Literature course last year when she saw a need to help improve and inspire excitement about literacy in Battle Creek Schools. She created opportunities for personal interaction between her KCC students and elementary school kids, from making decodable books to bringing young students to the campus. She has inspired her students to think outside the 3 box of how they can see a need in their community and give back by using their gifts, skills and talents.

Youth Volunteer of the Year: Reanne Beattie. Beattie began volunteering on the Youth Advisory Board because she believed the young people of Battle Creek face unique challenges, yet their voice isn’t always heard. Through her leadership, the perspective of our community’s young people is not only shared, but also clearly represented in volunteer activities. She’s had a big impact on bringing more youth into the hands-on work of changing the story in Battle Creek.

Volunteer of the Year: Bonnie Parr. Parr started volunteering with the Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center one year ago. She had attended some Cheffsponsored events and felt this might be a way to connect her passion for horses with her desire to give back to the community. In her short tenure, she has volunteered 135 hours, raised $6,250 through a volunteerism support program at Sam’s Club, organized and led creation of a half-mile sensory trail using entirely volunteer help, served on the Ride-a-thon committee and constantly works as an advocate and recruiter for the Cheff Center.

Continuing Service Award: George Wentz. Wentz is a U.S. Army veteran. When he finished serving his country, he served his family, and when he retired he turned his energies to serving the community. He signed on with an organization that was helpful to him and his Army buddies – the American Red Cross. Since 1985, he has volunteered 26,792 hours with Red Cross. He’s served as a transporter of blood supplies, built a “canteen on wheels” where people get some of his famous homemade cookies, used his woodworking skills to make toys for children and has become the caring, generous “face of blood drives” in Battle Creek.

The honorees were highlighted at the 2016 Community Volunteer Awards Thursday, July 21, 2016 in downtown Battle Creek.

Ben Nyhoff of HandsOn Battle Creek told The Richard Piet Show about volunteering and how local folks are stepping up and becoming role models in their community. Click the player below to hear his comments.

Hear The Richard Piet Show weekday mornings from 5:30-9 on WBCK.