2017 Recipients


Meredith's Gold Award project addressed a lack of awareness and sustainable resources for children's books for low income families.

To tackle both of these issues, Meredith developed a plan to collect donated children’s books. She also wanted to provide shelving to house the books. Meredith partnered with four organizations which work with underserved families. The Salvation Army, Child and Family Services, The Father Fred Foundation and The Grand Traverse Dyslexia Association received the donated books and shelves.

Once the books and shelves were placed in each organization, Meredith developed a system for refilling the bookshelves and trained staff at these organization to replenish the books as needed. The organizations signed a sustainability agreement, committing to the project for years to come. As a result of this project, four bookshelves and over 600 books were donated.


Liz’s Gold Award Project addresses the lack of access to and awareness of fresh vegetables. Liz tackled both of these issues by creating container gardening kits which included all of the materials needed to grow vegetables. Kits included recipes which use the ingredients of the garden and focus on healthy eating habits, along with canning and freezing tips. Steps on how to prepare the container garden for winter and spring were also shared.

Liz also worked with the food pantry of the Trinity Lutheran Church Women Helping Others group. Liz hosted a day where the food pantry families could come to the church and pick up a kit. A pamphlet with directions for putting the container garden together, growing, harvesting, and winterizing made this project sustainable year after year. The Trinity Lutheran Church Women Helping Others group also agreed to host an annual event for families to pick up container garden kits. Through this project, over 360 kits were handed out to families.

Lauren’s Gold Award project addresses the issue of preserving the historical S.S. Milwaukee Clipper. Lauren worked on two separate issues. The first was restoring the Chief Steward’s room. Secondly, she digitalized the museum’s library of photographs. Lauren worked with museum staff to ensure the restoration of the Chief Steward’s room was historically accurate.

The Chief Steward’s room is now a permanent installation of the museum and will be sustained by staff. This project has also inspired several new volunteers to commit to restoring other rooms aboard the S.S. Milwaukee Clipper.        

Jordan’s Gold Award project addresses the issue of limited access to fresh vegetables for those in need. To meet this need, Jordan partnered with Christ Our Savior Church to build a community garden. This involved building three large wooden structures to support a raised garden.

The Growing in Faith Community garden has not only impacted the food pantry at the church, it has impacted the families it serves by providing fresh vegetables. The garden also brought church members together as they focused on a common goal. Jordan secured a sustainability agreement from the Youth Group Director to ensure the garden is maintained year after year.

For several years, Aleah had listened to complaints about the condition of the Ottawa Fairground’s front office. She had volunteered with the Ottawa Fair for many years and could relate to these frustrations. She decided to address the issue with her Gold Award Project by giving the office space a “facelift.” Aleah worked with a variety of consultants and contractors who helped her remove carpeting, install laminate flooring, countertops, and new cabinets. Aleah also added storage space to the office. Cosmetic changes, such as painting, were also made.

Aleah’s project is sustainable by the permanent changes she made during the remodel. These changes have created an efficient and functioning work space.

Maddie’s project addresses the lack of grieving areas at her church cemetery and a local veteran’s park. Maddie watched a close family friend grieve the loss of a loved one and was inspired to provide a calm, reflective and comfortable place for reflection, remembrance and grieving.

Maddie worked with Holy Family Church and the nearby veteran’s park to begin improvements. She designed and constructed benches that would be added to these areas. Other improvements allowed the elderly and disabled easier access to the cemetery and park. Holy Family Church agreed to sustain this project by hosting an annual clean-up event at the cemetery and veteran’s park. The church, using guidelines Maddie provided, will assess the need for annual maintenance and provide whatever is deemed necessary.

2016 Recipients 


Shalyn Anderson-Garner

Gold Award Project: My Health and Me

Shalyn's project was a free health fair geared toward 5/6th graders in her community. The purpose of the project was to help the 5/6th graders learn about the resources available to them to obtain and/or maintain a healthy life. Shalyn plans to obtain a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with a concentration in dance, and a marketing minor from Columbia College Chicago. Shalyn will continue to help her former troop sell cookies and plan trips. After college, Shalyn looks forward to becoming a professional dancer and choreographer.



 Rachel Dembinski

Gold Award Project: The Cost of Not Spay and Neutering

"I partnered with the West Michigan Spay and Neuter Clinic to tackle the issue of spaying and neutering anima ls. One part of my project was to raise awareness through media publications. I made a series of funny, normal, and information brochures for the clinic supporting this issue. Another part of my project was tackling an effect of not spaying and neutering animals. Working with a group of 7 middle school girls, we put together feral cat houses for the West Michigan Spay and Neuter Clinic. The feral cat houses promote Trap-­Neuter-Return (TNR) by getting colonies all in one area to easily trap them so people can fix the anima ls and return them to the colony to live out the rest of their days without increasing the population."



Amy Doster

Gold Award Project: Wheelchair Accessible Garden

"I built a garden bed at a wheelchair accessible height for campers of all ages at Camp Optimist. The bed was filled with fruits, vegetables and herbs, and I involved the campers in their maintenance until an adult unit of campers was ready to take over. The campers took over the bed as their own project for skill building activities, and I left them with information and seeds to grow the garden again this year."




Haley Fisk

Gold Award Project: Gluten-free Care Baskets

"My project was targeted to the Celiac disease/Gluten intolerance patients of Grand Rapids. For my project, my goal was to make those struggling with a diagnosis happy and hopeful for a healthy life again! In order to do this, with the help of my gastroenterologist, Karen Lindhout, to make care baskets. This care basket included food for every meal, my favorite recipes from my mother's cookbook, a brochure with helpful hints for restaurants, and a personal story about my change to the gluten free lifestyle. These baskets were then carefully transported to Helen Devos Children's Hospital, stored in the Gastroenterology department, and then delivered to the 50-60 patients that received baskets throughout the course of the project."




Heidi Gilder

Gold Award Project: Caps for a Cause

"I focused on educating people about why they should recycle plastic and how to do it regularly. A huge way I got my community involved in my project was Green Tree Plastics's ABC Bench Program. Through this program, my community helped me collect 476 pounds of plastic caps and I raised $225 to trade in for a bench made out of recycled plastic. Through the collecting process I spoke to many different people about why recycling is important and how to get a curbside bin for their home."







Emily Kurburski

Gold Award Project: The Golden Infinity

Emily's project was a three part program that addresses the topic of domestic violence. She worked with her local Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan to create an educational curriculum, a healthy foods initiative, and sewed several infinity scarves for the women a at the safe home. Emily plans to attend Kettering University to pursue a dress in Business Administration.





Jennifer Pohlman

Gold Award Project: Miniature Library

Within her community, Jennifer saw many children struggling with reading because of a lack of interest or access to books at home. Her Gold Award Take Action Project addressed this issue by building small lending libraries across her community to provide wider access to books. The ultimate goal of her project is to get children involved and interested in reading, thereby improving their ability to read well.




Becky Root

Gold Award Project: Cross Country Trail Repair

"The cross country team uses the mile trail the most, but it is open to everyone. I first went through the trail and took out the big tree roots. Next, I took dirt and filled in the big holes. Lastly, and the longest part, I put down stone dust on the trail. the stone dust was difficult to put on and through many difficulties the running material was finally laid out and smoothed."


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