Nic Bottomley received the Governor’s Mentor of the Year Service Award July 23 at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. The Mentor of the Year award is one of the Governor’s Service awards that pays tribute to outstanding volunteers throughout Michigan. Nic is a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Grand Rapids through D.A. Blodgett.
Nic has many Michigan State University Extension connections. He’s married to MSU senior Extension specialist Lisa Bottomley. As you may have noticed, Extension spouses have a long history of volunteering for our organization.
Nic and his Big Brothers Big Sisters mentee Austin have become part of the Michigan 4-H Youth Development family by actively participating at five 4-H Mentoring weekends. Nic has delivered professional development webinars for the Children and Youth Institute on digital risk and safety, using his expertise as a juvenile probation officer and therapist who works mainly with youth who have committed sexual offenses. Nic also serves as an adjunct instructor at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). He has partnered with MSU Extension by having associate program leader Molly Frendo use MSUE-developed curriculum to teach GVSU undergraduate social work students about setting appropriate boundaries both on- and offline.
Congratulations, Nic, and thanks for all you’ve done for Extension!
Joe Bixler, District 10 coordinator, brought this article at www.thetimesherald.com to my attention. It features Brianna MacGregor of Port Huron who received the President’s Volunteer Service Award. The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation created the award to honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others to engage in volunteer service. Brianna is a member of the St. Clair County 4-H program. Read the article to find out the ways that Brianna gives to the community.
I had a number of heartening responses to my final Spotlight message for 2009 on the many ways that people contribute to their communities and organizations beyond their financial contributions. A point that many of them made is that our own Extension professionals are supreme volunteers, and I know that is true for so many of you and I applaud you for that. I thought I would share one of the stories I received, not to say that this one is extraordinary, but rather to share it as one of many examples that I’ve learned about both before and after I wrote that Spotlight. Keep in mind that this message was sent in the spirit of “here’s another example of what you were talking about” and not “see what WE’VE done.” I think Dave Stroud makes that point clear and better in his own words.
Tom, I thought I would second your thoughts about some of the unspoken time that MSUE staff devote to their communities. I am not looking for any recognition for something we did here in our office but it is a good story I would like for you to hear about.
Here in Lake City and Missaukee County we are lucky to have the MSU Beef Research Station, and as you may know there is a considerable amount of potato research done there. Each year they plant 10 acres of potatoes to research varieties, as Dave Douches and his team work hard to develop new varieties. After they take their many samples to be analyzed at the lab, the gates are opened to the community to come in and glean the potatoes that are left, probably 95% of the crop remains, all dug up and laying on the surface. Community radar seems to be able to sense this event and many calls are made to the station from the public to find out about the date the gates are open. Many individuals and organizations, pick up the potatoes to distribute to needy families or those who cannot physically do it for themselves, and of course many are looking to store/and or extend their winter supply of spuds.
Our Missaukee MSUE office has a food bank located right across the hall from our lobby door, so we know the need, and see the traffic and importance to the community that the “Cooperative Ministry Food-bank” plays in our community that has such a high unemployment rate. So the thought came to our mind to glean some potatoes to store to keep them supplied with potatoes. So one fine October morning the Station Manager Doug Carmichael allowed us in to pick before the gates were opened at noon to the public. Judy Brinks our office secretary and I picked about 30 bushels of potatoes in about an hour. With the help of my son Ty, who works at the station, and his pickup we put the potatoes in storage at my farm in a well insulated hay barn bunk. Our goal was to keep the Food Bank supplied with potatoes until Christmas. Several times a week we brought in 5 gallon pails of potatoes that the Food Bank would bag and hand out to their clients. The near zero temps in early December did not help our temporary storage, but with some improvements, we were able to keep them supplied until Christmas Eve. It took us one lunch break, and a few minutes a week to help out, just a little, those in need.
Thanks to Dave and the Missaukee staff and to all of you for your generosity throughout the year.
When I visited with a friend near my home in Williamston, Mich., on Dec. 19, I came away inspired and overwhelmed by his generosity. Our sons are both involved in scouting and we were both working at the local Food Bank, preparing and delivering food and gift packages for families in our community. I learned that he spent the previous day working there, too. On the surface it may not seem noteworthy that he put in two successive days with a charitable organization. However, he has been unemployed since last January. You can imagine the kinds of challenges he and his family have faced over the past year. Even though his wife is still employed, any family that loses one income for nearly a year is bound to be under considerable stress. Yet there he was, giving his time to make sure that others in our community would have food for their families.
Our society often focuses on financial transactions and financial contributions as measures of generosity. We tend to overlook and undervalue the contributions that people make with their unmonetized time and talents. I’m as guilty as anyone—over the past few weeks I’ve sent and received the usual “end-of-year” solicitations for monetary gifts to our programs and the charities that support our programs, but I didn’t send out a solicitation for volunteers to give of their time, intellect and skills. Every year we prepare a simple report for legislators and other decision-makers that spells out the monetary value of the leveraging we achieve with the appropriations we are granted, but we don’t report the value of the 4-H, Master Gardener, agricultural research and other volunteers who help to make our programs successful. We generate reports on the monetary value of gifts that are given to MSU Extension, 4-H, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and other entities, but we don’t compare the number of volunteer hours we generate to those of other units at Michigan State University.
Our programs are greatly enhanced by the work of thousands of volunteers. I, for one, need to do a better job of telling that story to those we work with and report to. Under Michigan’s current economic condition, it is even more important for us to demonstrate the value of MSUE by documenting not only the numbers, but also the lasting impacts of the volunteers who invest their time and talents in our mission. There are few measures more telling of our impacts than the scope and scale of investments that others make in the mission of MSUE. As we continue through our redesign process—and particularly our revisions to program planning and reporting—we need to keep this in mind: the most valuable gifts people give are those that are direct and personal, whether it is their time, money, thoughts or actions. I have my friend to thank for helping me to understand this in a deeper and more lasting way. And I know that his life’s work for others is something he will continue to invest, whether he receives compensation for it or not.
I want to thank all of the MSUE staff, faculty members, educators, volunteers and program participants for the contributions they make to MSUE’s mission, whether it is their time and talents or other resources. We’ve had a challenging year, but our challenges pale in comparison with those experienced by so many of our fellow Michigan residents. Thanks to all for investing in Michigan and in MSU Extension. I wish us all well in the new year.