Local volunteers recognizedPublished 10:00pm Thursday, April 19, 2012
BENTON HARBOR — “You haven’t lived until you’ve been in Niles,” Donna Ochenryder said upon acceptance of the Niles DDA Main Street Volunteer of the Year Thursday.
The Volunteer Center of Southwest Michigan rolled out the red carpet — literally — for Cass and Berrien county volunteers at the 2012 Community Achievement Awards at Lake Michigan College Mendel Center.
Ochenryder, 78, was born and raised in Niles. She has collected more than 18,000 stories and photos of her hometown.
Niles was also represented by Ethan Zimmerman, 17, an Edwardsburg High School student.
He was recognized with the 2012 Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award, which includes a $1,000 grant from the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Berrien and Cass; a $1,000 scholarship from Chemical Bank; and a certificate from state Sen. John Proos.
Zimmerman is on the teen committee for BBBS and started in 2011 his own program, First Steps in Sports, that donates used sports equipment.
Zimmerman, the son of Lori and Bill Zimmerman, said his family wanted to do something with the equipment their family had accrued over the years.
First Steps in Sports has collected more than 75 pieces of equipment and donated to area Rocket Football leagues, YMCAs and other programs.
“I feel like I’ve been blessed,” Zimmerman said in a video played at the awards. “If I can influence one, two people … I feel like I’ve done my job.
“Volunteering has been a very humbling experience,” he said.
Blood drive volunteer Wanda Graham, of Niles, took home the American Red Cross Volunteer of the Year Award.
Marie Kangas, of Buchanan, was recognized as the Buchanan Art Center Volunteer of the Year.
Norma Ferris, also of Buchanan, earned Buchanan District Library Volunteer of the Year.
Other local nominees were MAAC Property Service, of Niles, by Niles DDA Main Street, for 2012 Corporate Neighbor; and Kellie Montgomery, of Edwardsburg, by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Michiana, for the 2012 Kathryn S. Rossow Professionalism in Volunteer Management Award.