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Banner Realty honors nonprofit leaders at appreciation luncheon

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Emily Potter, executive director of Options Pregnancy Center, tells the other nonprofit leaders in attendance about updates to the programs and services available at the newly renovated location at 233 Cavanaugh St., Alpena.

ALPENA — Many “unsung heroes” of our community were honored at Banner Realty’s Valentine’s Day Appreciation Luncheon on Thursday at the Holiday Inn Express in Alpena.

Nonprofit leaders were recognized and honored for their contributions to making the community a better place.

Banner Realty Owner and Broker Margie Haaxma welcomed those in attendance.

“We are extremely grateful and very happy to have you here,” Haaxma told the leaders. “We totally appreciate what you do for our city. It makes life so much better for all of us; not just for those that you serve, but for all of us.”

Pastor John Shipman of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church of Alpena gave the opening prayer before a lunch of grinders and salad from Mancino’s was provided to guests. A beautiful cake from Meijer bakery was also enjoyed by many guests after the meal.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley This beautiful cake was just one of the many treats offered to nonprofit leaders at Thursday’s Valentine’s Day Appreciation Luncheon. They also received gifts, chocolates, Banner Realty bags, and monetary donations.

Shipman shared with the group how his church has grown by 62 members over the past year alone, and how outreach efforts continue. He talked about the church’s focus on small group ministry, and on reaching people of all ages, including young people.

“Young people want to be involved in an organization that cares about the community, that cares about the world,” he said. “They’re looking for people who are like-minded.”

He gave encouraging words to the nonprofit leaders.

“What we do in life echoes in eternity,” Shipman said, quoting Russell Crowe as Maximus in “The Gladiator.”

His wife, Nina, also attended the gathering.

“We can always use more people to come and make our community of Alpena, and beyond, a wonderful place, a caring place, where people in need know that there are agencies they can go to,” she said.

Each nonprofit leader in attendance addressed the group, explaining their current efforts and needs.

“We are now in our new building, which is four-and-a-half years of a labor of love, right there,” said Bradley Somers, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena. “At this point last year, we had 12 employees. At this point, right now, we have 23. We were seeing about 130 kids a day. Right now, we are just under 200 kids a day, which is an incredible feat. But, it’s like the ‘Field of Dreams’ mantra, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ … Our teen population has absolutely exploded. We’re seeing between 60 and 70 teens a day.”

“We help people who have cancer and their loved ones in Northeast Michigan,” said Melissa Burns, executive director of Friends Together. “We have some new programming right now. We got a Community Foundation grant, so we are now offering some journaling classes, and some art classes, and we are offering some food prep classes, we do an educational class once a month that can help anyone. … This is for everyone, because we know that mental health matters.”

“The Salvation Army has really gone through a rough year,” said Major Prezza Morrison of the Salvation Army of Alpena. “We’re really struggling with keeping up with the requests for people who are struggling with homelessness. And that’s going to be my goal this year to really see what we can do to try to solve this problem … We need to do something.”

“We’re talking about homelessness a lot in this community, and at our agency, when we sit down and look at the issues that people are struggling with, why they’re staying in harmful situations, abusive relationships, not reporting assaults, they’re making a choice about homelessness or safety — greater safety,” said Valerie Williams, executive director of Hope Shores Alliance. “That’s not OK with me. … Domestic and sexual violence are horrible. I focus 99% of my attention on ending violence, helping survivors feel whole, connecting them to resources. … Right now, it’s just not sitting well with me that I have unspent housing dollars because we don’t have housing for people to go into. … We’re comin’ for ya, homelessness. We are. This has to stop.”

“I just began my position in January,” said Michelle Bailey, executive director of Sunrise Mission homeless shelter in Alpena. “It has been really exciting. I want to network with other nonprofits, thinking outside of the box. … It will be interesting to see how we can work together to make the most of our resources. … I’m here for everyone’s success.”

“We have the same constant needs every single year,” said Cindy Johnson, executive director of the Huron Humane Society. “We take in more animals than anyone else in the county, and we do an excellent job.”

Johnson is also the mayor of Alpena.

“I just want to point out what I see in this room,” she said. “A group a leaders and servants who help the least fortunate in the community, and we make a difference. Don’t ever forget that. On your worst days, don’t ever forget that.”

“For the month of January, my activity report was 210 volunteers, 840 volunteer hours, 110 donations, 70 different donors, 8,000 pounds of food,” said Randy MacAulay, executive director of the Friendship Room. “Of course, I’m blessed with some very good cooks that make me look really good, so I’m very grateful for that.”

“Now we’re on 233 Cavanaugh and 9th,” said Emily Potter, executive director of Options Pregnancy Center. “We are moving into our new building as we speak, so I’m so excited. This has been a huge labor of love on a lot of people’s parts.”

She said there will be a maternity closet, an ultrasound machine, and more services that had not be offered before.

“I appreciate Margie’s faithfulness and support of our ministry,” Potter added. “We feel honored.”

“I thank every single one of you for what you do to be here in the human services field in our community,” Somers told the group. “It surely does make Alpena a much better place to live because of the heart and passion of each and every one of you here.”

Haaxma explained why she and her team have hosted this event for eight or nine years.

“I think they are the unsung heroes in our community,” Haaxma said. “They work long hours. They try to do as much as they can. They go through stress and pain when they can’t do all they want to do, and they also work at making people’s dreams come true. It’s just a way of saying ‘Thank you. You make our community a better place.'”

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