Community Leaders Awarded as Local Agents of Change

Nine community leaders and initiatives have been recognized as the 2013 Agents of Change. Each year, the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce recognizes individuals or projects that have made a positive contribution to the Muskegon Lakeshore and awards them as Agents of Change.

This year’s Agents of Change were recognized at the Sixth Annual Agents of Change Business After Hours celebration, November 7, at Fricano Place.  Here, more than 200 business and community leaders gathered to celebrate.

“The Muskegon Lakeshore community has so much passion and each year we are amazed by the hard work, dedication, and activities these ‘Agents of Change’ bring to our area,” said Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

“This program is a great opportunity for the members and projects of our community that go unnoticed to be recognized for the difference they are making,” said Gary Allore, CFO at Mercy Health and Chairman of the Board for the Muskegon Chamber. “It’s the work of these great community members that make Muskegon such a great place to live, work and play.”

Each year the Chamber partners with WGVU to host this event.  Each of this year’s recipients was interviewed by morning show host, Shelley Irwin. These interviews will air on WGVU FM (95.3 Muskegon, 88.5 Grand Rapids) from 10 – 11 am on Friday, November 22, 2013.


The Muskegon Angels LLC  – Angel Investment Group
The Muskegon Angels LLC, an Angel investment group, was formed in 2012. This group of businesses and economic development leaders are committed to entrepreneurial expansion. Their priority is to assist local businesses and attract other businesses to the area.  The members of the group, Larry Hines, Mike Olthoff, Paul Jackson, John Pridnia and Eric Seifert, started seeking investors for the LLC and currently have 24 committed individuals investing $25,000 per year for five years, which equates $600,000 per year. Their first investment in a new manufacturing company will take place this fall.

Capture Muskegon Public Art Murals – Capture Muskegon Committee
Walldogs, a group of world-class mural painters came to Muskegon after two years of campaigning by Bob Lukens, Director of the Muskegon Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. A committee including co-chairs Sherri Balaskovitz and Len Piasecki, and committee members, Judith Hayner, Bob Lukens, Cathy Bruebaker-Clarke and Ellen Berends put out a call for financial support. This call was answered by Eagle Alloy and the first mural, MUSKEGON PROUD, was dedicated in June 2013. A second mural, underwritten by Alcoa Foundation, MUSKEGON SOARS, was dedicated in September 2013.

Movies on the Beach – Kerry Halloran, winner of a Love Your Community $500 mini-grant
Movies are played during the summer at Pere Marquette Park, on Lake Michigan, where families can bring their beach chairs and picnic baskets to enjoy free movies. Screens and sound systems are donated and the Cinema Carousel Theater provides free popcorn. Kerry submitted an idea for Movies on the Beach to the Love Note grant program of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County and was a 2012 winner. Her $500 was used to create Movies on the Beach.

Tom Anderson – Advocate of non-motorized trails
Tom Anderson, owner of The Bicycle Rack in Muskegon and board member of the West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition, has been a long-time advocate of non-motorized trails. Tom has been instrumental in the grant approval process that has resulted in millions of dollars being spent to build and/or improve the trails of West Michigan. Tom’s experiences and connections with the railroad and as mayor pro-tem of North Muskegon have provided pathways and support that have been invaluable to the Coalition.

Carla Flanders  – Lakeshore Art Festival
In 2013, the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce took over the Art in the Park event with the goal to reinvent it to become a true arts festival. Carla Flanders, an outside consultant, was hired to take on this challenge. Her efforts were extremely successful and in a short period of time, Carla put together a committee of people who had prior festival experience as well as a strong volunteer contingent to assist with event logistics and to comfortably share ideas and opinions. The first year festival yielded more than 50,000 people in attendance over two days and plans are already underway for 2014.

Girls on the Run  – Melissa Reid
Girls on the Run is a positive youth development program which combines training for a 5k with an interactive curriculum to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles in 3rd through 8th grade girls. In fact, the Muskegon County program is one of the fastest growing Girls on the Run programs in the nation. During the 2012-2013 season, over 1,200 girls participated representing 39 schools in Muskegon County. Melissa and her husband brought this national curriculum to Whitehall 8 years ago. With Melissa’s leadership, the program has been rapidly growing.

VanKampen Boyer Molinari Foundation/Hampton Green Farm -Joan Mack
This family foundation is dedicated to the needs of non-profit organizations in Michigan and Florida. The foundation is focused on family and community welfare, the arts and equestrianism. Hampton Green Farm, a world class dressage training facility in Fruitport, is the Foundation’s host location for non-profit organizations to hold fundraising events in Michigan. The Boyers open their farm to 14 non-profit organizations every summer. The Foundation will pick up all costs associated to the event, with the non-profit keeping all of the proceeds. Over the last four years, hosted non-profit events at HGF have garnered $200,000 in revenue.

Women’s Division Chamber of Commerce  - Dancing with the Local Stars
Dancing with the Local Stars began in 2009 as a fundraiser for local food pantries. In five years, this event has raised over $310,405 benefiting more than thirty local organizations. DWLS is a local version of the nationally-known Dancing with the Stars. Stars are high-profile members of the community who volunteer their time practicing endless hours to entertain sell-out audiences. Planning and executing this event takes hundreds (maybe even thousands) of volunteer hours and about 50 committee and sub-committee members from WDCC.

Kid’s Food Basket – Kris Collee, Program Manager
One in four Michigan children goes hungry every day. Kids’ Food basket, based in Grand Rapids, helps children get nourished to be their best in school and in life through the Sack Supper program. Kids’ Food Basket is the only organization in West Michigan focused solely on childhood hunger. Muskegon was blessed to become the program’s first satellite operation. Today, two full-time employees and hundreds of volunteers and donors are packing and delivering 600 nutritious Sack Suppers EVERY DAY for children in our community’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

The Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce is the premier business membership organization on the lakeshore representing approximately 1,150 businesses and organizations. The Muskegon Chamber represents businesses of every size and type all over West Michigan. The Chamber is celebrating 120 years in operation working to sustain an environment for business success through community leadership, promotion, inclusive business advocacy and valued member services. The Muskegon Chamber is a three-time award winning Chamber, being named Chamber of the Year for the State of Michigan in 2006, 2010, and 2012 by the Michigan Association of Chamber Professionals.