Community Leaders Recognized as Local Agents of Change

Hundreds gathered to celebrate nine community leaders and initiatives that were recognized as the 2015 Agents of Change. Those recognized range from art installations to major development leadership, entrepreneur support, innovation and more.

“The Muskegon Lakeshore continues to transform at a fast pace,” says Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. “These dedicated individuals have passion and are dramatically changing the landscape of our community.”

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 Eighth Annual Agents of Change Business After Hours celebration on November 12, 2015 in the Johnson Hall/Munroe Bergmann Room on the Third Floor of the Hilt Building in Downtown Muskegon. This event was produced by the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with WGVU Public Media.

Here are the 2015 projects and businesses recognized as 2015 Agents of Change:

Judith Hayner, Avian Avatars
The Avian Avatars public art installation, organized by the Muskegon Museum of Art Executive Director Judy Hayner, traveled to Muskegon directly from New York City where they were first on display. These five gigantic birds standing more than 20 feet tall are a “must see” outdoor art destination in Downtown Muskegon. Bringing this stimulating art to Muskegon would not have been possible without Judy’s leadership.

Chris Baker and Bryan Betten, Betten Baker Auto Group
Chris and Bryan’s commitment and investments in Muskegon have transformed the Henry Street corridor. In less than 10 years, they have grown from one location to seven, employing more than 250 people while winning customer service awards. Their dedication to the area continues as they are major underwriters of the Watch Muskegon Image Campaign.

Parties in the Park Board of Directors, Hackley Park Stage
The Parties in the Park Board of Directors began planning for a permanent stage in Hackley Park last October, working with the Historical District and the City of Muskegon. In a matter of only six months, the board pulled in community members and resources to raise $100,000 for the new stage that was completed for the 2015 season. Parties in the Park has provided free entertainment on Friday nights in Hackley Park for over 30 years!

Richard Thorstenson, Kitchen 242
Rich lead the design and development of Kitchen 242, a certified commercial kitchen, located at the Muskegon Farmers Market. Kitchen 242 provides space for local entrepreneurs, community members, and organizations to process food products, learn and teach skills related to food preparation, safety, nutrition, and cooking. This would not have happened without Rich’s talent and dedication to the project.

Wes Eklund, John Essex, Mark Fazakerley, and John Workman, Muskegon Manufacturers Health and Wellness Clinic
This cooperative effort between Eagle Group, Fleet Engineers, and Port City Group provides on-site clinics to employees offering free, convenient, access to expert medical services. The goal of these clinics is to provide high quality care at sustainable costs for all three of the companies’ employees. So far, the clinics have had 1,293 visits by 749 patients.

Muskegon Risers Soccer Club
Muskegon’s newest professional soccer team began competition in May 2015. The Muskegon Risers strive to be a unifying force between area students, professionals and families. On and off the field, the Muskegon Risers Soccer Club represent those who understand Muskegon’s potential and spirit of Muskegon’s past, present, and future. In their first season, the Muskegon Risers finished with ten wins and three losses, with an average attendance of more than 1,000 fans.

Julie Greene, Muskegon Surgery Center
Julie Greene, Chief Executive Officer, orchestrated an innovative partnership between the Muskegon Surgery Center and the Shoreline Inn and Conference Center for patient recovery. Instead of hospitalization, Muskegon Surgery Center patients are discharged to the beautiful waterfront hotel for healthy recovery. Professional nursing and physical therapy services are located on site. Muskegon Surgery Center is one of only two centers performing outpatient knee replacements in the State of Michigan and they have done 51 to date.

Pete and Sandy Wolters and Jennifer Cross, Raggedy Ann Art Installation
The Raggedy Ann doll was originally created in Muskegon. This year, the doll celebrates its 100th anniversary. To commemorate this historical year, a larger-than-life size art installation of Raggedy Ann and her brother, Andy, has been installed in Downtown Muskegon at Alcoa Celebration Square. Pete and Sandy Wolters, with the help of their daughter, Jen Cross, have been instrumental in the preservation of this part of Muskegon’s history by bringing this piece from creation to execution, and installation in the community.

Troy Wasserman and Angie Nelund, Wasserman’s Flowers & Gifts
This fifth-generation family owned business is celebrating 135 years. Brother and sister owners, Troy Wasserman and Angie Nelund, transformed this long standing business with a drastic interior and exterior renovation. The building now has a patio and pergola and offers a wider selection of items to include a light food menu. They took a traditional flower and gift shop and turned it into a gathering place where guests can spend time enjoying waterfront views.

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