Marie Morrow opened the Plymouth Community United Way (PCUW) Annual Meeting and Awards Presentation with a heartfelt thank you to Johnson Controls and the nearly 100 business and community leaders in attendance March 27, at Comcast NBC Universal in Plymouth.
More than 70 Key Contributors and volunteers were honored along with Johnson Controls, which received a special award for 25 years of giving at the Platinum level, the highest level of corporate contributions.
"Without this support, many services would have been cut or nonexistent including basic needs such as food, rent and utility assistance," said Morrow, PCUW President.
The meeting and awards presentation was a way to show appreciation for those who contributed to the 2014-15 fundraising campaign and provided community service, according to Morrow. It also was an opportunity for the public to learn about the work the nonprofit does in Plymouth, Canton, Western Wayne County and Northville. The Journey to Housing Program, Community Opportunity House, Personalized Nursing LIGHT House, and First Step were showcased as organizations helped by PCUW through donations from businesses and individuals.
The morning began with networking and a continental breakfast followed by the meeting which included reports on PCUW's 2014 finances. While PCUW continues to provide basic needs and other human services, the nonprofit is moving forward on initiatives to produce lasting change.
Complete silence descended on the festive-like gathering as Lorraine Zaksek, outgoing President of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Canton, talked about the Journey to Housing Program supported by PCUW and the church to assist families without permanent housing. Many live from paycheck to paycheck and are unable to save for a down payment so they remain homeless. Some, said Zaksek, "couch-surf," staying in the homes of family and friends until no longer welcome.
Journey to Housing offers assistance, placing individuals and families in permanent housing and providing weekly counseling to develop budget and life skills. Financial assistance is removed when they attain financial independence.
"The need greatly exceeeds the resources," said Zaksek. "That's why Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Journey to Housing Program are so grateful to Plymouth Community United Way for grants."
The celebration of giving supporters continued with Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Community Service awards presented by 2014 PCUW Board of Directors Chairman, Lou Whitlock and Tony Bruscato, 2014 PCUW Campaign Chairman. Among the recipients were Johnson Controls, Comcast NBC Universal, Ford, DTE Energy, UPS, Robert Bosch LLC, Community Financial Credit Union, Consumers Energy, AT&T, Shiloh Industries, SKF, Yazaki North America, Visteon, Varroc Lighting Systems, and Federal Mogul as well as dozens of other businesses.
A contingent of Johnson Controls' employees was on hand to watch the company and employees receive the special award and the Platinum Award for Key Contributors. The employees and company contributed over $7 million in the last 25 years.
The partnership began in the 1980s with the first executive serving on the Board of Directors in 1990. A long list of volunteer directors followed. Their leadership drove the impetus to develop and expand programs that significantly impact everyone from youth to senior citizens. Through the years, employees helped senior citizens and disabled adults with yard work plus collected items for a variety of drives to help those in need. In addition, Johnson Controls co-sponsors the annual golf outing to raise frunds for the PCUW Long Term Investment Fund which will eventually cover PCUW administrative costs so that 100% of donations go directly to human services.
Mark Flynn thanked Plymouth Community United Way for the award and Zaksek "for reminding us all about why we're here today."
"For 25 years, our employees have been generous supporters of this great organization and the outreach it provides to those in need," said Flynn, Vice President Human Resources Americas for Johnson Controls Automotive Seating. Flynn and Ralph Lassel, Executive Director Human Resources Americas and Asia for Johnson Controls Automotive Interiors, accepted the awards for the two Plymouth locations.
"As a business based in Plymouth, our employees take their commitment to supporting the community very seriously," said Flynn, "It's a great legacy (25 years of giving). I look forward to continuing the partnership with Marie and Plymouth Community United Way for many years in the future."
"We greatly appreciate the support of Johnson Controls," said Morrow. "They've gone over and above for us for the past 25 years. They deserve a great round of applause."
Community Service Awards went to Plymouth Varsity, Salem Varsity and Salem Prep Hockey teams for volunteering at raking events and holding food drives. The GOALS Program, a group of special needs young men and women from Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, helped at PCUW's monthly food assistance program for low-income families and individuals in Plymouth and Northville. Terresa Juarez volunteers not only to pack bags for the food program, but collects school supplies and helps at raking events. Jeremy russell facilitated the partnership with First United Methodist Church in Plymouth to host a breakfast for volunteers before raking events and organizes a church team to clean yards. Diane and Jeff Townley and their children help serve the continental breakfast before volunteers rake yards. The Townley family also volunteers at events to collect back-to-school supplies at the annual Stuff the Bus. Many other corporations, businesses, clubs and individuals also donated food, school supplies, and warm winter, baby and personal hygiene items during 2014.
Victor Thompson accepted the first ever Volunteer of the Year Award. He leads AT&T's United Way Campaign for the Plymouth office and regularly organizes a team of co-workers to pack bags for The Emergency Food Assistance Program coordinated by PCUW. Additionally, Thompson holds drives for food, warm winter items and personal hygiene kits at AT&T, and volunteers with his son, Casper at raking events.
"Helping to make a difference has always been a good reward, but today I received a reward that will serve as a constant reminder of the moments of joy I've shared with you and many others in the Plymouth community," said Thompson. "I cannot say thank you enough for all that you do and for the honor I received today. I look forward to participating in many more events and sharing all that I can to make a difference."
Pictured below are Ralph Lassel (left), Marie Morrow, Mark Flynn and Lou Whitlock after Johnson Controls received a special award for 25-years of giving at the Platinum level.