ADRIAN — Selfless acts of kindness and helping others in Lenawee County were honored last week at the Catherine Cobb Safe House’s Everyday Heroes event.
The awards were presented to 14 recipients in 10 categories during a dinner Wednesday at the Adrian Armory Events Center.
A total of 19 nominations were received, a news release said. The only requirements were that the nominees must be residents of Lenawee County, employed within Lenawee County or the incidents must have taken place in Lenawee County and the lifesaving acts or events must have occurred between 2020-21. Lifetime achievement can also be a consideration.
A committee of 12 community leaders met in late January to select the award winners, the release said. The committee includes chairman Lenawee County Sheriff Troy Bevier, Adrian Police Chief Vince Emrick, Central Dispatch Director Lt. Dave Aungst, Lenawee Humane Society executive director Marcie Cornell, the Rev. Olivia Nickelson of the Family Worship Center, Adrian College employee Jessica Emrick, Siena Heights University Criminal Justice Department director Ellie Teunion-Smith, United Way of Monroe/Lenawee Counties executive director Laura Schultz Pipis, and retired Monroe County Circuit Judge Joseph A. Costello Jr.
Honorees receive engraved awards and certificates from the Catherine Cobb Safe House. They will also receive tributes from U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg’s office and from state Sen. Dale Zorn, state Rep. Bronna Kahle and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
All proceeds from the event go to benefit Catherine Cobb Safe House and its domestic violence and sexual assault programs, including trauma-focused residential shelter and non-residential services.
The following summaries awere provided by Catherine Cobb Safe House:
Animal Rescue Heroes
Recipients: Rachel Houser, Sallie Dutoit, Sam Pruitt and Heather Hutcherson.
Rachel Houser, Sallie Dutoit, Sam Pruitt and Heather Hutcherson were nominated for volunteering to help a long-term Lenawee Humane Society customer take care of his pets during a crisis. They volunteered for what they thought was going to be a simple task of caring for a few cats for a short period of time. To their surprise, it was far more than cat care that was needed. There were about 14 cats and both the cats and the person were living in an unhealthy atmosphere. Most people would have walked away and come up with a different solution that worked for them rather than what the homeowner wanted or simply refused to help.
Instead, they created a schedule, taking turns to ensure the cats were cleaned and fed every day. They organized a day of cleanup in an attempt to help rectify the situation without compromising the dignity of their friend. They were concerned about more than just the cats — they were concerned about their friend as well. As they began to clean up the place, they realized that the project was more than just a few people could complete. While arrangements were made to help their friend, Houser, Dutoit, Pruitt and Hutcherson continued to care for the cats and help with tasks to help the person, without pay, without judgement and without complaint. No one would have judged them for giving up or walking away, but they were dedicated to making a difference and helping both the animals and the person. The short-term help lasted more than a year. Where most people would have thrown in the towel, these women stepped up to the plate showing their true heroism caring for all beings in their community.
Recipients: Cara Snyder and Fran Brant.
Cara Snyder is being honored for being a voice and advocate for homeless individuals in our community. Having been chronically homeless since she was 17 years old, Snyder knows firsthand the life-changing effects that having a safe home of your own can have.
While attending a seminar on homebuying, hosted by Fran Brant at Premier Bank, she clung to the fact the bank could help build a credit report for potential homebuyers. Snyder started working with Brant and they were able to build her a credit history based on her disability payments and her record of paying her bills on time.
Having a home has changed the direction of Snyder and her son’s life. She sits on multiple boards and community action groups where she advocates for change and is paying it forward. Snyder is the treasurer of the M Society and the All About Adrian Resident Coalition, under Lenawee County Habitat for Humanity. She was recently appointed to the consumer action committee as a child representative under the Lenawee Community Mental Health Authority and is an active member of the Lenawee County Continuum of Care representing those with lived homelessness experience. Her message and mission are clear, “A roof is just imperative to a person’s succeeding in life.”
Fran Brant, vice president of area sales at Premier Bank, is being recognized for her role in helping low- to moderate-income individuals become homeowners. Brant and Premier Bank love helping people and have a program that requires very little as a down payment and is 100% financed. This allows houses in the city to be sold and provides services to more people. Having programs like this ensures that more people have the opportunity to have a safe, secure place of their own. As Snyder said, “It is absolutely amazing what permanent housing will do for a person, for your mental health and physical health, without even trying. Just having that security, having that safe space where you can make your plans and your goals and center yourself to better your life, because you’re not going crazy because of your living situation.”
Recipient: I92 Ministries.
I92 Ministries is being recognized for their efforts to eliminate hunger in Lenawee County. Prior to COVID-19, I92 Ministries was providing weekend meal packs to 600 Lenawee County students weekly. During the early stages of the pandemic, the need drastically increased and they were providing meals to 2,200 students. With support from the Lenawee Community Foundation and Lenawee Cares, I92 Ministries has provided 164,000 meals to students and families impacted by the pandemic.
I92 Ministries continues to partner with local school districts and delivers weekend meal packs along with Christmas and spring break meal packs. Combined with the meals they pack and ship to Haiti, they have served over 1,100,000 meals since their inception in 2012.
Recipient: Retired Addison Fire Chief Tim Shaw.
Retired Addison Fire chief Tim Shaw is being recognized for his 35 years of service to the Addison Fire Department. Shaw officially became the full-time fire chief in 1992 and quickly began the task of combining the fire department and the emergency medical services into one unit. His accomplishments over the next 28 years included the construction of Fire Station 3 on the east side of Devils Lake. With over 60% of the department’s calls coming from that area, he recognized the need to reduce the amount of time it was taking to respond to those calls. He was successfully able to raise enough funds through donations, grants and the use the department’s own funds to support the cost of the project.
During his time as chief, Shaw was also able to bring on a full-time EMT/paramedic that worked at the department Monday-Friday, complete the building of a training center, upgrade the ambulance services to provide advanced life support and bring in more than $1 million in federal grants to support training programs. He was also able to save the department hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction and maintenance.
Adult Good Samaritan Hero
Recipient: Laurie Lewis.
Laurie Lewis is being recognized today for her involvement in the apprehension of a suspect who had fatally stabbed an individual at Meijer. Lewis, who has a concealed pistol license, drew her pistol after witnessing the fatal stabbing and ordered the suspect to the ground. She then held him at gunpoint until the police arrived. Lewis’ quick thinking and immediate response prevented the suspect from getting away and possibly saved the lives of many others.
Youth Good Samaritan Hero
Recipient: Andrew Wheeler (posthumously).
Andrew Wheeler is being recognized for his selfless decision to be an organ donor. Andrew knew at the age of 12 that he wanted to be an organ donor. He made this decision because of an uncle who needed a heart transplant. After an unfortunate and tragic accident took Wheeler’s life at age 18, he was able to help save the life of five others when doctors carried out his wishes. Due to Wheeler’s rare blood type, matches were able to be found quickly and his heart, lungs, liver and both kidneys were donated to others who ranged in age from a toddler to a man in his 60s. Wheeler’s gift of life and knowing that he helped five different families who would have gone through the same thing he did had he not been an organ donor is what helps his mother, Renee Wheeler, get through the day.
Laura Haviland Human Services Professional Award
Recipient: Lynne Punnett.
Lynne Punnett is being recognized for her years of dedication to being a housing and homeless advocate in Lenawee County. She has served in many housing-related roles in the community: executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County, Lenawee Housing Development Corp. (LHDC) board member, founder and facilitator of the Lenawee Landlord Group, and a longtime member of the Continuum of Care executive committee and the Lenawee Essential Needs Council. In these roles, she has been instrumental in the creation of affordable housing, development of and specialization in housing rehabilitation projects, and tirelessly advocating for and coordinating homeless prevention services. Many times, she has collaboratively worked with interagency partners to address the needs of the homeless through collective impact strategic planning. She has been a leader in exploring multiuse affordable housing projects, assisting the city of Adrian with feasibility studies for Opportunity Zones and reusable school spaces. In 2020, she received the Lenawee Continuum of Care Norma Dell Courage to Care Award. Even in her retirement now, she remains active in exploring and addressing community needs through the Adrian Kiwanis Club community impact committee and LHDC board, among others. She is a leader in the countywide housing study, meeting with many local municipalities to map out the need for affordable housing. She also recently served as the interim executive director of Housing Help of Lenawee for several months. Just as she was finishing this tenure, she quickly jumped into action when the Riverview Terrace housing crisis occurred. She helped lead the housing Continuum of Care through the crisis response, and she spearheaded the task force searching for housing statewide for the 180 homeless residents. She continues to keep that housing list updated in the face of a severe housing shortage, especially for low-income people. Punnett has the heart of an advocate, using her housing expertise to passionately address countywide housing needs.
Law Enforcement Hero
Recipient: Retired Morenci Police Chief Mike Creswell.
Retired Morenci Police chief Mike Creswell is being honored today for his nearly 39 years in law enforcement. Creswell started his career with the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office where he began as a corrections officer and was later promoted to road patrol. He later joined the K-9 department and made the rank of corporal, until eventually becoming captain in 2014. He retired from the sheriff’s office in February 2014 and was hired as Morenci’s police chief three months later. Former Morenci City Administrator Michael Sessions said, “I believe wholeheartedly that Mike has been probably the best chief that we have ever had here in Morenci. We haven’t had a ton, but I wholeheartedly believe that.”
During his time as chief, he gave the department stability and credibility, filling its ranks of part-time officers to become a 24/7 department. He was also able to update its equipment and start a police vehicle purchase rotation.
During his career, Creswell became a master trainer for the K-9 unit and his fourth police dog, LT, a 14-year-old, bomb-sniffing dog retired along with him. Morenci Police Chief Don Thompson, who was a sergeant under Creswell knew him from dog training while he was still with the sheriff’s office, said, “Best damn chief I’ve ever worked for. I’ve been through tree of them and I hate to see him go. I really do. I can’t say enough good about him.”
Medical Professional Hero
Recipient: Lenawee County Health Department.
The Lenawee County Health Department is being recognized for its extraordinary efforts in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Lenawee County. The year 2020 was an unprecedented time of activity for the health department due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Director and health officer Martha Hall, public health preparedness director Suzie Dice and the whole health department team have done an exemplary job addressing this pandemic. They have been continually assessing, addressing and responding to the pandemic-related needs. Guiding the community through the past two years has been a heroic effort by this group. Providing health and safety information and guidance, testing oversight and now vaccination administration has been more than a full-time job for the whole department. This pandemic is still uncertain, with an unpredictable ending. Yet, our local Lenawee County Health Department continues to help and guide the community on a daily basis through it all.
Recipient: Audra Micon.
Audra Micon served in the United States Navy from 2000-04. After her time in the Navy, Micon continued to serve as a military spouse while her husband served 20 years in the Navy. Micon is highly active in the community in Lenawee County. She is an active member of the American Legion. She currently serves as second vice commander at American Legion Post 550 in Onsted. As second vice commander, Micon is responsible for organizing events and helping raise funds for the post. Micon organized and led an eight-week cornhole tournament at American Legion Post 550 that brought members of the community and local veterans together to support the post. The cornhole tournament was a remarkable success in raising money for the Legion and creating interest in veterans programs. During the tournament, she recruited three new members to join Post 550.
In addition to serving as second vice commander, Micon is exceptionally active as a member of the American Legion Honor Guard. As an Honor Guard member, she has performed military honors during funerals for local veterans and their families and assisted in veteran memorial services and parades throughout Lenawee and Jackson counties. Micon also volunteers to deliver meals for the Lenawee County Department on Aging’s home-delivered meals program. In addition to the deliveries, Micon is an active volunteer at the Lenawee Humane Society. She is also involved in the Lenawee County 4-H program and the Christian Family Centre’s Impact youth athletics programs. She is also an advocate and active recruiter for the UAW-Ford veteran welding program, a six-week program designed to train veterans in the welding field. In addition to her dedication to the community, Micon is also an active homeschool teacher, where she teaches her 12-year-old twin daughters.