Three individuals, a nonprofit program and a business from across the U.P. are being honored as the recipients of the 12th annual U.P. Service Awards.
Grow & Lead: Community and Youth Development presents the awards to recognize exemplary volunteer and charitable efforts throughout the Upper Peninsula. Award categories include senior, ages 65 and above; adult, ages 21-64; youth, under 21, volunteer program and business community leader.
“In a year that is exceptionally challenging for so many individuals and organizations, it is especially gratifying to recognize community servants who give freely of their time and talents to help others,” said Amy Quinn, Grow & Lead CEO. “Volunteers are the backbone of the nonprofit sector, and without them, many vital services would go undelivered. The U.P. Service Awards program is a way to honor the contributions of these unsung heroes.”
Dennis Tasson of Ishpeming is the recipient of the award in the senior category. Tasson volunteers at Clear Lake Education Center near Manistique. He serves as the president of the Clear Lake Stewards Group which raises funds to support the camp. He also is a certified high ropes course instructor at the camp. He began coordinating school group trips to Clear Lake 22 years ago as principal of Aspen Ridge Middle School in the NICE Community Schools district. After Tasson retired in 2011, he continued spearheading the school’s effort to ensure each seventh grader could attend the camp for a three-day, overnight learning experience. He works with families and local businesses to make the trip affordable to all.
Melissa Santini of Ontonagon receives the award in the adult category. Santini started volunteering with Dial Help in Houghton in 2015. Since then, she has answered 800 calls on its crisis line and serves as a victim advocate in Ontonagon. She helps connect clients to the local resources they need. According to her nominators, she provides a calm listening ear to those in need, a safe place to those who may have none and empowerment to those who are feeling insignificant.
Micaela Geborkoff, 16, of Chassell receives the award in the youth category. Among her many volunteer activities, Geborkoff serves on the granting committee of the Keweenaw Community Foundation’s Student Leadership and Advisory Council of the Keweenaw (SLACK) and participates in service projects with the group. As president of the Houghton County Service 4-H Club she seeks out, organizes and leads service projects such as the Houghton County Father’s Day Flood restoration, which has been ongoing for two years. She has also winterized homes of community members through a partnership between the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team, SLACK and 4-H.
Gulliver Historical Society, recipient of the award in the volunteer program category, operates the Seul Choix Pointe Lighthouse on Lake Michigan in Gulliver. The all-volunteer organization preserves the light, which it restored 32 years ago, and maintains the surrounding six-acre grounds which includes seven buildings. Volunteer tour guides greet visitors and tell the history of the lighthouse and people who served there. Volunteers also conduct fundraisers; update museum displays and operate a research and genealogy library and a gift shop.
Jacquart Fabric Products of Ironwood, home of the Stormy Kromer brand, receives the award in the business community leader category. Responding to the COVID pandemic in March 2020, the cut-and-sew manufacturing business changed over its main production floor, engineered masks and gowns, sourced material and began producing personal protective equipment for healthcare and other frontline workers. Later that spring, it launched a Stormy Kromer mask and donated part of ongoing sales to the Gogebic Range Health Foundation in Ironwood and St. Luke New Life Center in Flint.