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Honoring Resident Leadership with the Larry Bratschie Award

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Behind-the-scenes community work deserves recognition; the Larry Bratschie Award honors the dedication of those who pursue it.
2020 Larry Bratschie Award Finalists (from left): Daniel Drent, Rosa Anderson, Thelma Jones, Doreen Timmers, and SaRah Eley

2020 Larry Bratschie Award Finalists (from left): Daniel Drent, Rosa Anderson, Thelma Jones, Doreen Timmers, and SaRah Eley

Get Involved

Read more about Daniel, Doreen, Thelma, SaRah, and Rosa at Dwelling Place's website.

Are you a Dwelling Place resident interested in being more involved in your property and/or community? Or a community member interested in supporting and empowering residents through training opportunities, volunteering, or other forms of partnership? Connect with Julia Ervin about getting involved: [email protected]

Timmers (left) shares her peer support expertise at the 2018 Neighbor Knowledge Exchange

Timmers (left) shares her peer support expertise at the 2018 Neighbor Knowledge Exchange

Jones (left, pictured pre-COVID) supports her neighbors with day-to-day encouragement and assistance

Jones (left, pictured pre-COVID) supports her neighbors with day-to-day encouragement and assistance

“I want to be part of that voice of positive change in the neighborhood. I want it to improve for everybody.” The words of Daniel Drent, recipient of the 2020 Larry Bratschie Award, embody passionate and effective resident leadership, and are testament to the values of the long-standing community tribute. Since 2013, residents have been recognized by the Larry Bratschie Award to showcase the value of resident engagement in Dwelling Place communities. Over the years, Drent has been a constant force of activism in the Heartside neighborhood where he lives, with special interest in fresh food access for Heartside neighbors and organized efforts for public space improvements. Alongside Drent are four other Larry Bratschie Award finalists, including neighborhood association members, grass-roots organizers, community gardeners, and other behind-the-scenes leaders. Their stories of inspiration and dedication will be featured during January and February of 2021.

The Larry Bratschie Award was created November 6th, 2013 to honor former Dwelling Place Board member, Larry Bratschie. For more than 25 years Larry quietly contributed to the mission of Dwelling Place with passion, initiative, and community spirit. The award, named in his honor, is meant to celebrate a Dwelling Place resident who best exemplifies extraordinary characteristics of a community builder and who, by their actions, contributes substantially to improvements in the community, the neighborhood where they live and/or the apartment community that they call home. A $500 scholarship is awarded to the recipient of the award.

In September 2020, Dwelling Place staff, residents, and community members were asked to nominate Dwelling Place residents who they believed encompassed and demonstrated these characteristics. 19 nominations were collected, and the Award Selection Committee narrowed down the nominations to five finalists; Rosa Anderson, Thelma Jones, SaRah Eley, Doreen Timmers and Daniel Drent. These finalists uniquely contributed to their communities through serving on committees, checking in on neighbors, tending to gardens, and encouraging others through writing projects.

“I’m passionate about helping others, helping them get through a rough day, helping them see there is a way to get through, and teaching them there are things to help them get through. That’s the heart of my passion right there!” Timmers, one of the finalists, writes poems and essays to encourage fellow residents. Sarah Eley, another finalist, exclaims similar sentiments when talking about what inspires her to stay involved in community groups. “I struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and things of that nature, but I try not to let it stop me from doing things. I figure I could help someone else by helping myself.” Yet another finalist, Thelma Jones, finds her identity in helping her neighbors.  “I call them, check in with them, and a few of them even call me for help.”

For many, passion is the spark that ignites involvement, but aspiration keeps the flame going. Finalist Rosa Anderson, a Community Leadership team member who is actively engaged within her Muskegon Heights apartment community, is ambitious for quality of life improvements. Currently, she is dreaming about what it would look like for her community to achieve food sovereignty. “I want to get into creating food sources around the city. I want to get lots around the city and grow things and teach the kids and adults how to harvest… I’m going to do everything I can to squash those hunger pains, to be as self-sufficient as possible!”

These five finalists encompass the value of leadership in their words and actions. Follow their stories and impact this season to glean inspiration and learn about community change.

With a mission to improve the lives of people by creating quality affordable housing, providing essential support services and serving as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization, Dwelling Place serves families and people in 4 counties across West Michigan. Dwelling Place is powered by volunteers and numerous staff persons; guest writers create our Rapidian content. Thanks to Julia Ervin for her contribution of this piece. Julia is currently serving as a Resident Leadership Development AmeriCorps VISTA member and is an adventure enthusiast, community connector, and practicer of Righteousness.

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