January 25, 2017IMLAY CITY — Yvonne Wilson has worn many hats in the 40-plus years she's called Imlay City home, among them 'teacher, coach, parent and volunteer.' Now, she can add 'Citizen of the Year' to that collection. Wilson was given the chamber's highest honor on Saturday at the Imlay City Chamber of Commerce Dinner Dance at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
The Imlay City Chamber, as they do every year, uses the dinner dance as a chance to recognize the men and women who strive to make this community a better one. Others receiving accolades that night were Merit Award winner Pastor Randy Hall and Organization of the Year honors were given to the Extreme Angels Foundation.
"Love for God, family and community has defined the life of Yvonne Wilson throughout the forty-four years she has lived and worked among us. She is indeed worthy to be named the 2016 Imlay City Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year," presenter Sharon Muir said.
Wilson's family and friends, who were waiting in the wings, emerged as part of Muir's announcement, adding to the surprise.
"I've been very blessed by my lord and savior all of my life. I've had a really wonderful life here in Imlay City. This is a wonderful community," she said in response.
Sharon Muir presents the 2016 Citizen of the Year award to Yvonne Wilson at Saturday's Chamber Dinner Dance.
Wilson came to Imlay City as a teacher in 1972. She graduated that same year from Oakland University and started her career in education at Weston Elementary as a first grade teacher.
"Throughout her 27 years in teaching, Yvonne touched the lives of nearly 800 students, helping them learn not only academic subject matter, but also teaching by example how to be kinder people and better citizens," Muir went on to say.
Wilson gave of her time at many after-school activities for elementary students and was the Imlay City High School varsity cheer coach from 1976 to 1981.
She and husband, Richard, met at an after-school bowling league for teachers and married in 1976. Together they were involved in Little League sports when their son Brad was a youngster.
She's given of her time to Imlay City Chamber of Commerce activities for the last 25 years, namely with the Blueberry Festival. From collecting donations and helping visitors at the festival's information booth to coaching entrants in the Little Miss Blueberry Pageant and lending a hand in the sound booth during the pageant, Wilson's involvement with the annual event has been wide ranging. Additionally, she served as the chamber's temporary director while the organization looked for a new leader.
For the past 20 years, Wilson has been an active member of the Imlay City United Methodist Church where she's been involved with worship and music, technology and drama in weekly services and assisted with other events like vacation bible school and The Refuge, Lapeer County's portable homeless shelter.
"She has mentored youth and ventured into the mission field alongside them. Yvonne has put feet to her faith and shown love through active participation in ministry to our community and beyond," said Muir, a fellow church member.
Most recently, Wilson threw her support behind Relay For Life, a fundraising event that benefits the American Cancer Society. Over the past 13 years, she's served as a team captain and event chairperson for the Lapeer County Relay. Muir noted that the Relay has realized great success in those 13 years-having raised between $70,000 and $100,000 in each of those years.
Wilson was the 2010 Merit Award recipient.
Rep. Gary Howell also took part in the awards presentations, giving each recipient a proclamation signed by Governor Rick Snyder, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Senator Mike Green and himself.
Mayor Walt Bargen presented Hall with his Merit Award, noting the myriad of events and projects Hall and fellow Heritage Church members have performed for the community. From car shows and archery events on church grounds to numerous attractions at the Blueberry Festival—like a photo booth, cooling station and catapult—Bargen said that Hall's dedication and enthusiasm for the community stood out.
Hall, who had just undergone open heart surgery one week prior, said he was grateful for many things including the chance to "make a difference for people."
He said he was simply following the examples of others by giving of his time and efforts in the community, noting that his fellow Heritage Church pastor, Tim Wright, had donated a kidney just eight weeks prior.
"The leaders in this community inspire me to be better," Hall said.
He said he wants his life to emulate that of Jesus who "came to serve, not to be served."
Last year Heritage Church received the Organization of the Year award.
Saturday marked the second time that Sue Howard, Extreme Cheer and Dance owner, took home an Organization of the Year award on behalf of the Extreme Angels Foundation. In 2007, the Extreme Cheer and Dance Angels were recognized for the work they did to benefit the less fortunate.
Downtown Development Authority Director Dana Walker noted that students in Howard's programs perform a variety of public service projects like roadside cleanups, assist fire victims and collects donations for Crossroads for Youth, located in Oxford.
Students also take part in community events, performing at the Chamber's Merchant Trick or Treat, Blueberry Festival and Christmas parade.
"Sue loves to teach kids to give to others," Walker said.
Upon accepting the award, Howard thanked the foundation's board members and her children, Felicia and Anthony, the original Extreme Angel members.
"This is an awe-inspiring community were we help one another and every act has value," Howard said.