Jessica Mathews /

The Livingston County United Way’s Annual Spirit of the Community Breakfast has been deemed a success.

Just under two hundred people gathered at Crystal Gardens on Wednesday morning to celebrate the work of the local United Way and “its commitment to making the community a great place for everyone to grow up, raise a family and retire”.

Jeff Blagg, Pastor at SonRise Church and current United Way Board President, kicked off the annual meeting by recognizing outgoing board members, Carole Damon and Brian Jonckheere, for their years of service and dedication. He also welcomed newly elected board members. Carol Griffith, Co-owner of Griffith Realty; Frank Mancuso, Attorney and partner at Mancuso & Cameron, P.C.; Jenny Nash, Livingston County Treasurer; Joseph Ptolemy, software developer with X by 2; Karen Rex, Master Gardener and Beekeeper; and Bob Musch, Retiree from Dow Corning and Community Volunteer.

Rena Pomaville of Tsunagari Services, Inc. and Nicole Mandziuk, Development and Marketing Director at United Way, shared the success of United Way’s Community Events: Day of Caring, Tour de Livingston and Matching Money Monday. They also recognized Workplace Campaign Successes.

Pinckney Community Schools Superintendent Rick Todd thanked both Ore Creek Craft Cidery & Tap Room and Uptown Coffee for holding the first “round-up at the register” campaign, which allowed customers to add some change to their bill to support United Way. As he shared how the donated dollars make a difference in local hometowns, the County’s local school mascots interrupted his speech to fire up the audience.

A press release states “Even though the important communication about tackling hunger, helping older adults age in place, ensuring people are safely housed and addressing mental health were emphasized, the mascots really brought home the positive IMPACT we can have when we work together to support our community. Amazing things happen when we stand UNITED”.

United Way Executive Director Anne Rennie presented the 2022 Volunteer of the Year awards.

Mariana Rossi, an exchange student from Brazil, received the Young Person of Distinction Award. The Fowlerville High School Interact Club received the Youth Organization of the Year Award. Hayley Trombley with Livingston County Catholic Charities received the Charles W. Itsell Volunteer of the Year Award while Community Volunteer Carole Damon received the Donald Epley Lifetime Service Award. Michigan Rod Products received the Randy Rudisill Business of the Year Award.

Blagg introduced the incoming Board president, Katie Pikkarainen, with Katie Pikkarainen State Farm Insurance, who thanked the staff, participants and community.

Also recognized were two valuable community leaders who are retiring this year - Mary Nye, who served as the United Way’s Finance Director for 34 years; and Mark Robinson, who has served as Executive Director at Livingston County Catholic Charities for the last 22 years.

The program ended with three calls to action. Businesses were encouraged to host round-up and employee campaigns, while participants and community members were encouraged to be a part of the Community Investment process, which determines how donated dollars are invested. Those presentations are held at the end of April.