West Michigan Works! honors essential workers

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West Michigan Works! recently recognized 10 area frontline workers with Beverly A. Drake Essential Service Awards.

Honorees were recognized at The Economic Club of Grand Rapids’ February meeting and presented with a $100 Meijer gift card. The Essential Service Awards recognize frontline workers who go above and beyond their daily responsibilities and display integrity, passion and commitment, West Michigan Works! said.

“Whether they’re working in customer-facing positions or behind the scenes, these extraordinary, dedicated essential workers are critical to the success of their organizations,” said Mark Bergsma, chair of the West Michigan Works! workforce development board. “The past two years have demonstrated just how vital frontline workers are and how important it is to recognize them for the impact they have in our community and the significant role they play in our local economy.”

2021 Essential Service Award honorees

  • Kylie Anderson, child care teacher, AppleTree Early Care and Preschool, Hudsonville
  • Nicia Coleman, inspector, Embassy Suites Grand Rapids Downtown
  • John Hidalgo, maintenance technician, American Chemical Solutions
  • Donna Houseman, registered dental assistant, My Community Dental Center
  • Kathryn Koski, clerk III, Kent County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Lyndsey Prentice, front desk champion, Courtyard by Marriott Holland Downtown
  • Rebeca Sastre, food service assistant, Wedgwood Christian Services
  • Abby Teasley, migrant recruiter and home liaison, Grand Haven Public Schools
  • Linda Vis, food transportation driver, Jenison Hudsonville Food Service
  • Jim Whalen, appliance buyer, Bekins

Sastre said she sees her job as a mission.

“I am proud of where I work because I know that my job isn’t just providing for me financially; I get to spend every hour of my day doing something that I care about and helping someone else, and that means a lot to me,” she said. “I keep my eyes on the vision of the organization and the purpose of my position. I don’t just cook food; I’m here to support this agency so that these children can receive the love and care that they need.”

Sastre was nominated by her manager, Sue Vachon, for her service to the youths Wedgwood serves.

“I’ve worked with Rebeca for seven years, and she’s never called in for anything,” said Sue Vachon, food service supervisor, Wedgwood Christian Services. “Rebeca is in charge of baking and decorating the client’s birthday cakes, and she always makes sure to find out what they’re passionate about, maybe sports or a favorite color flower, and really make it special for them. When they were required to quarantine after contracting COVID-19, Rebeca baked cookies and wrote personalized handwritten notes with words of encouragement.”

Hidalgo said his work ethic originates from his parents. As a boy, he watched his dad work at an auto shop and enjoyed learning about the different tools he was using.

“My dad was originally Dominican, and my mother was Colombian. Nothing was easy for them,” Hidalgo said. “Growing up, I saw their focus and old-school mentality and learned how to do things the right way. I saw the struggle that they had to go through, and that’s what gives me the enthusiasm to do my best every day.”

Hidalgo was instrumental in helping American Chemical Solutions start producing hand sanitizer during the height of the pandemic, said Scott Fisher, maintenance supervisor.

“In addition to his commitment, skillset, attention to detail and work ethic, John is a great person,” Fisher said. “His commitment to getting the hand sanitizer project up and running in a very short period of time during the pandemic was exceptional. John understood the importance of the project and even though it was beyond his normal role of (preventive) maintenance and repairs, he took it in stride.”

To be eligible for an Essential Service Award, individuals must have at least two years of employment with their current company; hold a nonmanagerial position; and exhibit pride in their job, a positive attitude, strong work ethic and effective time management. The nominee must work in the West Michigan Works! service area of Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon and Ottawa counties. Winners are chosen by a committee of the West Michigan Works! workforce development board.

Essential Service Award categories include administrative/office worker, cleaning/housekeeping/groundskeeping, child care, food service, government, health care/elder care, hospitality, nonprofit, retail, skilled labor and transportation.

More information is at westmiworks.org/esa.

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