West Michigan Works! celebrates 2020 Essential Service Award honorees

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The region’s workforce development agency recently celebrated eight frontline workers for going above and beyond in 2020.

West Michigan Works! recognized eight area employees with Beverly A. Drake Essential Service Awards at The Economic Club of Grand Rapids’ virtual April meeting and presented them each 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.

“The Essential Service Awards have taken on a heightened significance throughout the past year,” said Mark Bergsma, chair of the West Michigan Works! workforce development board. “The pandemic has emphasized the critical role of the many frontline and behind-the-scenes workers. Their hard work allows our communities to function, and they deserve to be recognized.”

The 2020 Essential Service Award honorees were:

  • Kevin Allmon, building maintenance and housekeeping, Integrated Packaging Machinery
  • Carol Lyman, senior administrative assistant, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital
  • Carolyn McNeil, catering captain and marketing, On The Border Holland
  • Angela Reyna Perez, program assistant, Affinity Mentoring
  • Shaun Price, electrical construction, Buist Electric
  • Jesseca Schrader, registered nurse, Metro Health-University of Michigan Health and HealthBar
  • Mike Smith, sales professional, Bekins
  • Michelle Tokarczyk, front desk receptionist clerk, Muskegon County

“When you are passionate about something you love, it isn’t going above and beyond; it is just doing what you are called to do,” said Schrader, who served in the intensive care unit throughout 2020.

When she’s not working at Metro Health-University of Michigan Health, Schrader serves as a school nurse at Kenowa Hill Middle School through HealthBar.

“There was a lot of anxiety for kids concerned about what it was going to be like at school and if they were going to be safe,” Schrader said. “Helping them understand why we had the measures in place that we did really helped to ease the anxiety. More than anything, we were a face of security.”

Last year was difficult for many businesses, especially in the hospitality industry. For Carolyn McNeil, catering captain and marketing professional at On The Border Holland, last year was particularly exhausting due to the restaurant operating with fewer staff members.

“We were running minimal staff, as most places were, which didn’t change what we had to do; it just changed the number of people we had to do it,” McNeil said. “I take pride in the work that I do. I want to know that I’m doing the best that I can. If at the end of the day I know that I gave 100%, then I’ve done my job.”

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. Additionally, the nominee must work within 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 Awards categories include administrative/office worker, cleaning/housekeeping/groundskeeping, child care, food service, government, health care/elder care, hospitality, nonprofit, retail, skilled labor and transportation.

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