State Bar of Michigan names the ‘best’ in 2013


Marge Palmerlee. Courtesy State Bar of Michigan

The State Bar of Michigan will honor what it calls “the best in the legal profession” on Wednesday.

Eleven major SBM awards will be presented at a special banquet at the Lansing Center, in conjunction with the SBM Annual Meeting, which will take place Sept. 18-20.

Marge Palmerlee and Degage Ministries

Among the honorees is Grand Rapids resident Marge Palmerlee, who will receive the Liberty Bell Award.

Palmerlee is executive director of Degage Ministries, a Grand Rapids nonprofit that serves the homeless, unemployed, mentally ill and physically disabled.

Palmerlee began her work with Degage 20 years ago as a volunteer, but soon her passion for the organization led her to her current role of executive director.

When she was initially hired, Degage had four employees and served coffee every evening to about 50 people.

“We started meeting with people and asking them how we could help them in their journeys,” Palmerlee said. “We listened to their most pressing needs, and we acted.”

Degage added a laundromat, a hair salon, showers and other programs, and it expanded the dining room and started a state ID program.

It also added Open Door, an overnight center for women who need a safe haven. Since its inception in 2003, the center has served more than 2,000 women.

The Degage ministry now serves about 500 people per day, 10 times more than it did when Palmerlee took over.

State Bar of Michigan 2013 award winners

Kurt E. Schnelz: Roberts P. Hudson Award

Hon. Donna T. Morris: Frank J. Kelley Distinguished Public Service Award

Eugene Driker: Champion of Justice Award

Michele L. Halloran: Champion of Justice Award

Valerie R. Newman: Champion of Justice Award

Ann L. Routt: Champion of Justice Award

Annette Kay Stanfield Spinks: Champion of Justice Award

James J. White: John W. Reed Michigan Lawyer Legacy Award

Robert G. Mossel: John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award

Elizabeth A. Kitchen-Troop: Kimberly M. Cahill Bar Leadership Award

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