Area volunteers get recognition at United Way event

BENTON HARBOR — Jeanne Harris, Larry Sehy, Mark Tumbleson and Shani Zinn have at least two traits in common: they are all Buchanan area residents and, whether through their volunteer work or through their statements, they would rather stay away from the limelight, making an impact behind the scenes.

Yet, all four were publicly recognized and applauded for their volunteerism at United Way of Southwest Michigan’s Volunteer Recognition Event Oct. 3 at the Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College, 1100 Yore Avenue, Benton Harbor.

“Volunteers are at the heart of the work of what we do at United Way of Southwest Michigan,” said United Way of Southwest Michigan President Anna Murphy in the event’s opening address.

The theme of the evening was “Leaving a Legacy,” meant to reflect the impactful work of volunteers across Berrien and Cass counties.

Tumbleson hopes his enduring impact affects those close to him.

“Hopefully, I planted seeds for my kids and my grandkid that hopefully one day they’ll get involved,” he said. “My son is already involved. My legacy is that maybe they’ll see what I’ve done in volunteer work and want to do something.”

Tumbleson was nominated by the Buchanan-Galien Lions Club, of which he is a member, for the Margaret B. Upton Volunteer Leadership Award.

He has been an active member of the Lions Club for two decades, volunteering in the organization’s numerous service capacities, from eyecare to schools to community

Tumbleson recently served as the club’s president, but he said he likes to be behind the scenes.

“I don’t like the attention,” he said. “I do it to volunteer, to help other people out, not for my own benefit.”

Although he did not win — Anna Abdelnour, nominated by the Berrien Community Foundation did — he said he was happy to be nominated.

“I’ve been very blessed,” Tumbleson said. “God has blessed me with a servant’s heart.”

Jeanne Harris was surprised to be nominated, too. The staff of Buchanan Area Senior Center nominated her for the Margaret B. Upton Volunteer Leadership Award.

Harris is the vice president of the center’s board of directors, but her impact at the center is not only in executive decision-making, but in the everyday.

“I just enjoy being there,” she said. “It’s a happy place. It really is.”

While chairing the Senior Garden Committee, bingo calling, helping provide meals or serving other volunteer capacities, Harris said she enjoys mingling and talking to the people she serves.

“It’s all about them, first and foremost,” she said. “They are who the senior center is.”

Senior center director Adam Burck and board chair Monroe Lemay indicated that Harris was nominated for her work outside of the center, too.

She organizes Buchanan’s Northside Reunion, shares Buchanan’s African-American history, helps at her church, is involved with inclusive group, One Buchanan, and sits on the Buchanan Promise Committee and the Buchanan Class of 1968 Scholarship Committee.

Sehy was another Buchanan area nominee for the Margaret B. Upton Award. He was nominated by YMCA of Southwest Michigan, but his work extends past the organization into six boards and six volunteer positions at other organizations.

“It’s obvious that Larry truly believes in the mission of each organization he is involved in, and he approaches his service with a rare dose of humility and compassion,” Murphy said at the United Way event.

She noted that Sehy’s 40 years of nonprofit experience made him a great at fundraising, and he took his experience to help with capital campaigns for Niles-Buchanan YMCA, Buchanan District Library and Cass County District Library’s Howard Township Branch.

Zinn was nominated by The Salvation Army – Niles for the Sustaining Volunteer Award, which is volunteer that has been volunteering for at least two years.

“Start to finish” is Zinn’s motto when it comes to volunteering, Murphy said.

When assisting at The Salvation Army’s seasonal holiday assistance events, Zinn would prepare meals, accept applications and distribute food. During her seven years at the organization, she also assisted with food drives, community meals, bell-ringing and youth and ministry service help.

Zinn did not win the award. Gokul Nair, a nominee by Whirlpool Corporation, did.

Zinn, Lehy, Harris and Tumbleson were all nominated in light of a new volunteer effort by United Way of Southwest Michigan.

Volunteer United is meant to connect people with projects hosted by organizations and corporate team building through service.

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