12 Days of Giving: Jeff Kozinski
One of Jeff Kozinski’s favorite moments in his 23 years of teaching happened when one of his students broke down crying in front of him.
The tears came when the student was working with Jeff on a project called Operation Christmas. As part of the project, the student made several trips to the home of a family in need to deliver Christmas presents.
“The family was very touched that he would do this for them,” Jeff says. “So, when my student told me this story about how they thanked him ...
12 Days of Giving: Lacey Peters
Lacey Peters is constantly on the move.
Whether it is shouting out instructions over the top of pop music as she instructs a Zumba class, running from meeting to meeting to help out with civic groups and volunteer projects, or transporting her children to afterschool activities, the member experience director for the YMCA of Southwest Michigan is full of energy — and she needs it.
Much like Lacey, the newly formed YMCA of Southwest Michigan (which consists of the Niles-Buchanan YMCA and St. ...
12 Days of Giving: Anjana Gupta
When Anjana Gupta met her little, she had no idea the ways it would change her life.
“I’ve watched this little girl grow into a preteen,” says Anjana, a 36-year-old dentist from St. Joseph. “It’s been both terrifying and so great.”
Anjana is a volunteer with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Berrien and Cass, an organization that pairs volunteers, called “bigs,” with at-risk youth, “littles,” in order to foster positive one-on-one relationships between the children and the ...
12 Days of Giving: Ronald Butts
Ron Butts feels most in his element when surrounded by playful barks and purring felines, which makes sense, considering he grew up the son of a veterinarian.
In 1991, Ron hung up his hat as an electrician after earning his degree in electronics, and took a job cleaning kennels at Cass County Animal Control. Twenty-six years later, the Cass County native is in charge of the same facility.
“Growing up in a household where my father was a vet, I always had a passion for animal welfare and ...
12 Days of Giving: Breeze Ettl
Less than a week after beginning her role as executive director for the southwest Michigan branch of the American Red Cross, Breeze Ettl was tasked with an enormous project: organizing efforts to help with the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
“It’s really quiet around these offices right now,” the Stevensville resident said during a phone interview from her Kalamazoo office, a little more than one week after the first hurricane made its way through Texas. “Our volunteers and a ...
12 Days of Giving: Kendra Hixenbaugh
Many newlyweds spend their first holiday season together baking pies for the family and creating their own traditions. However, Lieutenant Kendra Hixenbaugh and her new husband Joseph will be spending the season working hard to make sure Niles families are able to enjoy their holidays.
Having just been married in June, Kendra and her husband moved to Niles to serve as pastors and administrators of the Niles Salvation Army.
“It’s been kind of crazy,” Kendra said. “But it’s been ...
12 Days of Giving: Steve Camilleri
Steve Camilleri is a hugger.
Offering a warm smile and direct eye contact as he speaks, the South Bend man makes many he meets feel like a longtime friend, embracing his companions — both literally and figuratively — exactly as they are.
The son of a therapist and a bartender from New York, Steve says he was “raised to give.”
“The principles my parents gave, they’re deeply embedded in us,” he says. “My parents were so accepting of everyone they met and I like to think they ...
12 Days of Giving: Kathy Schneider
Described by those who utilize its services as a “community within a community,” St. Margaret’s House in South Bend is a destination where women and children are accepted for who they are, regardless of their circumstances.
For 26 years, Kathy Schneider has committed thousands of hours to helping women struggling with poverty in her position as executive director. St. Margaret’s House serves as a day center for women and children that provides basic services such as breakfast and lunch, ...
12 Days of Giving: Andy Janson
Andy Janson has always believed in helping others and addressing social issues. This is why when an opportunity arose in 2014 to work with United Way of Southwest Michigan, he jumped on it.
“It’s a great place to be,” Andy says. “They do some incredible work.”
Andy, 53, of St. Joseph, has been working as board chair for United Way for the last three years.
United Way of Southwest Michigan is one of more than 1,300 United Way branches in the United States.
United Way works with donors ...
12 Days of Giving: Cheri Beck
A busy stay-at-home mother, Cheri Beck spends her days caring for other people, so it feels only natural to also spend her free time feeding hungry people throughout her community.
Cheri, 39, of Stevensville, has been volunteering with the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen for several years, a job she calls rewarding. Cheri typically organizes volunteers to run the soup kitchen twice a month, making sure there is enough food to serve and enough hands to serve it.
Despite how much thought and dedicat...