by CYNTHIA KMETT
Volunteers are the heart of a community. For the 50th time, those who work to make Troy a better place to live, work and play were honored for their contributions at Leadership Troy’s Annual Community Awards Banquet at the San Marino Club.
That makes it pretty fitting that this year’s Business Community Appreciation Award goes to Ron and Mary Vendittelli of the San Marino Club, who have overseen the needs of literally hundreds of nonprofits from across metro Detroit as they worked to raise the funds to keep their projects going, and it was all done over a delicious Italian dinner.
Ron and Mary will be giving up their duties at the end of the year and be free to enjoy some evenings out of the kitchen. The dinner was sponsored by Troy residents Yasmine and Kamal Shouhayib of The Choice Group.
The 1982 Distinguished Citizen was Terry Desmond of Desmond and Sons Funeral Homes. He got a special thank you this year for all the dinners he’s provided to the Distinguished Citizens who followed him. (He’s now paid for almost 30 dinners for just me. Thank you so much for your generosity, Terry.)
The highlight of every year’s banquet is the presentation of this year’s Distinguished Citizen. That honor goes to Brenda Balas. As Brian Nutting, Troy High Band Director, noted, when he took over the job, every other parent told him, “You have to get Brenda Balas on our board.”
She was already known as a volunteer superstar among her peers, and she would spend the next five years doing what needed to be done to make the bands successful. Balas and her husband Paul moved to Troy in 1992 and she dipped her toes in the volunteer pool first at Big Beaver Methodist Church and Bemis Elementary School. She would move on to the Troy Area Interfaith Club where Balas became friends with Suraiya Essack.
“She’s so organized she has a monthly schedule a year in advance,” noted a smiling Essack. Brenda’s son Ben, who took a day from his studies at the University of Michigan for this dinner, called his mom “incredibly inspiring” and wondered how she still has time for tennis three times a week.
Volunteers of the Year honorees are:
Boys & Girls Club of Troy – Karen Yelder-Beard
Emerald Lake Village Homeowners Association – John Martin
Friends of the Troy Public Library – Sharon Altman
Friends of Troy Seniors – Jean Lawrence
Kiwanis Club of Troy – Jeff Hendry
Leadership Troy – Ning Ye
Leadership Troy – Carol Zhang
Nature Society – William Watkins
North Woodward Community Foundation – Jim Cyrulewski
Senior Home Assistance Repair Program (SHARP) – Bill Randell
Troy Democratic Club – Kathy Martin
Troy Family Daze Festival – Lisa Grodsky
Troy Family Daze Festival – Wayne Reif
Troy Historical Society – Ray Lucas
Troy Recreation Department – Bob Berk
Troy Recreation Department – Bob Treharne
Troy Rotary – Larry Fieroh
Troy Women’s Association – Kathi Fishbain
Troy Youth Assistance – Ruth Fedor