Spirit of Community Award
The Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven-Spring Lake-Ferrysburg Spirit of Community Award was presented to Michelle Hanks, a Spring Lake businesswoman and accountant.
The award honoring the community spirit of the late Daryl DuBridge was presented by Kelly Larson, the 2014 recipient of the award and 2016-17 Chamber Board chairwoman. The award acknowledges individuals who provide valuable service by devoting time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community and who demonstrate leadership and initiative in the development of volunteer projects.
It is not often that a performing musician and a self-proclaimed “tax geek” are one in the same, but it fits Hanks to a tee. As a nontraditional student, she graduated with a B.A. in accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and obtained her CPA when she moved to Michigan in 1998. Although many met Hanks through her work at DeBoer Baumann, many more knew her as Mikki Marsh — local singer/songwriter with a slight Texas accent.
Hanks and her husband, Gary, saw an opportunity in a historic building in the Village of Spring Lake to create a live/work space that would not only bring a music venue to Northwest Ottawa County but provide an outlet for her creative musical side. The old Masonic Temple was transformed into Seven Steps Up, a unique venue for artists and community alike. It brought a new vibe to the village by presenting more than 400 concerts to date.
Hanks strongly believes in giving back to the community and was looking for ways to expand the reach of music outside the walls of Seven Steps Up. She founded and serves as CEO of Courtyard Concerts, a nonprofit formed to give back to the community by donating to local charities. Next came Liz’s Concerts for Kids, a free event specifically for children at Seven Steps Up. And this past year, she used her training as a professional sound engineer for Market Music at the Grand Haven Farmers Market and Winter Market at the Depot.
Hanks has served as president of Grand Haven Rotary and is a current member of Spring Lake Rotary. She is a member of 100-plus Women Who Care, a past Athena nominee, member of the Lakeshore Athena steering committee and treasurer for West Michigan Alliance for Veterans. She is an animal lover and supporter of local animal shelters.
In 2017, Hanks stepped up to invest and serve her community as a member of the Village Council, council liaison to the Spring Lake Downtown Development Authoritiy, and by opening Michelle Hanks Tax & Business Consulting in Spring Lake. With a partner DDA member, she is spearheading the Village Adventure, Spring Lake’s first business crawl.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr. M. Gary Robertson was honored Thursday with the Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
The award was presented by North Ottawa Community Health System CEO Shelleye Yaklin. The award recognizes and honors businesspeople who strive toward the highest level of professional accomplishments, who excel in their chosen profession, and have devoted significant time and energy to improve the community’s quality of life.
Robertson’s career as an OB/GYN has spanned more than 50 years caring for three generations of women and two generations of babies in our community. Upon completing his residency at Tulane in New Orleans, he moved to Grand Haven to become one of the first OB/GYN’s in our community as part of a private practice known as “The Trio” providing care for families at North Ottawa Community Hospital. This group of forward-thinking physicians established women’s health in our community.
During his career at NOCHS, Robertson served as chief of staff and chief of surgery. He served as a board member for the Michigan State Medical Society Foundation and Michigan Professional Insurance Exchange, and has been involved with numerous medical professional organizations and travel groups that provide worldwide professional development.
With busy and unpredictable hours in his professional life, Robertson has devoted significant time and energy to improve our community’s quality of life. He has led innovation and forward thought, and passed it on to help others grow through leadership and inspiration. He has served on the Chamber of Commerce, YMCA and NOCHS boards, and as past chairman of Kiwanis. In addition to governance roles, he has been a successful fundraiser for these organizations. He currently serves as a board member of Senior Resources in Muskegon and has volunteered his time to see patients at Love in Action’s free health clinic.
Robertson is a graduate of Albion College and Wayne State University Medical School (1963). He was drafted and served in the U.S. Air Force, providing OB/GYN services on a South Dakota base. Following his residency at Tulane, he chose Grand Haven as the home for his family. Robertson and his wife, Pennie, have three children and six grandchildren.
Dr. Elizabeth Curtis Young Professional Award
Brook Bisonet, recipient of the first Dr. Elizabeth Curtis Young Professional Award, presented local Realtor Meghan Heritage with the 2018 award Thursday night.
The award recognizes a young professional who embodies the business, community and volunteer philosophy of the late Dr. Curtis, who had an unwavering responsibility to community through the philosophy of always “paying it forward” through involvement with local organizations that elevate the overall quality of life in Northwest Ottawa County.
“Paying it forward” is a phrase that describes Heritage perfectly. As a young professional embarking on a teaching career working with inner-city children, she had no idea where it would lead her. That experience of mentoring, teaching and caring, and the student success that came from all their hard work together, opened her heart to the thought that more could be accomplished working together than apart. She returned to college to complete graduate school, and then opportunity knocked and she transitioned from a career in education to land development and real estate.
Heritage received her real estate license, then her broker’s license. Her business accomplishments include building a woman-owned, top-producing real estate brokerage that created an initiative of giving 5 percent of the brokerage’s commissions to the local organization of their clients’ choosing.
Growing her business went hand in hand with community service. She is a member of Grand Haven Rotary and the Chamber, West Michigan Association of Realtors, Michigan Association of Realtors, National Association of Realtors, Center for Women in Transition, First Presbyterian Church, previous United Way campaign board member and United Way Lighthouse Circle — just to name a few of her community commitments and accomplishments.
Over her career, Heritage has mentored students and hundreds of new agents as an instructor for the West Michigan Realtors Association. As a result, she conceived a community outreach event called The Be Event and, with five women whom she admired to support her, developed an annual event to bring women together.
Heritage and her husband, John, have two children and reside in Grand Haven.