Clarkston celebrates 31 years of awards

Back row from left, Rob Whitcomb, Kailan Mehta, Pastor Dan Niewoit, Alan Partington, Bruce Mercado and Tom Middleton. Second row, Chelsea O’Brien, Leanna Haun, Laura Niewoit, Peg Roth, Kathy Novak, Jennifer Herrmann and Amy Music. Front row, Olivia Thomas, Lauren Dombrowski, Bailey Schroeder, Hannah Music, Nadia Smith, Emily Herrmann and Julia Walker. Photo by Trevor Keiser
Back row from left, Rob Whitcomb, Kailan Mehta, Pastor Dan Niewoit, Alan Partington, Bruce Mercado and Tom Middleton. Second row, Chelsea O’Brien, Leanna Haun, Laura Niewoit, Peg Roth, Kathy Novak, Jennifer Herrmann and Amy Music. Front row, Olivia Thomas, Lauren Dombrowski, Bailey Schroeder, Hannah Music, Nadia Smith, Emily Herrmann and Julia Walker. Photo by Trevor Keiser

A crowd gathered at Clarkston Community Church at 7:30 a.m. to celebrate 31 years of Clarkston Community Awards and to honor this year’s recipients.
Each recipient or group chosen were given a nomination by a person in the community and ultimately chosen by the Awards Selection Committee and Community Awards Committee.
Owner of Picasso’s Grapevine Leanna Haun was named “Business Person of the Year,” which recognizes a local business who contributes to make this a better community to live and do business in.
Haun has produced over 30 episodes of her show on Independence Television, which has been seen nationwide, which is an excellent way for her to get her company’s name and paintings recognized across the country. Haun has also donated over 100 paintings to the Pontiac Schools, so they can display them around the school. All of her paintings are light and inviting, which will help give off positive feelings to all of the students. Picasso’s Grapevine has opened up a door for artists in the community to share there are and collaboration on ideas.
Haun thanked “the wonderful community of Clarkston.”
“I’m a transplant. I’ve only been out here for five years or so now. I grew up in the Gross Pointe side of town and spent my life there. While I loved it, it was beautiful, nice and people were great. It wasn’t until I came here that I felt like I belonged,” she said. “It was just the warmth of everybody, the excitement of just local people. I can’t tell you how much I love just stepping outside the store and talking to people while they walk down the sidewalk. At night I’ll turn down the lights after we’ve cleaned everything up and I’ll just kind of sit there and watch people go by. It’s just fun to feel the wonderful love of everybody around you – it’s that love, passion and compassion that goes into any business.”
Alan Partington received “Adult Youth Volunteer,” which recognized individuals who have given their time, energy and talents in a volunteer capacity to help our area young people.
As a proud member of the Clarkston Area Optimist Club, Partington has always looked for ways to help Clarkston Area Schools, such as sponsoring an English Essay Contest where students win awards. He also donates his time helping at the district art show, as well as giving students at the Renaissance High School opportunities they would not normally have, such as creating and sustaining a video club.
“Renaissance High School I think that’s a gem that we have in the community that a lot of people don’t realize,” he said.
Partington emphasized the importance of mentorship.
“I believe kids need more learning opportunities, more ways to show them the world,” he added. “Obviously they get a lot of that in school and from their parents, but I think it’s always good for another fellow adult to be there.”
Kailan Mehta is “Youth of the Year,” which goes to an individual who has given his/her time, energy and talents to improve the community.
Mehta was nominated because of her “selfless nature.” Along with being in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, she has involved in the National Honors Society (NHS), Leadership and Project Green as well as a varsity tri-athlete in basketball, cross-country and track. She has also been involved in the Sashabaw Middle School tutoring program called “The Clarkston Help” as well as participated in the Business Professionals of America (BPA).
While celebrating her last full day as a Clarkston High School student, Mehta said it was a time for “reflection.”
“I’m ending this huge part of my life today and tomorrow and I just want say thanks to everybody and everything that has contributed to where I am today,” she said. “I’d also like to thank Clarkston Community Schools for teaching me so many things about how to be a responsible adult, how to give back to those who have given you so much.”
Mehta said her time at Clarkston Schools can be summed up in three lessons: One: “You do a lot with little sleep;” Two: “Keep an open mind to all opportunities and ideas;” Three: “The importance of giving back and saying ‘thank you.’”
Chelsea O’Brien was awarded for “Community Beautification/Preservation,” which goes to an individual, group or business that has made a significant improvement on the appearance of the community.
O’Brien is part of the Independence Elementary’s PTA, is a substitute teacher in the community, organized and implemented Project Wild, a day camp for Clarkston youth involved in ecology and runs the independence’s immensely popular Garden Club.
“I am so honored and so humbled by your acknowledgement to reconnect kids with the natural world around them,” O’Brien said. “In a culture where adolescence spends six to nine hours everyday in front of some type of screen or electronic device, it is in my mind a paramount importance to mentor, to nurture and inspire kids to develop a real connection for their surrounding environment.”
Independence Day Parade Committee was nominated for the “Community Collaboration” award, which recognizes a collaborative effort by two or more individuals groups, clubs or organizations, including businesses, government agencies and schools to improve/enhance the community.
For 50 years, the Fourth of July Parade was facilitated by the Independence Fire Department. In 2011 it was decided that it was not viable for the fire department to continue this process due to funding and man-power. That was when Rob Whitcomb Bruce Mercado, Kathy Novak, Joette Kunse of the Optimists along with Optimist members and Clarkston Chamber of Commerce President Peg Roth, Optimist member and Oakland County Commissioner Tom Middleton, Dan Wung of the Clarkston Lions Club and Pastor Dan and Laura of Mount Zion Church stepped up to the plate to fill the void.
“We have had a blast doing these parades. It’s been a lot of work but great organization,” Roth said. “There are many committees represented here in this area. It is a great tradition in our community and we appreciate all of your support.”
“This is a great example of a collaborative effort,” added Mercado.
Jennifer Herrmann was honored as “Citizen of the Year,” which recognizes individuals who have given their time, energy and talents to improve the community. Amongst her list of service, Herrmann has served on the Friends of Ryan Kennedy playground fundraiser committee, as well as served as Girl Scout leader and PTA volunteer.
“I’m a bit shocked by this and very humbled,” Hermann said, giving thanks to those who nominated and selected her for the award.
Herrmann said her love for being busy and volunteering runs in the family, noting her mother is very service oriented as well.
“We’re just wired that way,” she added. “People ask me all the time how I do everything I do? I just kind of say ‘I don’t know how I can’t,’ I have to help and do. I think that’s what God’s plan is for me. I’m a giver and a helper. I hope I’m doing what He’s asking.”
Girl Scout Troop #13363 was given the “Community Enhancement” award, which recognizes a group, club or service organization’s year-long efforts that enhanced the quality of the Clarkston community.
Hannah Music, Emily Herrmann, Lauren Dombrowski, Elizabeth Scheil, Bailey Schroeder, Nadia Smith, Olivia Thomas and Julia Walker worked diligently to seek city approval, raise funds, gather materials and work to build and stock the “Little Free Libraries” that were placed on Main Street and Depot Park. Using weekly assignment and rotation system, these girls continue to ensure that each library is kept neat, well-maintained and well stocked.
“We are excited to be receiving the award and that the Little Free Libraries are getting so much attention,” Herrmann said on behalf of the Troop. “When we started this project we had no idea the community would embrace them like they have. We love seeing people using them.”

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