Community Foundation of Marquette County honors local “catalysts”

MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Community Foundation of Marquette County is recognizing five individuals, organizations, and businesses as this year’s Catalyst Awards honorees.

Each year, the Board of Trustees of the Community Foundation of Marquette County (CFMC) nominates individuals, organizations and businesses to receive the organization’s Catalyst Award. The award honors the efforts of those who build community through volunteerism and philanthropy and inspire others to do the same. Catalyst Award honorees were announced at the Community Foundation’s Annual Celebration at Northern Michigan University on September 14.

Community Foundation CEO Zosia Eppensteiner stated, “Every year, the highlight of our Annual Celebration is recognizing and celebrating people and organizations who go above and beyond in serving our community. At the Foundation, our core value is “Community First” and our Catalyst honorees truly reflect that through their efforts that benefit the larger community and their generosity.”

Beth Millner Jewelry, Catalyst Award, Business
Beth Millner is celebrating her 15th year in business creating and selling unique and beautiful pieces of jewelry that evoke the beauty of the Upper Peninsula and nature. Giving back to the community is an integral part of Millner’s business. In 2007, she came up with the idea to design a custom pendant reflecting the work of a local nonprofit and then donating a portion of sales of the pendant back to the nonprofit. She describes her jewelry fundraiser program as “art for social good,” which, to date, has raised $50,000 for a variety of organizations. Every year, Millner chooses two nonprofits and is currently focused on supporting arts and environmental organizations. Another expression of giving back to the environment is the business’s tree planting initiative. Thanks to this collaborative project, Beth Millner Jewelry has been able to plant more than 6,500 trees, in collaboration with the National Forest Foundation. Each item purchased from Millner’s artisan goods collection, which includes artist prints, sketchbooks and puzzles that she designs, supports this important work.

Beth Millner Jewelry received the Community Foundation’s 2022 Business Catalyst Award. Beth Millner (center) with Nina Lehto-Clark, studio assistant manager (left) and Jane Villanueva, assistant manager.

Cedar Tree Institute, Catalyst Award, Nonprofit Organization
Established in 1995, The Cedar Tree Institute (CTI) is a nonprofit organization providing services and initiating projects in the areas of mental health, religion and the environment. CTI offers mental health services and programs and also works with faith communities and environmental groups on a variety of collaborative projects. In 2021, CTI helped develop programs addressing the rising challenges of mental health needs, isolation and substance abuse in rural Northern Michigan, which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, CTI’s annual tree planting project, a collaborative effort with the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and Big Bay’s Community Presbyterian Church, planted 500 trees along the banks of Lost Creek. CTI also established the Northern Great Lakes Interfaith Water Stewards Initiative, which is currently focused on addressing the quality of drinking water in the Great Lakes region. Cedar Tree Institute is also involved in ongoing partnerships with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, and five Native American tribes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Mark Canale, Community Foundation trustee and Annual Celebration chair (left), presented a Catalyst Award to the Cedar Tree Institute. Accepting the award for CTI were Nathan Meadows and Mollie Mottinger, with Oakley Meadows.

Maya Lackey, Catalyst Award, Youth
Maya Lackey, a senior at Marquette Senior High School, inspires others through her enthusiasm and commitment to giving back to her community. Maya has volunteered with many nonprofits and events in Marquette, including Hope Starts Here, The Noquemanon Ski Marathon, Hiawatha Music Festival and the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Services Agency, where she’s worked as a parent-meeting babysitter. Lackey is also involved with many activities and programs at MSHS, including the MSHS Blood Drive, giving incoming students tours of the high school, and tutoring. Maya also organized a community garbage pick-up. In addition, Maya is a member of CFMC’s Marquette Youth Advisory Committee (YAC), where she is gaining her first experience in community philanthropy and grantmaking.

Judy Vonck, Community Foundation trustee, presented the Youth Catalyst Award to Maya Lackey, a senior at Marquette Senior High School.

Barb and Pete Kelly, Catalyst Award, Individual
For residents and visitors, a short walk around Marquette provides tangible manifestations of Pete and Barb Kelly’s dedication to the city they call home. Many of the loveliest areas in town are due to the Marquette Beautification Committee’s efforts, a group the Kellys helped establish in 1978. Petunia Pandemonium has served as the kickoff to summer in Marquette since it began in 1989. Every year since its inception, the Kellys have spearheaded the event, with Barb coordinating the soil preparation, flower planting and volunteers, and Pete tirelessly working to ensure that irrigation system and all 200 sprinkler heads are perfectly calibrated for the season.

Barb and Pete Kelly received a Catalyst Award for establishing the Marquette Beautification Committee and keeping Marquette beautiful for 44 years since the organization was founded.

Joani Miller, Posthumous Catalyst Award
Joani Miller, who died in 2019, was and continues to be a catalyst in her beloved Marquette community through her legacy of service and vision of inclusion. At the age of three, Miller contracted polio, which forever changed her life but never limited her contributions to the greater community. And while she had great determination and an adventurous spirit, there were times when she was unable to access spaces or activities, including playgrounds, because of her limited mobility. Her longtime dream was to be able to visit with and watch her grandchildren while they played at a local playground. Miller’s vision of developing Marquette’s first universally designed playground for persons of all ages and abilities to enjoy was the impetus for Kids Cove 2.0 — a Playground for All — which will become a reality in 2023.

Joani Miller, the visionary behind the dream of an inclusive playground that could be enjoyed by everyone, was honored with a posthumous Catalyst Award at the Community Foundation’s 2022 Annual Celebration.