Essential Service Award Winners (left to right) back row: Dave Janes, Michael VanHouten, Kelly Brinker, Dave Smith – Chair of the West Michigan Works! Workforce Development Board, front row: Yolanda Marble, Terry White, Julio Ignacio Caballero, Linda El (not pictured: Shela Jones, Lisa Vanderlaan and the staff at Martin Marathon)

On Monday, February 20th at the meeting of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, 10 West Michigan residents were recognized for going above and beyond in their jobs. The Essential Service Awards has recognized the outstanding work of front-line service providers for nine years.

“We often overlook the significant contributions that a virtually invisible workforce make to our community and our economy. The Essential Service Awards recognize exceptional individuals performing these less visible but essential jobs.”
– Dave Smith, Chair of the West Michigan Works! Workforce Development Board

The awards highlight individuals who provide critical services that often go unnoticed and unrewarded, such as childcare providers, bus drivers or custodians. This year’s recipients were recognized in ten categories.

The winners of the 2016 Essential Service Awards by category are:

  • Childcare: Shela Jones, Little House Daycare
  • Cleaning/Housekeeping/Groundskeeping: Kelly Brinker, Luxury Janitorial
  • Food Service: Yolanda Marble, Muskegon Community College
  • General Labor: Michael VanHouten, Plasan Carbon Composites
  • Government: Dave Janes, Unites States Post Office
  • Healthcare: Terry White, Metron of Belding
  • Hospitality: Julio Ignacio Caballero, Hampton Inn Holland
  • Nonprofit: Linda El, Sylvia’s Place
  • Retail: the customer service team at Martin Marathon
  • Transportation: Lisa Vanderlaan, Muskegon Area Transit Systems

Linda El

According to her nomination, “Linda El has been a valued employee for Sylvia’s Place for over 10 years. She has proven her ability to stay calm and resolved even in the most difficult of circumstances. She is truly a dependable “rock” for all of the staff here at Sylvia’s Place.”

Dave Janes

According to Janes’ nomination, “Dave treats every customer as though they’re the first of his day. Despite the length of the line, he spends as much time as needed to make sure each customer is served thoroughly. Sometimes I purposely don’t use the self-service kiosk so I can interact with Dave! I leave the post office feeling great because of the kindness and compassion he exudes behind the counter.”

Yolanda “Pretty” Marble

Yolanda “Pretty” Marble is a cashier for the Muskegon Community College’s Grab-n-Go. According to Yolanda’s nomination, “Her job is to sell food items to students, but she does so much more. Pretty knows our students, she engages in conversations with them, provides support to them. When you pass by the Grab-n-Go there is frequently a crowd of students engaged in conversation with Pretty. She supports then with words of encouragement with their classwork, finals, and in their personal lives. Feeling part of a community is important for college students. For many of our students, Pretty creates that community.”

Lisa Vanderlaan

Lisa Vanderlaan is a customer care representative for Muskegon Area Transit Systems. Lisa’s job is to schedule rides on the Go Bus, a county-wide transportation service for persons over age 60 with health issues or a disability. “Lisa is dedicated to helping this group of people,” said Lisa’s supervisor. “She will adjust their ride schedules to cut down the wait or ride time; she believes their time is just as valuable as anyone else’s. Lisa knows all the customers by their first name. Many times, the customers ask for Lisa to set their schedules.”

Customer Service Team at Martin Marathon

The staff at the Martin Marathon were nominated for the high level of customer service they provide. “When I step into the Martin Marathon I fully anticipate an engaging experience with dedicated staff,” said their nominator, a regular customer. “I visit the station each week to purchase gas cards, which can be a long and complicated process. Regardless of how busy they are, they work with me to get through our process and do so with patience and efficiency.”