Chamber Blog

Meet the Award Recipients of the 2019 Create Great Leaders Annual Fundraiser

Meet the Award Recipients of the 2019 Create Great Leaders Annual Fundraiser 4

Each year, the Grand Rapids Chamber recognizes individuals that are alumni of the Chamber’s leadership programs who exemplify what it means to be a devoted community trustee. This year’s honorees come from a variety of different backgrounds and have each contributed greatly to the Grand Rapids Community. We look forward to celebrating their achievements with them on June 20th at the Create Great Leaders Annual Fundraiser! With that, let’s meet the award recipients!

Meet the Award Recipients of the 2019 Create Great Leaders Annual FundraiserOutstanding Emerging Leader Alumni: Luis Avila, Varnum LLP

Luis Avila is a Partner/Attorney at Varnum where he counsels both public and private sector employers on employment and labor matters, including representing them in federal and state court. Luis has been named to the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “40 under 40” on four separate occasions and has been deemed a Rising Star by Michigan Super Lawyers since 2016. Luis Co-Chair’s Varnum’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and has been recognized by Corp! Magazine as a Diversity Business Leader in Michigan. Highly active in the community, Luis serves on the boards of several local organizations, including the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Ballet Company, the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the City of Grand Rapids’ Downtown Development Authority. He also serves as the Chair-Elect for the Grand Rapids Symphony.

Meet the Award Recipients of the 2019 Create Great Leaders Annual Fundraiser 2Outstanding Leading Edge Alumni: Michelle Meulendyk, Amway

As Sr. Specialist, Corporate Social Responsibility for Amway Corporation, Michelle Meulendyk helps the company make a positive impact in the community by leading and developing strategic partnerships. In 2017, she launched the first Kent County Nutrition Summit and is currently leading the transformation of the company’s charitable contributions portfolio. She has also directed employee volunteering programs and oversees Amway’s non-profit board training certification program. Michelle is a former member of the Nonprofit Technical Assistance (NPTA) Fund and has been with Amway since 2005. She graduated from Aquinas College and has credentials from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals.

Meet the Award Recipients of the 2019 Create Great Leaders Annual Fundraiser 1Outstanding Leadership Advantage Alumni: Meg Derrer, Greater Good Partners

Meg Derrer is a community collaborator, convener and cheerleader. Her 20+ years in Grand Rapids have been spent leading highly effective teams at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, Aquinas College and Hope Network Foundation, resulting in transformational work at each of these institutions. She believes in engaging intentionally with her community, so Meg is an active volunteer and serves on the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital Board of Trustees as well as the Mary Free Bed Guild Board and Mary Free Bed Fund Board. She is also an inaugural member of the Westside Collaborative Board. Meg is in her second 3 year term as a Governor appointed member of the Michigan Women’s Commission and was recently named one of west Michigan’s 50 Most Influential Women by the Grand Rapids Business Journal. Meg is the Founder and President of Greater Good Partners, which exists to help individuals and businesses map, measure, and maximize their community impact.

Meet the Award Recipients of the 2019 Create Great Leaders Annual Fundraiser 3Distinguished Community Trustee: Dr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh, Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative

This award focuses on honoring an individual whose service on behalf of the entire community embodies our mission and demonstrates exemplary servant leadership. Those receiving the award must show a commitment to the following categories: Leadership skills, systems thinking, diversity, community connections and trusteeship.

Some might say that Dr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh was born to become a true visionary leader. Her father, a village tribal chief, encouraged her to always “remember who you are” and to not be afraid to challenge systems that directly or indirectly supported an inequitable distribution of available resources especially when it came to vulnerable families. Dr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh’s life embodies education. Her passion is using quality education to improve conditions for vulnerable children. Ezeh is recognized around the world as an expert on early childhood education. Her work as the founder of the landmark Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC) have earned her speaking engagements around the world and numerous awards – including the 2018 West Michigan Woman of the Year, one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan in 2018, the 2017 Sojourner Truth Award, 2016 GVSU Alumni of the Year and Giant in Education Award.

We hope you will join us in celebrating these four amazing individuals at the Create Great Leaders Annual Fundraiser on June 20th at Railside Golf Club. At the event, each of the award recipients will share a personal leadership lesson. Attendees can look forward to a meaningful and impactful program featuring some of Grand Rapids’ most dedicated leaders.

Tickets to attend the fundraiser are $100 for Chamber members, and $120 for non-members. Your ticket purchase directly benefits the scholarships that are reserved for future Grand Rapids Chamber Leadership Program participants. Help fund the growth of future community trustees by registering for the Annual Fundraiser today!

If you’d like to further contribute to the scholarship fund, you can click here to make individuals donations.


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