Mary Van Valin

Groundwork Honors Mary Van Valin with Milliken Leadership Award

October 9, 2017 |

Photo by Gary Howe

The Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities presented this year’s Milliken Leadership Award on Saturday, Oct. 7, to Mary Van Valin, a Groundwork Board Member. Van Valin is a former teacher and respected activist in the community. She is involved in many community initiatives, including leading the effort to install solar panels on a local school and coordinating an initiative to help students become advocates for climate solutions.

“In so many ways, Mary is fighting to strengthen the Traverse City area toward a more equitable, resilient and thriving community,” said Groundwork Executive Director Hans Voss, who presented the award during a ceremony at Kirkbride Hall in the Grand Traverse Commons, hours before Groundwork’s annual Harvest at the Commons community celebration.

“To be honored in the name of Helen and Gov. Milliken is a great joy,” said Van Valin. “They set the standard for how we treat each other, how we treat the natural world, and how we treat the community. They are the standard bearers—the rest of us are just standing on their shoulders. This award means the world to me.”

Previous Milliken Award winners include: Tamarack Holdings and Cherry Capital Foods owner Chip Hoagland (2016), former U.S. Senator Carl Levin (2015); developer of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, Ray Minervini (2014); U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (2013); Black Star Farms co-founder Don Coe (2012), and Crystal Mountain Resort CEO Jim MacInnes (2011).

Watch our tribute video honoring Mary Van Valin (video produced by Bill Latka):