Man wins chamber honor for feeding hungry kids
His day job charges him with helping investors build their financial wealth.
But Mike Berry probably never dreamed of the notoriety he would gain through assisting those who have very little.
Berry, the founder of an initiative that feeds hungry children on weekends during the school year and weekdays during the summer, received another accolade Friday night when he was honored as Citizen of the Year by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.
Six years ago, Berry encountered a young girl on an Orchard Mesa playground who told him she was cold and hungry and had spent the previous night in a car. That prompted him to begin volunteering at the Grand Valley Catholic Outreach soup kitchen and write an occasional check.
In 2008, with the help of various church organizations, he started Kids Aid, a program that gives backpacks full of macaroni and cheese, granola bars and other goodies to School District 51 students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. The food is intended to tide over kids who may otherwise get little or nothing to eat over the weekend.
More than 1,600 children currently receive backpacks, and Berry is looking to expand the program to Delta County.
“I accept this award for the whole community,” Berry said after ascending the stage at Two Rivers Convention Center, noting that without the generosity of donors “we would still be putting out 10 backpacks a week out of our garage.”
“We will continue to do it as long as all of you support us,” he said.
Berry was named “Volunteer of the Year” in the 2010 National Community Leadership Awards, given by the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation and Investment News, a weekly newspaper for financial professionals. He received $15,000 as part of the September award.
The philanthropy of Meadow Gold Dairy garnered it the chamber’s Business of the Year award.
The 160-employee company has been in business in the Grand Valley for more than 80 years and has expanded its customer base across five states. But chamber officials said it was Meadow Gold’s corporate culture of giving that was most noteworthy.
Meadow Gold has sponsored the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department’s youth basketball program for more than 30 years. Its truck fleet moves food to Food Bank of the Rockies branches in emergency situations, transports kitchen cabinets from prison workshops in Cañon City to Habitat for Humanity locations in Grand Junction and provides food and refrigerated equipment to The Salvation Army during the holidays.
The Small Business of the Year award went to ProSpace Interiors, a 16-employee office-furnishing firm that expanded from Delta to Grand Junction in 2001. The chamber said the company formerly known as Office Furniture & Design Centers donates $25,000 in cash and merchandise every year.
Founder Tom Huerkamp credited the company’s employees.
“If ProSpace is anything, it’s a team. Without its incredible staff, we would not enjoy the incredible success we have,” he said.
Chamber leaders cited the success Mesa State College has enjoyed in recent years in expanding its academic and athletic offerings as the primary reason for granting Mesa State President Tim Foster a Making a Difference award.
The college’s enrollment has swelled to more than 8,000 students, a 40 percent increase in the six years since Foster became president. Over that same time, the college added 19 degree programs and nine varsity sports.
“Tim has done a remarkable job in the evolution of Mesa State College,” said Lena Elliott, a member of the college’s Board of Trustees.
Foster attributed Mesa State’s current standing in part to the initial Board of Trustees that formed in 2003 after Mesa State broke away from a consortium of four-year state colleges that was managed by a single board of trustees.