It was an evening to remember Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011, with a lovely setting, beautiful decorations, lively jazz music, food and the wine, and a silent auction. About 100 people filled the Dexter Ballroom at St. Cecilia Music Center in downtown Grand Rapids for the West Michigan LSSM “Light Up the Night” Legacy Gala. Several couples enjoyed the after-dinner dancing, including special guest Suzanne Geha and her husband Rick Merpi (PHOTO).
Close to a thousand dollars was raised in the silent auction, with items ranging from sports tickets, gift cards and gift baskets to guitar lessons and a golf getaway at the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City. Martha’s Catering provided the hors d’oeuvres and a selection of wines and served up a choice of three delicious dinner entrees. Wonderful big band jazz music was performed throughout the evening by the Midtown Horns and Rhythm, an ensemble made up of members of the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra.
Mark Stutrud, president of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, pointed out that “what we do is not so much ‘service’ as it is walking alongside someone and sharing in life.” Suzanne "Suzi" Geha, career broadcast journalist and community advocate, shared her childhood memories of walking to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School at two ELCA churches in greater Detroit. She praised Lutheran Social Services of Michigan for its mission and work in serving the helpless and the needy.
“Sometimes we think it’s the job of the government to care for the poor, the orphans and the widows, the elderly and the most vulnerable,” she said. “We Christians know whose job it really is. Christ Himself told us.” She spoke of the great value of volunteerism, which in America is valued at about $180 billion in time given per year. Michigan is ranked 8th nationally in time donated. Suzanne expressed her admiration for those who volunteer in our West Michigan community and in particular for the programs of Lutheran Social Services. Quoting an unknown author, she added, “Volunteers are not paid -- not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.”
Special thanks go to our sponsors who made this special night possible: Lacks Enterprises - Gala Sponsor; All Med Medical Supply – Jazz Orchestra Sponsor; Scot M Fay CFP, Wealth Advisor, with Thrivent Financial for Lutherans – St. Cecilia Venue Sponsor; Elzinga & Volkers – Hors d ‘Oeuvres Sponsor; Faith Lutheran Church (Grand Rapids) - Table Sponsor; Area Agency on Aging – Table Sponsor; Pat Cornelisse, Cornelisse Design Associates – Partner Sponsor; Martha Blandford – Donor Sponsor; and Curt Schaap – Donor Sponsor.