Making Lives Better Awards

Celebrating and honoring individuals, groups, and organizations Making Lives Better in the Greater Kalamazoo Area. Winners will earn up to $1000 for their favorite non-profit.

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How It Works

We are encouraged to see so many others in our beautiful community using their gifts and talents to improve the life experience of others and we want to celebrate them!

Who is Eligible

Any individual, group, or organization (including for-profit, non-profits, schools, and more) being nominated will demonstrate compassion and actively give or donate services and/or resources with the goal of making the lives of people and pets in the Greater Kalamazoo Area.

Honoree Selection & Prizes

The top 3 honorees selected will have an obvious heart for serving others. They will serve as role models for compassion, giving and service and always be striving to make lives better for others.

The winning individual, group, or organization will have up to $1000 donated to their favorite Non-Profit.

  • First Place $1000
  • Second Place $300
  • Third Place $200

Important Dates

  • Nominations Open July 5th
    Nominations must be submitted using the form below. Nominations are open to the public and for 10 days. Individuals and organizations can nominate themselves.
  • Nominations Close July 15th
    Those nominated will be evaluated by our panel of judges and asked to prepare a short video or be interviewed on video to publish to the awards voting page.
  • Voting Begins August 1st
    Voting will be open to the public for 10 days. Individuals can cast 1 vote per day fro their favorite individual, group or organization Making Lives Better.
  • Celebration Event week of August 18th
    WINNERS and RUNNERS UP will celebrate their achievements together at an awards event.
  • Winners and Runners Up announced publicly


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The voting period will open August 1st and run through August 12th. Please return on August 1st to learn more about our finalists and cast your vote.


Click on a finalist to learn more about them.


AACORN Community is a small functional farm that acts as a day program for adults with intellectual and/or developmental differences. AACORN prides itself on being able to offer independence, self-advocacy, positive social experiences, meaningful and transferable skill building, and community service all within a natural and holistic environment. By combining various activities such as animal care, gardening, crafts, making goats milk soap, making dry jar mixes and many more our participants are able to increase self-efficacy and interact with their peers on a daily basis.

How long have you done this: 12 years


Since 2011, AACORN Community has impacted close to 50 young adults/adults throughout Kalamazoo. By helping adults with intellectual and developmental differences engage with their peers and their community through skill building activities this AACORN Community directly addresses many of the quality-of-life domains typical people enjoy such as personal growth, meaningful work, healthy lifestyle, leisure participation, and social communication.


First Day Shoe Fund provides new athletic shoes to elementary students at Kalamazoo County public schools at no cost. We currently do this through our annual shoe distribution at every public elementary school in the Fall and, in 2023, we added an additional pilot distribution in the Spring. We know that elementary aged students grow very quickly and, for many students, the shoes that FDSF provide are the only footwear they have. By distributing shoes twice each year, this will enable students to have a pair of well-fitting shoes year-round. We hope to be able to serve every school in Kalamazoo County twice a year by 2025-26.

How long have you done this: 17 years


Since 2006, we have fitted over 50,000 pairs of new athletic shoes enabling elementary students to attend school comfortably and with confidence. We now provide shoes to every public elementary school in Kalamazoo County. A new pair of athletic shoes helps students take part in gym, recess and sports both in and out of school. New shoes also increase student's self-confidence, can improve attendance and reduce bullying. In 2022, we fitted over 4,700 pairs of shoes at 47 different schools and anticipate providing even more this year!

Recipients of our shoes tell us how important our service is: "“My husband lost his job (sole income for the household) shortly before the start of the school year and we were unable to afford properly fitting shoes for our oldest son. This program was a huge blessing to our family. I don't know how we would have been able to get shoes for our son otherwise.”


The Kalamazoo Coalition for the Unhoused's Resource Committee creates opportunities for those unhoused and those in need throughout our community to feel safe and heard, all while accessing needed resources. We have run volunteer led and donation based warming shelters during the winter months, and community resource events in the summer months to provide resources (clothes, food, showers, tents, tarps, hygiene products, etc.) free of charge to those in need. Additionally we invite community agencies to present their program information - this allows community members to learn about programs and get enrolled on the spot.

How long have you done this: 2 years


Since the onset of our volunteer initiative in December 2020, we have serve thousands of meals, provided thousands of pounds of donations, and impacted the lives of countless individuals. On average, we have 75 folks attend our events. This past winter, we had over 450 different individuals come to the community warming shelter we hosted. Each one of these people has their own story and their own experience. We are grateful to be a part of their journey, and feel lucky to be part of a community that has such a giving heart to help us be able to do this work.


Originally founded as Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, Centrica Care Navigators is a nonprofit organization that was created to serve the communities where we live. We offer hospice and palliative care for patients wherever they call home with regularly scheduled visits and phone support 24/7. Centrica Hospice Care also trains family members of our patients to be more capable and confident caregivers.

How long have you done this: 42 years


In 2022, we served more than 2,425 patients on hospice care and provided more than $329,000 in financial assistance to the community. We partnered with Bronson to provide home-based palliative care to more than 530 patients, reducing their time in the hospital and emergency room visits. We provided ongoing grief support services to more than 2,176 individuals and one-on-one support to more than 215 individuals and family members who had a loved one pass on our services in the past 13 months. Our youth grief support service, Centrica Journeys, celebrated its 20th anniversary of providing group grief support to youth ages 5-18 utilizing art and storytelling to move through the grief journey.


Animals Best Friend is an all volunteer animal welfare group dedicated to reducing cat and dog overpopulation in Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties. Our policy is to spend less than 10% of donations we receive on administrative expenses, which means that at least 90% of your donation goes to fund spay/neuter surgeries for cats and dogs in Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
How long have you done this: 42 years

Since Animals Best Friend was founded in 1981 we have helped spay/neuter over 65,170 cats and dogs.


The Miracle League provides a safe and fun environment where kids with disabilities can enjoy themselves and experience the camaraderie of playing baseball in a field all their own. The Miracle League removes the barriers that keep children with mental and physical disabilities off the baseball field and lets them experience the joy of America’s favorite pastime.

How long have you done this: 2 years


Since 2021, we have had over 187 kids play in the league and over 360 volunteers help out. We continue to add new players each year and hear from our parents and families how much they love watching their kids enjoy themselves.


Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK) is a nonprofit organization based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and exists to celebrate and amplify youth voices through the cultivation of reading and writing skills via joy, creativity, equity, and access. We are devoted to nurturing intellectual and creative confidence in youth in Kalamazoo County through creative writing workshops, summer camps, in-school programs, after school tutoring, and community partnerships. We believe that reading each other’s stories is central to how we learn about our identities together. Our hope is that we are growing as readers and writers together.

How long have you done this: 10 years

Founded in 2012, RAWK launched the first year of programs during Summer of 2013, making this year our 10th anniversary! All RAWK programs are 100% free and we proudly serve over 1,000 youth each year. Our programs are the heart of what we do at RAWK—each program centers around joy, creativity, equity and access for all folx involved. As an organization we serve youth ranging from early elementary through high school. Our programs meet youth where they are, both emotionally and physically. RAWK programs range in location from on-site at RAWK, to school classrooms, to partnering with fellow youth-serving organizations around Kalamazoo.


We serve the homeless and those in need in Southwest Michigan. We host camps and quarterly events for the children residing at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. We have weekly Bible study, discipleship, mentoring and wellness groups to support the residents and clients of the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. We hold regular outreach events for individuals living on the streets of Kalamazoo. We have a warehouse dedicated to storing and providing large household items to people in need that are not readily available at local thrift stores. Our goal is to use all of these programs to empower those in need to overcome their circumstances.

How long have you done this: 10 years


We have delivered thousands of beds, couches and household furniture to furnish homes of people in need in Kalamazoo. We have a group of more than 40 volunteers that serve on a weekly basis to help those in need. We have given away 4 vehicles. We have literally lost count of all the lives impacted by KA; both those in need and the volunteers that serve them. So many times we find that our volunteers are more impacted than the people we serve; after all, just as Christ said as referenced in Acts 20:35, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."



How long have you done this:




Twelve Baskets Food Pantry is located at the south end of Portage. The pantry opened its doors in 2014 not knowing the plans that God had for us. With each distribution, more and more families in need were coming for food assistance. As the word got out, it required lots of reaching out to resources for food and other supplies.

Last year, the pantry received the most votes and was awarded a $1,000 certificate through Jeannie Cleaning's "Making Lives Better" awards.

With this certificate, the pantry has been able to purchase food items to assure that families will have food in difficult circumstances.

How long have you done this: 9 years


Twelve Baskets is curerntly serving over 300 families weekly. Winning will allow us to make improvements to our recently purchased building at 10330 Portage Rd.

Cast Your Vote

You can vote once a day through August 6.

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Jeannie’s Cleaning Serves the Greater Kalamazoo Area:

Kalamazoo, Downton Kalamazoo, Portage, Vicksburg, Schoolcraft, Texas Township, Texas Corners, Lawton, Mattawan, Oshtemo, Westwood, Oakwood, Milwood, Winchell Neighborhood, Richland, Parchment, Comstock, Gull Lake, Galesburg, Augusta and area. Not sure if we serve your neighborhood? Just ask!!