September 18, 2013 - Julie Graveldinger believes everyone must have a purpose in life.
Julie Graveldinger: 2013 Citizen of the Year (click for larger version)
Her purpose is to bring joy to the lives of others and she is succeeding, through volunteer work with Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville, the St. Anne Youth Group, Girl Scouts, Parent Teacher Organization, and even her orchestration of a last-minute wedding.
For these reasons and more, The Citizen is pleased to select Julie Graveldinger as the 2013 Citizen of the Year.
"My motivator is making everyone else's life happy," said the 13-year Ortonville resident. "I've raised my kids and the busier you are, the more you get done. If I don't have something going, I feel lost, like, 'What do I do?'"
Graveldinger, who has been married to George for 24 years and is the mother of Jacob, 22, Jaclyn, 21, and Rachel, 18, has found plenty to do. Her numerous efforts to brighten the lives of those in this community earned her several nominations for Citizen of the Year honors.
Jeanne Burnicle met Graveldinger through Relay for Life four years ago and said in her nominating letter: "Julie has 'paid it forward' more than anyone I know... Julie has done it all with a smile on her face and from the goodness of her heart... I hope the community of Ortonville is aware of what an amazing person we have living in our midst. I can't think of someone who is more deserving of the Citizen of the Year honor and I sincerely hope others feel the same."
They did. In several of the letters nominating her, Graveldinger's extensive work in Relay for Life was noted-- indeed, she helped bring the American Cancer Society's signature 24-hour fundraising event to this community and has held several positions on the committee the last six years. She also was the chairperson for the CPS-3 cancer prevention study in 2010.
"There is so much that goes in to this event and Julie has been an integral part of Relay for Life's success," wrote Keri Leslie, a Brandon High School teacher. "Last year the Ortonville-Brandon Relay for Life was number one per capita in the nation! Julie has been a part of the Relay for Life Committee since the very first year. Her passion spreads!"
Leslie, who herself had a preventative mastectomy in the past year due to high risk factors, has personally benefitted from Graveldinger's kindness, as she cared for Leslie's children following several surgeries.
Her volunteer activities have included teaching religious education for a decade at St. Anne, assisting in youth group activities including the Haunted Forest, acting as CROP Walk treasurer for two years, volunteering with Purple Love/Random Acts of Kindness Week in Ortonville, working in the PTO as her children grew, and leading Girl Scouts, and participating in the Woman's Life Group in Ortonville, a service group that helps local causes such as the Ortonville Community Emergency Fund and North Oakland Animal Help.
Despite being challenged with personal issues in the past year which included her husband's serious medical problems, Graveldinger found yet another extraordinary way to impact lives in the spring. Upon learning that a former youth group member's father was dying from cancer and would not live to see his daughter get married the following year as she had planned, Graveldinger organized an impromptu wedding in less than three weeks, pulling together multiple resources and working to make the wedding happen, almost solely on the goodwill of others as there was a budget of nearly zero.
"She helped plan the date, location, food, decorations, dress, etc.," said Robin Loughlin. "Even though it was a very difficult time for the young couple, Julie helped ease their burden by stepping in to help."
"Why do I think Julie Graveldinger should be this year's Citizen of the Year?" asked Leslie. "Her actions of putting others first inspire me to be a better person and to live my life by her motto, 'Have purpose.' She is a wonderful example to us all of how to live life."
Graveldinger is honored to receive the recognition.
"It's an honor I really have to share with my family, because without their support and George by my side, I couldn't do what I do," she said. "And the community-- we really do have an awesome community and it's what makes Ortonville home."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville