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Kudos for community service

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May 26, 2010 - Amanda Martin earned this year's Youth of the Year Community Award for her volunteer efforts with Paws For A Cause.

Martin, 17, raised and trained three puppies for the national assistance-dog program. And she's allergic to dogs.

"I found a way around it. All three are black standard poodles – they're hypoallergenic," said the Clarkston High School senior.

She was honored at the Clarkston Community Awards Breakfast, May 20, along with Nancy Heussner, Citizen of the Year; Carla Bell, Adult-Youth Volunteer; Kevin Harrison, Business Person of the Year; McLaren Garden of Healing and Renewal, Community Beautification; Christmas in Action of Oakland County, Inc., Community Enhancement; and Clarkston Parent Teacher Association, Community Collaboration.

"I'm very proud and happy – it's so cool," said Martin, accompanied by her parents, Brad and Mary Martin. "I had no idea."

"I'm so proud of her and everything she's does for the community, family, and neighborhood," Brad said. "I'm thankful for all the things she's involved in."

Heussner earned Citizen of the Year honors through her work as founder and executive director of O.A.T.S., Offering Alternative Therapy and Smiles.

"It takes a great village, the Village of Clarkston, and all these guys to get me here, so thank you," said Heussner, who was accompanied by several students and staff from her all-volunteer, therapeutic, horseback-riding facility off M-15.

A lifelong equestrian, she founded the program for those with disabilities 13 years ago.

"Knowing what horses gave back to me, I had a vision of what it would be like for a child in a wheelchair to leave that chair behind and be on the back of a horse, riding through the woods," she said.

Bell has helped North Sashabaw Elementary students for the past three years, providing school supplies to those in need, organizing volunteers for afterschool Homework Club, and founding Tabitha's Light Outreach Ministry.

"I'm thrilled – this is incredibly humbling," Bell said. "I see how many people work so hard to make community a better place."

Kevin Harrison moved to Clarkston from Chicago two years ago, and opened KH Homes on Main Street.

"This is a great honor," Harrison said. "Clarkston is a very unique community. It's ideally situated, off I-75. I'm so impressed with everybody in town, how dedicated they are to the community and what it has to offer."

He's planning to move his business, but not too far. He's moving a few hundred feet south to 12 S. Main Street, taking over from Village Apparel and Gift Shop.

"It's quadruple the space," said Harrison, who is planning a two-month renovation before reopening what he intends to be a headquarters for more expansion. "This is a good investment in the village. A recovery is coming, and Clarkston will be at the forefront."

The five-acre McLaren Garden of Healing and Renewal on Bow Pointe Road off Sashabaw Road includes walking trails, fountains, outdoor art, and thousands of flowers, plants, and trees.

Open a year this month, it took three years of development and planning, and two years of construction.

Christmas In Action is a coalition of volunteers who come together the last Saturday each April to provide free home repairs to local senior in need.

"I feel very honored to be recognized," said Diane Midgely, president. "I'm proud to be part of the community."

Clarkston PTA partners with community groups to offer seminars on cyber safety, anti-bullying, health and fitness, and other topics for youth.

Clarkston Community Church hosted the 25th annual awards breakfast.

"I'm really excited the church could be part of this community event," said the Rev. Greg Henneman, pastor of the church. "I'm so proud of Clarkston – it's a great community. I really enjoyed getting to meet all the awardees, and I personally thank them for their contributions."

Martin had a special guest at the breakfast, Eugina Wheeler, who brought along her Paws service dog, Kaden, one of the animals Amanda raised.

"I'm here to honor Amanda for what she did – she's awesome," Wheeler said. "Kaden is wonderful. He makes life so much easier. He's the product of a lot of work."

"The neat thing was to see how healthy Kaden turned out," Amanda said. "It was really nice he went to someone close by."

"It's hard to give up an animal after 16-18 months," Brad said. "It's not an easy thing for anybody."

Community Awards Committee included Kelly Hyer, Independence Township; Anita Banach and Linda Jaboro, Clarkston Community Schools; Dawn Horner, Clarkston State Bank; and Linda Mladenoff, Clarkston Community Church.

Selection Committee included Hyer and Banach, and Donna Bullard, Clarkston-Brandon Credit Union; Al Roberts, Clarkston Community Schools; and Angela Tenbush, Clarkston State Bank.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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