2011 Recipient Bios

Community Award
Susan Woods
Susan Woods is the face behind the East Lansing Film Festival (ELFF). She is a selfless, hard-working individual who both founded and has served as director of the festival throughout its 13 years in existence. Her untiring work and dedication behind the scenes has helped make the festival what it is today: a catalyst for education, economic development, cultural enrichment and national exposure for the East Lansing community. Woods has devoted every effort to garnering support and funding for the ELFF and has selflessly given her time, energy and heart to making the festival an exceptional showcase for the City and region as a whole.

A former ELFF guest film editor, who has also shown her work at the Sundance Film Festival, had this to say about the local festival: “Having been to Sundance in Park City, as well as East Lansing, I can honestly say that I was impressed both with the warmth of the East Lansing Film Festival and with the high level of the discussions around the films. Filmmaking can be an intense and isolating experience, so it’s a true joy to bring your films to an audience and actually see how they can affect the world. It was Susan Woods who brought us all together, and in creating this festival, her contribution to the community is incalculable.”

Over the years, the ELFF has grown in focus and importance; and the films selected have continued to bring awareness of many important human concerns and issues. Tolerance, cultural understanding and international perspectives are part and parcel of the many films shown at this annual event. In addition to the ELFF, she directs the year-long East Lansing Film Society and provides educational outreach through collaboration with MSU, student internships and short film contests. Susan Woods is an everyday practitioner of “placemaking” and her charm, perseverance and love of film is truly evident in everything that she has brought to the table.

Robert Uecker
Robert Uecker is the face behind the East Lansing Basketball Club. He is a charter member of the board and has served as treasurer of the organization since it’s founding in 2003. As an executive board member, Robert has excelled at establishing effective community relationships and partnerships, which have greatly contributed to the club’s success; and his volunteer tasks with the club are endless.

He has coordinated gymnasiums for club events, coordinated coaches clinics, recruited volunteer coaches, resolved club conflicts, scheduled games, organized try-outs, raised funds, recruited sponsors, recruited game officials, purchased equipment…the list goes on and on. One of Robert’s most significant volunteer services to the organization is the leadership role he has taken every year as the primary volunteer administrator of the Dave Thomas Basketball Clinic. Under Robert’s leadership, the club has formed a partnership with Dave Thomas, a member of the MSU 2000 NCAA National Basketball Championship Team, to offer the Dave Thomas Basketball Clinic to more than 300 East Lansing boys and girls each summer.

In short, Bob has been a tireless volunteer in the area of youth sports in East Lansing for over to a decade. In addition to his work with the East Lansing Basketball Club, he has served as both a basketball and soccer coach, and has also been involved with the East Lansing Soccer Club. For Robert, his volunteer service is not necessarily about sports, but about building community. He strives to be a role model for kids, has touched many lives and has dedicated countless hours to young athletes in the East Lansing community.

Community Relations Coalition
The Community Relations Coalition (CRC) was created during a time of unrest in the East Lansing community in an effort to strengthen town-gown relationships. Since 2000, Michigan State University students have been hired each academic school year to serve as CRC interns (or neighborhood resource coordinators) in East Lansing’s off-campus neighborhoods. These interns have successfully helped foster positive communication and interaction among residents and students through participation in and facilitation of a number of community events and programs.

Whether hosting a neighborhood block party, facilitating a community coat drive, participating in neighborhood cleanups, attending neighborhood association meetings or providing educational outreach to neighbors, the CRC interns are always busy at work with an ultimate goal of bridging the gap between residents and students. The CRC Board also hosts events that enhance communication and encourages conversations among East Lansing residents, the city, the university and students. While each event the CRC hosts may seem small when standing alone, together these events create positive face-to-face interactions that otherwise probably wouldn’t happen.

These invaluable interactions help neighbors to meet, know and respect each other; while also helping them to broaden their perspectives and see the community from more than one viewpoint. The CRC is a non-profit organization made up of a core leadership team, a board of directors and the CRC student interns hired each year to carry out the organization’s mission. Through its hard work and successes, the CRC has become a model organization for other college communities looking to improve their town-gown relationships.

Business Award
Silver & Beyond
Silver & Beyond, owned by Siham Baladi, is a downtown East Lansing business that has gone above and beyond to contribute to the local community. Baladi has served for six years on the East Lansing Downtown Management Board and has strived to raised funds and assist with planning for special community events, such as the East Lansing Winter Bowl Soup & Chili Cook-off. Baladi has also taken on a mentoring role with downtown East Lansing merchants, including neighboring boutique Jeanologie.

In a world where many businesses strive to out-compete each other for customers and profit, Baladi’s business approach is to work with fellow merchants to better establish a strong specialty niche in the downtown. Silver & Beyond opened its doors in 2004 and in that time has built a loyal customer base. Customers make special trips to downtown East Lansing just to peruse the store’s newest collections of designer jewelry and accessories. Baladi travels all over the world to hand pick the items sold in her store, bringing a little piece of the high fashions of New York, Italy, Thailand, Israel, Australia and various other national shopping destinations right to East Lansing.

In short, Baladi is a model business owner in downtown East Lansing. She’s an enthusiastic civic leader, a role model for other businesses and an invaluable supporter of the community she serves.