Each year, the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce selects a person of the year. Previous honorees have included some prominent names in the community. However, the 2019 Person of the Year would rather work quietly in the background.
“She doesn’t look for recognition or praise,” notes Liz Baker, executive director of the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce.
Still, the chamber decided it was time to honor a woman who has spent decades volunteering behind the scenes to make Lowell a better place to live, work, pray and play. And so it named Carol Briggs the 2019 Person of the Year.
School Employee and Superstar Volunteer
Briggs has a long and varied history of service to Lowell. She’s a lifelong resident whose professional background is in education. In the 1970s, she helped as a substitute teacher assistant in the newly formed United Methodist Preschool and later went on to work as an administrative assistant in Lowell Area Schools, a position she retired from in 2010.
“I had a lot of years of organization and coordination experience,” Briggs says. She credits that as giving her skills that have allowed her to pursue diverse volunteer opportunities. Through the years, she has been a scouting volunteer, Relay for Life chair and co-chair and flood relief organizer in 2013. Ronald McDonald House and the Cherry Creek Classic Run have also benefited from her enthusiastic involvement.
At the United Methodist Church, she served as the secretary for nearly a decade, assisted with mission trips and helped form the Congregational Care team which provides support for those going through difficult circumstances. She has also served on various communities, helps with the music ministry and is a current volunteer at Clark Retirement Home in Grand Rapids. Of all her volunteer work, Briggs is most proud of a project that took memorial bricks out of storage and used them to create a garden space on the north side of the church building.
Beyond her church, Briggs has volunteered at Flat River Outreach Ministries for more than a decade. She has assisted with communications and has been a financial assistance case manager. She was also instrumental in planning FROM’s 20th anniversary celebration last year.
Around 2005, Briggs began volunteering with the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce. She has helped make Christmas Through Lowell the event it is today and has served on multiple Showboat committees. Now, she puts in about three hours a week maintaining the chamber’s electronic calendar, sending e-newsletters and helping with press releases.
Despite an impressive resume of community service, Briggs was surprised to hear she had been named the person of the year. “What went through my mind is are you kidding?” she remembers with a laugh. Still, she is honored though she struggles with being singled out for praise and is quick to point out that most volunteer projects are a team effort.
Lowell is Better When Everyone Helps Out
Briggs says volunteering in the community only seems natural. “I’ve always had a passion for being part of the community and helping where I could,” she reflects. For Briggs, it isn’t about what she gets out of her volunteer work, but what the community gets out of it.
“I think Carol is deeply involved in her community and church,” Baker wrote as one of five people nominating Briggs for the person of the year award. “She wants what is best and is willing to step forward to make sure she is promoting the community in both word and action.”
That’s an approach Briggs encourages all Lowell residents to take. “I really feel that a community is only as strong as the people behind it,” she says. “You can’t have the same four people doing everything.”
Briggs says many people wrongly assume volunteering means an extended, ongoing commitment. In reality, there are plenty of opportunities to help out for only a few hours and then be done. She encourages those who don’t already volunteer to pick one event they enjoy and help out with it this year. Whether that be the Riverwalk Festival, the school carnival or a church function, Briggs suggests volunteering for just a few hours to make a difference.
Who knows, maybe you’ll find you enjoy volunteering so much that one day, you too could find yourself feted as the Lowell Person of the Year.