As The Chronicle approaches its fourth anniversary, it’s time to continue a new tradition that we began last year – the annual Bezonki awards.
A year ago, we looked for a way to recognize some of the many people who make this community special. The Chronicle’s inaugural Bezonki awards were given to an amazing, eclectic group – and this year’s recipients were equally inspiring: Roger Rayle; the digital archives team at the Ann Arbor District Library – Andrew MacLaren, Amy Cantu, Debbie Gallagher, and Jacki Sasaki; Anna Ercoli Schnitzer; Jim Toy; Common Cycle; and Jeff Micale.
You’ll read more about them below. They are representative of so many others who work to make this community a better place, in ways that are well-known in some cases, or that more often play a critical but less high-profile role.
The physical awards were fashioned by local artist Alvey Jones, creator of the inscrutable Bezonki cartoons published monthly in The Chronicle. Each of the six Bezonkis is unique, and captures this community’s quirky attributes. The awards embody a nod to the past – some of the parts were salvaged from equipment at the former Ann Arbor News – and a wink to the future.
There’s another twist to these awards. We ask that each winner of the Bezonki be a steward of the physical award for a year. They then pass it on to the next year’s winner – that happened at a July 27 reception held at Zingerman’s Events on Fourth. Our goal is for the awards to create connections between people in the community year after year – people who might not otherwise have crossed paths.
That’s actually one of the things that has been most rewarding for me since we launched The Chronicle – crossing paths with so many remarkable people that I might not otherwise have met. So the Bezonki awards are also an opportunity to thank the many people who have supported us along the way – as advertisers, subscribers, commenters, contributors or Chronicle readers and enthusiasts. We thank you all.
And now, I’m delighted to introduce our 2012 Bezonki winners!
2012 Bezonki Awards: Roger Rayle
What he does: Roger has volunteered his time and energy to be a watchdog for the community, tracking the impact of 1,4 dioxane contamination discovered decades ago at the Gelman Sciences site, now owned by Pall Corp. He is a leader of Scio Residents for Safe Water and member of Washtenaw County’s Coalition for Action on Remediation of Dioxane (CARD). The amount of hours he has spent on this effort is staggering.
Why he’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of his rigorous, relentless, often thankless effort in tracking the environmental impact from the decades-long Pall/Gelman groundwater contamination. His voluntary oversight of the regulators has given our community its best shot at protecting our environment for future generations.
2012 Bezonki Awards: AADL Library Digital Archives Team
What they do: This four-person team at the Ann Arbor District Library – Andrew MacLaren, Amy Cantu, Debbie Gallagher and Jackie Sasaki – is tasked with putting the Ann Arbor News archives and other publications online. The Old News site provides an amazing collection of material, representing thousands of hours of work. In addition to archives, it also includes original interviews with people who’ve played a role in our community’s history, like former Washtenaw County sheriff Doug Harvey and local business owners Charlie Schlanderer and his son Chuck.
Why the AADL team is Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of their contribution to the preservation of our community’s history. Their efforts make the rich historical archives easy to access and navigate, and fun to explore.
2012 Bezonki Awards: Anna Ercoli Schnitzer
What she does: Anna is the disabilities librarian with the University of Michigan Taubman Health Sciences Library, and she is a tireless advocate for the disabled community, for diversity of all kinds, and for fighting discrimination wherever she finds it. She is also one of our best Stopped.Watched. contributors, keeping her eye on what’s happening around town.
Why she’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of her advocacy – not for helping those with disabilities, but for helping find the abilities in all of us. Her work with the University of Michigan and in the community goes beyond a vocation – it’s a passion that benefits us all.
2012 Bezonki Awards: Jim Toy
What he does: Jim Toy is another activist – who for decades has advocated for the rights of the LGBT community. Among many things, he helped establish the University of Michigan’s Human Sexuality Office (now called the Spectrum Center) and retired in 2008 as diversity coordinator of UM’s Office of Institutional Equity. You might recognize his name from the Jim Toy Community Center, located in Braun Court.
Accepting the Bezonki award on behalf of Toy were Sandi Smith and Linda Lombardini, partners in life and in their business – Trillium Real Estate. Smith currently serves on the board of the Jim Toy Community Center and Lombardini has served on the board in the past.
Why he’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of his activism, energy and sheer guts and stamina in advocating for LGBT rights for more than 40 years. He’s been grounded in our community, but has served as an inspiration for generations in Michigan, the nation and the world beyond.
2012 Bezonki Awards: Common Cycle
What they do: A lot of people have ideas for things they think would make this community a better place. But far fewer people actually work to create their vision. The folks at Common Cycle did that – you’ve probably seen them at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, where the nonprofit sets up shop to repair bikes for free. Their long-term goals include a shared workspace for workshops, build-a-bike programs for kids, and a bike-sharing program for the community.
Why they’re Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of the vision they have transformed into reality – seeing a need, finding a solution, working to bring that solution to life and keeping it alive. In a community that talks a lot about alternative transportation, they’ve made a tangible contribution to that effort.
2012 Bezonki Awards: Jeff Micale
What he does: On election days, The Chronicle typically visits polling stations throughout the city to watch the election in progress. While the election results get the attention, it’s the people who work behind the scenes that make these elections possible. We end our day at the Ann Arbor absent voter counting board, which for the past several years has been overseen by Jeff Micale.
Why he’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of his work on behalf of voters in this community, through the vital role he plays in helping the gears of our democratic process grind smoothly. His calm, good-natured competence and intelligent professionalism in a pressured environment reminds us of the hundreds of people it takes to ensure it’s possible to cast a vote in a free society.
It’s appropriate to end this column with Jeff – we’ll be seeing him again soon, at the Aug. 7 primary election.
Scenes from the Reception
Here’s some additional photos from the reception.
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