MANISTIQUE – Victoria George has only been member of the Manistique community for 11 years, but her commitment to the area rivals that of a lifelong resident. In fact, she is behind-the-scenes of many community organizations and events, including the Eva Burrell Animal Shelter, the Schoolcraft County Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and the annual CBC (American Cancer Society, Bay Cliff Health Camp, and Community Charity) drive.
George moved to the area in 2002 with her husband, Kelly, CEO and president of mBank. The couple moved together from their home state of Ohio, where George received a degree in fashion merchandising from Kent State.
“We love the U.P.,” she said. “We never knew what it was until Kelly got the job here.”
In her first summer in the area, George wasted no time and began volunteering for the Seney Wildlife Refuge. She worked in the refuge visitor center before leaving to take a part-time job with a local optometrist.
During her four years working at the optometrist’s office, George became involved in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Having family members with dementia, one living and one who has passed away, George has a personal connection with the disease. When her husband’s employer, mBank, became involved in the walk, she immediately jumped on board.
“It used to be ‘Memory Walk’,” she said. “There were a few years that Schoolcraft County didn’t do a walk, and then we started back up again.”
George has served on the committee for the walk for the entire five years it has been in the area. She volunteers in various aspects of the walk, including helping to organize fundraisers such as dog shows, bake sales, poker runs, as well as the actual walk, bike and run event.
“Most of the money we raise for Walk to End Alzheimer’s does go to research for the Alzheimer’s disease,” she said.
In addition to the walk, George also took up volunteering at the Eva Burrell Animal Shelter. She has been with the shelter for four years.
“I just volunteered the first two years, and then, my third year, I became part of the board, and this year, I am co-president,” she said. “I love all animals and I have since I was a kid. It doesn’t matter, dog, cat, rabbit – whatever, we try to rescue it.”
George explained she started off at the shelter as a cat “cuddler”, then began working with the dogs. Eventually, she joined the shelter’s board, and began assisting with the fundraiser and educational programs for the public.
She and her husband have even adopted shelter pets. Their dog “Polar”, a great white Pyrenees, was well known in the community and even posed for pictures with children during “Santa Paws” fundraisers at the shelter. He passed away recently, and George remembers him fondly.
“He was awesome,” she said. “I had a great shelter dog, so I brought him out to the public.”
Her other two dogs, two Neapolitan mastiffs, as well as all of the animals at the shelter, continue to fill her time, she added.
“The shelter work is definitely something I fully enjoy and I look forward to the day I go and volunteer,” she said. “You feel good when you leave.”
George will take over as president of the shelter board next year.
On the CBC board, George just completed her second year as cochairperson with her husband. Each of the three CBC chairpersons serve for three years. After next year, her final year as a chairperson, George said she plans on staying with the organization, but in a different capacity.
“There are so many good things that come out of being involved with the CBC,” she said. “I think that being able to split it over three different charities is a wonderful thing and having one of those be a community charity that we can change every year – to be able to spread the wealth – is just a wonderful way to do it.”
George said she looks up to the people who have served extended periods of time with the CBC, such as Dorothy Hoholik and Dick Ketcik.
“The amount of people who are on the committee, year after year, is just amazing,” she said. “What they have done – it’s great.”
She also expressed her support for the charities the annual CBC drive benefits.
“Being able to make the Bay Cliff Health Camp available at a discounted price for people in our county is wonderful because I think it’s a great program for the children,” she said. “You hear wonderful things from the people who have sent their kids there.”
Funds raised for the American Cancer Society stays within the county, she noted, and are available to residents.
“We need to make sure people know that if they have cancer and they need some help, they can always give us a call and we can see what we can do,” she said.
On top of her other volunteer endeavors, George said she also helps mBank raise funds each year to purchase items for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.
While George admits she’s busy now, and likely to be even busier when she takes over the shelter board presidency, she notes she’s always on the lookout for other ways to contribute.
“I encourage anyone at any age to volunteer somewhere they have an interest or a strong compassion for, because it is extremely rewarding,” she said. “Whether you are recently retired, in between jobs or happen to have a time of year when your schedule is not as busy as the rest, volunteer.
Once you look into places to volunteer you will be surprised how many places need the help,” she continued. “We have many nonprofit organizations that could use some help and many clubs you can join who do countless events to raise money for charity in our community. And remember to encourage and support your children to do the same.”