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Youth Minister wins "Everyday Hero" Award

09/12/2011

Youth ministers know their work is affirming, rewarding, and can even be life-changing, but one Alpena youth minister has tangible proof of her impact. Marsha Hoppe, high school youth ministry coordinator for the Alpena Catholic community, is one of 10 winners of an “Everyday Hero Award,” honoring those who inspire Michigan’s youth through commitment, courage, compassion, and integrity. Nominated by youth ministry participant Samantha Forintos, who calls Hoppe “a mentor, a confidant, an inspiration, and a hero,” Hoppe was chosen by the Everyday Heroes program sponsor, Winning Futures, as one of its top 10 among 350 nominees.

Hoppe received the honor this summer at the Palladium Theatre in Birmingham, MI, where all 10 recipients and families gathered for a banquet billed as a “Rare Night of Heroes.” While the award went to Hoppe, nominator Forintos was also honored – with a $2,500 college scholarship from Winning Futures.

Forintos, now pursuing a teaching degree at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, was a member of Hoppe’s youth group for four years, although school and job commitments kept her from participating in many meetings and extra activities. She did, however, get to see Hoppe in action with other kids and enjoyed a personal relationship with her and joined in one of the youth group retreats.

“Marsha really shines as a mentor and youth group leader,” Forintos writes. “She is an amazing listener, opening her ears, her heart, and her arms to the youth who “Facebook”, call, or meet with her. Youth feel comfortable ‘spilling’ to Marsha, and feel confident their secrets won’t be spread.”

Beyond that, Forintos writes, Hoppe does what she can to help teens through their problems and helps them see past their own concerns by involving them in volunteer work. “Working on Habitat for Humanity homes, organizing the local food pantry, serving at the soup kitchen, or sleeping in boxes to raise money and awareness for the homeless, Marsha never fails to make helping others fun and rewarding,” Fortino noted.

“As if this isn’t enough, Marsha’s compassion and desire to spread the Lord’s love reach beyond the community. She has traveled with the National Relief Network to help clean up and rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and also to Tennessee and Iowa after flooding and tornadoes,” Forintos stated in her nomination. “She put her life on hold to help change the lives of strangers who live miles away. If this isn’t pure selflessness, nothing is.”

Hoppe has been involved in high school youth work for decades, building bonds with students now in their 30s and older who still stay in touch. A hairdresser who must balance the demands of her job with what she describes as “my real love, working with kids,” Hoppe and her husband Joe have also raised their own two daughters and been active in a number of church, school and community projects.

“Her love for her family, the youth, and all God’s people is endless,” Forintos added. “...this is what really makes her a hero.”

Forintos’ words bring recognition not just to Hoppe, but to youth leaders from all walks. Winning Futures is now accepting nominees for next year’s “Everyday Heroes” program; deadline is December 1. More information about the program and scholarship application is at www.rarefoundation.org. Winning Futures is an award-winning nonprofit organization offering school-based mentoring

programs and workshops for middle school and high school students in Southeast Michigan. Its programs focus on the life skills of character value identification, goal setting, career preparation, and strategic planning. It was founded in 1994 by entrepreneur Sam Cupp.

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