Allies, Inc. is proud to name Mike Willis as our 2022 “NJACP Community STAR.” Mike has been a part of the Allies family since June 2007. He is known throughout our agency, and his neighborhood at Project Freedom, for being generous, helpful, kind, humble, and thoughtful.
As a member of The New Jersey Association of Community Providers (NJACP), Allies participates in their annual STARS Awards celebration each year. The Awards provide organizations the opportunity to recognize one individual with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities that has overcome challenges and achieved success towards reaching their full potential. This year Allies was thrilled to nominate Mike Willis.
Mike truly cares about people. His acts of kindness, volunteerism, and quest for self-improvement earned him a Robin G. Heim Award from Project Freedom in 2021. On an average day Mike can be seen walking a neighbor’s dog, helping them take out their trash, or carrying their packages for them. Mike has also accompanied a neighbor to the gym to help load and unload his neighbor’s wheelchair. He also likes to help with the setup and breakdown of community events such as barbeques and holiday parties.
Norman A. Smith, the Associate Executive Director and Co-Founder of Project Freedom, remarked, “Mike is a tenant who seeks to help others in need. When a severe storm is coming, Mike offers to help secure outdoor furniture, and walks around the complex with me to do a pre-storm check. Mike is reliable and always prepared to help out with no expectation for reward.”
Mike’s caring heart and thoughtfulness is also extended to his Allies friends and housemate. He likes to cook and share healthy dinners with his housemate Rein, always ensuring there is a salad or vegetable in their meals. Damaris Rodriguez, Allies Assistant Director of Residential Supports, remarked, “Mike always puts others first. He’s always thinking of other people. If we go out, he checks to see what his Allies friends need. At Christmas time he gives his friends little gifts, even though he’s on a budget. He likes to share what he has; and makes sure that other people have a little something, even if it’s just a soda or a pack of candy.”
In addition to his generous spirit, Mike is also a very dedicated worker. For the last six months he’s held a janitorial position at Commercial Cleaning Corporation of Trenton, NJ. He works in schools − dusting, disinfecting, sweeping floors, pulling trash, and making sure areas are wiped off and tidy. Mike Foley, Account Executive and Area Manager at the cleaning company said, “Mike is a very hard worker. He’s conscientious, wants to do well, and asks good questions. He really enjoys getting out and being productive, and he’s a very good employee.”
Mike was honored at a small luncheon at Allies administrative offices on April 12th, where Michael Haggerty, President and CEO of Allies, and Raushana Turner, Executive Director of Mercer, presented Mike with his STARS Award along with Damaris.
Mike beamed with pride as he accepted his STARS award. He said, “I’m very happy and excited to receive it. It feels good and I’m filled with joy. I was raised to be a nice person and to help people, even if they don’t help me in return. I do it out of the kindness of my heart.” He also thanked Allies’ staff for their support, giving them each a warm hug after they shared some glowing remarks about him.
Raushana said, “I am overjoyed that Mike has been recognized for this amazing award, he is very deserving of it. Mike has grown so much over this past year. I see his determination to be more independent. He also goes above and beyond to help out anyone that he can.”
Damaris agreed saying, “Mike deserves to be celebrated for all of his accomplishments and good deeds. He’s made many positive changes. He’s responsible for his finances, makes meals for himself and his housemate, he’s confident in making decisions for himself, and landed a job that allows him to do more things that he likes. He also makes sure that others have the help they need.”
Takeem S. Ford, a Community Support Staff member that works closely with Mike, shared more about Mike’s determination and character. He said, “Despite his own challenges in life, Mike doesn’t let fear of the unknown or limitations stop him from moving forward in life. He gets out in the community. He tries out new things no matter what the outcome.”
When asked what contributed to Mike’s growth over the last few years, Raushana said, “What made Mike more successful was the support around him. The support and advice from myself, Damaris, Takeem, Support Manager Felicia Scott, and Assistant Director of Residential Supports Lorriana L. Dix, made a big difference in his life.”
Takeem added, “I saw a need to help build Mike’s confidence and reassure him that he has the answers for his life, and to trust himself more. He is now understanding the power that he possesses.”
The entire Allies Family is extremely proud of Mike for his dedication to his work, his independence, and for the way he cares about others and his community. He’s a wonderful example for everyone to follow and we wish him continued success in all of his future endeavors. Mike is definitely a STAR in our eyes!
Visit “Allies NJ” on Facebook to view more photos from our 2022 STARS Award Luncheon honoring Mike Willis and to write a congratulatory message for Mike.
Allies, Inc. is a nonprofit agency dedicated to providing housing, healthcare, meaningful employment and recreational activities to people with special needs in the communities of their choice. To learn more, visit www.alliesnj.org.
Contact: Nicole Zamerovsky, Director of Communications, Allies, Inc.