Board of Commissioners honors residents for volunteer work

By: Jeremy Selweski, | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published June 12, 2013

MACOMB TOWNSHIP/MOUNT CLEMENS — For Carl Tesner, helping other people has always been filled with its own intrinsic rewards.

“I just love taking in all the gratitude on people’s faces when you help them out with something,” said the 74-year-old Macomb Township resident. “Even if you’re just helping them fix a leaky faucet or driving them to a doctor’s appointment, you can tell that they really appreciate it.”

Tesner knows this feeling better than most people. He has spent a huge chunk of his life lending a hand to his church, his neighbors and his community. In recognition of his many years of selfless service, Tesner was among more than 60 residents honored as Outstanding Volunteers of the Year by the Macomb County Board of Commissioners on May 23. Other Macomb Township residents to receive awards were Jackie Burke, Terance Fiebelkorn and Renee Tegel.

 Macomb County Commissioner Joe Sabatini, center, congratulates four Macomb Township residents on their Outstanding Volunteer of the Year awards: from left, Carl Tesner,  Renee Tegel, Jackie Burke and Terance Fiebelkorn.

Macomb County Commissioner Joe Sabatini, center, congratulates four Macomb Township residents on their Outstanding Volunteer of the Year awards: from left, Carl Tesner, Renee Tegel, Jackie Burke and Terance Fiebelkorn.

Photo provided by Lisa Martino

Every year, the Board of Commissioners solicits volunteer nominations from a wide variety of charitable organizations, veterans’ groups, churches, schools, hospitals, senior citizen facilities and individuals from across the county. Each honoree chosen by the board must have donated at least 150 hours of his or her time to volunteer activities during the previous calendar year and must be either a Macomb County resident or have performed volunteer work that benefited county residents and/or communities.

With his extensive résumé, Tesner appears to embody the spirit of a true volunteer. He spends much of his time assisting his home parish, Zion United Church of Christ (UCC) in Mount Clemens, where he is a lifelong member. He serves as the financial secretary on the Church Council, sits on the Facility Board and visits the church about three days a week to perform maintenance work and landscaping duties.

Tesner also helps lead Zion UCC’s warming center each January, providing a warm meal and a cozy bed to the homeless for the night. From November through March, he and his wife of 52 years, Sharon, help organize the church’s free community meals on Sunday afternoons. At various times throughout the year, Tesner serves as a member of the Zion Mission Team in southwest Detroit, traveling with local youth to assist inner-city residents with yard cleanup and other outdoor improvement projects.

“We want to give these kids an opportunity to do some community service,” Tesner explained. “Kids don’t mind doing work like this if it’s something that they can feel good about afterwards.”

In addition to his work with Zion UCC, Tesner spends one day each week as a driver for Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, where he transports elderly and disabled residents to and from their medical appointments and often performs “handyman work” at their homes. As if that weren’t enough, Tesner has also served as a paid on-call firefighter — a position that used to be filled in a volunteer capacity — in Macomb Township for the past 37 years.

“Getting up in the middle of the night is definitely not fun,” he said with a laugh, “but the good part is when you get to help keep somebody safe or salvage a family’s home.”

Tesner still lives in the same Macomb Township house where he was born. He grew up on a dairy farm, which he later inherited from his father. Years later, developers came in and bought most of the land, but he and Sharon stayed put in their humble home. And after a long career spent working in the road and construction division of the Michigan Department of Transportation, Tesner retired in 1997, which freed him up to do even more volunteer work.

“I had a lot more time on my hands after that, so I wanted to spend it doing things that I like,” he said. “I like helping other people, and I like fixing things, so it made perfect sense to commit more time to doing that.”

Tesner was nominated for an Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award by Rev. Scott Davis, pastor of Zion UCC. In his letter to Board of Commissioners Chair David Flynn, Davis called Tesner “a superb volunteer” and praised him for his tireless work ethic and unwavering dedication to the church.

“If there is a roof to be fixed (or) a ladder to be scaled, Carl is the first one there,” Davis wrote. “Carl is truly one of the most humble, down-to-earth persons I have encountered in my ministry or in my life. He is a kind man and the embodiment of a gentleman.”

In a subsequent interview, Davis pointed out that besides Tesner’s aforementioned volunteer activities, he was also a Sunday school teacher at Zion UCC for many years and served as a Confirmation mentor for young parishioners.

“Without really dedicated volunteers like Carl, churches just don’t work — we simply don’t have enough money to do it on our own,” Davis said. “Carl is part of a generation that was heavily involved with their community and so generous with their time. For that generation of people, devoting themselves to their local schools, churches and civic groups was, and is, just part of the fabric of their everyday lives.”

County Commissioner Joe Sabatini said that he was “overwhelmed” when he saw the extensive amount of volunteer work on Tesner’s résumé. He was happy to be there in person on May 23 to be able to thank Tesner and the other Macomb Township honorees for their service to the community.

“We’re just lucky that someone took the initiative to nominate (Tesner) because he is certainly very deserving of an Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award,” Sabatini said. “We always want to make sure that all the great volunteers in our community are recognized for their service.”

The other three Macomb Township honorees received awards for volunteer efforts that include the following:

• Jackie Burke was recognized for her work with the Dakota High School Booster Club and her assistance at various Dakota sporting events and fundraisers.

• Terance Fiebelkorn was awarded for serving as organist and choir director for the congregation at St. Peter Lutheran Church and School in Macomb Township.

• Renee Tegel was honored for providing free legal advice, organizing fundraisers and coordinating violin master classes for the Warren Symphony Society.