Leadership Troy to honor Distinguished Citizen

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published October 9, 2018


TROY — Brenda Balas always has something to do. 

She grew up in Ohio, watching her parents volunteer at her schools and other organizations. 

Balas volunteers her time for a number of organizations and at Big Beaver United Methodist Church, where she worships. 

Currently, she volunteers for Samaritas Refugee Resettlement, the Troy Area Alliance Against Hate Crimes, the Troy-Area Interfaith Group and Know Your Neighbor Daily, spearheaded by the Troy Public Library. 

In the past, she volunteered for the Troy High School Band Boosters, at Bemis Elementary School, with Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan (formerly Catholic Social Services), and with the Troy School District’s Diversity and Inclusion Council. 

She had traveled to Hong Kong with her husband, Paul, in late September when she received a phone call from Jim Cyrulewski, president of Leadership Troy, asking her to call him back. 

She returned the call and learned that she had been named as Troy’s Distinguished Citizen. 

“She was speechless,” Cyrulewski said. 

“With all the people who give to the community, it was very humbling,” Balas said. 

According to a prepared statement, “Leadership Troy is a nonprofit consisting of representatives from various community organizations, local high schools, businesses and individuals who exchange community information, promote community programs, and provide a venue to recognize volunteers and corporate citizens.” 

Past recipients of the award include 52-4 District Court judges Michael Martone and Dennis Drury, Troy Community Coalition Executive Director Ann Comiskey, Cyrulewski, and former Troy Mayor Jeanne Stine. Cyrulewski explained that the award is in recognition of involvement in Troy over a period of time.

According to the Leadership Troy website, the award honors residents for their civic involvement and philanthropy.

Balas said that she tries to work toward peace and social justice, “trying to create opportunities for awareness and empowerment. I try to give people an opportunity to enrich their own lives or others.” 

She and other volunteers from her church sponsored a refugee family — a mother and three children from Iraq. 

“I was surely blessed through that experience. The rewards came back tenfold. It’s a pleasure watching the family contribute back to the community,” she said. 


Getting started 
Balas encourages others to volunteer.

“Please volunteer. You are needed and appreciated. Each person adds something,” she said. 

“Identify your skills, strengths and interests, then explore your options. Know your limits and preferences. But it’s OK to challenge yourself,” she continued.  

For example, Balas said she is not a night owl, so she leaves late-night duty to others. 

“Once you make a commitment, keep to the commitment. People depend on you,” she said. 

Also, Balas said that random acts of kindness are a form of volunteering. This could be picking up trash in your neighborhood, welcoming a new neighbor into the community or clearing a neighbor’s sidewalk of snow, she said. 

She said it’s challenging for her to manage so many interests and causes in which “I want to meaningfully participate.” 

Her favorite part of her volunteer work is “the satisfaction of achieving a positive outcome, often as part of a team with people who end up to be friends. It’s gratifying. You want to make a positive difference.” 

The Leadership Troy 50th and final banquet “will showcase outstanding volunteers from community groups, honor a community-minded business with the Community Appreciation Award, and present the Distinguished Citizen of Troy Award to a person whose depth and breadth of community service has made Troy a better place. The 2018 awardee will join previous Distinguished Citizens who have created a legacy of giving back to the community and truly make a difference in the lives of others,” Cyrulewski said in the prepared statement. 

The banquet will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 7 at the San Marino Club in Troy. 

The San Marino Club was selected to receive the Troy Business Community Appreciation Award. 

Cyrulewski explained to C & G Newspapers that this is the last year Leadership Troy will conduct the Distinguished Citizen of Troy Award. 

“We hated to make the decision not to continue. It takes a lot of work, a good part of the year. We are disappointed we have been unable to recruit and retrain new people to help us. It really needs an organization to handle the demands,” he said. 

Cyrulewski added that Leadership Troy would be happy to work with any organization that wishes to take over the award. 

The banquet is open to the public. Tickets cost $50 per person. Dinner reservations must be made by 5 p.m. Oct. 29. 

For more information about Leadership Troy or to purchase tickets to the banquet, visit www.leadershiptroy.org or call (248) 680-9411.